African American women-owned businesses skyrocket

By Laurie Lucas
The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Brittney Washington moved to Riverside with hopes of bringing chic, affordable fashion to college co-eds.
Ironically, high rents at shopping plazas close to the UCR campus prevented her from setting up shop near her targeted audience.

So in late August, Washington settled into a tiny nook, Suite 4, at 3772 Arlington Ave. in a building shared with three hair salons and a day spa. Washington, 24, has filled all 1,000 square feet of her boutique, Definition, with inexpensive junior, missy and plus-sized clothing, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Her sign will be up before her open house on Fri. Dec. 6. Already, Washington is dreaming bigger. “I see this as my flagship,” she said.

She wants to expand throughout the Inland area and orchestrate shopping events at the Riverside Convention and Visitors Center, which is scheduled to reopen in February after a $40-plus million remodel. “This is the beginning of my brand,” she declared in her pink-and-black themed store.

As a black female entrepreneur, Washington is part of a trend that has exploded over the past few decades. Since 1997, the number of African American women-owned businesses has skyrocketed by more than 250 percent. Today there are more than 1.1 million black female proprietors, providing $45 billion in revenues for 2013, according to a report commissioned by American Express that analyzed U.S. Census data.

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