Black History Month: Q&A with Local Entrepreneurs

A header image feature black business owners in Northeast Indiana.

From left to right: Virginia Richardson, Javon Bell, Paris McFarthing.


Black History Month ends this week, but before it does, let’s highlight a few of the Black business owners in Northeast Indiana. Additionally, it’s a good opportunity to shed light on the challenges they have faced during the process of building their business.


Contributing to this Q&A are Virginia Richardson, owner of Tilde Multimedia Firm, Paris McFarthing, president/co-owner of Hop River Brewing Company, and Javon Bell, owner of Bellaire Studio. They shared the challenges they have faced as Black business owners and what strategies they have used to overcome them.


Answers have been edited for length and clarity.


Can you share some of the specific challenges you face as a black business owner in your industry?


PM: I have always valued diverse thought and representation. As individuals, we are products of our environment. Those environments shape who we are, how we function, and our approach to just about everything. When we create environments that lack diversity in thought and experience, we build institutions that miss opportunities or fall victim to a narrow vision. Today, we are still hearing that representation matters. I agree with that because representation allows us to hear that diversity of thought and build better businesses that capitalize on opportunities others may not see.


VR: As a business owner in the media and digital advertising industries, I feel like some of the challenges that I face are some people may feel like my rates should be lower than my competitors or lower than the industry standard rates. Another challenge that I face is having the resources or connections to potential clients that others have. Additionally, I feel like potential clients don’t value my knowledge or my professional experience, especially considering I’ve worked for major agencies in mainstream media markets.


JB: In the web design and development industry, one of the biggest challenges I face is building trust and credibility within networks that lack diversity. To address doubts about the quality and professionalism associated with solo black business ownership, I consistently strive to deliver top-notch services. This helps counteract any implicit biases or skepticism.


Have you faced any challenges in accessing resources or support services specifically tailored to black entrepreneurs?


JB: In the early years, when I first started Bellaire Studio, I tried reaching out to a good number of professionals in the community for some guidance or just a chat about my business path. Sadly, I hardly heard back from anyone. That’s when I realized I had to rely on myself and expand my network to keep things moving forward.


PM: I have not had any specific issues accessing support. That does not mean the challenges do not exist though. I am thankful that my family along with the generations before me worked for the progress and opportunities I now benefit from.


VR: Yes, there is a lack of knowledge of how to obtain public or private resources that provide entrepreneurs with more information about how to access funding and partnerships with larger companies.


Have you found any support networks or organizations that have been instrumental in helping you navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship?


JB: My immediate family, friends and professional network have played crucial roles in my journey with Bellaire Studio. Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster ride — some days, you feel like you’re on top of the world, while on others, you question everything. As evidenced by my rapidly increasing grey hairs, the web design and development industry has been an adventure.


Having my tight-knit support around me has made all the difference. They’re always there to lend an ear, offer advice, or even mention me in circles I never imagined being part of. Their support and love inspire me every day. I just want to make them proud and inspire my daughter to chase her dreams.


PM: I have found an immense amount of support in my journey as an entrepreneur. While I recognize that is not always the case, I do feel the support is out there. I have been intentional about building personal and professional relationships that contribute to my growth. I am smart enough to know I will never find a perfect answer to the questions I have, but I can find people who challenge my thoughts and help me find my perfect solution. One other aspect I recognized was that people were always open to supporting me when I was putting in the effort. Support is meant to propel you forward not make you start.


What advice would you offer to other aspiring black entrepreneurs who may be facing similar challenges in starting or growing their businesses?


PM: To any entrepreneur, I would say challenge yourself to continuously improve. In that growth there is opportunity. I have met so many people who are successful from opportunities they never imagined at one point. It is the progress from one point to another that I find most satisfying.


JB: From my own experience, I would advise aspiring black entrepreneurs starting or growing their businesses to remain resilient and persistent in pursuit of their goals.


VR: Talk to other entrepreneurs who have faced similar challenges and get advice from them as it relates to some of the strategies they’ve used to overcome their challenges.


In your experience, what strategies have been most effective in overcoming systemic barriers to success as a black business owner?


JB: I don’t believe there’s a single strategy for overcoming systemic barriers. The keyword is “system,” indicating that barriers are intentionally built and functioning as intended. It’s important to understand the challenges you face and be honest about the steps needed to overcome them.


VR: Networking and engaging with different ethnicities has been beneficial. Also, researching similar businesses that are owned by entrepreneurs of different ethnicities.


PM: Life is full of barriers and challenges that are both known and unknown. It is important to focus on what you can control and focus your efforts in those areas. While barriers are meant to be broken, no one said you had to run headfirst into them. It is important to work smarter and be creative in your efforts to overcome. When you do that, they won’t see you coming.



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