Who says you can’t mix business with personal relationships?
Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Venus and Serena, Jada and Will, The Wayans—these are just a few celebs whose joint business deals have brought in millions. But outside of celebrity stardom, more and more Black families—whether spouses, siblings or parents and offsprings—are emerging as partners, not just as a relatives, but in business as well.
The goal? To successfully run a business enterprise and build Black generational wealth at the same time. Of course, it takes effort and energy to ensure that such familial partnerships prosper. Working together every day and maintaining a solid connection means being committed to good communication, setting boundaries and knowing when to separate the job from the relationship, especially if strong personalities are involved.
But while operating a company always comes with challenges, especially when growing and scaling your enterprise during a global pandemic, family members in business can rely on unique bonds to help them thrive in uncertain times. It’s been said that a family that gets money together, stays together—and if the success of these ventures is any determination of how these power partnerships will continue to thrive, we’re banking on their future.
Pinky Cole and Derrick Hayes, Slutty Vegan & Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks
For Pinky Cole & Derrick Hayes, their business ventures aren’t just about food—they’re about being of and for the people. Four years ago, Cole created Slutty Vegan in Atlanta. You’ve most likely heard of it, eaten it or wanted to eat it. And if you haven’t, your chance to do so has just increased, as Cole is scheduled to open a new Slutty Vegan every month this year in a different city. Her partner’s name is Derrick Haye, the CEO and owner of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in Atlanta, who is also one of the city’s most captivating entrepreneurs, philanthropists and cultural leaders.
Monique and Melvin Rodriguez, Mielle Organics
For Monique and Melvin Rodriguez, business is booming. The two founded Mielle Organics* in 2014 and have helped to provide organic, natural hair-care options for Black women across the globe. Melvin, a former systems engineer for UPS, and Monique, a registered nurse, managed to turn their joint venture into a multimillion-dollar business that recently closed a groundbreaking investment deal with Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based investment firm.
*Essence Ventures founder and chairman Richelieu Dennis is an investor in Mielle Organics.
Credit: Shaun Andru
Kyara Gray and Khalil Uqdah, Charm City Buyers
Kyara Gray and Khalil Uqdah know a little something about the power of the Black dollar. The couple, who met while attending rival colleges, are building wealth through real estate in the city of Baltimore, and teaching others how they can make the same impact within their own cities.
Yolanda and Rick Williams, Distinct Life
Entrepreneurs Yolanda and Rick Williams are the visionaries behind some of the biggest brands in Detroit. Their partnership started in 2004 when the two got married while still attending Oakland University. Together, they now run their creative agency, Distinct Life, with projects that range from consulting and social media management to serving as creative directors for the revitalization of the historic Hotel Saint Regis Detroit. They also created a natural skin-care line called Cream Blends UC.
Credit: Distinct Life
Donna Richardson-Joyner and LaVerne Richardson, Mama LaVerne’s Chicken, Waffles and Pancake Seasoning and Baking Mixes
We stan generational wealth building. For 58-year-old fitness guru Donna Richardson-Joyner and her 80-year-old mother LaVerne Richardson, the launch of Mama LaVerne’s Chicken, Waffles and Pancake Seasoning and Baking Mixes will not only bring delicious food into our homes, but also do just that—pass down a generational legacy.
D’Vonne and KeAnna Pickett, The Postman
D’Vonne and KeAnna Pickett are fifth generation Seattle residents continuing a tradition of postal service alive in honor of D’Vonne’s grandfather, Jacques Chappell, who was a USPS mail carrier for 37 years. One week following the elder’s death in 2018, the couple signed a lease for what is now known as “The Postman.” The 606-square-foot, family-run mail service in the Central District has been “keeping communities connected” since it opened.
Collin, Ryan and Austin Gill, Frères Branchiaux Candle Co.
Frères Branchiaux—French for Gill Brothers—is an award-winning artisanal candle company created and managed by the Gill siblings—ages 16, 13 and 11. The business was launched after their mom told them they could either get jobs or start a business if they wanted more video games and Nerf guns. The outcome? The brand’s candles and linen sprays can be found at Macy’s online as well as 50-plus boutiques, wineries, yoga studios, museum gift stores and hospital gift shops nationally and internationally.
Kim and Tim Lewis, CurlMix
Kimberly and Tim Lewis are the husband and wife cofounders behind CurlMix, a clean beauty brand for curly hair. The two were featured on Season 10 of Shark Tank, where they famously walked away from a $400K deal, to instead further the brand on their own. The high school sweethearts met while attending Morgan Park High School and both graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Kimberly with a bachelor’s in logistics and marketing, and her husband with degrees in economics and psychology. It was obviously a match made in business heaven. With their relentless drive, the couple was able to bootstrap CurlMix to over a million dollars in sales in just 12 months.
Ken and Mary Olds, Muggin’ Coffee House
Ken and Mary Olds, owners of Muggin’ Coffee House, wanted to find a way to pour back into their community. And that’s just what they did—literally. The couple, who met in the eighth grade in the Whitehaven neighborhood of Memphis, later returned in 2017 to raise their children there. They noticed one major thing was missing on their commutes to and from work: a coffee shop. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Beatrice Dixon and Simon Gray, The Honey Pot Company
Beatrice Dixon learned the hard way about the feminine challenges that many women have to endure: When she was younger, she suffered from bacterial vaginosis for eight months, an experience that left her seeking to create a formula for a healthy, clean feminine wash. That’s when The Honey Pot Company was born. Dixon’s head start in business was through a $21,000 loan from her brother and company cofounder, Simon Gray. Dixon spent three years working a full-time job to support herself while launching Honey Pot, and had a first round of fundraising in 2017. Today the brand can be found online and in Target, Walmart and other retailers.