This month, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview five inspiring African American Female Entrepreneurs. The goal was to learn more about their businesses, personalities and their love of wine. We talked to Jondalyn Crosby, Autumn Black, Ashley Hicks, Phylicia Thompson and Shakeena Chambers.
Jondalyn Crosby is the owner of a fitness brand called, Road to Hauteness. Jondayln started her business in 2013 after she had gained over 85lbs during the pregnancy of her youngest son. She is certified in Group Fitness, Insanity and Cize. Her business has thrived through her authenticity around empowering women. Jondalyn has a gift in making women of all shapes and sizes feel proud of their body type.
Jondalyn was born and raised in the Bay Area, California but currently resides in Wichita. She is married, has 4 children and one grandson so living a healthy lifestyle is important to her and her family. She realized that here in Wichita, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are all illnesses affecting women in the black community. Her goal is to show women that through exercise all of these illnesses can be controlled. Jondalyn teaches classes 4 days a week and also offers private lessons. Jondalyn receives inspiration from close friends as well as fitness legend Sean T.
Jondalyn offers fitness classes that are unique such as twerk, sexy chair and booty boot camp. She said that 2 years ago she was receiving quite a bit of push back from studio owners about the classes she was offering. Since then, the classes have grown in popularity and she is thankful for her home at Stadium Status Fitness off of 21st and Prince. Jondalyn specializing in focusing on her clients “total body” which is body, mind and spirit. She posts inspirational messages on her social media pages as well as hosts celebratory “Little Black Dress” trips to highlight weight lose accomplishments.
Over the years, Jondalyn has faced several challenges. Although, she never lets those challenges get in the way of achieving her goals. When she was 28 years old, she was going through a divorce with 2 young children. That same year she got laid off from her job. She had to move back to the Bay Area to live with her mother and literally slept on the floor. She found a job, saved her money, moved back to Wichita and bought a house. She said that she had to make a lot of sacrifices during that time but those sacrifices eventually paid off. She still resides in that same house today and is thankful for the blessing of home ownership.
Jondalyn is an avid wine drinker and her favorite wines are Pinot Noir and Pink Moscato depending on the time of year. She enjoys the conversations that she has with women, wine and cheese. She said that as a fitness instructor a lot of her clients confide in her, especially when wine is being served.
Autumn Black is the entrepreneur behind Queen X magazine and United Vybez Culture and More store. I chose to highlight Autumn and her businesses because of her authenticity, kind and caring spirit and her passion for helping others in the community. Autumn’s love for journalism, counseling and giving advice lead her to writing and publishing a magazine that would help women better themselves. She received her inspiration for journalism from Oprah who Autumn calls, “her goddess.” Autumn said that, “Oprah came from a rough background, but remained optimistic and she has come so far. Oprah doesn’t question her color and so many people are drawn to her.”
The United Vybez Culture and More is a quaint shop located at Central and Piatt in Wichita. Autumn and her husband are the co-owners of the store. A yearning for cultural experiences that she had when she lived in Texas lead to the opening of her shop. September 30th will be the 1 year anniversary of the business. The stores features handmade jewelry, apparel, books, incense, oil and more. It’s the perfect shop for individuals who strive to live a holistic life.
Autumn’s faced some challenges in her business and personal life. Both of her businesses are new. They are different from other stores or magazines that you can find in Kansas. It took a while to understand that they needed to target different audiences and demographics in order to be successful.
Something that not everyone knows about Autumn is that growing up she had a heart condition. By age 17 she had 2 minor heart attacks; one in 2nd grade and one during her junior year of high school. Because of the condition, she was not allowed to consume caffeine which meant no chocolate, soda or tea. It also meant limited exercise. Autumn said she had a “rebellious spirit.” So she decided to strengthen her heart through exercise and went out for track and field. Her condition eventually improved and now she can enjoy bike rides.
Autumn’s favorite wine is the Jenny Dawn Cellars White Wine. She doesn’t consume wine very often but savors the opportunity to sip for relaxation. As a busy entrepreneur, Autumn also takes time to relax through herbal tea, mediation, thinking purposefully and saying her daily affirmations.
Ashley Hicks is the owner of a bakery called, Sweetz N Treatz by Ashley. By day, Ashley is a Kindergarten teacher but she has been a baker for quite some time. She got her start by baking sweets to help raise money for her local church. She has even baked goodies for Rainbows United bake sales throughout the years. As a single mom, she used her passion for baking to help support her family while she was completing her Bachelor’s degree. Ashley has such a big heart and it is evident through her charity work within the community.
Ashley is also a woman who has strong faith. Her bakery is located in the Delano District and she feels that God led her to the building. Her storefront was the location of a former bakery so all she had to do was come in, clean and paint it and she was all set up. Ashley is also a survivor of domestic violence and foster care. She contributes her faith to getting her through those tough times which have prepared her for entrepreneurship.
Ashley originally started her business on her own but quickly realized that she needed a team. Her sister Hillary works alongside her at the bakery. Ashley has been very upfront and honest about her struggles which she feels has created transparency and support from the Wichita community. She had her Grand Opening on May 26th and her bakery was packed full of people who came out to support her. She said, "the support from Wichita has been amazing. Delano is the heart beat of Wichita which has been heaven sent.”
Ashley receives inspiration from her mother. She said that they have a lot in common as far as being a single mom who survives on prayer and sacrifice. Ashley is happy that her storefront is open but she will return to USD 259 in August. She said that her job with her students is not quite finished. Hillary will step in and run the business while she goes back to teaching.
A few things that people do not know about Ashley is that she likes to sing, cry, and make dance videos with her kids who are 14 and 13. She calls herself “real clumsy and random.”
Ashley is a wine enthusiast as wine is soothing and relaxing. She loves to create peaceful moments in her backyard relaxing on a hammock and drinking sangria.
Phylicia Thompson is the owner of 2 Beatz Boutique, a mobile fashion store in Wichita. In August, Phylicia will be celebrating the 2 year anniversary of the opening of her business. The seed for fashion was planted in Phylicia during her years in Middle School after a classmate told her that her outfit was ugly. In high school, she really started to become “herself.” She was quiet and laidback and used fashion as a way to express herself without using words. Phylicia said, “Fashion is freedom. There is no right or wrong. If you feel beautiful, you are beautiful.” After high school, Phylicia went to college, got a job and started saving her money. She used her savings to buy a bus and turn it into the 2 Beatz Boutique.
Phylicia had the idea and passion for her fashion business but some of the challenges that she faced was through the fact that she just “jumped in.” She thought she could just start purchasing merchandise and selling it. She soon realized that there was more to starting and running a business, like you needed a tax id number. Over time, she sought the help of the Kansas Small Business Administration as well as Christina Long and was able to get the help that she needed. She is the first person in her family to own a business and prides herself on being self-taught.
Phylicia’s family, her husband and children, gives her inspiration. She said that her daughter goes to events and gives her advice and feedback on what went well and how she can improve. Phylicia thrives on the feedback and finds it inspiring. Her husband, Sam, is a musician and entrepreneur. They have sit down strategy sessions where they share ideas. They have been married for 7 years and she calls it an “awesome partnership.” Phylicia said, “it’s been fun to watch each other grow – through hair styles and mindsets.”
Phylicia has a full plate, she is a wife, a mom an entrepreneur and hosts a girls empowerment group called, “Be you, Be beautiful.” It’s a 10 to 12 week mentorship and internship program that she oversees to help girls "tap into themselves."
A funny fact about Phylicia is that she used to run track in her younger years. She was pretty confident in her running abilities. The 400 meter dash was her specialty. She said that in one particular race she was leading the pack and then her shoe fell off and she tumbled a few times in front of the crowd. She called this experience her most embarrassing moment in life.
Phylicia enjoys a good glass of wine to unwind and relax. Her go-to wines are anything sweet. She’s a big fan of Moscato and Jenny Dawn Cellars White Wine.
Shakeena Chambers is the owner of OMG Hair Studio and training center. Shakeena started her career over 12 years ago. She opened her first hair studio called, Salon 316 when she was just 23 years old. Over the years, she built a highly successful salon business with upscale clientele. However, she saw a real need to in the community to train cosmetologist which led to OMG. One of Shakeena’s keys to success comes from focusing on quality hair care, customer service and a positive environment. OMG is a space that is fun, relaxed and in an urban environment. The OMG Hair Studio has been open for 3 years and she prides herself on having a very loyal customer base.
Shakeena has a very strong presence on social media. She said her passion is hair but if she was ever to have another career it would be in marketing. She calls herself a “marketing guru” and if you take a look at her social media pages you will see why. At OMG, Shakeena offers educational and fun events such as “Mommy and Me” classes where women learn to take care of their hair as well as their daughter’s. She’s even hosted “Girls Night Out” events to pamper clients on Saturday evenings.
Shakeena is inspired by Oprah and author and motivational speaker Lisa Nichols. Lisa was featured on Oprah’s show to discuss the book called “The Secret”. The Secret focuses on the law of attraction. Shakeena is a firm believer that if you put positive energy out into this world you will receive positive energy back from others. Shakeena has even had the opportunity to attend one of Lisa Nichols conferences.
Shakeena has built a successful business but sometimes success comes with a price. As a business owner, at times you have to stand firm with your decisions and be direct. Shakeena wants people to know that on the inside she is sweet, kind and generous even though she can have a tough exterior. She said, “No matter who is in the room she tries to be 100% herself.” Her favorite form of self-care is traveling and vacations. Her favorite place to travel is Amsterdam where her and husband rode bicycles throughout the city.
Shakeena and I enjoyed a nice dinner together where she confessed that she is not much of a wine drinker. She prefers sweet wine like Moscato if she is to partake in a glass. Her drink of choice is Malibu and pineapple.
Jondalyn, Autumn, Ashley, Phylicia and Shakeena are truly phenomenal women and business leaders. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to sit down and interview these ladies to shed light on who they are and highlight their businesses. All of these women have conquered personal and professional challenges but they have preserved and are truly inspiring to others. I wish them all the best of luck in their endeavors.
Owner of Jenny Dawn Cellars
Photos by Erica Thomas
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