Women of Color: How 3 Built Businesses

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Women of Color EntrepreneursWho hasn’t said they’d like to quit working for the man?

As it turns out, lots of women have, and that number is growing, especially among women of color.

A recent Center for American Progress study shows African-American and Latina women are a driving force behind entrepreneurship in the United States. From 1997 to 2013, the number of female-owned businesses in the U.S. grew by 59 percent ? 1 1/2 times the national average. The study says women of color are the catalyst behind this growth: African-American women-owned businesses grew by 258 percent in that time; Latina women-owned businesses grew by 180 percent. Today, women of color are the majority owners of nearly one-third of female-owned firms in the nation.

Women say that being their own boss and controlling their own destiny are natural draws of entrepreneurship but they also seek a work-life balance and personal satisfaction from their businesses. Here’s a look at three local women and how they are building business and community in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Dionne Bell, make-up artist

Dionne Bell always loved to do makeup but felt there wasn’t a way for people to learn how to put it on without feeling the sales pressure to buy. Bell saw the gap, and decided to build a business.

“I’ve always loved what I do. Empowering women to look better and be more confident is my motivation.” Bell, who is 26 and was born in the Bronx, has been in the makeup industry for almost seven years, working for outfits like Bobbi Brown and as a makeup artist for New York Fashion Week. She branched out on her own a year ago and opened a space in Mamaroneck.

Belle Make-up NYC in Mamaroneck is cozy, decorated with touches of light gray and purple with a chandelier at the entrance. Guests are offered wine, champagne and something tasty to eat. “The atmosphere is relaxing talking girl to girl, with no pressure,” she laughs.

Bell offers individualized and group makeup instruction, event makeup and her own invention: makeup wardrobing. As part of this service she goes through the client’s makeup and lets them know what works and what doesn’t. “In my group classes, some women would have makeup for 10 years, and you can’t (keep it that long) ? its makeup.”

She says becoming an entrepreneur hasn’t been exactly as she expected. “There’s no time off, and working consistently to bring in money is a challenge.” Along with chasing the dollars she is traveling about 70 percent of the time for clients, she says. But even with all this, she understands the appeal of business ownership for women and being in control of your schedule. “The challenge for me is that people always underestimate my ability because I’m young.”

In her business, pushing a luxury service is a challenge. She’s had to convince potential customers this is more than just an occasional need, and she’s constantly networking. But she says she’s in it for the long haul, “it’s nice now having a home base in Westchester.”

Regine Coombs, hairstylist

Regine Coombs was born to be an entrepreneur. “I knew at a very young age I was going to be an entrepreneur because I saw my dad do it,” she said. Her father ran several retail businesses in Rockland and Orange counties, and Coombs knew this was what she wanted to do. “I remember the goal was getting my name on a building.”

And she has. Coombs, a Nyack native, has had three successful businesses since 1991: two beauty salons and a restaurant. Currently she owns Regine’s International Beauty Salon in Nanuet. “I had conventional jobs but it was never enough,” she says. They were neither lucrative enough nor gave her enough personal satisfaction.

After training with Vidal Sassoon in the 1980s and working in London, she developed a clientele who kept her first Nyack salon, Regine’s, in business for 14 years. In that time she opened a restaurant called Southern Comfort that she ran for eight years. “There were a lot of 18-hour days,” she remembers.

Read more at the Journal News.