Get to know Black business owners and entrepreneurs from CWRU: Week 2

August is National Black Business Month, a time that celebrates and promotes the support of Black-owned businesses in the United States. In honor of this month, The Daily sat down with several Case Western Reserve University students, alumni, faculty and staff members who double as business owners and entrepreneurs both on campus and beyond. We’ll be spotlighting their accomplishments each week this month.

Get to know this week’s featured business owners. Want to support more Black business owners? Check out a list of local businesses.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Dontrel Mitchell

Photo of Dontrel Mitchell
  • Second-year marketing student at Weatherhead School of Management
  • Creator of Retrospection Media, an on-campus freelance photography business that produces headshots, videos and other graphics to capture cherished memories and special events such as graduation.

1. Why did you create this business and what do you hope to accomplish through it?

The purpose of [Retrospection Media] is to help others make and create new memories. I, along with many other people from New Orleans, lost a lot of memories from [Hurricane Katrina], so I found a way to prevent that from ever happening again.

2. What are you most proud of having accomplished through your business thus far? 

I am proud of the people I have met over the years. I keep in contact with every graduate or faculty member I have met simply because I genuinely care about each of my clients. 

3. What led you to attend Case Western Reserve University and how did your CWRU experience prepare you to work in business?  

I am a Posse Scholar, so the scholarship aided in my attendance at CWRU. Since being on campus, I’ve met a lot of ambitious and motivated people, so they are the main ones that I feel like continue to help prepare me to work in business. 

4. What is your biggest challenge(s) as a Black business owner/entrepreneur? 

I think the biggest challenge as a Black business owner is the fact that I do not reach a lot of the other communities on the campus. I feel isolated and wish to expand to be accessible to everyone as much as possible.

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

My favorite memory from being at CWRU [has been] the Black Student Union cookout, where I met the majority of the Black community on campus and felt comfortable. 

6. What advice do you have for others hoping to become a Black business owner/ entrepreneur?

Just do it. A lot of the time, we get caught up in school and that stresses us out. Write down and set goals and actively try to complete them. I suggest putting time aside to make a game plan—in doing so, you’ll always be working on a goal making you more productive. Lastly, maintain a happy and positive mindset. 

Tiana S. Bohanon (LAW ‘20)

Photo of Tiana S. Bohanon
  • Alumna, Case Western Reserve University School of Law 
  • Criminal defense attorney and founder of Bohanon Law, LLC, a law firm located in Cleveland that specializes in representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses; Bohanon’s practice also represents individuals whose civil rights have been violated within Cuyahoga County and other counties in Northeast Ohio.

1. Why did you create this business and what do you hope to accomplish through it?

Being an attorney dedicated to addressing racial and social injustice within the criminal legal system has always been my driving force. My ultimate goal is to fight for the most vulnerable members of society that enter the criminal legal system and combat the ongoing disregard of Black lives by law enforcement officers.

2. What are you most proud of having accomplished through your business thus far? 

So far, my biggest accomplishment [was] having a juvenile case dismissed. I was more than happy that I was able to do the work necessary to have my client focus on being a kid and not a part of the system. 

3. What led you to attend Case Western Reserve University and how did your CWRU experience prepare you to work in business? 

I decided to attend the [School of Law] because Professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway had always been someone I looked up to and was my mentor since I was a teenager. She taught the [Criminal Justice Clinic], an opportunity to represent individuals in court and put our lawyering skills to practice. That clinic gave me the preparation I needed to be confident early in my career. 

4. What is your biggest challenge(s) as a Black business owner/entrepreneur? 

I’ve been mistaken for a defendant a few times in court. 

It has also been challenging navigating a path that no one in my family has traveled. The struggles that result from creating something from scratch with no experience and little to no resources are the biggest challenges to overcome. 

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

My favorite memory would be getting a case dismissed during my last year of law school while participating in the Criminal Justice Clinic. I also gained some amazing friends who turned into family. 

6. What advice do you have for others hoping to become a Black business owner/ entrepreneur?

Give it your all, nothing less. 

Laila Michel

Photo of Laila Michel
  • Fourth-year student double majoring in cognitive science and international studies with a double minor in African and African American Studies and leadership at the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Freelance and self-taught makeup artist with affordable beauty services within the Cleveland, District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia areas. Michel also uses her work to practice her artistry with models, photographers and brands, focusing primarily on African American-centered projects. 

1. Why did you create this business and what do you hope to accomplish through it?

I’ve always loved art and I started taking lessons for it when I was 7. I’ve also always loved makeup and started experimenting with products in middle school. 

I hope to create space for Black faces in the beauty industry and show that they can pull off the same looks that non-Black models do—from vintage glam to unconventional editorial looks. I also want to be a person in these creative spaces that actually knows how to work with Black skin. As a dark-skinned person, I know firsthand how alienated we can be in the makeup industry. We can’t find products to match our complexions, makeup artists don’t know how to work with our skin tones, and it can all be frustrating. 

2. What are you most proud of having accomplished through your business thus far? 

Honestly, I’m most proud of having started. I’m a busy student and a part-time babysitter. There are also lots of makeup artists out there, so it was easy to convince myself that I’d be another grain of sand on a beach. But I was doing makeup on campus for free, and my supportive friends kept telling me that I was too good not to be charging. So I took their advice, started my business and made it my creative outlet.

3. What led you to attend Case Western Reserve University and how did your CWRU experience prepare you to work in business? 

I was blessed to receive a full-tuition scholarship and was recruited as the first Black woman on the swim team, so I decided to attend [Case Western Reserve University]. I took a few classes at [Weatherhead School of Management] just out of curiosity, and they’ve been a great guide to business ownership. 

4. What is your biggest challenge(s) as a Black business owner/entrepreneur? 

People are much more critical of your work and less likely to take it seriously. 

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

I hosted the Black Graduation Ceremony as [Black Student Union] co-president this past May, and it was really beautiful to celebrate Black excellence. People got to cheer as long and loud as they wanted and graduates could do whatever they wanted when they walked across the stage, so the space felt really special.

6. What advice do you have for others hoping to become a Black business owner/ entrepreneur?

If you know that you’re passionate about what you’re doing—you go to sleep or wake up thinking about your craft and your business—do not listen to anybody that tries to speak fear into your plans. People like to talk and project—you have to trust yourself and drown out the noise. If it’s that important to you, it will always work out.


Know a Black business owner from CWRU who we should feature? Email case-daily@case.edu with your suggestions.