Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Get to Know These Black Alum Entrepreneurs

For over a century, Girl Scouts have sold cookies as part of the world’s biggest entrepreneurial program for girls. Today, many alums use the skills they learned in Girl Scouts in their adulthood as they launch businesses, parlaying their cookie program experience into entrepreneurship opportunities as well as advocating for critical issues in the world. In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating some of the unforgettable Girl Scout alums behind these Black female-founded businesses.

Carla Hall, Carla’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chef and TV personality Carla Hall may be most recognized for her stints on Top Chef and The Chew, but she thinks of herself as an entrepreneur first and foremost. (That dates back to her time selling Girl Scout cookies in Nashville!) Today, Carla can be found running her podcast, judging cooking competition shows on Food Network, and selling dinners featuring Nashville-style “hot chicken”—a heavily spiced fried chicken from the same beloved recipe she used in her now-defunct Brooklyn restaurant—through Goldbelly.

Rue Map, Outdoor Afro

Rue Map started an outdoor adventure blog in 2009 and, less than a year later, her writing caught the attention of the Obama administration, which had just launched their America’s Great Outdoor Initiative. “I was invited to the White House and there I was in this room with professionals who were all committed to the outdoors, conservation, and the outdoor industry,” this Girl Scout alum recalls. “They warmly embraced me and continue to be an influence.” Now, Outdoor Afro has grown into a full digital platform, connecting thousands of Black Americans to outdoor experiences and changing the face of conservation.

Deanna Singh, Flying Elephant

Think you can’t pull off launching a business? In one incredible year, social entrepreneur and Girl Scout alum Deanna Singh launched three businesses under the umbrella organization of Flying Elephant in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stories to Tell is a children’s book publisher; Uplifting Impact provides leadership and entrepreneurship coaching as well as DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) training; and Birth Coach Milwaukee is a doula program that supports, among others, low-income families. “We’re trying to eliminate the disparities,” she explains, “for women of color in labor.”

Natasha Bansgopaul, DarcMatter

Gold Award Girl Scout alum Natasha Bansgopaul isn’t just a disrupter—she’s a disrupter in an old-school industry: finance. “In traditional financial services, most of these alternative deals are done behind closed doors, with some folks still utilizing fax machines, believe it or not,” Natasha explains. By founding DarcMatter, a global financial technology platform for investments, Natasha built an online platform to make it easier for fund managers and investors to find each other. Natasha’s platform started in 2014 with ten funds and 100 investors. Today, DarcMatter has more than 150 funds totaling more than $6.5 billion.

Andrea Fairweather, Fairweather Faces

Andrea Fairweather launched Fairweather Faces Traveling Beauty Services, which brings salon services like manicures and makeup application to customers’ homes, more than 20 years ago, with a lot of help from her family. Today, Andrea—who likens makeup application to painting—is proud to be an artist who also has business skills. “It’s rare in the industry to have that duality,” she says. Along with support from her family, Andrea says that growing up as a Girl Scout in Brooklyn set her up for success with what she calls “timeless techniques.” “It [Girl Scouts],” she recalls, “taught me how to be a servant leader.”

Deirdre Roberson, EUMELANIN

Scientist and Girl Scout alum Deirdre Roberson founded her athletic wear line in 2018 as more than just a fashion brand. EUMELANIN is designed to celebrate and empower women of color around the world, with the line’s color palette reflecting melanated skin tones. In addition, both the clothing and jewelry lines showcase the chemical structure of melanin itself. “All the shades are beautiful,” she says, “and we pay close attention to deeper, darker chocolates in order to confront the idea of colorism head-on.”