Get to know Black business owners and entrepreneurs from CWRU: Week 1

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. 

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Photo of Asia Fields

Asia Fields

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

As a Black girl on campus, it was challenging to find someone to braid my hair during my first year, so I started experimenting with protective styles on myself. Eventually, I began to get good at it and thought about how other Black girls on campus probably felt the same way I did. I created the business to provide braiding services that were affordable and right on campus. I hoped to make it easier for us who want protective styles while studying in school.

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

I am most proud of having accomplished providing braiding services for not just those in undergrad but even those in graduate schools.

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

I wanted to be somewhere that challenged me academically because it would prepare me for more significant challenges in my future. I plan to attend medical school in the future and feel CWRU would prepare me best for that. 

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

Braiding hair takes five to eight hours, depending on various factors, so taking too many people left me feeling exhausted and overworked. 

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

I had never visited [Case Western Reserve University] before COVID-19, but when I moved in August 2020 of my first year, I was excited about what my future held and all the good things I would do.

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

Take care of yourself before anything. If you feel yourself starting to lose balance, take a step back and evaluate what you can do to get back on track. In addition, do not limit yourself just because the business you are interested in creating does not directly correlate with your future career.

Photo of Pierra Heard

Pierra Heard

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

Once I announced my pregnancy, as a career-driven person, the response was that my life was over and I would have to give up so many of my goals just to be a mother. My goal is to let women know they don’t have to listen to the stereotypes and you can be yourself and do whatever it is you may want to while still being a great mom. 

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

I am so proud of giving one of the largest expos in Cleveland, The Mommyhood Expo, and bringing moms together from all over the country. From every coast, women networked and bonded. The expo also gave back to the city by donating 200 fully loaded backpacks. We’ve also founded scholarships and helped moms financially for school, business grants and everyday life. 

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

I’ve always been super captivated by how much CWRU is a community staple. I saw the opportunity to add to this and be a bridge between building more partnerships within the community. 

 While I am very new, building and maintaining good relationships has definitely impacted my business. I’m able to provide moms with more resources for education given by the School of Medicine.

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

Being Black, especially a Black woman, the largest challenge is the pressure of making people proud. There are so many young moms that look up to me and say I’m inspiring them to be like me. I have to remind them that I am human and that I worked very hard.

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

Bringing my daughter to a party at the Tink and watching colleagues just enjoy her. She even got a moment with President [Eric W.] Kaler. It was awesome to watch CWRU as one big family type of community. 

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

Allow yourself to make mistakes, especially if you’re a first-generation entrepreneur. There’s no rule book, so you have to find what works for you and give yourself some grace in the process. Always remember it’s a process and in order to be your best and learn, mistakes are necessary. 

Photo of Justin Hill

Justin Hill (LAW ’21)

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

My original plan was to work at a firm for a few years and then start my own. But, during my last semester of law school, I decided to start my own law firm right after graduating. Ultimately, I want to be recognized as the best criminal defense lawyer in the State of Georgia and across the nation.

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

I am extremely proud of the growth I’ve made in such a short period of time. Looking back at where I was when I first started versus where I am today—the growth is tremendous. I’ve gotten a few big cases dismissed and made a lot of clients happy. I also have some big personal injury settlements coming up. 

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

My uncle got a master’s degree from [Case Western Reserve University] years ago and every year at his annual Christmas party I would see his diploma on the wall. Fast forward to my senior year of undergrad at Morehouse College, a representative from the [School of Law] spoke to my Race and Law class and told us how amazing [CWRU] was. I think I applied that same day. Law school challenged me on how to deal with adversity and uncertainty; how to adapt and adjust, how to figure things out on my own, and the importance of not quitting. 

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

When I walk into courthouses or jails to visit clients, people often don’t think I’m a lawyer. 

I’ve had people assume I’m a defendant, and it can be very frustrating because sometimes people make me jump through extra hoops to prove I’m a lawyer. One time I had a sheriff’s officer question the validity of my bar card, and he called his supervisor to determine whether to let me visit my client.

5. What is your favorite memory at CWRU?

My roommate who graduated from Morehouse with me was getting a master’s degree at the [School of Medicine], and we used to throw parties and invite our classmates, which allowed us to meet people from some of the other graduate programs on campus. 

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

People will always remember how you make them feel. You will lose customers if your customer service is terrible, even if your product or service is exceptional. Customer service should always be at the top of your list of priorities.


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