Unicorn is the term used in the venture capital industry to describe a startup company with a value of over $1 billion. Less than 2% of start ups will have this valuation. This high threshold is why the few that achieve this level are called Unicorns. A few well known Unicorns are Airbnb, Instacart, Lyft, Stripe and SpaceX.
When referring to Black businesses, the term Unicorn has a different meaning financially, but it is the same in terms of a rare occurrence.
If the owner of the company is the ONLY Black owned business in a certain industry in their city, state or in the entire country, they are a Unicorn.
The challenges of obtaining financing and attracting customers increases exponentially when a Black person steps outside the industries that are typically associated with Black owned businesses (food services, beauty products, fashion). The pressure is on when you are the the only and the first.
To defy the odds of industry and create a business where there are no role models that look like you is to be a “disruptor.” Hence, a Black Unicorn.
This is the first in a series showcasing Black Unicorns in the Bay Area. Just like Kamala Harris is breaking the glass ceiling in the political world, they are breaking the glass ceiling in the world of entrepreneurship.
The five businesses in this post are so unique the owners might be the ONLY Blacks in the entire country in that field.
1 Nzilani Glass Conservation Nzilani.com
The field of stained glass repair and restoration is more prominent in Europe and that is where the owner of Nzilani Glass Conservation, Ariana Maku, received her training.
Ariana was the second person in the world and the first woman to receive a master’s degree in stained glass conservation from the Royal College of Art in London.
Originally from Kenya, Ariana worked at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, London’s V&A Museum, and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art before opening up her business in West Oakland.
Nzilani Glass Conservation is one of the few companies in the United States qualified to create new or preserve historical stained glass glass installations in museums, libraries and historic buildings.
2 Mulatto Meadows MulattoMeadows.com
Many black youth have never ridden or even seen a horse up close and personal. Brianna Noble, founder and owner of Mulatto Meadows, is driven to change that by using horses as a medium to inspire positive futures.
Her equestrian business is dedicated to expanding the accessibility of riding and horsemanship to communities historically excluded from the equestrian world.
Ms. Noble is passionate about introducing horsemanship and riding to youth of color and economically disenfranchised populations. Brianna received national visibility when she rode a horse to a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Oakland.
3 Mannequin Madness MannequinMadness.com
Mannequin Madness is the only Black-owned mannequin vendor in the United States. In addition to selling new mannequins and dress forms, Mannequin Madness also recycles mannequins for retail chains when they close or remodel.
The owner, Judi Townsend was one of the leaders in advocating for the production of mannequins that are more inclusive in terms of size and skin tone.
In addition to selling mannequins online and from their warehouse in Oakland the company rents out their photo studio to customers for fashion shoots, video productions and product catalogue shoots. And they offer in person and online classes for DIY projects using mannequins as a canvas, such as the popular Dress Form Christmas trees.
4 Harris Hoisting HarrisHoisting.com
Very few women and especially women of color own businesses in the construction industry. But Tana Harris has 30 years of experience in the construction industry . She has worked on a variety of large-scale projects including the Bay Bridge, Devil’s Slide, Chase Center, and Salesforce.
Her entrepreneurial spirit, and devotion to building a legacy for her family, is what inspired her to create, Harris Hoisting in San Francisco.
Harris Hoisting pecializes in vertical construction projects that require various lift systems, including: cranes, man-lifts and elevators.
Head Over Heels Athletic Arts HohAthleticarts.com
As a NCAA student athlete and one of a few black gymnasts in the 80’s and 90’s, Katreece Stone’s passion for athletics and youth has helped make Head Over Heels Athletic Arts a powerhouse athletic center in the East Bay Area community.
Under Katreece’s leadership, Head over Heels has catapulted to widespread recognition with athletes winning at national, international and collegiate levels.
Head Over Heels’ mission is to step beyond basic skill attainment and holistically examine what it takes to be a well-rounded, successful athlete.
The organization ensures black youth can participate in programs by partnering with local organizations and providing financial aid and scholarships to the local community.
To discover other Black unicorns in the Bay Area visit this link: