A Toast to Perseverance
August is National Black-Owned Business Month. Its intention is to recognize and shop at Black-owned businesses across the country.
Black business owners account for approximately 10 percent of U.S. businesses, and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau, that is about two million companies owned by African Americans. Nearly 60 percent of Black-owned businesses are also women-owned, accounting for 1.5 million out of the total of the 2.6 million. Among cities in the US, New York has the most Black-owned businesses, followed by Atlanta.
New York also happens to be the birthplace of Marvina Robinson; a successful business owner and founder of B. Stuyvesant, a luxury champagne brand. Hailing from Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY known for being steeped in rich African American-culture, Ms. Robinson chose to name her brand in honor of her hometown. She debuted her champagne in 2020 and opened a tasting space just this year, where she hosts “sips and chats”.
One of the things I admire most about Marvina is that she put everything on the line to make her dream come true – from footwork to funds – she was a one-woman show. That is no easy feat for anyone. While I cannot pretend to know what it is like to be a Black woman in business, I can understand the trials of a being a female entrepreneur and couldn’t help but be inspired by Ms. Robinson’s story when I read it in The New York Times recently.
As a small business owner, I know all too well the rejection and negativity that plagues someone with a dream. Ms. Robinson continued to quiet those skeptics with her knowledge and the quality of her champagne. Throughout her journey in entrepreneurship, she persevered through adversity and critics.
“I didn’t have anybody to turn to when I was working on this. I’m a woman. I’m Black. To be honest, I didn’t trust a lot of people because I was turned away by so many. I got so many negative comments like, “This is not your field. This is not your arena. This is not what you’re good at.” I just said, “OK, I just have to figure this out on my own.” And that’s really what I did. – Marvina Robinson, New York Times, July 29, 2022
A Bubbly History
I’m an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction works and recently began researching the history of champagne. The champagne business owners played a large part in the French resistance during World War II. The Champagne wine region of France was left to the women to farm when able-bodied men were sent to fight in the war. Their courage and planning allowed them to use the chalky wine cellars as hiding places for people and munitions.
The further historical connection that I love is that a woman named Madame Clicquot was in the champagne business with her husband in the late 1700s. Following his death in 1804, Veuve (Widow) Clicquot launched her brand called Veuve Clicquot. Her business savvy and courage helped her promote the brand to international prominence at a time when women just did not own businesses. She never remarried as the laws at the time would have required she turn the business over to her new husband. She died in 1866, but her product in its gold-labeled bottle carries on. It has been dubbed “the grand dame” of champagne.
Empowerment Through Action
August is Black-owned business month and specifically Black women-owned business month. Black women-owned businesses benefit from your interactions. Let others know about them by sharing social media posts, mentioning them on your business’s social media, or writing about them in your weekly newsletter to customers.
Further, if you drink a glass or purchase a bottle of B. Stuyvesant champagne, offer a toast to both Marvina Robinson and Veuve Cliquot for their amazing accomplishments. And, if you find yourself in Brooklyn, stop in for a “sip and chat” with Marvina.