Black women are currently the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America, and four years ago, Maghan Morin and Jeanine Suah joined the ranks. When the duo began planning their dream business, Morin noted they faced a distinct disadvantage from the outset. They are less likely to have a financial cushion and often miss out on financial aid due to lack of knowledge.
The native Floridians met four years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they both were employed by a co-working concept. Morin and Suah united forces to create their own pop-up concepts targeting women entrepreneurs, but the shared spaces were attracting an audience that was predominantly white. Followoing a relentless research for space and depleting a lifetime savings investment, Morin and Suah launched their Black-owned business endeavor this past February.
Thynk Global —a co-operative working hub —is the fruit of their labor. At its 3,000-square-foot building in Little River, the space is meant to be a comfortable and productive place for "thynkers," a group that includes not only the expected start-ups, but established companies in the beauty, apparel and e-commerce industries. Initial memberships were as low as $87 a month and includes access to modern decor, open desks and an outdoor garden. The hub also features a pop-up retail shop where members get to showcase their products.
"We were good at building community, but decided we had to find a way of servicing our own," said Morin. "When it comes to funding and women of color, it's hard for them to ask for it, when they reach out to a financial representative they get shut down," Morin explained. "They don't have experience or a strong professional network to support them, so we give them tools to help push through."
In the span of one month, Thynk Global made a name for itself with its collaborative working style, focus on minority women’s issues and local community outreach that rapidly filled more than half of its 250 membership slots.
“Little River is the ideal community to bring together the threads that form their core focus,” said Suah who added that servicing communities on the brink of gentrification is important to preserve the character of the community, provide the resources to sustain it while it's transforming.
"That is central to how we operate and we chose Little River because is still very authentic. There's something raw and gritty to it that is about keeping its community together."
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Thynk Global to shut down its physical space, sales and exchanges have been carried through online platforms. To access the company's current business virtual lounge, new and founding members now pay a reduced $16 monthly fee, which includes access to webinars by minority business owners and virtual happy hour network meetings. Morin and Suah launched a new digital market under a #strongertogether campaign to help retail businesses stay afloat. Participating vendors include Kiss My Passport, Shop Jacqs, and Lucky + Lovely.
Cyberspace has also served as a venue for the Thynk Global founders to share how they are personally navigating the tumultuous times. Despite having to close their doors, they found themselves in the challenging position of still having to pay full rent on their brick-and-mortar.
"Our landlord is charging full amount and there's no negotiation because there's no communication," said Morin. "We're individually funded, this has taught us that no matter what, only you and no one else is gonna care about your business. We will never rent again."
But even with the pandemic taking a toll on their original plan and revenue stream, their can-do attitude hasn't faltered. Suah said that besides building online presence and posting positive content to help others get through the crisis, the duo is now focused on planning how to approach operations post-COVID-19.
"Besides the sense of belonging, we want members to feel that they are truly benefiting from getting outside and making safe contact with other business-minded people in the community," said Suah. "New sanitary and distancing measures will have to be implemented, but adapting the change is a characteristic entrepreneurs have to get used to. We've been fighting hard to make sure that our space doesn't succumb and many have been coming together as a community. The donations not only support us, they validate the work we've done."
For more information visit www.thynkglobal.com.