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Women Making History: Highlighting BIPOC Women Entrepreneurs & Leaders

By YWCA Minneapolis
March 8, 2021
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March 8, 2021

Happy Women’s History Month! This March, we’re putting an intersectional lens on women’s history happening here and now. Keep reading to learn about twelve women running organizations in Minnesota and beyond! Who else do you know who should be on this list? Let’s celebrate the nuances and layers of women’s history.

Renay Dossman, Neighborhood Development Center

Renay Dossman is the president of the Neighborhood Development Center, a nonprofit financial organization that supports community development by helping entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. She has been a business owner herself, as well as having held two vice president roles for Southeastern Grocers and led merchandising and design teams at Target. She is a certified professional and executive life coach, and she and her husband are the founders of Affirmation House.

Amran Farah, Somali-American Bar Association

Amran Farah is the past president of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, the co-founder and past president of the Somali-American Bar Association, past chair of the Council of Minnesotan of African Heritage, and was recently named partner at the high-power Minnesota law firm, Greene Espel. At her firm, Amran co-founded the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practice, which conducts workplace investigations and assists employers in addressing issues of discrimination and workplace misconduct.
Amran was also selected by Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee for the open seat on the federal court bench. In February 2021, Amran made the list of Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s list of 40 under 40 honorees.

Shawntera Hardy, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Civic Eagle

Shawntera Hardy is an expert in public policy and community development. She provides relationship building and organizational strategy for Civic Eagle, a Black-created and Black-led legislative technology tool for government and policy professionals. She previously served as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Mark Dayton, a lobbyist, a city planner, a legislative assistant and more. She is also the founder of PolicyGrounds consulting and a co-founder of Fearless Commerce. She was recently named to the board of directors for Fairview Health Services.

Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments

Mellody Hobson is a businesswoman nationally recognized as a voice on financial literacy. She serves as the co-CEO and president for Ariel Investments, where she directs all strategic planning, growth and management. She is at the helm of Project Black out of Ariel Alternatives, a partnership between Ariel Investments and JPMorgan Chase to fill a diversity gap in the corporate supply chain. She was recently named the non-executive board president for Starbucks, a board she has been on for 15 years. She also sits on the board for JPMorgan Chase and has previously been on the boards of Estee Lauder and DreamWorks Animation.

Bianca Kea, Yo Soy Afro Latina

The Yo Soy Afro Latina brand created by this Afro-Mexican Detroit native is not only a place to buy gear, but also a platform that celebrates Afro Latinidad and brings awareness to the often forgotten and disregarded Black diaspora. “My goal is to shed light on the beauty and the magnitude of Afro Latinas, to create a space where we are acknowledged, and to celebrate our beautiful, diverse culture,” Kea notes on her website. “We’ve been here and we’re not going anywhere. This is our time to shine.’”

Radhika Jones, Vanity Fair Magazine

Radhika Jones has served as an arts editor for the Moscow Times, a managing editor for The Paris Review, culture editor at Time and editorial director of The New York Times books department. She has been the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair since 2017. She co-edited the 2020 September Issue of Vanity Fair with Ta-Nehisi Coates, honoring Breonna Taylor on its cover.

Shannon Smith Jones, Hope Community

Shannon Smith Jones is the executive director of Hope Community, a nonprofit organization that supports community engagement for inclusive and equitable housing and community spaces. She previously served as the director of Community Engagement at Urban Homeworks, worked in Hennepin County Human Services and at Sabathani Community Center. Her background is in family social services with graduate work in leadership and management. She has a breadth of experience in civic engagement, leadership and professional development.


Dr. Joi Lewis, Joi Unlimited

Dr. Joi Lewis is a visionary community healer and facilitator of Black liberation and its intersection with other forms of oppression-induced trauma. As a speaker, author, the CEO of Joi Unlimited and president of The Healing Justice Foundation, she’s on a mission to put healing in the hands of anyone, anywhere. Dr. Joi helps individuals, institutions, and communities heal from oppression-induced historic and present-day trauma, using Healing Justice as an on-ramp to reclaim our own humanity and each other. Dr. Joi’s book, Healing: The Act of Radical Self-Care, educates individuals on the framework of the Orange Method of Healing Justice, through the certification program, courses, and training, to interrupt historic cycles of oppression using both radical self-care and community care. She’s spent 20+ years in higher education leadership as a dean, vice president and chief diversity officer. While she resides in St. Paul, MN, her work is deeply informed by growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois. She’s an unapologetic joy instigator, radical self-care evangelist and food prep pro.

Kenya McKnight, Black Women’s Wealth Alliance

Thanks to her work as founder and president of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance, Kenya McKnight is building economic power and boosting wealth opportunities for black women throughout the region.

Angie Hall Sandifer, Angie’s Hat

Minnesota Milliner Angie Hall Sandifer has created fashionable hats from her studio in Lowertown Saint Paul, MN since 2006.

Alex West Steinman, The Coven

Alex West Steinman is the co-founder and CEO of The Coven, a community and workspace for women and non-binary people. A 2019 Bush Fellow and one of Inc.’s 100 Female Founders, she paves the way for a more inclusive and interesting present. In addition to her passion for the economic empowerment and advancement of women, she raises tiny humans alongside her husband and enjoys sharing insights with budding entrepreneurs and leaders.

Karen Yin, Founder, Conscious Style Guide

Winner of the 2017 ACES Robinson Prize for furthering the craft of professional editing, Karen Yin is the creator of Conscious Style Guide, the first website devoted to conscious language, Editors of Color, tools for diversifying your staff and sources, and AP vs. Chicago, a guide for anyone who gives “a dollar sign, ampersand, exclamation point, and pound sign about style.” Conscious Style Guide was named by Poynter as one of the top tools for journalists in 2018.