Family has always been of paramount importance in the Parker family, so when Nicole decided to do something about the lack of support faced by women of color in the business community, her sisters Alisa, Tiffany and Teleshia were quick to join her efforts. In 2017 the Parker sisters launched “Sisters in Business” in an attempt to create a safe space for women of color entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, thought-leaders and creatives to network, strategize and build. They work toward this goal by building a community fund through pitch competitions, grant, scholarships and awards. The money raised through their efforts is used to invest in the businesses of the members of “Sisters in Business”.
The four Parker sisters were born and raised in the Kalamazoo area by their parents, Charles Parker and Crystal Cunningham, who always stressed the value of the bonds of family. Their brothers, Matthew and Calvin, are significantly older than the sisters, who are two, four and six years apart. The sisters have always been close, and though they argue and have their share of disagreements like any family, they work extremely well together. They credit this, in part, to their mother who often told them, “Your sister is all you have. When we are gone, your sister is going to be there so always cherish her.”
Not only is the family a close-knit one, it is one that values education, achievement and civic duty. Each sister is highly educated and successful in her own right. ALISA, the oldest, has a BA from Fisk University, an MBA from Western Michigan University and earned a Juris Doctorate from WMU Cooley Law School. She is the Managing Attorney for Legal Services of South Central in Battle Creek and is the Co-Founder of ANP Consulting. TIFFANY received her certifications in Graphic Design from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is the owner of Above & Beyond Graphic Design. TELESHIA earned an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from KVCC and her Cosmetology degree from Chic Beauty School. She owns and operates Teleshia’s House of Styles. NICOLE, the youngest of the women, received her BA from Aquinas College and her MA from George Mason University and is the Co-Founder of ANP Consulting.
As busy as these women are, they could be excused for focusing solely on their own lives and businesses, but they are driven to give back to their community and invest in the women around them. American Express OPEN’s 7th Annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report showed that businesses owned by women of color have increased an incredible 467 percent since 1997, an impressive statistic. One study even showed that there are as many as 800 business started per day by black women in this country The concern of the Parker sisters, however, is that these women, who are already achieving success through their own blood, sweat and tears, still face barriers when it comes to finding the support, financing and investments they need to take their companies to the next level.
Alisa shares, “Our motivation for starting Sisters in Business was to create a space to bring women of color entrepreneurs together. To debunk the myth that businesses owned by women of color in Kalamazoo don’t exist and show that, even in Kalamazoo, our businesses are in line with national statistics. We also started Sisters in Business to find way that we could resource & fund women of color in business. In addition to creating space, we found that it is important to be the solution & take away barriers that are particularly challenging for women of color in business.” Together, the Parker sisters are working to make sure that the thriving business community in their beloved Kalamazoo is as equally welcoming & full of opportunities for women of color as it is for everyone else.
Erica Shier is a married mother of four who loves reading, scrapbooking & thrift stores. When she’s not driving her small pack of children around, she spends her time volunteering, writing & trying to keep on top of the laundry.