African Americans have historically been a resilient, industrious people, particularly during times when disparities in compensation and promotion relegated people of color to low-wage service positions. While there has always been an exceptional cadre of Black business icons like hair styling guru Madame C.J. Walker, shipbuilder Paul Cuffe and peanut aficionado George Washington Carver, many African Americans turned to at-home vocations and mom-and-pop shops for additional income.

It was during this era of overt racism that Black entrepreneurship was born and today, African American business owners are continuing this legacy.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 300,000-Black-owned businesses generating $33 billion in sales in 1993. As of 2010, there are now more than 1 million Black business owners creating $33 billion in sales, representing the fastest-growing sector in the American economic landscape.

In Maryland and the District, Black women have fared particularly well in the business arena, with Maryland ranking No. 8 among states with the greatest number of Black woman-owned firms and the District landing the No. 1 spot among states with the greatest percentage of African-American female-owned firms.

Over the next three months, the AFRO will profile up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are growing popular businesses while juggling traditional nine-to-five careers, spouses and children.

Tasha Robinson
Playing in Paint Makeup Artistry and Talent Management

What began as hobby in 2001 quickly evolved into a passion that Tasha Robinson, a Prince George’s County native, has turned into a thriving business. Robinson is the founder and creative force behind Playing in Paint Makeup Artistry and Talent Management, a multifaceted conglomeration of makeup artists, models and actors.

In addition to being a mom of three and a full-time government employee, Robinson hosts numerous workshops in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area that show women how to embellish their natural beauty with expert makeup tips. She has also created a line of makeup brushes that carry the Playing in Paint logo.

The self-taught makeup artist and adroit multitasker said while being a mom with two jobs is no easy task, her work is a labor of love.

“It’s like juggling elephants,” Robinson told the AFRO. “I had to do some research to figure it all out. It can become overwhelming if you don’t get a handle on it in the beginning…During my nine-to-five, I dedicate my service to the government where I focus on education and training. My business hours start in the car as soon as I am off the federal clock and I book appointments and meetings accordingly….I keep my family involved as much as possible in my events. None of it feels like work to me.”

Playing in Paint recently evolved to include a diverse talent management component, and is helping local models find work in film, TV and various fashion venues. Robinson said her company’s growing breadth has come after years of research and understanding of the market.

“My uncle always said, ‘Your niche will make you rich.’ When you figure out what that is, see who your competitors are in your market and in your region. Make sure that the service you provide sets you apart from what is being done already. Secondly, set realistic goals for yourself, keeping in mind that you have another occupation (currently) and your family is priority. What keeps me charged and energized is knowing that I do it for them.”

Playing in Paint’s philanthropic arm is currently preparing an arts-based summer program for teenage girls in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

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Kristin Gray

AFRO Managing Editor