Many Black alumni from the Ross School of Business have started or gone on to lead small businesses around the world — before, during, and after their time at Michigan Ross.
A Groupon and National Black Chamber of Commerce survey of more than 400 Black small-business owners found that 75 percent have seen an increase in business since the spark in antiracism protests.
While the increase is promising, there is still more work to be done to combat barriers and inequities still in place, and the harsh realities of COVID-19, in the world of business. To keep the momentum going, let's highlight inspiring Black business owners right here in the Ross community.
Here are seven Black alumni and small business owners, and how you can support them for Black Business Month and beyond..
LaTresha “L.C.” Staten, MBA ’20 - Breadless
Breadless is a healthy quick-service restaurant that offers tasty sandwiches wrapped in fresh and nutritious greens instead of bread.
Breadless is well-positioned to be successful in a post-COVID-19 world. As a 100 percent Black-owned business, Staten said they stand united with protestors of systematic oppression and continue to see an outpouring of support and championship of Breadless.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Breadless?
“We are currently raising a small round of investment from select investors -- we welcome opportunities to connect if there is someone within the Ross community that has a strong interest in investing and believes they can add value as an investor or strategic advisor. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org before the round closes.” - L.C. Staten
Joe Price, MBA ’16 - GUS Leagues
GUS Leagues aims to create fun and organized adult sports leagues and tournaments in Houston, Texas.
Price said a silver lining of the anti-racism protests has been closer communication with loyal customers and an opportunity to more publicly support a local social justice organization, Restoring Justice, where Price has served as an advisory board member, that primarily focuses on advocacy around unlawful incarceration.
How can consumers and the Ross community support GUS Leagues?
“Agnostic of our business, I would say the best thing we can all do is be considerate and follow local and federal safety guidelines. Wear a mask, limit contact, etc. The better we are at that in the short term, the sooner we can all get back to doing the things we love. More broadly, support local businesses. Buy from the local bookstore. Support small businesses when possible, even if Prime is more convenient. Check in with your entrepreneur friends! They likely have either time or headaches and would love to hear from friends. GUS is very localized, like many small businesses, so I have no asks from the broader community.” - Joe Price
Christine Llewellyn Ohemeng, MBA ’07 - Christine Joy Design LLC
Christine Joy Design is a Brooklyn-based product and surface pattern design studio specializing in the home goods market.
Since the anti-racism protests began, Llewellyn Ohemeng has been contacted by a few companies who are looking to diversify their pool of design talent and highlight black design voices. She said it’s most satisfying to work with companies who have been amplifying and highlighting black voices all along, and not just because of recent racially charged events.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Christine Joy Design LLC?
“I am always looking to partner with companies who are looking for fresh, on-trend patterns for their manufactured product (home goods, apparel, stationery). If you’re in manufacturing or product development and are looking for a beautiful pattern for your latest product, I’m your person!” - Christine Llewellyn Ohemeng
Nicole Green, MBA ’08 - Small Great Deeds and the Law Office of Nicole Green, Esq.
Small Great Deeds is Nicole Green’s customized diversity and inclusion training business. Through the Law Office of Nicole Green, she provides government contracting, procurement, and compliance services.
Living in NYC, Green said she has been pleasantly surprised to witness the depths of both corporate and human resiliency and adaptiveness in response to the pandemic and antiracism protests. She points out that employers are now taking a closer look at the viability of a remote workforce and the implications of this will have a large impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Small Great Deeds?
“You can support me by doing your part to support the mission. (I also would not be opposed to anyone spreading the word about my business). Introspection, both personal and professional, advocacy based on the results of your inner work, and subsequent action are fundamental at this time.
Start with a few questions. Are your personal and professional lives diverse? How did you define diverse? If your definintion was primarily based upon race or disability, I would ask you to think more broadly. How often do you engage in meaningful interactions with people of a different socioeconomic status or political perspective? After thinking about the part of the world you inhabit, start advocating! Advocacy can take many forms and can start with something as small as asking others for their ‘whys’ and then acting upon the answers.
I named my company Small Great Deeds, in part, because I believe that cultural shifts are at their core, the result of a series of smaller events or actions that over time resulted in profound change.” - Nicole Green
Kim Moore, MBA ’18 - Fitness Snob® Studio
Moore is the brains, beauty, and brawn behind Fitness Snob® Studio, a shared workspace for independent fitness instructors and concepts. The state-of-the-art, for-lease boutique fitness studio is the workout location of choice for many of the most influential people in health and fitness, including Michelle Obama's trainer, Cornell McClellan.
Designed for the future of fitness, and technologically equipped for things such as livestream classes long in advance of COVID-19, Fitness Snob® Studio is unlike most other health and fitness facilities. Today this future-thinking studio works for anyone sheltering in place or any organization that wants to help its staff or members stay in shape. Whether in Washington D.C. or anywhere in the world, Fitness Snob® Studio can broadcast directly to you.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Fitness Snob?
“Enroll for a workout with Michelle Obama's trainer! Join the Immortal Body Workout series: a four week, eight class-on-demand collaborative series with Cornell McClellan and Fitness Snob Studio.
Accessing the Immortal Body Workout series or taking a class on demand can be done at any time and only requires an internet-connected device. Life is challenging enough these days; that's why you can count on Fitness Snob® Studio to help you reduce stress, stay healthy, and do so on your schedule." - Kim Moore
Tony Rice II, MBA ’15 - Next Wave in Business
Next Wave in Business is a nonprofit organization that connects Black and Latinx undergraduate students with top companies.
Rice said his team considered cancelling NWB’s annual conference, but decided to change it to a virtual event instead. As a result, they had a record number of students and corporate partners participating this year.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Next Wave in Business?
“There are three ways people can support NWB. 1) Donate. 2) Ask your undergraduate recruitment and/or diversity lead about becoming a partner for our upcoming conference, NWB20 - Elevate. 3) Post our conference flyer on social media and tag us (IG @ nwborg).” - Tony Rice
Emmanuel Legbeti, MBA ’09 - Glider Skirt Inc
Glider Skirt is a direct-to-consumer brand with a patented product that solves a safety and beauty problem with Glider Chairs (“glider rocking chairs”) in kids’ nurseries, and is rooted in the Legbeti family’s personal experience of raising three kids.
Trying to launch their new company during the pandemic and economic slowdown has taught Legbeti and his wife, who he co-founded Glider Skirt with, to learn quickly, pivot, and rediscover their grit to overcome challenges and disruptions to their launch plan.
How can consumers and the Ross community support Glider Skirt?
“There are five things that you can do to support us now:
- Please show your support by commenting, liking, following, and sharing Glider Skirt on Facebook and Instagram. As a new brand this is very important for us.
- We invite all first-time or repeat moms, dads, grandparents who already own a glider chair or need one for a new baby to purchase our “one-of-a-kind” Glider Skirt for your chair.
- Do you know a friend or family expecting a new baby? Purchase a Glider Skirt as a distinctly unique & fun gift that they can't get anywhere else!
- If any Ross or University of Michigan alum is in big-box retail, retail distribution, or owns a company in the baby/toddler/parent market, we would love to collaborate with you! Reach out to us: email@example.com.
- Learn more about us and share our story with your friends and family.” - Emmanuel Legbeti