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Meet Three Black Entrepreneurs in Chicago

Daniel Hautzinger
Monique Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Mielle Organics
Monique Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Mielle Organics. Image: Courtesy Mielle Organics

Boss: The Black Experience in Business airs Thursday, February 6 at 8:00 pm and is available to stream.

Chicago has long been a center of African American business. From publishing magnates like Robert Sengstacke Abbott of the Chicago Defender and Ebony and Jet's John H. Johnson to the hair care innovator George Johnson, the banker and businessman Jesse Binga, the advertising pioneer Tom Burrell, and Baldwin Ice Cream's Jolyn Robichaux, the city has been home to some of the most successful black-owned businesses in the country. The MacArthur "genius" Stanley Nelson's new documentary, Boss: The Black Experience in Business, explores the often hidden story of African American businesses that have shaped this country, including many of Chicago's own. 

Meet three Chicagoland-based black entrepreneurs of a younger generation, who took advantage of a new tool – social media and digital savvy – in addition to the traditional virtues of determination, discipline, and grit that make entrepreneurs successful.

Joe "Freshgoods" Robinson is a clothing designer popular with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Malia Obama, and SZA, and he's also a co-owner of the multi-purpose retail space Fat Tiger Workshop in Noble Square.

Monique Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of Mielle Organics, a Crown Point, Indiana-based hair care and beauty brand the uses natural, healthy ingredients.

Eric Williams is the owner and founder of Silver Room, a Hyde Park store that supports local designers and also offers international products. It also plays hots to the monthly story-sharing event Grown Folks Stories, while Williams is the originator and organizer of the culturally diverse community festival Block Party.