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To be young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
Don’t you know there’s a whole world waiting for you?
Don’t you know the quest has just begun for you?

On my “Who’s That Girl?” page, I list a few of my negative traits. I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, your girl Vivrant Thang has a flaw or five. The one that probably haunts me the most is my tendency to procrastinate and my lack of discipline with certain things. These are probably two things that have kept me from true greatness. Not saying that I’m doing half bad, but there’s so much more I know I could do if I would just become more disciplined and stop wasting time!

I have few regrets in life but one is that I wish I would have defined my career path in my early to mid-twenties. I let myself fall into IT after obtaining my Masters in English (don’t ask). Although this field has opened up doors to a great side hustle and I’m finding a way to blend my experience in the field with my passion for literature, I still have the occasional shoulda, woulda, coulda thoughts.

I admire young women who discover their mission early in life like my good friend Ro, a seasoned nonprofit executive at 24! It inspires me. So I was excited to see that Business Week’s top entrepreneurs age 25 and under had some women of color up in the mix. Sisters that are already doing it for themselves! Check them out! All bio information taken from the Business Week site. They are holding a contest in which readers can vote on which business has the most promise. Make sure you cast your vote for one of these promising business women.

Ashley Reed, 21, ASR Clothing (Detroit)

ashley_reed1.jpgReed started her business after classmates in high school commented on her custom-designed clothes and asked her to design pieces for them. She says that fashion design has always been her passion. Reed says she doesn’t spend too much time worrying about her age, as she’s busy running her business and majoring in retailing at Michigan State during the regular academic year and majoring in fashion merchandising and management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the summer. Reed expects to complete both degrees in 2008.

Her five-employee business has been featured in newspapers and magazines, and most of its clients are high school or college students from the U.S. but she says recently it has received international orders. For now, she’s investing in equipment that allows her to speed up production and is planning to expand when she graduates.

 

Ubong Attah, 23, Studio10Fourteen and Prolete Medical Billing (Dallas)

Ubong Attah describes herself as a serial entrepreneur. She ran a tutoring business in high school, taught herself Web design in college, then started a Web design firm her senior year called Studio10Fourteen, which she says is profitable and continues to operate. Ubong recently sold another business, an online jewelry shop, for around $55,000.

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Because she was recently diagnosed with systemic lupus, she has turned her attention to starting a home-based business. Her new company, Prolete Medical Billing, makes use of her health-information management degree from Saint Louis University in St. Louis and her experience doing administrative work for her mother’s two home health agencies. Ubong expects Prolete to have revenues of around $4 million in 2008.

Deborah Umunnabuike, 23; Jessica Umunnabuike, 21, Avant Gaudy, Chicago

“I’m looking to learn how to create a more socially responsible business,” says Deborah Umunnabuike, a political science major at the University of Chicago and co-founder of Avant Gaudy, an online vintage clothing shop she started with her sister, Jessica, an undergraduate at Hofstra University, in the summer of 2005. The daughters of Nigerian immigrants started the three-employee business because they were passionate about clothes and saw a growing demand among their peers for vintage clothing. And they soon realized that there was a growing demand abroad as well, specifically in parts of Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia, based on analyzing Web traffic to their site, almost 26,000 visitors from more than 30 countries. The sisters recruited Hong Kong native Vincent Choi to bring a global perspective to the business and better reach shoppers in Asia.

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Deborah says running the business has made her want to become a serial entrepreneur, but until she graduates in 2009, she will continue to run it conservatively. She is also involved with the Forte Foundation, a group dedicated to creating young women business leaders, and is interested in continuing community work in the spirit of Avant Gaudy’s DIY/Smashup Chicago, a daylong networking and trade-show event she organized in 2006 for craftspeople and entrepreneurs.

Jasmine Lawrence, 16, Eden Body Works, Williamstown, N.J.

lawrence.jpgWhen she was just 11, Jasmine was on her way to becoming an entrepreneur. After a chemical hair relaxer caused almost all of her hair to fall out, Jasmine decided to make her own. She researched natural hair-care products online but wasn’t satisfied. She found that most of them weren’t all-natural products, so she put her allowance together and made her own, using ingredients such as lavender oil. “I thought I must not be the only one out there with this kind of problem,” she explains. “I wanted to share my invention with the world.”

Lawrence participated in programs sponsored by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which she says helped her to start “a real business” and gave her pro bono legal and financial help she used to launch Eden Body Works. In short order, she got a business license, a tax ID number, insurance, women’s and minority business certificates, and a trademark on her company’s name. After borrowing $2,000 from her parents, the high school junior launched her company (working before school and after finishing her homework). This year she expects to earn $100,000 in sales. (she’s 16 ya’ll).

Her products can be found in Walmart and Whole Foods and she’s been featured on Oprah and the Montel Williams show.

Again, she’s 16.

What are you doing with your life?

Update: Has this post left you feeling inspired? A reader left this in the comments. Good stuff!

If you or any women you know want to start their own business, there is a great contest going on called “Make Your Dreams Come True With Mirassou”. They will be awarding one aspiring business woman $50,000 plus a team of professional consultants to help kick start her business! Visit the site for more info. The deadline to enter is December 15, 2007

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