In 2007, Toni Carey embarked on a journey that not only transformed her life but also sparked a movement dedicated to changing the statistics surrounding the health of black women in America. Despite discouragement from her own mother, who deemed running a “white sport,” Toni, fueled by the alarming obesity rates among black women, founded Black Girls RUN! alongside college friend Ashley Hicks-Rocha. Today, with over 150,000 members and 70 running groups across the country, Black Girls RUN! is not just a running community but a thriving business with a mission to impact obesity rates. This article explores Toni’s entrepreneurial triumph and the broader landscape of black women in business in the US, drawing insights and lessons for Australian entrepreneurs.
Running Against Statistics:
Toni’s journey began as a response to a startling statistic – over 80% of black women in America were considered overweight or obese. Nine years later, Black Girls RUN! stands as a testament to the power of a grassroots movement, challenging societal norms and fostering a community that encourages health and wellness.
Entrepreneurship in Bloom:
While the obesity epidemic remains disheartening, a more optimistic narrative emerges in the world of entrepreneurship. The number of businesses owned by African American women in the US skyrocketed by 322% between 1997 and 2015, outpacing the growth of women-owned businesses overall. This surge has given rise to dedicated funding sources, educational programs, and resources, creating a fertile ground for black American women entrepreneurs.
Atlanta’s Entrepreneurial Hub:
Toni and Ashley’s journey is intertwined with Atlanta, a city boasting one of the largest black populations in America. The duo emphasizes the vibrant entrepreneurial community in Atlanta, where like-minded individuals rally together. As entrepreneurs, they stress the importance of community support and collaboration, highlighting Atlanta’s rich landscape of startups and tech ventures.
From Grassroots to Growth:
Black Girls RUN!’s remarkable growth is attributed to grassroots word-of-mouth efforts and the power of community-driven networks. Toni acknowledges the pivotal role of Facebook, particularly in advertising and generating paid traffic. Reflecting on their journey, she cautions aspiring entrepreneurs about the importance of scalability, infrastructure, and having a clear exit strategy.
While the success of Black Girls RUN! is evident with a membership of 150,000 women, measuring the impact remains a challenge. Seeking partnerships to capture data through wearable tech, the organization aims to quantify its contribution to reducing obesity numbers in America.
Building a Legacy:
Toni and Ashley’s vision extends beyond immediate success; they are focused on building a legacy. The organization’s impact is highlighted through transformative stories, such as a woman losing 90 pounds through running and another finding solace during her daughter’s cancer treatments. The founders have expanded their influence, partnering with organizations like Girls on the Run to inspire young girls.
Entrepreneurial Advice and Challenges:
As successful entrepreneurs, Toni and Ashley have navigated challenges, including rapid growth and the need for streamlined operations. Learning from experiences, they offer advice to aspiring business owners, emphasizing the uniqueness of one’s product and the importance of finding supportive partners who share their vision.
Toni Carey’s journey from a solo runner to a co-founder of a transformative movement reflects the power of entrepreneurship in driving societal change. Black Girls RUN! not only addresses health disparities but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for black women entrepreneurs in the US. Their story resonates with Australian businesses, showcasing the impact of community-driven initiatives and the potential for transformative entrepreneurship. As Toni continues to redefine the narrative around running and wellness, her entrepreneurial spirit serves as a guiding light for those seeking to make a difference.