Level 4.0: Meet 5 Women of Color Leading Companies That Center Community

June 4, 2024

Women Entrepreneurs Build Businesses for Impact and Inclusion: Part Two

Shaping a more inclusive and equitable economy involves addressing systemic barriers and making space for new perspectives and products. Through the Level program, B Lab U.S. & Canada strives to support businesses that face systemic challenges to economic empowerment. The program also builds on the three pillars in B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Theory of Change: climate justice, racial equity, and a stakeholder-driven economy.

In its fourth year, the Level program includes 15 companies in the U.S. and Canada led by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color who also identify as women. These business leaders work alongside consulting organizations to measure and improve their impact, tell their stories, adopt legal stakeholder governance, and pursue B Corp Certification. 

In the second of a three-part series, we introduce five Level 4.0 leaders whose companies offer community-centered services inspired by personal experience and a desire to use business for good. These impact-focused companies provide grant-writing assistance, equitable business financing, trauma-informed healthcare, inclusive travel, and caregiver support.

Part one in the series: Meet five Level 4.0 entrepreneurs in the fashion and apparel industry.

Level Businesses Build Impact and Inclusion

Learn more about business leaders from previous years of the Level program in these B The Change articles.

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Shavonn Richardson, Founder and CEO of Think and Ink Grant Consulting

Shavonn Richardson

Through experience on both sides of the nonprofit funding process, Shavonn Richardson saw an opportunity for business and impact. “As a former nonprofit leader, I have walked the journey so many nonprofit leaders walk. We were one of the lucky ones — we won the majority of the grants submitted through a very deliberate and proven process I still use today,” Richardson said. “Later, I saw the grant-seeking experience through the eyes of a funder by working as a program manager for a corporate foundation office. It was a privilege to read multiple applications, learn what stood out in some applications, and see opportunities for improvement in others.”

Richardson founded Think and Ink Grant Consulting to tap into her knowledge of available resources and funder expectations and bridge the gaps between grant givers and seekers. “I believe changing the world begins with improving the status of women, children, health, and education. This is why Think and Ink Grants specializes in these areas to help change the world by improving communities, one grant at a time,” she said. “Our work has expanded into the social justice space to contribute to the invaluable work of improving the status of underrepresented and disenfranchised communities.”

Since its launch, Think and Ink Grant Consulting has helped clients obtain over $80 million in grant funding. Richardson encourages other entrepreneurs of color to build on their knowledge and trust in their abilities: “Master your trade. Know your worth. Price accordingly,” she said. 


Andrea Inokon, Chief Operating Officer at Cadence Cash

Andrea Inokon

The financial struggles of starting a business are often exacerbated for women and People of Color. As a funding and growth platform for small businesses, Cadence Cash aims to remove barriers to capital for innovative founders who typically are overlooked by the financial market. Cadence Cash uses artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help speed access to capital and remove bias from the process. 

Andrea Inokon recently joined family-owned Cadence Cash as Chief Operating Officer. This role will incorporate her experience in the financial services and technology industries and her personal commitment to promoting workplace equity. Through microloans, lines of credit, and invoice financing, Cadence Cash helps fuel early growth and success. 

By providing revenue-based financing, Cadence Cash works with businesses that may not be able to access traditional sources because of their credit record. “We provide simple, fast funding as well as other resources to small businesses,” Inokon said in a recent interview


Jennifer “Jaki” Johnson, Founder and CEO of WellMiss

Jennifer “Jaki” Johnson

WellMiss provides a holistic healing path for women who have experienced trauma. Founder Jennifer “Jaki” Johnson created the company after the unexpected loss of her 15-year-old son, Christian, and her subsequent struggle to find comprehensive care for her emotional and physical health. “My search for a therapist who specialized in trauma and grief proved challenging, as I discovered that many therapists were generalists, and trauma required a deeper, specialized approach,” Johnson said. 

While navigating her grief and health issues, Johnson also encountered a maze of fragmented services and a lack of culturally competent clinicians. She used her experience as inspiration and founded WellMiss to serve women seeking holistic, culturally attuned, and specialized trauma care. “We recognize that one in two women will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime,” Johnson said. “Our mission is to provide a space that holds the deep pain, hurt, and grief that the world often cannot, acting as a healing companion.”

Through her entrepreneurial journey, Johnson has learned the value of adopting a holistic perspective for decision-making. “Stay true to yourself and seek alignment in all your endeavors — be it relationships, partnerships, or interactions with investors,” she said. “Focus on your mission without getting caught up in comparisons.” 

Meet the Women of Level

Learn more about Level business leaders building a more equitable and just economy in a new downloadable resource from B Lab U.S. & Canada.

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Lystra G. Sam, Managing Director/Lead Decolonizing Curator and Strategist of Qmooniti Travel & Lifestyle

Lystra G. Sam

A series of professional and personal events prompted Lystra G. Sam to launch a business aligned with her advocacy and activism work. “I had quit my mid-management corporate position whilst trying to recover from being hit by a vehicle,” she said. 

Founded in 2018, Qmooniti Travel & Lifestyle combines Sam’s passions for social activism, decolonization, and environmental responsibility while helping people travel with intentionality and positive impact. “We infuse each of our offerings with a sense of purpose, inviting our clients to embark on journeys of personal growth, healing, and stimulating authentic cultural engagement,” Sam said. “We strive to redefine how people travel and what tourism means for everyone involved.” 

With an emphasis on respect for people, culture, and the environment, Qmooniti’s services encourage travelers to explore new perspectives. “Our goal is to influence and impact the industry in such an extensive way that we eventually put ourselves out of business and have to find another niche in which to pioneer and shine,” she said.

The company’s name — an alternative spelling for community — reflects the influence of community on Sam’s life and her belief in finding a supportive circle where you can show up as your true self. “My goal now is to show up for my community with resources, as a mentor and connector, so that they can use it to empower themselves and fulfill their own goals — while continuing to learn and grow myself.” 


Dr. Victoria Chibuogu Nneji, Founder and CEO of AKALAKA co.

Victoria Chibuogu Nneji

After immigrating from Nigeria to the United States as a child, Victoria Chibuogu Nneji grew up in North Carolina. Without familial support in her new home, she often served as a family caregiver while building her career as a scientist, technologist, engineer, and mathematician. 

In the summer of 2020, Nneji was searching for disability services support and resources, so her family could continue living in their communities of choice. That lonely and confusing journey included a 300-page insurance policy manual on home and community-based services. “At the end of those 300 pages, I felt a sense of relief that I could better advocate for my family,” she said. “But I also was angry that anyone should ever have to do what I had just done to access basic services that they technically have a right to by law.” 

Recognizing the lack of innovation for people living with disabilities and caregiving responsibilities, Dr. Nneji established AKALAKA in 2021 to enable care partners to sustain timely, thoughtful, and delightful long-term care for family and friends to live longer, healthier lives at home and in their communities of choice. AKALAKA is building a digital platform enabling care partners to sustain long-term home and community care for family and friends. “The solution we are building at AKALAKA is for a broad, growing, and painfully underserved market,” Nneji said. 

She encourages other entrepreneurs to seize similar opportunities when they encounter challenges. “Believe in the solution you are building to a problem relevant to a market of people,” she said. “Sometimes we discount the expertise of our lived experiences, the potential value of our visions, and the work we put in to build each day.” 

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