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Black Business Month is a time to recognize and celebrate Black-owned businesses in Denver and across the country. As a female, Black business owner, I know the value of dedicating a whole month to bringing more visibility and support towards Black-owned businesses. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to help Black owned small businesses overcome the historical barriers to accessing capital and other key business resources.
Even though Black Business Month has ended, it’s important that the Denver community continues to support Black-owned businesses. As of this year, there are roughly 654,000 small businesses in Colorado and 11% of them are owned by people of color. Over the past decade, U.S. Census Data found that women operate roughly 60% of Black-owned businesses in the nation, representing the heart of Black businesses.
My journey as an entrepreneur started in 2019, which was a life changing year for me and led to me officially launching my own brand in January of 2020. And shortly after the launch of my brand, ICONI Leggings, Oprah featured it in her yearly “Favorite Things” collection. This jump started my business and I haven’t looked back ever since.
The idea to create motivational activewear began on one of my night shifts as an officer in the military. Like many others in Colorado, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is an important value of mine, yet I was astounded with the lack of locally-owned, affordable activewear brands available to women. With half of the top 10 healthiest counties in the nation being located in Colorado, there was a clear gap that needed to be filled.
Having opened right before the pandemic began, leaning on social media proved to be monumental in finding success in a difficult environment. With the large following we had built online, we launched Facebook ‘Shop’ so that customers can easily find and purchase our products directly from social media. Turning to digital tools paid off and we now have the power to reach a whole new customer base on social media that we had yet to tap into.
While COVID has certainly challenged my business, it’s also served as a reminder that the Denver community is willing to support our local businesses through it all and highlight a business demographic that is often overlooked. There’s also still a lack of representation and diversity in the fashion industry. As someone who has worked in deployed environments with high-ranking officials from various countries, I still find that I can be cast-aside as a business owner and fashion designer.
Being inclusive and empowering others has always been a key pillar to my brand, as the representation of Black women is incorporated in every aspect of my brand, from the creation of products, models, and performance testing.
It’s important for people to continue supporting Black businesses all year around. I encourage the Denver community to seek out and support Black-owned businesses so that we can continue to serve the communities we call home.
Editor’s note: Angel Johnson is the owner and founder of ICONI Leggings.