The Black Women Transforming Side Hustles into Full Blown Businesses

The Brixton Black Culture Pop Up Market opened its doors once again on April 6-7 at Impact Brixton. The market welcomed black-owned businesses to showcase their products including food, clothing, stationary, books, jewellery, hair and beauty products, arts and crafts, and toys.

Stepping into the market, you’re welcomed by an overwhelming sense of community: there are families weaving through the stalls, afrobeats is blaring from the speakers, and bright ankara prints stand out brightening the whole hall. The majority of business owners displaying their work are black women who had turned their side hustle into their full time business. It brings me back to my own childhood. I would always watch in awe as my aunties and my mum would work full time, while looking after kids and constantly rake in some extra cash through passion projects turned side hustles. It’s something that I find is weaved into my own culture. Almost every woman that I know back in Zambia has some sort of side hustle, taking their entrepreneurial spirit to the next level to make some extra cash. From selling beauty supplies, to making clothes or organising events, women use side hustles to ensure their economic freedom… what else are we meant to do if the world still insists on paying us an average of almost $10,000 less than men annually?

To celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of black women, I interviewed a selection of business owners to discuss their inspirations, the challenges that they’ve faced and to share their advice with women hoping to transform their passions into a business.

Kike, NHS Blood Donation


“We’re here from the NHS Blood donation, targeting mostly the black minority as we need more black minority to donate blood especially for people that have sickle cell, and people that generally need blood transfusions. We’re here to encourage people to save lives.”

What inspired you to do this work?

“There aren’t enough black people giving blood. Even today we’ve got more people from other minorities giving blood over black people. We need to come out more and donate”.

Zachia, Zachia Designs


“I am a London based designer exhibiting jewellery and accessories, predominantly hand crafted products.”

Your Inspiration?

“I started this for two reasons: I thought that there is too much invisibility for people who are sole traders. There’s lots of creative people who are invisible. Although we have online platforms, we need to start showcasing our creativity on the ground. I also work with African communities who have been doing crafts for thousands of years and my business helps to sustain their work so that the craftsmanship doesn't die down. It supports people, brings awareness to different crafts in Africa and ensures that these traditions can continue. I don’t say from Global to Local, I’m really Global One Local”.

The challenges and barriers that you’ve faced:

“I’d say challenges would be the different psychologies of how you do business, especially when working with different cultures. People might not necessarily operate the way that you’re used to or how you would like them to”.

Bertha Wensah, Fabric of Africa Frames


“Fabric of Africa Frames is an arts and crafts company. I incorporate African fabric into  images that are all done by hand.”

Your Inspiration?

“I love art, and have always been into art. But I’ve also always been in love with our African fabrics. I’m originally from Ghana and I’ve grown up around the vibrant textures of fabrics that we have. It just so happened that I started to incorporate that into the artwork that I do. So I’m inspired by my culture”.

The challenges and barriers that you’ve faced:

“You will always face barriers. This is my first business of this nature. Travelling alone can be hectic, and then you have to find funding to get it to a level where you can comfortably push your business in different areas. Also, because it’s a new start up, I’m having to do a lot of groundwork in order to get the awareness out there for people to see what I do.

Advice for other women?

“If you have a passion to do something, do not let anything stop you. Sometimes it doesn’t always have to start with capital. I didn’t start with anything. I started with a pencil, two pounds, and a pair of scissors. What you see today is a result of me simply getting up and saying “I’m going to do this”, and using whatever was around me to get this off the ground”.

Rufina, Rufina Designs


“My business is an online women’s brand: we do clothing, accessories and shoes. We have satin bonnets, headwraps, and bespoke items”.

Your Inspiration?

“I know that I’ve always loved African fabric, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do, until one day after Uni, I watched someone make a headwrap on Youtube. That’s how it started. Then I made a purse for a wedding, and would continue making new stuff until I decided to launch a business”.

The challenges and barriers that you’ve faced:

“There’s always money. Money is the first thing. Then there’s time. When you’re a small business, you have to wear so many hats - you have to do the accounting, make the products by hand, and also outsource manufacturing and ensure quality control. So generally just juggling many things at the same time is a big challenge”.

Advice for women who want to start their own business?

“Just do it. I know it's scary...very very scary. But once you start, it all starts picking up. If I showed you my first product, you would laugh!”

Jada, BYBC Apparel


“BYBC stands for Black Young Beautiful Clever. My brand is a clothing line for positivity. We aim to spread positivity amongst the youth”.

Your Inspiration?

“I felt like it was something that my peers and I needed to hear at the time. I wanted to spread positive vibes”

The challenges and barriers that you’ve faced:

“Money has been the biggest barrier.”

Advice for women who want to start their own business?

“Make sure that you’re passionate about it. Cause passion will keep you going during the hard times”.

C.J Fashion & Style


“I’m an African designer who designs bags and shoes. My bags are purely ankara bags,mixed with leather or suede.”

Your Inspiration?

“I’m really into fashion and am very driven by my African culture and African fabric. I feel very confident and bright when I wear African prints, and that’s what has birthed this particular brand”.

The challenges and barriers that you’ve faced:

“Sometimes you have to explain yourself to people, you have to try to convince them of a new brand. A lot of people are very moved by brand names, and so you have to do a lot of talking to get them to appreciate your brand, even if it’s a startup business”.

Advice for women who want to start their own business?

“As long as you have a drive and a passion, I would say follow your dreams. The idea that you give up on, could be someone else’s success in the future. So don’t give up on your ideas. Try to make sure that you push through your ideas and if you fail or you fall, just get back up and try again”.

Article by VERVE Operative & Blogger Chanju Mwanza

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