As businesses foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture, there is increased opportunity to tap into the power of minorities and the disabled community. In a survey recently released by the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 141,000 Black-owned businesses with around $141 billion in revenue and $42 billion in annual payroll represented in the US economy. When you consider one in four Black individuals have a disability according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there could be a significant number of Black entrepreneurs characterized as disabled, or different-abled.
TriNet has engaged in programming aimed at tackling and supporting such statistics for underrepresented business owners, recognizing the strength and resiliency of different-abled people and echoing the need for such an alignment. In honor of Disability Pride Month and the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we’re highlighting a few Black entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo and leaning into their superpowers to share in their talents, creativity, and courage as different-abled people.
Solange Knowles, Founder of Saint Heron
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.”
Solange Knowles is an actress, songwriter, and Grammy-winning singer who is best known for writing songs for older sister, Beyonce, like “Upgrade U” and “Get Me Bodied.” The “A Seat at the Table” singer most recently became the first Black woman to compose music for the New York City ballet. According to Black Doctor + org, Solange states, “I was diagnosed with ADHD twice. I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me, and I had a whole theory that ADHD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it.” She went on to state, “The symptoms seem to apply to everyone around me in the industry. Loss of memory, starting something and not finishing it…”
Knowles’ love for art led her to create the creative agency called Saint Heron. Saint Heron is a multidisciplinary creative group that focuses on the preservation of marginalized communities through the perspective of Black and Brown artists. It is a music and cultural media hub that exhibits the work of Black and Brown artists. Most recently, Knowles released a curated limited-edition collection of hand-blown glassware under Saint Heron’s commerce project entitled “Small Matter Art Objects.”
Knowles’ music has spoken volumes to her artistic talent and her ability to convey the power of self-pride as she notes in her lyrics in “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “Don't touch my pride/ They say the glory's all mine/ Don't test my mouth/ They say the truth is my sound".
Daymond John, CEO and Founder of FUBU
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called a reading disability, dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language.”
Daymond John is an entrepreneur and investor best known for his appearance on “Shark Tank.” During his adolescence, John struggled in reading and writing assignments. Because of this, his school diagnosed him with a general “learning disability” due to the lack of information on dyslexia. However, this did not deter his ambition, as he enrolled in a business co-op program in high school.
This program, along with his highly visual mind, and sewing simple tie-top hats out of his childhood home for $10 apiece, would later support his journey towards entrepreneurship in founding FUBU, a sportwear line curated “for us, by us.” John’s founding of FUBU started with a $40 budget that has expanded the brand into a net worth in the billion-dollar range as of 2023.
Often referred to as the “Godfather of Urban Fashion,” John says, “My mother always said, ‘It takes the same energy to think small as it does to think big, so dream big and think bigger.’”
Stephanie Thomas, Founder & CEO of Cur8able
Superpower: Congenital Amputee
Congenital amputation refers to someone who is born without a limb or limbs or without a part of a limb or limbs.
According to Fashion Magazine, Stephanie Thomas has used this superpower to emphasize inclusivity within the fashion industry. After spending time researching clothing trends for different-abled people, Thomas created the Disability Fashion Styling System, which is three-point guide that supports different-abled people in better understand how to approach dressing while learning more about the brands and trends that serve their community. Thomas has also offered her insights as part of a textbook authored by her entitled Fitting In: The Social Implications of Fashion and Dressing with Disabilities.
Thomas founded Cur8able in 2015 after it began as a blog. Cur8able is a fashion styling hub for different-abled individuals that is based on Thomas’s three-point guide: Accessible, Smart, and Fashionable. It includes curated clothing for little people and seated body types.
“Fashion is a powerful tool in my toolbox to fight discrimination against people with disabilities and to challenge and educate people who probably unknowingly have ableist views,” she says.
Samantha Scott, Founder & CEO of JuneBrain
Superpower: Myasthenia Gravis
Myasthenia gravis is a rare disease that leads to muscle weakness and can impact daily tasks. While symptoms may start small, over time their impact can grow to be unmanageable. According to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, there are estimated to be approximately 36,000 to 60,000 cases in the US.
During her time as a doctorate program student at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Dr. Samantha Scott began to experience the symptoms of what she would discover five years later as myasthenia gravis. According to the school’s site, “When Dr. Scott was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, she found an immediate flaw in our healthcare system: her neurologist only had the bandwidth to see her once a year. As a result, she was left on her own to understand how her disease was changing and communicate those changes to her doctor.”
JuneBrain would later become that novel solution for allowing different-abled individuals such as Scott to use technology in detecting and monitoring disease progression. JuneBrain uses a proprietary AI-powered eye-scanning device that identifies eye and brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and age-related macular degeneration and is now a game changer in tele-health.
TriNet is inspired by the courage of business owners such as these and want to be sure all businesses, especially underrepresented businesses, have the resources they need to thrive. Check out TriNet’s HUB site for access to thought leadership, webinars, and a curated list of government opportunities for underrepresented businesses.
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