In 2007, Toni Carey defied stereotypes and embarked on a running journey that would not only transform her life but also initiate a movement aimed at challenging the alarming statistics surrounding the health of black women in America. Alongside college friend Ashley Hicks-Rocha, Toni co-founded Black Girls RUN!, a thriving community that goes beyond running, creating a powerful narrative of entrepreneurship, health, and empowerment.

Addressing Health Disparities:

Toni’s journey began with her mother’s discouraging belief that running was a “white sport” and carried risks for a woman’s health. Undeterred, Toni and Ashley set out to tackle a disheartening statistic – over 80% of black women in America considered overweight or obese. Today, Black Girls RUN! boasts a membership exceeding 150,000, with over 70 running groups nationwide.

Entrepreneurial Triumph Amidst Challenges:

The founders’ entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond the tracks, manifesting in the growth of Black Girls RUN! into a powerful business. The organization’s online store became a means to fund their dream of impacting obesity rates, offering merchandise that allowed women to proudly represent the transformative community. The narrative takes a positive turn as the article explores a more optimistic statistic – businesses owned by African American women in the US grew by 322% between 1997 and 2015, showcasing black women as the fastest-growing entrepreneur group in America.

Atlanta’s Entrepreneurial Hub:

Situated in Atlanta, one of America’s cities with a significant black population, Toni and Ashley found themselves embraced by a robust entrepreneurial community. The duo emphasizes the unique camaraderie among entrepreneurs and the support they received in a city teeming with startups and technological innovations.

From Grassroots to Growth:

Black Girls RUN! owes its growth to grassroots efforts, propelled by volunteer ambassadors, city-specific Facebook Groups, and the powerful reach of Facebook advertising. However, the founders acknowledge the challenges of rapid growth, advising entrepreneurs to consider scalability and have a clear exit strategy.

Measuring Impact and Making Strides:

The impact of Black Girls RUN! extends beyond numbers, with inspiring success stories of women transforming their lives through running. While the organization seeks a partner for data capture through wearable tech to measure its impact on reducing obesity numbers, the anecdotal feedback and growing movement are testaments to its success.

Empowering Future Generations:

The founders’ dedication to empowering women transcends their immediate community, with initiatives like partnering with Girls on the Run to inspire young girls. Toni’s keen observation of a shift in diversity within running groups reflects the lasting impact of Black Girls RUN! on breaking stereotypes and fostering inclusivity.

Lessons Learned and Supportive Partnerships:

Seven years into their entrepreneurial journey, Toni and Ashley share the challenges they faced, emphasizing the importance of defining roles and finding supportive partners. Despite facing skepticism, including suggestions to change their name, their success has attracted partnerships aligned with their mission.

A Mother’s Approval and Inspiring Others:

Toni’s story comes full circle as her mother, once skeptical of her passion for running, witnesses the impact at events. The article concludes by drawing a parallel to Michelle Obama’s perspective on influence – Toni’s impact is rooted in tangible change, not mere influence.

In essence, the journey of Black Girls RUN! is not just a running narrative; it’s a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship, community, and breaking stereotypes. Toni and Ashley’s story serves as an inspiration for UK businesses, encouraging them to embrace uniqueness, build supportive communities, and leave a lasting impact beyond their immediate goals.


February 2024


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