If you plan to stop by Union Market next month, you might want to peek around the corner, too.
Designed by artist Brandan Odums, the mural, which is located on Sixth Street NE, features five prominent Black women entrepreneurs from the BGV network. Several of the five — Brittany Young, Dawn Myers, Naza Shelley, Anika Hobbs and BGV founder Shelly Omilàdè Bell — go all the way back to the earliest pitch competitions and fundings of BGV, the org’s senior marketing manager Damien Bell told Technical.ly.
This is BGV’s second mural in partnership with Nike. The first was unveiled last fall, and a third is expected to come later on.
On the whole, Bell said, he doesn’t think there are enough images of Black women in the world, but the decision to pursue a mural has an even larger impact.
“It’s so much more monumental to put it in the physical world,” he said. “To let people be able to see it, take pictures with it, really understand what concepts are being represented here — I think there’s something almost ethereal about having that realness there, having that personal feeling.”
Alongside the image, the mural will feature a few lines of the poem “Entrepreneurship is a Boxing Match,” which BGV reads at the start of its pitch competitions. The org wanted to include it, Bell said, to inspire future entrepreneurs to keep going, even when things seem a little gloomy.
“If there’s anything that BGV wants to tell young Black entrepreneurs, it’s to keep fighting,” Bell said. “You do have a position in the marketplace, you are worth it, you are unique, you do present something different.”
For Myers, the founder of The Most, a hair care company in DC, the mural offers the chance to be an example to up-and-coming founders. At the beginning of her journey, she said, there were two specific Black women who had paved the path before her, and she followed their books, podcast episodes and talks religiously to help her take the next steps.
“That representation of seeing people doing what you’re inspiring to look like you, it matters,” Myers said. “When I first started this, there were a bunch of people who told me ‘You can’t do it, regular people do not do the kind of thing that you’re doing.’ And I pointed to those women, I said, ‘No, this lady over here, she was just like me, she’s a regular person just like me, and she’s doing it. And this lady over here, she’s doing it too.’”
It’s coming at a crucial time for Myers, too. After returning from a year of digital nomadism, she recently received a cancer diagnosis, requiring her to undergo treatment while she continues work on The Most. For her, it’s meant a period of learning to be openly vulnerable, delegate to her team and find the strength of opening up about her experience — a story she’s eager to tell.
With the mural, she’s getting the chance to share not only the story of founding her company, but also doing it while experiencing the hardships of physical and mental health challenges. And, hopefully, giving others the space to do the same.
“What I noticed is that we were all going through the same thing,” Myers said, of talking about her challenges with other founders in the community. “It was like my saying the words gave other people permission to feel those things, too, and acknowledge with other founders.”
By sharing those stories, Myers said, she’s begun to build an “unmatched” bond that she hopes can continue as founders continue opening up about their experiences and helping one another. Already, she said she’s received a huge number of emails and voicemails from others offering support.
Similarly, with the mural, she hopes it can be a space for Black women founders to rally behind each other and share their accomplishments and worth. And for Myers, who grew up not too far from the mural’s location and made the city her home for her company, it’s something even more special for future founders.
“Having my whole body, our whole bodies, people who have gone through this fight, people who have been right there with me the entire time up on this mural commemorating, not just ourselves, but Black women and entrepreneurship generally — it’s really touching,” Myers said.-30-