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Chef Deyana Canteen

Source: Mike V. / Mike V.

Although the world most certainly fell apart around us in 2020, the trying year was also a time of deep reflection, discovery, and creativity for many Black women. Some had to demonstrate agility and adaptability as their primary source of income dwindled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others were finally able to truly acknowledge the fact that their day jobs were draining all joy from their lives. As we wrap up the final day of Women’s History Month, we thought it fitting to highlight six Black women who launched a new business or uncovered a new passion during the pandemic.

Deyana Canteen of Canteen & Co.

In 2015, Deyana Canteen launched Dee’s Kitchen, a pop-up style restaurant and catering company that offers healthy alternatives to beloved comfort dishes. Naturally, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, Canteen was forced to shift gears or watch her business fizzle. Out of this experience, Canteen & Co. was born. Canteen & Co. gives customers the opportunity to recreate Dee’s Kitchen’s popular dishes at home through custom seasoning blends, signature sauces, and beautiful cookware.

Box of Zeal

In 2020, social distancing forced us to figure out creative ways to be both together and apart. This, in part, is the inspiration behind Box of Zeal, an online gifting website that offers “thoughtfully curated and highly personalized gift boxes for every occasion.” Launched by Ashley Blakely and her two sorority sisters, Marissa and Norayi, Box of Zeal offers gift-givers both premade and customizable gift boxes for the people they care about most.

Be Well, Sis

The social isolation that came with social distancing measures took a toll on the physical, mental, and emotional health of many Black women. To stand in the gap, Dr. Cassandre Dunbar launched the Be Well, Sis podcast, “a wellness podcast dedicated to empowering Black millennial women with the resources to level up mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”

“As a medical doctor, I realize that there’s a large gap between what I learned in medical school and what it truly means to be well. Black women often suffer the worse medical outcomes yet are often shunned (or are an afterthought) by the wellness community,” Dr. Dunbar told MadameNoire. “For many years, I was troubled by this and when the pandemic hit, decided to start to use my newly found free time to launch a podcast.”

Naturally Drenched

Jamila Powell knows a thing or two about juggling. Prior to the pandemic, she worked as an attorney and business owner of the Maggie Rose Salon. Powell was devoted to managing multiple streams of income in order to ensure that her daughter, Magnolia, had the best life possible. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic had its way with the salon industry, Powell knew that she would have to shift gears.

“Most people assume lawyers make a lot of money, which is not true, especially when you have to pay law school loans,” says Powell. “In March of 2020, I was forced to completely shut down my business, Maggie Rose Salon. This was tough because 2020 was slated to be a major year for our salon. I lost income and I even lost some of my team. My biggest pivot was starting my haircare brand, Naturally Drenched. While I was no longer able to rely on the salon as a source of income, I knew that I could rely on an e-commerce product to support me, my business, and my family.”

Ifueko Igbinovia, “Living In My Mind”

Frustrated by the all-consuming demands of her career in corporate public relations, Ifueko Igbinovia spent much of the pandemic getting reacquainted with a familiar but distant friend: YouTube. In an attempt to pull herself out of the depressed state she was in while social distancing, Igbinovia relaunched the “Living In My Mind” YouTube channel, which addresses mental health and an array of other topics.

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