Innovative businesses to learn about during Black History Month

02/08/2021| Amanda Winters

Innovative businesses to learn about during Black History Month

02/08/2021 | Amanda Winters

During Black History Month, we are taking a look at several of Maryland’s Black-owned businesses that are working to make differences in their communities through innovative ideas and life-changing products.

Putting your health first

One of the Maryland Future 20 selections, Live Chair Health of Howard County is working to improve the health of Black individuals, one appointment at a time. Live Chair provides a barbershop appointment booking platform that integrates healthcare assessments into barbershop visits, encourages barbers to have important conversations with clients, empower others to monitor their health changes, and more. By reminding clients that the future of their health is in their own hands, Live Chair hopes to encourage Black Americans to live happier, healthier lives with the knowledge needed to improve health outcomes.

The last time we caught up with Femly, the feminine care products startup took home the grand prize of $25,000 at the 2018 Beta City competition. Recently, the Baltimore-based company has received financial support from Beyonce and won the second largest prize from the Metropolitan Economic Development Association’s competition. Owned by female entrepreneur Arion Long – a survivor of a cervical tumor, sepsis, and more – Femly hopes to expand in the coming months and continue supporting women's health through access to affordable care products and education through its new digital health app.

Located in Frederick, Transdermal Specialties is transforming common medical practices to accommodate patients’ comfortability. Led by serial entrepreneur Bruce K. Redding, Jr., Transdermal Specialities produces adhesive patches that administer medicines through the skin (transdermally), which slowly get absorbed by the body and into the bloodstream. The company recently announced it met the FDA requirements for its Phase-3 insulin patch, meaning needles are not required for treating diabetic patients. Trials for the glucose levels are still underway. Redding and the Transdermal team are also working on a patch for Parkinson’s Disease, which they plan to test this spring.

Investing in others

While much of the world turned to digital platforms during the pandemic, many are still struggling to communicate effectively. MindStand Technologies, located at UMBC’s bwtech Research and Technology Park, provides a solution for communicating online in a healthy and positive way with others. The company’s technology uses artificial intelligence to identify hate speech and harassment on online platforms—something that both universities and enterprises are working to battle. Using MindStand’s product helps identify those individuals in emotional distress, while also providing an inclusive community where students and employees can feel safe in their environment. And because the platform was trained by clinical psychologists, MindStand prides itself on providing relevant alerts and well-tailored feedback to give you a clear picture of your organization’s online community.

Continuing the theme of supporting students, Infinite Focus Schools is working to help one child at a time with its mindfulness techniques. While students across the country deal with daily stress, there are many that also battle anxiety and depression without a clear knowledge of what is really occurring. Formed by former teacher Ashley Williams, Infinite Focus Schools created an app with a mindfulness and socio-emotional curriculum, which provides students with coping skills and the understanding to deal with everyday troubles. The app not only improves students' mental health, but it provides parents and teachers with valuable information to support children, empower them, and prepare them for the future.

Makers for Humankind is focused on giving back to humanity, including healthcare workers and the homeless population. Led by Mikea Hugley, the company creates customizable and accessible footwear for those on their feet the majority of the day. Not only are essential workers in the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also consistently on-the-go and exhausted. Hugley’s footwear products include a thick sole as well as a weatherproof sock for protection. Ten percent of the proceeds are given to the homeless, who also struggle on their feet throughout the day, in rain and snow, without the proper footwear.

When Mac Conwell left his role as a Fund Manager at TEDCO, he took his experience and knowledge to set up a “pre-seed fund” that supports rising companies across the country. Launched in late 2020, RareBreed Ventures invests in a variety of startups, who many may consider underdogs—like those who have been overlooked, who don’t have access to funding outlets, or don’t have a strong network to help them find resources and expand. Conwell seeks out these hidden gems and aims to be their first investor, calling them amazing entrepreneurs with unique products and ideas. One small check can make all the difference to an up-and-coming entrepreneur, and Conwell is looking to be the one who helps them succeed.

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