Black entrepreneurs are improving the state of the world one business at a time, but it’s Black women who are paving the way. As the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, we’re seeing more powerful, dedicated Black women thriving in leadership roles, inspiring us to chase our dreams against all odds.
Target and REVOLT co-created “Bet on Black,” a multiscreen series that spotlighted a group of dynamic Black entrepreneurs who all share the common goal of inspiring optimism and lasting change within the Black community. Each business owner had the opportunity to pitch their companies and receive feedback from a panel of celebrity judges and experts. At the end of the journey, the startup with the most potential to create significant progress secured $200,000 in funding and mentorship from the beloved American department store chain.
On the show, we became acquainted with the determined, inspirational contestant Ashley Bella – a lifelong artist, mental health activist and former social worker. The visual media maven felt inspired to open up her socially conscious art studio – ArtzyBella – after working for a 9 to 5 corporate job dedicated to helping sex trafficking survivors and realizing the healing impact that art therapy has on people. Inspired by the positive impact that it has had on her own life, the creative entrepreneur initiated her brand with only $50. Adopting a minimal approach to life, she left her decade-long corporate job, downsized her belongings and moved into her car. She used the cash to purchase art supplies and hosted paint parties where she and other Atlanta residents gathered to paint murals around town. From there, ArtzyBella was born.
The studio offers art classes, art installations and products, and is even available for rental for ‘sip and paint’ parties, private lessons and corporate events. For Ashley, the most important factor in launching her creative community space was to ensure that it became a safe haven for art newbies and professional artists alike.
Beyond opening up the in-person studio in the East Point suburb of Atlanta, the entrepreneur also launched an app for the brand that offers even more benefits to ArtzyBella members. After downloading, one can choose to pay a ‘Lite’ one-time charge of $14 and receive access to personalized content, a private social community, art supplies and digital content, or they can upgrade to the Premium membership for a one-time charge of $35 and receive all of those advantages, plus a creative wellness plan, a dedicated wellness coach, access to intimate group workshops and art therapy sessions.
Looking back on her “Bet on Black” experience, Ashley is grateful to have participated in the series. “It gave me a lot of validation,” says the mental health activist, who received valuable feedback from viewers, customers, investors and advisors. “They felt that even though I didn’t win,” she explains, “it was still well done and helped them see how my company could scale.” Additionally, the $5,000 funding she received from the show allowed her to pay the legal fees required to elevate her business from an LLC to a C-corp, which, as a result, helps ArtzyBella raise venture capital. “I was also able to pay my interns a stipend,” adds the chief executive officer.
Since the TV show’s premiere back in January, Ashley’s grind and dedication to art and mental health has only continued to persist. The ArtzyBella application’s features underwent technological upgrades, and the app is activating contracts with big names such as Kaiser, Delta, NCR and even the City of Atlanta. The company itself has also expanded, welcoming new staff and launching their official market campaign.
On a more personal level, Ashley has continued to express her creative passions and portray them throughout her city. “I have secured more mural opportunities in Atlanta,” explains the Georgia resident. She has also joined several cultural arts commissions, which gives her the opportunity to focus on art and mental health within her public art, scoring big collaborations with Home Depot Backyard, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and the National Black Arts Festival.
Being a Black business owner herself, Ashley prefers to shop Black-owned. Check out this list of products from a few of her favorite brands.
1. WTRMLN WTR
It’s no surprise that Ashley is a frequent walker as she lives right on the Beltline – Atlanta’s urban trail in the city’s Midtown neighborhood. When she needs a refreshment on her walks to the grocery store, her go-to drink is WTRMLN WTR. “This is thirst-quenching when I’m tired,” guarantees the social entrepreneur. Packed with natural electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, this hydrating cold-pressed sports drink is absolutely guilt-free, with no added sugars, sweeteners or artificial colors or flavors.
2. Camille Rose Naturals Honey Leave-In Conditioner
To maintain her long hair, the fine artist looks no further than the Camille Rose Naturals Honey Leave-In Conditioner. This post-shower hair product includes three key ingredients: honey for soft, smooth strands; bilberry fruit for hair growth, dry scalp and dandruff; and aloe leaf juice for penetrating the hair shaft with essential fatty acids to enhance moisture. “This product helps me keep my length and makes it easy to moisturize my hair in between washes,” Ashley states. Perfect for the curls!
3. CRUXGG Coffee Maker
A businesswoman has got to have her coffee. Ashley prefers the CRUXGG 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker with fully programmable settings, which can brew a hot, delicious cup of Joe in an instant. While its advanced features allow her to customize the brew strength and adjust the roast, she was drawn to this brand due to its activism toward combating food insecurity. “The proceeds go to a great cause,” explains the businesswoman. “I felt passionate about that because my brand has a similar model and it inspires me that maybe Target may one day feature my products as well.”
4. Fréres Branchiaux This Woman’s Work Candle
To set a tranquil vibe in her home or art studio, the ArtzyBella founder loves the Fréres Branchiaux This Woman’s Work Candle, which is dedicated to hardworking women. Featuring soothing scents of vanilla, bergamot, sandalwood and lavender, it is also vegan and made from a proprietary soy wax blend. “When we do group wellness events or private art therapy sessions,” says the entrepreneur, “these candles help to set the tone.” The District of Columbia-based brand was started in 2017 by three young brothers – Ryan (age 16), Collin (age 13), and Austin Gill (age 11) – when their parents advised them that if they wanted more money for video games, they either had to seek out jobs or initiate their own business. After learning and experimenting with the art of candle making, the Gill Brothers started Fréres Branchiaux. Since then, they have expanded their eco-conscious candle and home fragrance company by adding room sprays, diffusers and bath products, and they even donate 10% of their proceeds to various homeless shelters around the United States.
5. McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Wine
As the owner of an art studio, Ashley’s a frequent ‘sip and paint’ host. Her favorite wine is the McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic wine, a rosé infused with flavors of raspberry, orange blossom and white flowers, as well as notes of citrus. “I feature this wine for many of my paint parties with private clients and corporations,” says the ArtzyBella CEO. Smooth and delicious, it’s a refreshing addition to any event or hangout. The women-owned wine brand has grown into the largest Black-owned wine company in the United States, on top of being one of the most inclusive and accessible.
6. Nurtur Skincare
Ashley’s favorite skincare brand is the Black-owned company Nurtur Skincare. “Nurtur focuses on the underlying causes of problematic skin,” explains the former social worker. “They focus on how mental health can impact skin and it’s unisex!” Being a mental health advocate herself, she champions the brand for incorporating how emotional and mental health affects our skin into business.
Get inspired by Ashley and other talented Black entrepreneurs by catching up on episodes of “Bet on Black”, which can be streamed at any time on REVOLT’s digital platforms.
Also, be sure to head over to Target’s Buy Black Hub in support of Black business owners everywhere.