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Living Large in the 21st Century – Five Black Millennial Women

Five black millennial women and their businesses.

Living Large in the 21st Century – Five Black Millennial Women

As part of Women’s History Month, I wanted to do a blog on five black millennial women who are living life differently in the 21st century. Millennials are the generation that transitioned into cellphones and social media.  They can remember disposable cameras, and phones on the wall, listening to the radio for their favorite songs. But they have also seen the change to selfies and music downloads.  When millennials started voting, a black candidate was running for president – and won.  Millennials have seen barriers eradicated for the LGBTQ community, and for the disabled. They challenged corporations for work-life balance. And many millennials have struck out on their own.

The five women that I reached out to have all started businesses. Kelly Wise and Talacia Cain are doing real estate. Jennifer Haines has a cakery – Sugar Bombs Cakery. Amy Saunders has a private practice as a psychologist, and Tayler Simon has a bookstore – Liberation is Lit.   Each of them had a different journey, but I found some common threads.

Kelly, now in her early 40’s, started out wanting to be an interior designer, and created dollhouses as a child. She migrated to marketing in college and had an opportunity to work in the members’ education department of a credit union. She then migrated to a pharmaceutical company, which was paying twice as much. Kelly also wanted to be a mother. She was married in her late twenties and had her first child in her early 30’s.  As the company she worked for became more toxic, and her third child came along, Kelly decided to leave. She looked at other companies and other industries, but didn’t find something that fit. However, for fun, Kelly enjoyed looking at houses, visiting open houses, guessing when they would sell or if they were overpriced. As she was looking through a course catalog for training options, she saw a real estate course.  Doing real estate would let her set her own hours, and be her own boss. It also required a lot of hustle. Kelly took the course, passed the exam and set high targets for her success in  Anne Arundel County, Maryland. She also found out how much work it takes to get clients. She looked into being part of a team – this gave her both growth and client opportunities, but as she became more established, she struck out on her own. Today, she is continuing her journey, as a real estate agent, a wife, a mother, sister, and daughter.  She may go back to a team, she may go back to the corporate world. But it will be on her own terms.

Talacia is also in her early 40’s; her life has taken a slightly different path. Talacia wanted to be a chemist, but going into the Marine Corps out of high school, she ended up doing aviation supply, eventually moving into management positions as a sergeant. At the same time, Talacia juggled parenthood with two children. After she had spent 12 years with the marines, she got out, got a degree  and worked for the VSO. It was during COVID that she saw the opportunity to redefine herself; she could work from home, take her real estate course and study for the exam while caring for her third child. As a home owner, she found the process of buying and selling houses fascinating and wanted to help others have a positive experience. She found a real estate company to partner with and set out on her own, selling homes in Charlotte, NC. It was a learning experience. As Talacia put it, you had to spend money to make money. The cost to market, advertise, pay for an assistant was all a necessary part of real estate. When her life partner died, Talacia lost her mojo for several months and sales fell. As she bounced back, she was able to move forward again, but the unsteady paycheck has been a real eye-opener. So, Talacia returned to college for her masters. She now has her eye on a return to the corporate world – as a manager because she prefers to lead – and at the same time, juggling family as a single mother and keeping her hand in real estate. Talacia is a beast.

Jennifer, in her late 30’s, wanted to be a litigation lawyer, earning $500 an hour. But watching the Food Network got her attention and her focus changed to the culinary world.  She would cook with her parents, her grandmother got her into a culinary class, she even got to meet a chef from the food network. As she was older, she was able to shadow a cousin in the baking world. She then went to college for hospitality management, learning the business side of baking. From then on, Jennifer’s life was focused on working in retail, managing the bakery department of a grocery store, and working in bakeries. She started her own in-home cake decorating business – Sugar Bombs Cakery, while working full-time in a bakery.  Then COVID hit. And she discovered an entirely new customer base interested in having cakes for small scale events that could be held at home. In 2021, Jennifer made a faith-based decision to stop working at the bakery and devote all of her time to developing her business, with the goal of having a brick and mortar store in the Baltimore-Annapolis area of Maryland.  There have been setbacks, but it’s still on the horizon.

Amy, in her early 30’s, wanted to be teacher, thought about marine biology, and then transitioned into psychology and child development. She knew that school psychology would require an advanced degree so she applied to grad school and was accepted into a doctoral program in Tampa. She was able to start working as a school psychologist while working on her dissertation but discovered that the job offered little in-depth interaction with children. Instead, there were meetings and lots of paperwork and only a handful of sessions with a child in order to assess them. Life intervened when her mother became ill. Amy moved north, briefly separating from her husband in Tampa, and Amy began working as a school psychologist in Maryland as her doctoral dissertation dragged on. Amy was exhausted and stressed from bringing work home. When Amy got pregnant, her husband encouraged her to quit her job, stay home with their new daughter, and finish her dissertation. Life intervened again when Amy had a severe relapse of MS in the middle of  COVID. After she finished her PhD, she realized that she didn’t want the stress of working in education, and in her immunocompromised state, couldn’t be around children and germs. With some trepidation, she jumped into private practice, offering telehealth sessions to adults and teens around the country. Amy misses working with children. When she becomes fully licensed, she hopes to expand her knowledge as a therapist. But she has left the school system behind.

Tayler, at 29, is at the cusp of the millennial generation. She considered many things growing up: acting, pharmacy, fashion design! She eventually settled on social work, and after obtaining her masters, spent 8 years working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, both on college campuses and in the community.  In 2019, she started a blog about social justice, and migrated toward bookstagramming with the intent of exploring personal change through the books she was reading while also educating herself on social justice issues. In June of 2023, Tayler decided to take the skills of education and outreach she had gotten through social work to start a community-oriented, social justice-driven bookstore called “Liberation is Lit” – on-line and in Columbia, SC. Her bookstore features indie authors like me and is meant to be a center of community outreach. The store is a one-woman operation, but Tayler has been networking with other entrepreneurs and other authors and is seeing success.

Several things struck me about these women, their dreams, their journeys. For each woman, the sky was the limit in terms of education and career aspirations. Even if they planned to juggle work and motherhood, it was never supposed to be one or the other. The glass ceiling broken by the baby boomers was not even something they recognized. Another thing that each of them saw was the opportunity to vote for a black president, but also to see his race and judge him on his merits as a president at the same time. I remember my mother’s amazement that we would have a black president, but these women had seen Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Alan Keyes run campaigns. Seeing a black man run for president wasn’t new.  And then there was COVID. COVID affected them in the midst of their careers, and for several, it was a turning point in their journeys toward career independence. But most importantly, these women decided to leap out of the traditional models of working for others. In some ways, it has been a challenge. The leap meant no steady paycheck until there was a customer base. The investments in testing and training were all out-of-pocket.  There were costs associated with marketing and advertising, also out-of-pocket.  At the same time, there have been benefits. Except for Tayler, the women work from home. Tayler works from a store that is hers. For Talacia, Kelly and Amy, this has meant more home-life balance with their children. Most importantly, the sky is the limit on what they can do with their businesses, earn with their businesses, reach others with their businesses.  It takes work. Lots of work. But these women have the drive, determination and business savvy to go after their dreams. Welcome to the 21st century.

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Comments (2)

  • Karen Braithwaite-Yarn Reply

    This well-written and informative article is very helpful to me as I make a transition from substitute teaching to a career that is rewarding, emotionally as well as financially.

    Thank you, Lauren.😉

    March 11, 2024 at 1:10 pm
    • Lauren Wilson Reply

      So happy to be of help. I am really hoping that you will find something new soon. REALLY soon. I worry about your health.

      March 12, 2024 at 4:50 pm

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