One of the most devastating impacts of the current pandemic has been its effect on the global economy and small, black-owned businesses.
We are an innovative people and while this economic crisis is drastically reshaping our society and way of life, it should be noted that it also lays way for innovative opportunities and a catalyst for the entrepreneurial spirit.
Therefore, during this time of economic uncertainty, I’d like to support and encourage the continued legacy of women-owned businesses; by revisiting my thoughts on the essence of our character, creativity and God-given talents.
As an emerging entrepreneur myself, I know that I stand on the shoulders of women like Madame C. J. Walker, Bridget “Biddy” Mason and Mary Ellen Pleasant. Through the terrible legacy of slavery, these fearless and enterprising women emerged from their trauma to become millionaires; by capitalizing on the need for domestic services, beauty products and real estate investment.
Growing up, I was familiar with the legacies of these women; but as an adult, and now business owner, I see them totally different. Besides their extraordinary lives and success as entrepreneurs, I can now better recognize their courage, creativity and depth of character as black women.
When I look at the success of black women entrepreneurs throughout history, I’ve grown to look beyond their financial rewards, and focus more on their character, beliefs and personal values. And what I’ve recognized is that the character and spiritual foundation that many black women entrepreneurs possess are described in the Bible. More specifically, Proverbs 31: 10-31 which addresses “The Virtuous Woman.”
Like most, I was raised to believe that “The Virtuous Woman” was “God’s ideal woman,” and frankly a “domestic goddess.” She cooked, she cleaned and she took care of the kids. Basically, a housewife of noble character.
But when I re-read those verses as an adult woman, I saw her from a different lens. Now I don’t profess to be a biblical scholar, but when I re-read God’s description of His “ideal woman,” she was not a “domestic goddess” to me at all. In fact, she was an entrepreneur.
By no means do I believe that being a housewife is not an honorable or valuable profession, but if “The Virtuous Woman” is who God created women to be, then her “works” went well beyond her ability to cook, clean and take care of her family.
Yes, she was a wife and mother whose “children will call her blessed; her husband also” (Prov. 31:28). But the Bible also says that she had help running her household. It says she got up “at the crack of dawn” to prepare breakfast for her family before she went to “work;” but also gave “a portion to her maidens” (Prov. 31:15).
Her business was in textiles. During the day she would “seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands” (Prov. 31:13). And when she would find materials that she liked, she would go home, spend some time with the family, and then stay up late working.
The Bible says when “she perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night” (Prov. 31:18). Once she finished making her “fine linen,” she sold it and “delivereth girdles unto the merchant” (Prov. 31:24).
In addition to having a textile business, “The Virtuous Woman” was also a real estate investor and farmer. “She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard” (Prov. 31:16). And like many good business owners, she spent her money wisely and was sometimes frugal; even going to the next town to get a good deal, or discount. “She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar” (Prov. 31:14).
While “The Virtuous Woman” is a successful entrepreneur and real estate mogul, with exceptional financial literacy skills, the core of who she is as a woman simply lies within her “name” — her virtues. As a black woman entrepreneur, when I now read about “The Virtuous Woman,” she is a woman of tremendous faith who trusts in the success of her God-given talents, and not in her physical appearance. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is passing: but a woman, who fears the Lord, shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30).
She is a woman who is nurturing, giving and has a strong belief in service; often giving of herself unconditionally for the betterment of her people, family and community. “She extends her hand to the poor. Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov. 31:20).
But overall, “The Virtuous Woman” understood that her inner beauty was far more valuable to a man than any amount of money or material possessions. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10).
So ladies, as we continue to practice social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, try and take advantage of this God-given time. Tap into that “Virtuous Woman” inside of you to help sustain your current business, or create a new “corona-inspired” opportunity.
Have a willingness to be innovative and a spirit open to embracing change. Lead the way so that our young black girls can also grow to understand the true value of entrepreneurship, good moral character and inner beauty. Then the life and entrepreneurial spirit of “The Virtuous Woman” will live on for generations to come.
Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.