The Black Woman’s Economy: Wealth Attainment through Entrepreneurship

A Thesis
Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Sociology
Bates College
In Partial fulfillment of the requirements
For the Degree of Bachelor of Arts

Cassandra A. Desrosiers
Lewiston, ME
May 20, 2014

Dedicated to my loving mother, Rochelle M. Jones.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
At this very moment as you grasp this thesis, you are holding the tangible reflection of
God‟s unconditional mercy and love. Every word placed on these pages is a physical
manifestation of God‟s glory and His true omnipotence. It is because of God‟s limitless love for
me that I have produced the most challenging body of work ever required of me. I acknowledge
my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He is the ruler of my soul, the guardian of my mind, and
the captain of my heart. With His Holy Spirit I completed what was fleshly impossible. Jesus is
real, for you are physically touching my testimony and embracing with your own hands the
evidence of God‟s genuine grace.
To my mother, who prays for me without ceasing: I thank you. I thank you for your
unfailing faith and for believing in me when I could not do it for myself. You are more than my
mother, but a gift from God placed here for a divine purpose to support three beautiful children
by yourself, put them through college, and instill in them the goodness of God. You are a
phenomenal woman whose life reflects Christ and exemplifies the power of prayer and faith.
You have taught me how to hold my head high and now I live my life boldly knowing with the
utmost confidence that nothing is impossible with God. Whatever I‟ve needed you‟ve graciously
provided and you have shown me that your love will always be there. Thank you for visiting me
in Paris, for paying my tuition, for allowing me to grow at my own slow pace, and for being the
greatest support system a daughter could ask for.
Thank you to all the purposeful people that I was blessed to befriend during my time at
Bates: Kelley Brown, Omosede Eholor, David Longdon, Bethel Kifle, Rodney Galvao, and Jalen
Baker. Thank you all for your continuous support and encouragement throughout this thesis
process, and most especially throughout my time at Bates. Thank you for all the laughs and good

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times! I‟ve spent priceless moments with each of you “unpacking” the complexities of life and
each conversation has changed my perception of the world making me a better thinker and a
better friend.
I‟d also like to thank and acknowledge the faculty at Bates who have supported me and
pushed me through to the end. Firstly, to my thesis advisor Benjamin Moodie, I thank you for
taking the time and energy to advise me this semester and listen to me as I gathered my thoughts
and ideas as scattered as they were. Thank you also to Emily Kane, and the rest of the Sociology
Department for making yourselves available throughout the process as well. To my French
advisor, Mary Rice De Fosse, thank you for your patience and understanding as I took on the
ghastly burden of writing two theses this year. You are a kind soul and I couldn‟t have done
either requirement without your help and support. To Dean Sawyer, thank you for pushing me
and helping me achieve my dream of going abroad. I will always appreciate your faith in me and
your care for my wellbeing and success here. Finally, to Dean Reese, thank you for consistently
fighting on my behalf, listening to my problems, and for always making a way out of no way!
You were a dependable resource throughout my time here, and I thank you for always making
yourself available to me.
To all my respondents and everyone who helped and cooperated with me to get to the
finish line: I appreciate you! To my family, Jason, Sasha, Auntie Demirra, and to my closest
friends, Amarachi Iwuh and Manthon Baker: thank you for being there for me whenever I
needed you. I love you all and acknowledge the amazing impact you have had throughout my
time in college. I also want to thank every person who prayed for me and prayed with me during
any point in my four years, and especially throughout the last days of this thesis process. Prayer
works. Thank you! This is for us.

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ABSTRACT:
This thesis discusses Black women‟s accessibility to wealth through entrepreneurial
pathways. Through literature we learn that Black women are at the bottom of the labor market
and therefore systematic and institutional tools exist to keep them there. Escaping the labor
market through self-help and entrepreneurship now becomes a “survival method” for Black
women and is an ideal way for such a marginalized group to begin to gain wealth and assets for
themselves. Usually, though, these entrepreneurial pathways chosen by Black women tend to be
within capacities (i.e. hair care/beauty) that limit the potential for extreme wealth and still leave
Black women out of the spaces and industries that lead directly to the emerging economy. I,
then, compile a data analysis of the top Richest Black and Richest Non-Black people in America,
exploring for average net worth, inheritance, and industry. I then, examine Black women‟s
income and career aspirations by surveying their perceptions and attitudes towards
entrepreneurship, to gage if educated Black women are cognizant of the benefits provided by
entrepreneurship or if they are seeking “financial success” through other pathways to have direct
access to this developing economy. To examine the kinds of benefits provided by
entrepreneurship, I also conduct a case study of a small start-up business, Draped Hair Boutique,
an online hair extensions provider created by two Black female college students. The findings
from this research show that entrepreneurship is indeed a viable pathway to improve the Black
woman‟s economy and reallocates wealth back into the excluded communities.

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PREFACE
On July 13, 2012, I walked out of Boston City Hall a business owner. After months and
months of nightly discussions about hair, extensions, and our goals for the future, my best friend
and I, finally made our dreams a reality and started our own company: Draped Hair Boutique.
We were 19 years old and this was incredibly scary, but we had each other, we had our vision,
and we had our drive. In our minds we had nothing to lose and believed that investing in
ourselves and our potential could change our lives forever. So we made it official and began to
tell our family and friends that we could provide all their hair extension needs. We set ourselves
apart from our competitors by focusing on the full customer service experience and wanted to
devote our target network to women who similar to ourselves. Driven, motivated women who
want the option of adding to their natural beauty with quality hair for an affordable price.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………….…………...pg. 3
Abstract……………………………………………………………………….……………… pg. 5
Preface………………………………………………………………………….….…………. pg. 6
Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………pg. 8
Review of the Literature…………………………………………………………………...…pg.10
Black Women‟s Exclusion to Wealth……………………………………….….….....pg.10
Entrepreneurship: Last Resort or Target Goal? ……………………………..…..….pg. 22
Methodology……………………………………………………………………………..…..pg. 25
Data Analysis……………………………………………………………………..…...….….pg. 35
Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………...….…pg.64

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INTRODUCTION
This thesis is about Black female entrepreneurship as a pathway for wealth attainment in
America. It discusses Black women‟s accessibility to wealth through entrepreneurial pathways
and the institutional limitations caused by historic marginalization. The first chapter of the
literature discusses Black women‟s exclusion to wealth through racial and gender discrimination
and segregation. We gather context that Black women are at the bottom of the labor market and
therefore systematic and institutional tools exist to keep them there. It is through black feminist
ideology that Black women can have a sense of pride and can obtain self-worth.
In the second chapter of the literature review we will discuss how the labor market
through excludes Black women so they turn to self-help and entrepreneurship as becomes a
“survival method”. We then will gather a context for to explore if entrepreneurship is now an
ideal pathway for Black women who stand as an extremely marginalized group in America. Is
entrepreneurship the way to go for Black women to begin to gain wealth and assets for
themselves and their families? We then review the industries that Black women have found
success in and examine if those industries and the entrepreneurial pathways chosen by Black
women limit the potential for extreme wealth attainment.
My methodology will first seek to compile a data analysis of the top Richest Black and
Richest Non-Black people in America, exploring for average net worth, inheritance, and
industry. I then, examine Black women‟s income and career aspirations by surveying their
perceptions and attitudes towards entrepreneurship, to gage if educated Black women are
cognizant of the benefits provided by entrepreneurship or if they are seeking “financial success”
through other pathways to have direct access to this developing economy. To examine the kinds
of benefits provided by entrepreneurship, I also conduct a case study of a small start-up business,
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Draped Hair Boutique, an online hair extensions provider created by two Black female college
students.
The findings from this research will answer if entrepreneurship is indeed a viable
pathway to improve the Black woman‟s economy and reallocate wealth back into the excluded
communities.

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BLACK WOMEN’S EXCLUSION TO WEALTH:
A Review of the Literature

I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness
as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.
—Audre Lourde

In this literature review I will discuss the scholarship surrounded by wealth inequality. To
give the theoretical framework on Black women‟s exclusion to wealth in the United States, I will
review the literature focused on wealth inequality in by race and wealth inequality by gender
while concluding with an analysis of the black feminist thought discourse relevant to the topics
of double minority marginalization. The context derived from this chapter will prepare the reader
to understand the relationship between Blackness, womanhood, and wealth in America and will
set-up the background for Black women‟s response to their intrepid marginalization.
It is important to encompass all elements of intersectionality applying the social
stratifications of race and gender into any discourse. Both race and gender are two separate social
constructions that intersect through the lived experiences of people with those dual
identifications. Risman (2004) explains that gender is structured in three levels: individual,
interactional, and institutional. When discussing wealth attainment, we will explore the ways that
the relationship between race and gender interacts on those three levels while also examining the
intersectional experience of that relationship. This review of the literature will assess the
scholarship that provides insight on the way race and gender affect one‟s capacity to attain
wealth in America.

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Wealth Inequality by Race
To better understand the context of this thesis I will first describe the wealth disparities
attributed by race. Oliver and Shapiro discuss how Black people have been neglected in the fight
for income and wealth equality particularly because there is no access to specific opportunities
and resources (2006). There is an obvious deficiency that exists and it is important that we
recognize this so that we can explain how virtually no Blacks are included among the wealthiest
400 Americans. We must also acknowledge that the wealth levels for those Blacks who have
"made it" into the American middle class are shown to be only 15% of the wealth level of Whites
in the same income category (Shapiro 2006). This and other presented data suggest that if Blacks
are disadvantaged relative to Whites in terms of income—which is true given that the average
earnings is less than 60% of White household income—then they are completely eclipsed when
it comes to wealth.
It is necessary to distinguish the difference between income and wealth when taking part
in this discourse. Several race scholars who focus on wealth acknowledge that wealth is the total
accumulation of assets at a fixed point of time. This wealth can be accumulated through assets
such as homeownership, business ownership, stock ownership, land/real estate, and the amount
of money one holds in the bank. Income differs from this because it is represented through a flow
of money often seen through wages and salaries (Shapiro 2006). Due to occupational segregation
and racial discrimination, large income allocation is hard to come by for Black people and this
does in fact affect one‟s wealth. Oliver and Shapiro (2006) share how the terms wealth and
income can sometimes be used interchangeably but only to concede that “vast wealth generates
extremely high income and extremely high income creates enormous wealth. Thus income

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inequality within the United States also indicates whether growth in wealth inequality has
reached critical political or economic levels” (31). It is less common to see someone with a large
amount of wealth to also have a small income, whereas it is likely that someone with a small
income will not be wealthy.

Inherited Wealth
Imagine a new-born child has a net worth of one million dollars before they are able to
utter their first words. The assets from their father and his father before him equip the child to
face the world with an affluence that will give them a head-start in developing a prosperous life.
(Shapiro 2006). What is their father‟s now becomes theirs and the child will reap the fruit of their
family‟s success, receiving all the privilege of their new inheritance. Then, imagine a new-born
baby whose father has nothing. The father does not own a home, has no stocks or bonds, no real
estate, and barely an emergency fund in his savings. The child now is also born with nothing and
has no wealth to their name. They immediately begin their new life on “survival mode” as they
prepare for a lifetime of replenishing generations of lost wealth (Shapiro 2006; Moran 2008;
Conley 2010). The child born with no wealth must work ten times harder to be on an equal
playing field to the child born with inherited wealth. Imagine, now, that this child is Black and
the other, White.
Wealth inheritance is a key variable in the unequal starting points between Blacks and
Whites in America. Moran (2008) states, “all other things equal, an individual who receives an
inheritance or wealth transfer from a relative will hold (and be in a better position to accumulate)
more wealth than someone who does not receive such a transfer” (13). Being born into a family
with an accumulated wealth will allow you to be far more “well off” in society than a family

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with none. It now becomes an unfortunate reality to recognize that Blacks are more unlikely to
inherit wealth than Whites. Shapiro adds that “because Blacks bring virtually no assets forward
from the previous generation, the wealth they amass pales in comparison to that of their white
counterparts” (171). How is this fair when the only reason that past generations hold no assets is
due to the history of slavery, racial discrimination, and institutional racism? What assets do we
expect to be brought forward? Shapiro (2006) describes how Blacks were forbidden by the
government to accumulate assets:
…one‟s opportunity to acquire land, build community, and
generate wealth has been structured by state policy. Slavery itself,
the most constricting of social systems, was a result of state policy
that gave blacks severely limited economic rights. Slaves were by
law not able to own property or accumulate assets. In contrast, no
matter how poor whites were, they had the right—if they were
males, that is—if not the ability, to buy land, enter into contracts,
own businesses, and develop wealth assets that could build equity
and economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.
(39)
Blacks were barred from wealth opportunity and were immediately excluded from upward
mobility within the American economy. Within our contemporary society, Blacks are behind in
the race toward wealth accumulation because they spent decades omitted from the pursuit. There
were no generational transfers that could enable Blacks to assume a position of opportunity for
their families, and therefore wealth distribution is highly unequal (Shapiro 2006, Moran 2008;
Conley 2010). The literature asserts that having wealth is correlated with attaining a high income
and a quality education so that wealth can be kept amongst the family. When there is a certain
group of people that do not have access to wealth because of historical slaughtering, brainwashing, and discrimination (which we now see in the form of contemporary institutional
racism), they will be left out of the most recompensing spaces of the economy. Therefore now,

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their existence is devoted to a lifetime of “catch up”. Conley also adds how Blacks were
deprived of wealth opportunities:
…as a group, black people have endured a long history of asset
deprivation, from the first days when Africans were wrested from
their families, homes, and possessions in West Africa and brought
to these shores in bondage, not “owning” even their bodies or their
labor, let alone any tangible wealth. In fact, for the most part,
slaves were legally prohibited from ownership of any form of
wealth. (33)
Blacks owned nothing. So what can you give to the next generation but that same nothingness?
The goal for Blacks is to one-day transfer wealth to the generations after them. Black people
must begin to accumulate enough individual assets, not for riches and consumerist spending
which many scholars claim is a cause for the black-white wealth gap, but instead Blacks to pay
forward the opportunity to mobilize your family and obtain a fair gain in this cruel economy.
Blacks do not have access to wealth is because they do not have access to inherited
wealth. Inherited wealth is what mobilizes a group to prepare for a life of success. Conley (2010)
shares that, “…if respondent characteristics such as level of education, age, gender, and even
income two years prior are all equalized, blacks still suffer from an asset deficit” (47). This idea
is based on the gap between inherited wealth that is previously distributed and allocated to that
person from their family. Moran (2008) states this same idea saying, “African-Americans today
are more similar to white Americans in terms of income or educational attainment than in terms
of wealth, where the gap remains extremely large in absolute terms” (52). Even with similar
education and income backgrounds, Blacks‟ access to inherited wealth is now the main thing that
sets them apart from their White counterparts. Every other aspect of access could be leveled and
equalized, but if a Black person is not equipped with wealth from their family before them then
they will be at an extreme deficiency. Conley (2010) affirms that,

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…comparing a young African American family or individual to a
white one with the same education level, income, age, and gender
of the head of household, one would still encounter—on average—
a sizable advantage for whites when it came to wealth levels. (47)
This phenomenon is disjointing and can solely be due to the disgruntling past of slavery and
withholding wealth advancement. Blacks were cheated because we were not able to accumulate
wealth and assets so although Blacks have reached several feats to equalize themselves on the
bases of education, income, and other things, Whites will still win. Shapiro (2006) tells us that,
“the wealth of blacks and whites have found that blacks have anywhere from $8 to $19 of wealth
for every $100 that whites possess” (99). It is easy to possess $100 when you were given $75. It
is imperative that Blacks begin to gain wealth for themselves in this age so that they have
transferable wealth to give to the future generations so that America can begin to equalize this
large economic disparity. This will also help to equalize the wealth distribution; and by
equalizing the wealth distribution in America, you can allow for more opportunities for Black
advancement through income and educational access (Shapiro 2006; Conley 2010).

Education and Wealth
Oliver and Shapiro mention that education and school systems are unequipped to provide
the proper educational foundation necessary to prepare for the emerging technologies of our
contemporary society. They (2006) mention that education is the first step to trump race
economics:
Nonetheless, many blacks have fallen by the wayside in their
march toward economic equality. A growing number have not
been able to take advantage of the opportunity ties now open to
some. They suffer from educational deficiencies that make finding
a foothold in an emerging technological economy near to
impossible. Unable to move from deteriorated inner-city and older
suburban communities, they entrust their children to school

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systems that are rarely able to provide them with the educational
foundation they need to take the first steps up a racially skewed
economic ladder. (Shapiro, 12)
The school systems teach kids the basics so that they are competent readers and problemsolvers, but they fail to teach kids the fundamentals of financial success in America. Without a
access this curriculum or a quality education, Blacks will remain the bottom of American
society. Education is the a primary pathway to make it outside of marginalized wealth because
you are beset with skills and abilities that can compare to the skills and abilities that their White
counterparts have and have been receiving for centuries.
Historically Blacks did not have access to education therefore they did not have the basic
skills needed to find work (Shapiro 2006). Without a job, there is no income and without an
income, it is therefore hard and nearly impossible for Blacks to accumulate wealth. Because of
Blacks non-inherited wealth they must depend on education and income to bring them out of
bottom. On the relationship between education and wealth we find a direct correlation to wealth
and educational attainment. Also you will find that in colleges and universities today the most
endowed and wealthiest schools are also the schools with the best education rankings. These are
schools that the wealthy send their children to therefore they are preparing for and perpetuating a
sense of status that will build the blocks towards wealth (Moran 2008; Conley 2010).
Education is the key to success and even more importantly the key to financial success.
Blacks have had unreliable access to education and without specific programs that teach kids
how to achieve and surpass the boundaries of limitations based of their projected stereotypes
they may fall prey to the marginalized systems. Shapiro (2006) states:
…whether it be a question of homesteading, suburbanization, or
redlining, we have seen how governmental, institutional, and
private-sector discrimination enhances the ability of different
segments of the population to accumulate and build on their wealth

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assets and resources, thereby raising their standard of living and
securing a better future for themselves and their children. (22)
This “securement of a better future for themselves and their children” that Shapiro (2006) speaks
of, comes directly from education. That is where the marginalized populations will be taught the
fundamentals that will equalize them to their White counterparts. Education is what will
ameliorate the disadvantaged position that Blacks sustain in America.
When severely marginalized groups achieve education they are more equipped to climb
the roads to financial success and equal rights. Hemmons (1996) affirms that it necessary for
Black women (a severely marginalized group) to access education so that they can change the
rate of achievement for the future generations to come. The literature affirms that,
In short, as long as the Black female-headed family is the poorest
on average of any U.S. family type, her children will continue to
be those assessed as most poorly endowed intellectually and
thereby precluded from participation in the rewards of educational
achievement, that is, economic prosperity. “ (Hemmons 1996: 132)
Black women must educate themselves so that they can educate future generations and stop the
cycle of accumulated wealth. Education is key but also must work in addition to institutional
change in the socio-economics of Blacks and minorities. Hemmons (1996) insists that, “the
amelioration of the Black female-headed family‟s socioeconomic status would result in an
increase in [their] educational position” (133). This citation describes the inverse stating that
once the socio-economic disparities are improved we can also then find more educational
opportunity for minorities and the entire cycle will ameliorate.

Wealth Inequality by Gender
This portion of the chapter will evaluate wealth inequality by gender. By reviewing the
literature we find that the wealth disparities exist through status-attainment in the workplace,

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marriage and family structures, occupational gender segregation and gender earnings inequality.
In this section of the chapter we will gain an understanding on how women are marginalized and
have limited access to wealth.

Status Attainment
Women do not have the same status as men in workplace hierarchy. There are
discrepancies in the positions that women hold versus men, and they can only be explained
through gender inequality. Hauser (2012) describes that, “status attainment explanations focus on
women‟s lower labor force attachment and lower wages” (1158). Through an inability gain
deserving statuses or positions of power in the work place women are increasingly forced to
obtain wages at a lower rate than that of their male counterparts. Often times you will even find
situtations of a women with the same position of power as a male still making .77cents to every
dollar the man earns (Gauchat 2012).
…the gendering of both work and family means that women are
disadvantaged or have less exposure to the structural elements (i.e.
stable employment, occupational prestige, and income) that are
needed for wealth accumulation. (Hauser 2012: 1158)
“The labor market inequality leads to earnings inequality, which,
in turn, leads to wealth inequality. Over a lifetime, then, as women
earn lower wages compared with men, they will accumulate few
assets of all kinds than women.” Hauser 2012: 1158

Marriage & Family
This quote explains how marriage and family unit is an important indicator of wealth inequality:
“Marriage is the most important family-formation satus for wealth
accumulation. Married families accumulate more wealth than do
single-headed households, and marital disruption penalies wealth
accumulation.” (Hauser 2012: 1158)

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Occupational Segregation
Below are a list of quotes from the literature that support that women face wealth
inequality through occupational gender segregation, which automatically makes them inferior in
accessing wealth to the same capacity of their male counterparts:
“Occupational
segregation
becomes
problematic
when
disadvantaged groups are concentrated in jobs that are low-paying,
lack autonomy, and are insecure. The relationship between
occupational gender segregation and earnings inequality has been a
cornerstone of sociological approaches to gender stratification.”
(Gauchat 2012: 721)
“Women in female-dominated occupations in segregated markets
pay the highest penalty while men in highly segregated markets
seem to benefit” (Gauchat 2012: 721).
“The gains in education and labor force participation by women in
the late 1970s reduced the advantage of white men in the labor
market” (Gauchat 2012: 722)
“Obviously, the better jobs in America are not held by African
Americans. Partially as a result of this fact, the median income for
black households was $33,916 in 2007, in contrast to $54,920 for
white households” (Conley 2010: 83)

Anti-Black/Anti-Female Society
Race and gender are important aspects to this discourse of wealth attainment for Black
women. From the trajectory of Black accessibility to wealth and women‟s accessibility to wealth,
we can now configure how intrepid the intersectional experience of a woman who race identity is
Black, and gender identity is a woman. The lived experience of a Black woman is the experience
of a double minority. The marginalization of their race and their gender now keeps them away
from wealth in dual fashions. Hemmons (1996) agrees that social institutions set up by society
uses several systems to “perpetuate the Black woman‟s subordinate status” (51).

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Black Feminist Thought
Black feminist thought has been the academic stream that has produced pride and selfperseverance for Black women who have tried to validate their worth in a society that tells them
they are institutionally worthless. The following quotations show how Black women were forced
to create a culture of thought that supported their own selves. By reviewing these quotes we can
gain contexts towards the dynamic strength and beauty of Black woman that now therefore gives
them the self-power to take control of their own lives and pursue areas of entrepreneurship to
provide for themselves and their families as we‟ll see in Chapter 2 of the literature review.
Here are quotations from Patricia Hill Collins and Kimberle Crenshaw that describe the
dual minority burden of Black women:
“In order to overcome the “natural” order imposed by this
relationship between social insitutions and the law, the Black
woman has to exert extraordinary energies designed to circumvent
the „normal‟ operation of societal processes” (Hemmons 1996: 51)
“While African-American women occupy material positions that
stimulate a unique standpoint…more powerful groups have a
vested interest in suppressing such thought” (Collins 1989: 749)
“Groups unequal in power are correspondingly unequal in their
access to the resources necessary to implement their perspectives
outside their particular group.”(1989: 756).
“Since Black women have access to both the Afrocentric and the
feminist standpoints, an alternative epistemology used to
rearticulate a Black women‟s standpoint reflects elements of both
traditions” (1989: 756).
…values and ideas that Africanist scholars identify as being
characteristically “Black” often bear remarkable resemblance to
similar ideas claimed by feminist scholars as being
characteristically “female”. This similarity suggests that the
material conditions of oppression can vary dramatically and yet
generate some uniformity in the epistemologies of subordinate

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groups. Thus, the significance of an Afrocentric feminist
epistemology may lie in its enrichement of our understanding of
how subordinate groups create knowledge that enables them to
resist oppression. (Collins 1989: 757)
These are Crenshaw‟s ideas on how to overcome and persevere through this label of
marginalization:
“Yet implicit in certain strands of feminist and racial liberation
movements, for example is the view that the social power in
delineating difference need not be the power of domination; it can
instead be the source of social empowerment and reconstruction.
(Crenshaw 1993: 1242)
“If any real efforts are to be made to free Black people of the
constraints and conditions that characterize racial subordination,
then theories and strategies purporting to reflect the Black
community‟s needs must include an analysis of sexism and
patriarchy.” (Crenshaw 1989: 43)

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP: LAST RESORT OR TARGET GOAL?
A Review of the Literature
You can’t dump one cup of sugar into the ocean and expect to get syrup. If everybody sweetened
her own cup of water, then things would begin to change.
–Florynce Kennedy

In this review of the literature we will discuss how Black women have found economic
pathways to defy the historic and institutional marginalization bestowed upon them. That
pathway is through entrepreneurship and through self-employment. With the spirit of the Black
feminist ideologies Black women have begun to invest in their own self-worth even when society
consistently tells them that they have none.
Entrepreneurship as a “Survival Method”
Entrepreneurship historically was a last resort for black women who were excluded from
the labor markets (Boyd1999). Here are citations that confirm that entrepreneurship is a positive
way to begin generating wealth and assets:
“Pointing out significant increases in assets and financial
knowledge in certain sectors of the black community (e.g.
successful African American entrepreneurs), they argued that these
resources had to be socially shared in order to help the less
fortunate lay claim to a wealth stake” (Shapiro, 196).
Despite the concerns of our respondents, more and more blacks are
taking advantage of financial self-employment opportunities—both
formal and informal. Entrepreneurship programs are erupting
everywhere. Schools and community-based organizations are
teaching youth about the essentials of self-employment” (Shapiro,
197).
We applaud these initiatives. They will help energize African
Americans to seek ownership and control of their community.
They will in time increase by some as yet unknown factor the
wealth of some members of that community” (Shapiro, 197)

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The lack of business development was one of the key factors cited
by one respondent as a barrier to black wealth accumulation: “I do
believe that we really need to get into our own businesses.” A lack
of capital was cited as the most important barrier to business
creation” (Shapiro, 195)

Narrow Pathways to Financial Success
This section describes how despite the ability for Black women to be entrepreneurs there
are often barriers that exist. These barriers often lead us into being limited into certain fields or
industries such as those that are associated with the beauty or visual aesthetic industry such as
hair care, makeup artistry, manicurists, actresses, singers, or television, or certain beauty retail or
services (Harvey 2005). The following citations describe how Shapiro insists that for Black
entrepreneurs to succeed they must climb out of these markets and into deal with the industries
of the emerging and most dynamic part of the economy. Shapiro (2006) states:
“The purchase of small retail and service establishments within the
black community places black entrepreneurs in unnecessarily
restrictive economic markets. The key to growth is to break out of
segregated markets and into the wider economic mainstream.
Second, a primary focus on traditional retail and service outlets
may very well leave blacks out of the most dynamic parts of the
economy” (Shapiro, 197).
“In order to succeed African American business in the twenty-first
century needs to set its sights on the next great frontier of
economic growth: information processing. An emphasis on retail
and service will divert the energies of able black businesspeople
away from the most fertile area of economic growth” (Shapiro,
198)
“Any viable strategy for enhancing black wealth must include both
the development of local community-based entrepreneurs and their
penetration into the newest and most profitable sectors of the wider
economy” (Shapiro, 198).

23

Occupational and Business Licensing
This small portion reveals how the literature also describes how there are limitations to
our entrepreneurship based on the requirement for specific licenses, which usually takes money
and education to obtain, which therefore immediately excludes minority groups to not have
access to money or education (Williams 2007).

24

METHODOLOGY
In this section I will describe which methods of research I am using to prove and/or
disprove the findings from the literature. The following methods were planned, created, and
initiated with the purpose of fully discovering: who attains wealth, what does successful
entrepreneurship look like, and who wants to be one? By compiling a list of the richest
Americans, interviewing the owner of a small business, and conducting a survey for income and
career aspirations, I will take the steps in answering these questions.

Forbes “400”
There are Black people who have attained wealth in America but it fails in comparison to
the wealth that Whites have attained (Shapiro 2006). To assess more clearly the differences
between the wealth of Blacks and the wealth of Whites (of whom I will refer to as non-Black for
the sake of my data), I am compiling a listing of the 32 richest Black people in America and the
32 richest non-Black people in America. I use an Excel spreadsheet to assemble the information,
and depend on the most recent Forbes “Top 400” list to gather my data. Unfortunately, there are
not enough Black people in this Forbes list to gather an equal amount of persons in each for each
of my “Richest Black” and “Richest Non-Black” listings. There is only 1 Black person on the
“400” list (Oprah Winfrey), so I also rely on TheRichest.com using their “Wealthiest African
Americans” list, TheRanker.com using their “The 20 Richest African-Americans” list, and
finally a Forbes list titled “Richest Black Americans” made by a contributing writer, Matthew
Miller. From all these lists focused on the Black rich, I was able to compile only 32 people,
which explains why my data list consists of such an anomalous number. Although these other

25

sites do not share their methodology for their compiled lists, Forbes describes the approach for
their 2013 Forbes 400 list as such:
This year we started with a list of 600 individuals considered
strong candidates and then got to work. When possible we met
with list candidates in person; we spoke with nearly 100
billionaires this year. We also interviewed their employees,
handlers, rivals, peers and attorneys. We pored over thousands of
Securities & Exchange Commission documents, court records,
probate records, federal financial disclosures and Web and print
stories. We took into account all assets: stakes in public and private
companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards,
jewelry, car collections and more. We also factored in debt. Of
course, we don‟t pretend to know what is listed on each
billionaire‟s private balance sheet, although some candidates did
provide paperwork to that effect.
Some billionaires who preside over privately held companies were
happy to share their financial figures, but others were less
forthcoming. A few even threatened to sue. To value these
businesses we coupled estimates of revenues or profits with
prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar
public companies.
Our estimates are a snapshot of each list member‟s wealth on Aug.
23, when we locked in net worth numbers and rankings. Some of
The Forbes 400 will become richer or poorer within weeks—even
days—of publication. (Forbes.com)
Because the Forbes‟ is a credible resource and the “400” list was well constructed, I can trust the
accuracy of my data set for my “Richest Non-Black” listing. Also, because multiple names and
similar net-worths were listed on the sites that I used to compile my “Richest Blacks” listing, I
am confident in its accuracy as well.
After compiling the data of Black and non-Black persons and their attributed net worth, I
separate the list into discrete categories making sure to mark for gender (man vs. woman),
inheritance (self-made vs. inherited) and industry. My industry categories were developed
through analysis and observation of the industries of the rich persons involved in my data. They
include: television/media, sports, real estate, music/entertainment, investments/hedge funds, food
26

manufacturing, retail, technology, digital services, and other. “Other” gives respect to all the rich
persons whose wealth was not made within any of the given industries. While assembling the
data, I place the number 1 for each section where the given category applies to the particular
person and a 0 where it does not. This way I can feasibly handle my data when making
quantitative totals and qualitative inferences.
The data collected in these listings will help to generate the appropriate bar graphs to
easily reflect the relationship between race and inheritance, gender and inheritance, race and
average net worth, gender and average net worth, race and industry, and gender and industry. A
bar graph is simply a graphic representation for the qualitative variables that I pulled for and will
be displayed using solid bars separated by spaces (Chambliss & Schutt 2010).

Income and Career Aspirations Survey
To assess how race, gender, and education shape the income and career aspirations of
young Black women, I am conducting an e-mail survey with 32 Black female students who
attend Bates College in Lewiston, ME. E-mail surveys are electronic surveys that can be sent as
messages to respondent e-mail addresses (Chambliss & Schutt 2010). By limiting the survey to
Bates students, I have an accurate evaluation of their quality of education, campus culture, and
institutional values. Because I am also a Bates student my respondents are easily accessible. The
sample I draw from is a non-probability sample termed availability sample, which is a sample in
which elements are selected on the basis of convenience (Chambliss & Schutt 2010). If I were to
open the survey to Black Women who simply attend a college or university in the United States,
I would be ill-informed of specific areas of their collegiate experience that may be influential to
their responses. I contact women on-campus who I assume may identify as a “Black Woman.” I

27

generate a mental list-serve of over 46 women on Bates campus and send a blind carbon copy
message to everyone with the subject line: “My Thesis Survey!!!!!” I do not have access to a
formal list provided by the college of all the women who identify as Black so I target these
women based on my memory and my own personal assumptions of their racial and gender
identity. I inform the girls in the message that that they are receiving my email because I am
assuming that they identify as Black and as a woman; and that, if they identify as a “Black
woman” (in relation to their personal lived experiences), they should take the survey. This
definition of “Black woman” also includes, but is not limited to, women who identify as AfricanAmerican, Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, or African living in the United States. I make sure to
include this ethnic disclosure in the survey so that should there be a hypothetical situation of,
say, a Afro-Caribbean woman who does not consider herself to be Black she would know that in
the case of this study should would be considered Black. I also do this to ensure that all of my
respondents would feel recognized and comfortable enough to participate. All of the surveys are
conducted through an online Google form with 25 questions titled “Income and Career
Aspirations Survey.”
The questions prepared for the survey are formulated to examine the specific realities and
perceptions of young college-educated Black women in America. Each question aims to analyze
the education, background, goals, and attitudes of collegiate Black women to explicate their
value of wealth, financial success, and also of entrepreneurship. Below are the questions
generated in the survey:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

What is your age?
What city are you from?
What are your majors, minors and/or GECs?
What type of highschool did you attend?
During your senior year of highshool, what were your career aspirations?
What was your reason or inspiration for that choice?

28

7. Are you currently working towards this career aspiration?
8. If no, what are your current career goals?
9. When you were growing up, did you look to any public figures as role
models?
10. If yes, who were they? What did you admire about that person?
11. Would you consider this person financially successful?
12. How would you define "financial success"?
13. How important is it to you to be financially successful?
14. How much money do you aspire to make as your annual income? Please give
a brief explanation of why you think this income will best sustain you.
15. Please indicate which annual income range your family falls into.
16. Do you expect to inherit any money from relatives? If yes, please give an
estimate of how much.
17. Do you have a work-study job on campus?
18. If yes, how many hours a week do you work?
19. Do you earn money outside of parental allowance and work-study? (a.k.a. "a
side hustle")
20. If yes, what do you do to earn money?
21. How many hours do you spend on this? (Please indicate per week, per month,
per semester, etc.)
22. Would you ever turn this "side hustle" into your primary form of income?
Please briefly explain your answer.
23. How often do you think about starting your own business?
24. When do you think is the best time for a woman to start their own business?
25. What are your sentiments on Oprah Winfrey?
Firstly, I will go through each question and explain its value and relevance to this research. To
begin, I ask the girls their age so that I can have specific knowledge of the age range of the
respondents. Knowing what city they were from (or raised in) would inform me if they are from
urban communities, rural areas, or homogenous populations. According to Hackler and Mayer
(2008), this is important to know because “there is a regional variation in the level and type of
entrepreneurship. Some regions may host more women business owners than others.” The
following questions refer to college field of study and highschool type. This information will
give me insight on the educational background of the women so that I can gage which fields of
study Black Women are pursuing at Bates College and their highschool background. I give two
multiple-choice options for highschool type: (1) “Public”, and (2) “Private (charter, magnet,

29

homeschooled, etc.)”. You will see in the parenthesis that I categorize charter and magnet
schools as private schools so that I can simply acknowledge any sort of “specialized curriculum”
that the respondent may have received during their highschool experience. Charter and magnet
schools often have specialized educational tracks such as law, business, and science. I think that
this element can be transcribed in the same category as “private”; although I do understand that
charter and magnet schools are government funded and therefore, public.
The next portion of the survey asks them specifically what they wanted to be when they
grew up. I quantify the question so that they can reflect only on their aspirations when they were
a senior in high school. At this point in life, one is consistently thinking about and preparing for
their future therefore it is very probable that they are thinking of career options to arrange during
and after college. Also, there is more credibility that can be placed on a goal that is set up in 12 th
grade than in 2nd grade. It was also important to ask them, what inspired them to have their career
aspiration. With this we can gage if their career goals were parent driven, media driven, or had
any other influential factor. Usually by the time you arrive at college, your goals change. Asking
them, next, if the career aspirations that they had in 12th grade are the same that they have now
while in college can show us if their college education has now inspired them to seek a different
path. If it has, it is necessary to know what they now aspire to do with their future careers.
Next, I thought it necessary to inquire if the respondents had any public figures as roles
models while they were growing up. Depending on the person they choose, I can gage what
kinds of celebrities were impressionable to their childhood and growth and it can also show me
who they aspire to be like. The next question asks if they found that person to be financially
successful. Often that term can be relative and subjective therefore the next thing I ask is for
them to define what they determine to be “financial success”. With this I can have a better

30

understanding of how Black collegiate young view financial success, and it can give me better
insight of why or with what mindset they answer the rest of the questions within the survey. In
the next question, after asking them to define financial success, I inquire how important financial
success is for themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=not important at all, 10= extremely important).
The succeeding question is purposefully placed because based on the responses to the definition
of financial success, and the importance financial success for them, I now ask them to quantify
these ideas. The question is: How much money do you aspire to make as your annual income? I
give them a full range of incomes starting with “ 0-$30k”, “$30k-45k”, “$45k-$60k”, “$60k$75k”, “$75k-100k”, “$100k-$500k”, “$500k-$1million”, and ending with “$1million +”.
Whatever they choose shows me what annual income they associate with their definition of
“financial success”. I ask them to also give a brief explanation of how they see that income level
sustaining them. Their response can show me how they view their desired income in relationship
to their needs and wants.
The following two questions relate to family income. I ask what annual income range
their family falls into and if the respondents expect to inherit money in their future. The
responses will give me a sense of what financial backgrounds the respondents were raised in and
how they will be financially abetted in their future. I also ask them to give an estimate of how
much they expect to inherit from family. Shapiro states that “among the white families we
interviewed everybody has inherited or will inherit hard assets” (156). It is important to once
again, gage if this is the case for the Black families represented by my respondents.
The subsequent questions analyze the personal income and work ethic of the respondents.
I first ask if the respondents have a work study job on campus to determine whether they have a
formal form of income. If they do work on campus, it is important to know how many hours to

31

determine how much they choose to focus their time on earning money throughout the week. The
next questions after this are extremely important and are the heart and focus of the entire survey.
I go on to ask if the respondents earn money outside of parental allowance, summer employment,
and work-study. I placed parenthesis next to this questions referring to the urban term “side
hustle”. I also added a note under the question to explain this colloquial term, saying “A „side
hustle‟ refers to a way to bring in money outside of your primary income”. To answer the
question I want the respondents to ask themselves what they do to earn money “on the side”
outside of the traditional methods of simply asking their parents, or work study compensation.
This is important to know because it will show me if any of the respondents have any sort of
entrepreneurial drive. I then ask them what this “side hustle” is in order to determine what
outside pathways (or industries) they are seeking to earn money. I will also ask how many hours
they devote to this entrepreneurial endeavor, and require that they give a measurement of “per
week”, “per month”, or “per semester” to determine its frequency.
In the next question I ask the respondents who do consider themselves to have a “side
hustle” to answer if they would ever turn their “side hustle” into a primary form of income. This
question is to gage whether the respondents see their side hustle as a dependable form of income.
Their response will also tell me if they have any intentions of one day making what they do on
the side their livelihood. This can also tell me if they see their “side hustle” as worthy of their
full time and attention. To understand further, I ask that they briefly explain their choice to better
rationalize their response.
The following question then explores the extent to which the respondents have ever
considered an entrepreneurial path. I specifically ask: How often do you think about starting your
own business (1=I never think about it, 10=I think about it constantly). Based on the responses I

32

will gage if the respondents have ever considered an entrepreneurial future for themselves and
will know if this is a prevalent interest or consideration for Black collegiate women.
The next question helps to determine the stereotypes or situations most college educated
Black women associate with entrepreneurship. I ask: “When do you think is the best time for a
woman to start their own business?” The respondents are given an opportunity to check all that
applies from the following options: (1) Immediately when she thinks of a genius idea, (2) When
she has a primary income source and wants additional money, (3) when it‟s her last resort to earn
money (unemployed), (4) when she is older and wiser, (5) when she is young and energetic, (6)
when she‟s already built a professional career, (7) when she is bored and has free time, (8) when
she is married with a family, and (8) when she is single with no children. Each choice, and even
especially the combination of choices, tells me what they perceive to be the criteria to starting
your own business. Whether they think a women should start her own business when she is
“older and wiser” versus when she is “young and energetic” tells a lot about what entrepreneurs
looks like, how they are prepared for entrepreneurship, and whether they are equipped for
success within that path.
The final question, “What are your sentiments on Oprah Winfrey?” is to see how they
immediately perceive one of the richest Black women in America. I expect to receive a positive
or unenthused reception of her and give the respondents the following options to choose from:
(1) “She‟s one of the greatest philanthropists of our time.” (2) “She‟s rich and successful— so
proud!” and (3) “Eh, she‟s okay…” They have the ability to check all that apply and each
response will give me an understanding of how they perceive success.
In all, the survey acts as a guide to determine the income and career aspirations of young
Black college educated women so that you can determine their desired financial success, and

33

their perception of entrepreneurship as a path to get there. This survey is completely anonymous
and none of the responses can be linked back to the respondents.

A Case Study of Draped Hair Boutique
Draped Hair Boutique is an online hair extensions provider started by two Black female
college students from Boston, MA. This is an appropriate case study for this thesis because the
two women who started Draped are a representation of young ambitious female entrepreneurs.
Despite the increment marginalization of Black women, the company has created a brand that
celebrates the beauty of women while providing ladies with the option of adding to their natural
excellence by wearing extensions (Drapedhairboutique.com). Their products has been worn in
weddings, graduation ceremonies, been to cities such as Paris, London, Lagos, and Abuja. They
also have had customers featured on MTV, Bravo, and Essence magazine. They have expanded
their network and used their passion and motivation to push the company forward.
To conduct a study of this business I will interview one of the co-founders of Draped
Hair Boutique, Amarachi Iwuh, to assess her experience as a Black female entrepreneur. I will
also be evaluating her decision for entering the beauty industry, her personal aspirations, the
goals for the company, and the outside influences that have impacted her entrepreneurial
pathway. I have divided the questions I will ask her into three themes: Entrepreneurship
Experience, Personal Goals, and Outside Influences. Many of the questions are derived from the
“Income and Career Aspirations” survey and some are also very specific to her entrepreneurial
experience with Draped Hair Boutique. The interview will be conducted over the phone and will
take no longer than 1 hour to complete.

34

DATA ANALYSIS
In this analysis I will discuss the results of my methodology by analyzing the data made
by my Richest Black and Richest Non-Black data listing, the results of my “Income and Career
Aspirations” Survey, and my qualitative phone interview with the co-founder of Draped Hair
Boutique. These three methods will prove and disprove several portions of the literature so that
we can accurately articulate if entrepreneurship is a viable, productive, and desirable path for
Black women to attain wealth.

RICHEST BLACKS vs. RICHEST NON-BLACKS
In the data produced by the Richest Blacks and the Richest Non-Black listing we find
several evidence that confirms with the different aspects of the literature. The three themes found
in this data include: (1) race and gender wealth discrepancy, (2) accessibility to inherited wealth,
and (3) racialized and gendered industries causing a narrow, constructed pathways for financial
success. In Table 1.0 you will find the full data compiled for the “Richest Black” data listing. In
Table 1.1, you will find similar data for the “Richest Non-Black” listing. In these listings you
will find the names, net worth, gender, inheritance, and industry of each person amongst the top
richest 32 in America. These listings will benefit if you desire to know and specific details of
which person amongst those lists.
Average Networth
To begin, I will discuss the first finding throughout the data, which shows that there is an
extreme wealth discrepancy amongst race and gender. This is significant because even when
discussing the richest people in America you still see that there are obvious results that point to

35

race and gender as actors and influencers of their financial attainment. Table 2.0 shows the
average networths distributed amongst Blacks, Non-Blacks, men and women:

AVERAGE NETWORTH (BLLIONS)
Black
Non-Black

0.394
25.550

Men
Women

13.077
12.340

Black Men
Non-Black Men

0.320
25.833

Black Women
Non-Black Women

0.659
24.020 Table 2.0

This table shows that the average networth for everyone included in the top 32 “Richest Blacks”
listing was only 394 million dollars. This is an extreme discrepancy to the 25 billion dollar
average on the non-black list. This immediately shows us that Blacks have significantly less
wealth than Whites even amongst the wealthiest persons entire the country. You will also find
that from all the men on both listings, “Richest Black” and “Richest Non-Black”, they still have
a higher average net worth than women. All this goes to prove that the literature is correct in
drawing a conclusion that wealth discrepancies exist amongst race and gender categories. Refer
to Figure 1.0 and Figure 1.1 for a visual representation of these discrepancies.
What the table also shows us is a significant difference between black men and black
women. You will unexpectedly see that Black women have a higher average networth of 698
million dollars. This may be due to the infamous Oprah Winfrey who stands as a significant
outlier in the data provided for Black women, who receives a networth of 2.67 billion dollars.

36

Oprah is one of few on the entire list so her influence on average networth data for Black women
will make it significantly more increased than the average net worth of Black men. The data for
non-black men and non-black women still holds the same, with over a billion-dollar difference in
average net worth.

RACE & AVERAGE NETWORTH (BLLIONS)
30.000

25.000

25.550

20.000

15.000

AVERAGE NETWORTH (BLLIONS)

10.000

5.000

0.000

0.394
Black

Non-Black

Figure 1.0

37

GENDER & AVERAGE NETWORTH
(BLLIONS)
13.200
13.000

13.077

12.800
12.600
AVERAGE NETWORTH
(BLLIONS)

12.400
12.340
12.200
12.000
11.800
Men

Women

Figure 1.1

Self Made vs. Inherited
Secondly, I will discuss the vapid accuracy amongst the argument that Blacks do not
accumulate inherited wealth. In Table 3.0, it is apparent that of all the 32 richest Black in
America, not one of them came from inherited wealth and all attained self-made wealth. The
Whites however have a reach of 21 self-made earners to 11 inherited earners. This means that
within the entire list of 32 richest non-Black Americans, 65% were made their wealth based on
their own ideas and efforts and 35% inherited their wealth. This shows that the wealth obtained
by family inheritance occurs 35% of the time when pertaining to Whites (or non-Blacks). This

38

means that entrepreneurial self-made mindset still exists amongst Whites for the other 65%. This
group was able to make their own wealth through making and branding their own business
ventures. They did not have their wealth or assets set up for them but earned everything that they
own by their own capabilities and merit.

Table 3.0
Self-Made
Black
Non-Black

Inherited
32
21

TOTAL
0
11

TOTAL OF TOTALS
32
32
64

Men
Women

46
7

6
5

52
12
64

Black Men
Non-Black Men

25
21

0
6

25
27
52

Black Women
Non-Black Women

7
0

0
5

7
5
12

It is also interesting that inheritance of Black women and non-black women is all or nothing. The
data shows that all the 5 non-black women accumulated in the list of 32 people inherited their
wealth. So we now see that 100% of white women on a vast listing of “Richest Non-Blacks”
inherited the wealth they attained. Although these white women may have made a significant
effort in obtaining and multiplying the money they inherited, it still shows us that their wealth
was not entirely earned from their own personal entrepreneurial drive but was handed to them
through family fortune, assets, and wealth. Even with a shared oppression of being a woman in
American society, race still holds in favor for white women when it comes to attaining wealth.
For black women, their double burden of being black and being a woman is seen in the fact that

39

not only they lowly represented on these lists but just to obtain a spot on these lists they had to
work significantly harder to attain their self-made wealth because they had no inheritance to
depend on or use to increase their wealth. Black women had to earn their spot on these lists.
Figure 2.0

Gender and Inheritance
50
45
40
35
30
25

Men

20

Women

15
10
5
0
Self-Made

Inherited

Figure 2.1

Race and Inheritance
35
30
25
20

Black

15

Non-Black

10
5
0
Self-Made

Inherited

40

Industry
In the industry section we find evidence that even amongst the top wealthiest Blacks and
Non-Blacks, they all find financial success in specific industries. These industries can be
described as particularly racialized and gendered as well. In Figure 3.0, it is evident that the
industries most occupied by Blacks are Music/Entertainment and Sports. As you see their
White/Non-Black counterparts, pursue more of a variety of industries including large-scale retail,
technology, and investment funds. Non-Blacks also significantly occupy the “Other” section,
which means they have a variety of different industries where they gain their wealth outside of
the ones listed.
Figure 3.0:

Race and Industry
16
14
12
10
8
6
4

Black
Non-Black

2
0

41

In Figure 3.1, the data shows that the industries heavily distribute to women are
music/entertainment and television/media. These are interesting findings because they show that
those industries are particularly gendered. What does this say that when 64 black and non-black
are evaluated that they all happen to gain more financial success within specific fields others?
Perhaps the visual beauty aesthetics and body politics associated with the music/entertainment
and television/media industries holds to be a significant factor in why women are highly
associated with those fields.
Figure 3.1:

Gender and Industry
12
10
8
6
4
2

Men
Women

0

You will also find that men dominate the industries pertaining to music/entertainment and
investments/hedge funds. Interestingly enough, the women on these lists are not associated with
investments and hedge funds whatsoever, or at least that is not where they are obtaining their
wealth. Table 4.0 shows the distribution of black and non-black men and also black and non-

42

black women which can help in having a more specific understanding of which fields theses
racial and gender groups participate in.

43

INCOME AND CAREER ASPIRATIONS
In this section of the data analysis I will present the results found from the Income and
Career aspirations survey administered to the Black women of Bates College in Lewiston, ME.
Based on their responses we will have a better understanding on the perceptions and attitudes of
Black college women towards entrepreneurship, financial success, and the pathways they are
seeking to achieve financial success.
I will begin with the preliminary responses to the survey. The respondents‟ age ranged
from 18-23 years old, so the respondents were all still young and within college age, without no
responses from outliers who may have a different perspective than this general age bracket. The
respondents also ranged from various cities in and outside of the United States such as Seattle,
Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Mbabane, Accra, and Memphis. They are also all
very urban metropolitan cities, which may have an influence in how the girls perceive their
financial future. The girls also represented a vast array of majors, minors, and GECs but the
majority of the respondent held fields within the social sciences and humanities with a few
biology and chemistry majors.
In response to the first multiple-choice question “What type of high school did you
attend?” these were the findings:

Public

14

47%

Private (charter, magnet, homeschooled etc.)

16

53%

44

This result shows us that the Black women from Bates College have a somewhat equal balance
between highschool backgrounds with a few more students who attended a private institution.
In response to their career aspirations while a senior in high schools many of respondents varied
responses that ranged from the health care, education, and finance fields. Some girls specifically
wrote, “I wanted to be an actuary”, or “I wanted to be a nurse” or “I wanted to be a teacher.”

Are you currently working towards this career aspiration?

Yes

17

53%

No

15

47%

When you were growing up, did you look to any public figures as role models?

Yes

14

44%

No

18

56%

45

Would you consider this person financially successful?

Yes

15

47%

No

17

53%

46

How important is it to you to be financially successful?

1

0

0%

2

0

0%

3

1

3%

4

5

16%

5

3

9%

6

0

0%

7

2

6%

8

5

16%

9

3

9%

10

13

41%

47

How much money do you aspire to make as your annual income?

$0-30k

0

0%

$30-45k

1

3%

$45-60k

3

9%

$60-75k

3

9%

$75-100k

11

34%

$100-500k

9

28%

$500k-$1million

2

6%

$1 million +

3

9%

48

Please indicate which annual income range your family falls into.

$0-30k

7

22%

$30-45k

6

19%

$45-60k

10

31%

$60-75k

5

16%

$75-100k

2

6%

$100-500k

1

3%

$500k-$1million

1

3%

$1 million +

0

0%

Do you expect to inherit any money from relatives?

Yes

7

22%

No

25

78%

49

Do you have a work study job on campus?

Yes

28

88%

No

4

13%

Do you earn money outside of parental allowance, summer employment, and work-study?
(a.k.a. "a side hustle")

Yes

8

25%

No

24

75%

Would you ever turn this "side hustle" into your primary form of income?

Yes

2

18%

No

9

82%

50

How often do you think about starting your own business?

1

3

9%

2

2

6%

3

3

9%

4

4

13%

5

4

13%

6

1

3%

7

5

16%

8

4

13%

9

1

3%

10

5

16%

When do you think is the best time for a woman to start their own business?

51

Immediately when she thinks of a genius idea

9

14%

When she has a primary income source and wants additional money

15

23%

When it's her last resort to earn money (unemployed)

2

3%

When she is older and wiser.

9

14%

When she is young and energetic.

11

17%

When she's already built a professional career

11

17%

When she is bored and has free time

2

3%

When she is married with a family

1

2%

When she is single with no children

6

9%

52

What are your sentiments on Oprah Winfrey?

She's one of the greatest philanthropists of our time.

16

38%

She's rich and successful-- so proud!

19

45%

Eh, she's okay...

7

17%

The general garnering from the survey tells us that Black college women do not seek
entrepreneurship for their future career aspirations. In fact they think that entrepreneurial
endeavors such as starting your own business should be done “when she has a primary income
source and wants additional money.” So this tells us that they see it as a secondary endeavor and
not as a initial target goal.
All the girls are pursuing paths that are constructed and guaranteed some sort of financial
success. Entrepreneurship can not always provide that security. All the girls don‟t aspire to be
millionaires but just want to provide a comfortable way of living for them and their families.

Case Study of Draped Hair Boutique
This case study explores the entrepreneurial experience of co-founder, Amarachi Iwuh of
Draped Hair Boutique. The research uses this to reflect upon the lived experience of a Black
female entrepreneur and also to have an understanding of how race and gender affects her

53

pathway to financial success through entrepreneurship. The three themes developed from the
interview include: (1) entrepreneurial experience, (2) personal goals, and (3) outside influences.
Based on her responses to my phone interview questions we have an understanding on how
intersectionality of several elements take into account give the practice of entrepreneurship.
I will begin by reviewing the responses to given in the Entrepreneurial Experience
section of the interview. Amarachi described to me that she and her partner had started Draped
Hair Boutique in the summer of 2012 due to previous interest in the hair industry from a high
school project. Soon she started to see that the products she used everyday was being purchased
by outside racial groups and felt that it was necessary to generate business back into the black
community:
I know as a consumer myself the amount of money that I put into
myself and maintaining my image, my hair, my skin; when you
look further into these companies you notice that they‟re not blackowned. A lot of these places that we buy our hair from in our
neighborhoods, they‟re owned by people who are not black they‟re
owned by Asians, they‟re owned by white people. Johnson and
Johnson, where I buy lotions from, is currently owned by a white
person. So for me it was just realizing that I put in a lot of money
into the betterment of myself and into the betterment of my
community but we‟re not directly receiving the proceeds. So when
it came to DHB me and my partner wanted to still create an avenue
for black women to cater to their aesthetic needs but to also just
lead by example and show that you don‟t have to just keep buying
products from around your corner store or from your neighborhood
beauty supply store but you can actually manufacture your own
products or start your own business and reap those benefits, and
that will directly enhance the black community because we are
taking ownership on the things we love the most which is hair care
beauty and skin.

What did you see as being major challenges in the beginning?
Starting the company, gaining visibility, gaining trust?
54

Primarily one of the main challenges was funding. My partner and
I were both college students who just completed our sophomore
year. We had average paying summer jobs, and as young people
we chose to collect savings and put that money towards investing
in our own business. So many start-ups take out a loan or have
investors but we were our own investors. That was complicated in
the beginning because I don‟t want to say that we went hungry to
provide for our company but we would have checks that would
come in bi-weekly and would go straight to Draped to the point
where we were calling our company DHB our baby because we
were feeding it almost more than we were feeding ourselves so that
was one of the main challenges. You need money to make money.
As things went on we had to start engaging with our potential
audience and making them see us, as their peers, as a reliable
trustable source to go to for their beauty needs when they have
local beauty stores and beauty supply stores that they‟ve been
going to and how our products work is a try basis. You have to
spend money to see if it‟s going to work out for you. You can‟t
return it, or try it on like you‟re in a dressing room. So our
financial success heavily depends on the trust that we can conjure
up with our potential clients. So in the beginning it was a struggle
making sure that we could sustain an ongoing clientele but what
we just went to our family first. We went to our friends and our
family first and then from that we got referrals and our product was
good so it wasn‟t about us failing our customers but more about
them having faith in us trust us for that one initial try. And the that
person refers someone and they refer someone and then eventually
it started to spread onto campuses
But those were two main challenges.

How did you get Draped where it is today? You guys have
clients in Bravo, Essence Magazine, MTV and do a lot with the
college community so what was the process to building the
company and making your brand?
In the beginning we wanted anybody to be our customer. We were
trying to reach out to anybody. So that‟s why it started out with
friends and family but soon we realized we need someone to

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represent our company who has a huge platform, and who can
engage with social media. It‟s an online boutique so we heavily
depend on social media and the online world. We were using
Instagram twitter, blogs like Tumblr and we needed a few people
who we knew would be able to engage with a larger audience and
with the audience we had at that time. So we had to look at the
people we know who had an influence on the community, the city,
and even nationwide.
I go to Howard University so I reached out to this one lady who
was a member of MTV‟s Real World and we reached out to her
and asked her if she would be interested in wearing our extensions.
Her audience was nationwide because people knew her from a
show, so now we were targeting the cities of all her fans which
could have even been global. On the flip it was an investment we
did also sponsor her extensions so we had to make sure the benefit
would make up for the money we gave for that sponsorship.
So it really just built by us reaching out to our networks. And it
was mostly people that we had all known personally and people
who had even purchased the extensions because they believed in
our product this much. So getting those sponsors helped us to build
credibility and trust because if someone sees them on Instagram
saying she loves the hair then you‟re going to have someone in
small city in Texas saying if “Naya from MTV likes the hair I
think I „m going to purchase it because I trust her”. So that‟s sort
of how it worked.

How much money do you and your partner make with
Draped?
It depends. It‟s a by sale basis so I would say that each month we
make about $300-$500. We distribute it in different ways. It
always goes back to the company first and whatever remainder we
have we decide what we want to do with it. Sometimes we put
money towards brand development or whatever we need for the
website or business but when need be we pocket the money. It also
depends on the gross amount of sales, and on what people are
ordering. Our rates are competitive. Each bundle of our hair which
starts at $90 and goes to $150. When people get 2-3 bundles then

56

we‟re seeing $200-$400 transactions each person. But we have to
take in the cost of the product and other things but for us our
revenue is about $300-$500 a month. Then we share split that
between the two of us.

What are your future goals for DHB?
Well the sky is the limit. Right now we‟re an online boutique and
want to expand that and take ownership of the word boutique and
our mission with it. We want DHB to be for the college audience,
and for young ladies who are driven but care about how they
present themselves in the world but also take care of themselves as
black women. The best way to ensure that type of service is to
have that kind of boutique that not only offers extensions, but also
hair care products. So we want to expand, and we‟ll start with our
hometown with Boston and hopefully we can reach to other major
cities in the US and also expand internationally. We‟re definitely
still a growing business but we have a lot of things in store for the
company and there is no endpoint for us.
I then asked Amarachi questions pertaining to her own personal goals:
What are your majors and minors, what school do you attend
and what is your field of study?
I am a senior, public relations major from Howard University
minoring in History.
I have derived the following questions from a survey that I did
for Bates College students which was a survey asking about
their income and career aspirations. They are basic questions.
This next one is what type of high school did you attend?
I went to a private school in Dedham, Massachusetts. It was part of
the independent school league. It was predominantly white. It was
tuition based as most private schools are and it was also a five-day
boarding school in which I was also a participant of.
During your senior year of high school, what were your career
aspirations? Usually during senior year is we begin to think
about our future and what we wanted to do with our lives, so
what were you thinking about during that time.
57

I knew I definitely wanted to go into communications. I always felt
like that was my chance to write. I liked to communicate. I had
some experience with event planning, so summer jobs, and though
I didn‟t know necessarily what to call it, I knew that it would have
been communications. Now in hindsight, I probably would have
gone to business school just to strengthen my analytical and
business skills. In either way, that‟s what I ended up going into. I
think at the end of my senior year, I want to pursue a path in
hosting. I want to work for MTV or BET and be a host for one of
their programs.
Is this an aspiration that you are working towards right now?
I would say that during my college career, I didn‟t join the radio or
any television programs. I definitely joined music related, event
planning organizations and stuff like that. I started straying away
from the focal point of hosting and instead adopted a more behind
the scenes PR role and my career developed, and I would say I was
initially introduced to that in college.
So would you say that your current career goals are PR
related, communications based?
I would not say that they changed dramatically but the focal point
is a bit different.
So how do you balance your career goals and Draped at the
same time? You want to pursue public relations and that is
your focal point right now, so how do you balance being an
entrepreneur for Draped and your own personal career goals?
I would say that with Draped everything is a business. With
everything you are pursuing in college because there is a role for
you in some type of company. Whether I was in the school of
business and was a financial analyst or if I was in the school of
communications and I was studying broadcast journalism, I would
be able to use those skills in any type of company that I decide to
take an offer with post graduation. So with my company, those
skills can be used in many different ways. I have been able to use
PR a lot with Draped hair boutique. With my interests in event
planning, I have been able to use that a lot with Draped hair
boutique. I learned a lot even about financial analyzing. I was
never professionally taught how to do that. I self taught myself and
my partner, we need to know those types of things. SEO
Marketing, we taught ourselves. We were never formally trained to

58

learn those things in college, but when you have your own
company you realize you need a lot of ways to do all of the work
and you may not be formally trained to do so, but that‟s when you
teach. When it came to Draped hair boutique, I was able to use my
major, fortunately, to help better our company and my partner, but
there are also a lot of things that I could learn on my own that
would have helped my company, as well.

So you’re a senior in college, what are your plans after school?
Are you applying to jobs while you work for Draped?
Well, I have a little bit of time left, so I am still thinking about the
things I want to do. I have not applied for jobs yet. I still am
pursuing a career in music related PR. I also want to take the time
to give myself the credit and see where I can go with starting my
own thing. I want to be successful, however, from starting Draped
I have seen how things work. I have become more enthused about
starting my own thing. I do hope to have my own startup company
outside of Draped hair boutique, maybe something completely
different, perhaps my PR agency. I don‟t wish to work for
somebody else and for someone that I have seen at the tender age
of 19 that I am capable of doing on my own, so my career is now
clearly defined, but I am sure that I will be probably pursue
something that I start on my own.

Do you add your entrepreneurial experience with Draped on
your resume while you apply to jobs?
NO…
Why not?
Because it‟s rebellious. Employers don‟t like that. In college we‟re
taught to work for people, not to work for myself. So I have an
entrepreneurial spirit but having a working mind and I just apply to
jobs with a working resume.
I know that I'm an entrepreneur, I Iook at companies like I could
run this. I apply to work for somebody so I can observe to see how
things go, and then can come in as now it is my turn to run
this. This is due to observing what works and what doesn't work,

59

so I know that when it comes to me, I know how to do it my own
self, but you never know how to do something on your own unless
you have done it for someone else, so I don't need to put
entrepreneur on my resume because that's what I am, that's not
something they need to know.
If the world worked for themselves or decided to do the
entrepreneurship, the economy would go down. No one would go
to college because you don't need to go to college because college
teaches you how to work for yourself. I would rather spend the
amount of money I spent on tuition, a year's worth of tuition on a
year's worth of putting into my own entrepreneurial endeavours
than putting it into obtaining a degree .... I feel like I would reach a
steady rate of success, if I were to do that.
Where did your entrepreneurial mindset come from?
I'm a hustler, I'm a hustler, That's really how I feel, ever since I
was younger, I've been hustlin' little things, I remember, it was first
grade I used to sell bracelets to the girls around me and they would
want to buy because they knew me and they trusted me. I‟ve just
always had that mindset. So I see being an entrepreneurship as
more of a characteristic of one‟s self.
Next I asked Amarachi questions to gage what some of her outside influences to her
entrepreneurial drive were so that I may also have a better understanding of her background:
When you were growing up did you look to any public figures
as role models?
There were people that I admired such as Madame CJ Walker,
Shirley Chisolm, Marion Anderson, Oprah, Tyra Banks. But I
can‟t say that they were people that I followed. I admired them as
black women fighting the odds of the system. But they were never
career based admirations. I never wanted to be Oprah.
Would you say some of them were financially successful?
Yes, those women are definitely financially successful. But they
were also moguls, well-known women in their era so that
definitely contributed to their financial success.
How do you define financial success?

60

I define financial success mainly by popularity. To be notable in
America is almost equivalent with being financially successful or it
just makes financial success a lot more attainable.
How important is it to you to be financially successful?
Very important.
Do you want financial success in the same way you defined it?
I want to be able to make an impact on the country. I don‟t want to
be popular I don‟t aspire to be a celebrity but I think for those
women that I named I only know them because they were popular
but I don‟t think financial success only comes from popularity but
because they were popular that contributed to their financial
success. I wish to be a financial success story that did not depend
on popularity. I want my position in society to impact the world
positively but I don‟t wish to be a celebrity. I don‟t wish to be
popular I wish to be great at my field, I wish to be smart. And to be
great at what I do and I know that ultimately that will contribute to
financial success.
So how would you quantify financial success? What kind of
figures do you aspire to make?
Hmm, six…I mean you know it‟s not gonna be an overnight story.
I know that it‟s definitely going to be something that I work up
towards out of graduation I hope to start out making at least sixty
thousand annually, 60-70 annually and I don‟t want to be chasing a
mediocre salary for too long. I can‟t predict the future or numbers
because anything can happen but I know that I won‟t settle until
I‟ve reached SUCCESS, which for me doesn‟t even have to be
defined financially. Once I reach success that means that I‟m
financially and emotionally okay. I‟m more than okay, I‟m where I
want to be in all facets of my existence. So until then I‟m going to
chase a six figure salary.
How can a six figure salary best sustain you?
The way I like to live is within means but I also don‟t want to have
to take shortcuts. I don‟t want to have to limit myself. I plan to
have a family and it costs a lot of money to have a family. I want
to live a life where I can enjoy my life in the best way that I can. I

61

don‟t want have to to say no to myself for too long. I‟ve said no to
myself, my mom says no to herself, the way that I was raised... I
mean my mom is still searching for her financial success story.
And I was bred into that. And I know that there are limitations in
life and how I plan to live and raise my family I want to be able to
get the things that I want. I want to be able to see the places I want
to see. I want to be able to have the houses that I want and I want
to be able to have enough money to be comfortable with my family
and also have enough money to save. I want money that won‟t just
be in one generation but will sustain generations to come and to me
six figures can definitely help. It can definitely start that. It can
provide me and my future family more options to grow financially.
What is your family income range? Do you expect to inherit
any money or assets from relatives?
My mother has three kids she‟s a single mom. She has a decent job
that‟s pretty well paying compared to the statistics of black
women. She beats the margin of a black woman in America but at
the same time she‟s still a single parent, and all three of her
daughters went to private highschools, and they‟re all about to go
to college. If she was single parent with one kid or no kids, she‟d
be doing fine but she has three daughters so she‟s not as financially
free as she looks like she should be. Wish is why I want my six
figures before my family so that I can have enough saved for them.
My father is a taxi driver and I can‟t gage how much he makes but
it‟s not enough to sustain a family. My grandparents are a nurse
and lawyer, they‟re financially stable. They have two kids and they
were able to save a lot and make smart financial decisions. They
never lived without a bed or under their means which makes them
live a lot more comfortably right now that they‟re older. Am I
going to inherit any money? I‟m not sure I‟ve never thought about
that.

Amarachi has gained many usable skills from her entrepreneurial experience and views
her entrepreneurial drive as a characteristic of her personality, and not something that she learned

62

in school. She has found financial success with Draped but hopes to one day gain six figures with
by continuing her entrepreneurial drive.

63

CONCLUSION
This thesis discussed Black female entrepreneurship as a pathway for wealth attainment
in America. It explored Black women‟s accessibility to wealth through entrepreneurial pathways
and reviewed the institutional limitations caused by historic marginalization. The first chapter of
the literature discussed Black women‟s exclusion to wealth through racial and gender inequality.
We gather context that Black women are at the bottom of the labor market and therefore
systematic and institutional tools exist to keep them there. It is through black feminist ideology
that Black women gained a sense of pride and obtained self-worth to conquer the horrific
limitations placed on them.
In the second chapter of the literature review we will discuss how the labor market
through excludes Black women so they turn to self-help and entrepreneurship as becomes a
“survival method”. We then will gather a context for to explore if entrepreneurship is now an
ideal pathway for Black women who stand as an extremely marginalized group in America. Is
entrepreneurship the way to go for Black women to begin to gain wealth and assets for
themselves and their families? We then review the industries that Black women have found
success in and examine if those industries and the entrepreneurial pathways chosen by Black
women limit the potential for extreme wealth attainment.
From the top Richest Black and Richest Non-Black people in America we explored for
average net worth, inheritance, and industry. The results showed us that blacks have significantly
less wealth than whites. It also told us that Black gain success in certain specific gendered and
racialized industries. The examination of inheritance also showed us that Blacks have had to
fight and earn every single penny due to their own self will. All black people on the list of 32 top

64

richest black in America gained their wealth through “self-made” efforts. This data analysis
confirmed exactly what the literature explained to us that Blacks and Whites have a severe
wealth discrepancy and we saw it still even amongst the richest people in the nation. Black
wealth still did not compare to White wealth.
In the survey we learned that Black college women ages 18-23 at Bates desired to go into
easy pre-tracked fields such as education and science. Particularly this was to do good for the
world and follow what their parents also wanted for them. The respondents did not have a “side
hustle” and stuck to their work study jobs as their primary form of income. This shows me that
the respondents just don‟t encompass an entrepreneurial drive but instead have learned through
their education track how to work for others and how to help the social world through teaching
and medicine. True entrepreneurial drive isn‟t characteristic of Bates College Black women.
This is also because, as Amarahchi showed us in her interview, entrepreneurship truly is a
personality trait and encompasses a specific ideology. It‟s a confidence gained with becoming an
entrepnuership that is similar to the confidence Black Women found through Black feminist
thought. You must encompass some sort of “hustler” mindset to feel confident partaking in an
entprenuerial path. We also leanred that to have success in any form of entprenuership you must
have a dependable network. Even Oprah the richest Black women in the world has a huge
platform and large network and which she relies to help her sustain her financial success.
Entreprenuership is a communal, and helps to keep the wealth and assets in the community.
The findings from this research showed that entrepreneurship is indeed a viable pathway
to improve the Black woman‟s economy and reallocates wealth back into the excluded
communities.

65

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