Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
Brought to you by
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Black Entrepreneurs Turn Passion Into Profits

Survey finds African Americans start small businesses to pursue dreams but may be more likely to face financial challenges

Small business owner
Getty Images

Benita Johnson loved wine, especially the way that — when mixed with good food and good company — the drink could transform a meal into a memory. Her problem was the nearest wine shops were more than a 25-minute drive from her home in Richmond, Virginia. 

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Having grown up in a household where her father owned his own bricklaying company, Johnson, 49, knew how to spot an opportunity when she saw one. So, in 2005 she opened the first of two wine shops called Grapes & Barley, which now have morphed into The Vine Wine Club, an online subscription service that delivers wines Johnson handpicks to members's doorsteps.

Johnson says starting her own business gave her the chance to shape her own financial future and, more importantly, the opportunity to turn her dreams into reality.

“You know, you’re seeing so much transition in the workforce,” says Johnson. “I think now is a perfect time to figure out what your passions are and turn those passions into livings. And we can do it.”

For African Americans who own small businesses, passion is a big part of what drives them to start their own companies. According to a recent survey of more than 2,600 people who either owned a small business or were hoping to start one, 62 percent of African American respondents said the reason they went into business was to pursue a passion. That response was 11 percentage points higher than the number for all respondents. The survey was conducted by Guidant Financial.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

“The biggest hurdle or challenge is the mentoring,” says Beverly Grandison, 38, an Army veteran who now runs Premier Health + Wellness Consulting in Chesapeake, Virginia. “Sometimes we feel like we’re having to just start all over, do it by ourselves. It’s harder, it seems like, than it should be. It’s a matter of tapping into the resources that are there locally where you are.” 

Grandison recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs take advantage of their local Small Business Development Centers, which are funded in part by the federal Small Business Administration. Biggins recommended SCORE, which is a nonprofit association that helps small-business owners by providing mentoring and other resources.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.