7 inspiring stories of entrepreneurship, community, and innovation from women leaders

By Preeti Upadhyaya, Justine Rivero, and Jamie Rosenstein | DIGITAL BUSINESS

In honor of Women's History Month 2018, it’s a great time to reflect on the most actionable advice and inspiring quotes from some of the powerful women entrepreneurs featured on Accelerate with Google. Here are some highlights from our conversations with a range of business leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who share a common vision of tapping into, nurturing, and growing communities to drive greater business inclusion for everyone. (Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.)

Forge your own path, and don’t be afraid to ruffle feathers along the way

Photo credit: Courtesy of Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O’Brien, the Emmy-award winning anchor-turned-entrepreneur, created powHERful Foundation to empowering young women to graduate from college. To be a successful upstart, O’Brien emphasizes leaning on the community. "Learn from others. Talk to everybody who is doing what you want to do. People are so SO generous with their time. Just ask a lot of questions, read everything you can and learn from the mistakes of others."

Photo credit: Carlos Peralta

Lili Gil's passion for bringing people together to build meaningful networks has led her to start Dreamer Ventures, which offers access to education, mentorship, and sales opportunities for Latino and other minority entrepreneurs across the U.S. and Latin America. She encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to take an ownership stake in their careers. "If you're not being invited to the table, create your own table," she says.

KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson started Mented Cosmetics, a beauty brand for women of color, with the insight that "we should not be afterthoughts in the world of beauty." Miller says, "'Well behaved women seldom make history.' I've always been assertive and if there is something I want I’m gonna fight like hell to get it and probably ruffle feathers along the way."

Tap into your local community to make impact on a global scale

Photo credit: Andre Smith/Motown Museum

Chairwoman and CEO of Motown Museum, Robin Terry loves to share how Berry Gordy, her uncle and the founder of Motown Records, cultivated the strong talent within his community, used advanced recording technology to reach a global audience, and broke barriers to disrupt and redefine Detroit and the music industry for future generations. Today, Robin’s mission with the Motown Museum is to "bring that spirit of Motown and community together and leverage technology to help tell the story in a way that’s interesting, compelling and experiential."

Photo credit: Brandon Lundby

A star YouTube beauty vlogger with more than 2 million subscribers, Jackie Aina, shares the power of tuning in to market gaps in and "recognizing the unrecognized." While Jackie started her YouTube channel by focusing on content for Black women, she soon saw her videos appeal to a broader audience, including Black men, members of the LGBTQ community and ultimately, anyone who feels underrepresented in the media. Jackie hears a common theme from her growing audience: "While we may not be the same shade, we may not be the same color, [Jackie's] content speaks to me because [she is] a voice for people who aren’t always present."

Take calculated risks and leverage data to find opportunities for growth

Photo credit: Steve Capers Photography, Chicago

JinJa Birkenbeuel, founder of a Chicago creative agency and a Google Digital Coach, says the perceived gap in the tech industry — a lack of minority and women-owned businesses— is also a silver lining. "Data shows that the total number of Black, Latino, and other minority-owned businesses is growing, and that U.S. Latino small businesses are growing at higher rates than any other U.S. small businesses," she says. "Yet Black and Latino-owned businesses are less likely to have websites and less likely to be online than other groups."

Photo credit: Chioma and Uchenna Ngwudo

Sisters and entrepreneurs Chioma and Uchenna Ngwudo help connect a community of young African-American women with their cultural heritage through their unique accessories, handcrafted by African artisans. Uchenna explains that their business philosophy blends risk-taking with a solid understanding of tools and analytics. "Data influences all our decisions, from which photos we use in our ads to which fabrics we stock. I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea that I don’t know everything, but experience has taught me that I have the tools to conduct proper research to figure things out."

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