“I want my daughters to know business leaders who look like them”

sheri black san diego single mom grant

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About the Kickass Single Mom Grant

The Kickass Single Mom Grant is a $1,000 gift awarded monthly to a single mom doing something incredible — whether large or small, in her career, business, family, community. The goal is to support women doing amazing things, and share their stories to inspire others. 

June's Kickass Single Mom grant winner Sheri Hopkins, a 35-year-old mom of three daughters, who saw the potential for the black-owned business community in her hometown of San Diego.

“Even though San Diego is such a diverse city, I felt like there wasn’t a community that my daughters could say looked like them,” Hopkins wrote in her grant application. “Speaking to business owners, they stated no one supported them and eventually their business failed or they were struggling to hold on.” Last year, she founded the business association, Black San Diego.

With a friend, Hopkins started compiling a list of local businesses owned by African Americans, and hosting networking events that attract more than 200 people, and a Facebook community, that today has more than 2,600 members. Sheri's 15-year-old daughter helps run the events, where she meets and is sometimes mentored by members. Her other daughters are ages 9 and 7.

Hopkins, an accountant, realized that many of her peers struggled with the basics of entrepreneurship, like bookkeeping, getting business licenses and insurance. She plans to use the grant to create binders and a website with this information, and checklists that business owners can use to establish and grow their enterprises. Future plans include related seminars, and eventually a co-working / incubator for black-owned San Diego businesses.

“I want my daughters to grow up seeing that they can be anything,” Hopkins says. In addition to working fulltime as an accounting director for a property management firm, Hopkins works out daily (rising at 4:15 a.m.!), being active in her church, chauffeuring her daughters to sports and other activities, and her favorite stress-relief activity: roller blading.

To learn more:

Black San Diego

Past Kickass Single Mom Grant winners:

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Tanai Benard: Helping Hurricane Harvey victims




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Erin Williamson: Entrepreneur works for global gender equity

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Jennifer Little, founder of the Little Hands Book Bank in Texas.



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Shawnta Creech went from homeless to culinary school graduate with a salad dressing business in the works.



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Sheri Hopkins started Black San Diego. “I wanted my daughters to grow up seeing strong leaders who looked like them.”

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Tiara Caldwell: A doula for low-income new mothers. “I wasn't going to let a corporation tell me what my dream was.”



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Teri Teves: Supporting other women by building her small beauty business.



Apply for the Kickass Single Mom Grant now:


Read the full interview with Kickass Single Mom Grant winner Sheri Hopkins

Emma: Okay mamas, this is my favorite time of the month. It is when I give out my Kickass Single Mom Grant. For those who have not been following, this is a pretty new program that I started this year in 2017 where every single month I give away $1,000 to support a single mom somewhere doing something amazing. This might be an amazing, big, national something, or it might be something small in her community, it might be something that she’s doing to support her family, building a business, giving back to her community. This is me and my money. I don’t have a 501(c)(3) this is me just finding awesome women that I love and I want to support. Last month it was Shawnta Creech, she was a homeless mom. She’s gotten back on her feet. She went to culinary school and now she’s about to graduate with honors, and she’s launching a salad dressing business. I love her story. The month before that was Jennifer, she started a non-profit where she was giving books to low-income kids. These are just amazing women who don’t happen to have partners, and they have kids, and they’re doing awesome things in their community.

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Sheri Hopkins. Sheri is a 35-year-old mom of three. She is an accountant, she has three beautiful daughters, and she has started an organization called Black San Diego. I just want to read to you a little bit about what she wrote in her application. She said, “I felt like there wasn’t a community that my daughters could say looked like them. Also, speaking to other black business owners, they said that no one supported them and that eventually their businesses failed, or they were struggling to hold on. Together with a friend, we started compiling a list of black owned businesses around San Diego, and the list grew.” They then started networking events, and she’ll tell you about this, her daughters help her work the events. She’s not only supporting these business owners through networking events but also helping them systematically grow their business. She’ll tell us all about that here in a second.

Sheri, thank you so much for being here.

Sheri: Thank you.

Emma: I’m so excited about this organization because it’s so much bigger than yourself. I mean, San Diego is not a small town. It’s a huge American city.

Sheri: Right.

Building a black business organization so her daughters would see successful leaders who look like them

Emma: Tell me a little bit. What inspires you to start this organization?

Sheri: What inspired me was being out in the community and talking to people. I realized that we needed something. We needed our community to be a little closer. Anybody that knows San Diego, it’s a diverse town. Just kind of pulling out the black owned business was pretty difficult. It just started growing on from there. Talking to them they were saying, I have to have another job to support my business. Or my business started failing because nobody supported me. And I realized the nobody’s supported them because we don’t know that it’s out there. So, we started this directory, and it houses right now I think when we started we had 20. I still have the original directory on my refrigerator. It just kind of keeps me focused, this is where it started and this is where it’s at right now. Right now I have about 250 black owned businesses in San Diego. People are shocked to say, hey we have our own pizza parlor. Yes, who would have thought there would be a black owned pizza parlor? Things like that, we are out there, we are doing things. I’m just trying to help people network. When people go on the page and say, I need this, or hey, I need a jumper, here’s a list of jumpers or people who provide jumpers. Or hey I need a catering business, here’s this. Hey, I want my daughter to go to ballet class. Hey, we have our own black owned ballet teacher.

It’s just awesome because this person is growing and then the little girl who wants to do ballet, she can see other people like her within this dance studio instead of just going somewhere else. I mean, my daughters have taken dance and they would be the only black one in there. It’s kind of diverse, but I still want them to know there are black ballet dancers, there are black owned this. Even when I do have networking events, I do bring my oldest daughter and she works. She works the door, she’s doing money, collecting money, she’s selling raffle tickets. She’s even our photographer. I bought a fancy camera and she’s just taking pictures of everybody. Not only does she see people like her, but she gets a chance to work. She gets a chance to see what it is to run her own business and it motivates her to think what do I want to do beyond high school? You can run your own business. You can go to college. There are other successful black owned businesses, there’s other successful women, and she gets to see them. A lot of them take her underneath their wing and they just talk to her at these events.

Emma: That’s awesome. Can you give me an example of somebody that she met that you feel like she really had an impact on your daughter? Is she the one that’s 14 years old?

Sheri: Yes, she just turned 15 a couple weeks ago. My daughter has this dream to be a forensic scientist so she either wants to be on the crime scene investigating, or she wants to be in a lab. She met, at one of the events, a police officer. She talked to the person, and the person said, hey, these are the things you need to do in order to get where you want to be. You can go to college, or you can do this. It kind of gave her a little bit more insight in what she wants to do, because she doesn’t know if she wants to be on the crime scene or if she wants to be in the lab. Not only that, she has this passion for painting shoes, so I have a friend that came and he paints sneakers on the side for a business. He sat down with her and showed her how to paint shoes and showed her the back part of what paints work, what doesn’t work, how to match paints, how to mix paints. To the point where we call him Uncle Shawn now.

Emma: And it’s not even about teaching her about the paints. It’s not even about the police officer answering her very specific questions. It’s about like you said, she’s seeing other people from her community that are successful. They’re people that care about her, that are positive, that tell her that she can do that. It’s also, I think, such a great lesson to teach young women how to ask for help and accept help.

Sheri: Right. I think it’s great. She loves it.

Emma: It’s so beautiful.

Sheri: And it gives her community service for high school. So, it’s like a win-win.

Emma: It’s a win-win. In your application, you were talking about what you would use the money for and you have some really specific ideas. You said a lot of these black-owned businesses struggle with just the nuts and bolts of business ownership, the legal part, the bookkeeping part. You are an accountant, so talk to me about what they need and how you’re looking to fill that gap.

Help with basics of starting a business

Sheri: One business, for example, that I came across, he provides a cleaning services, but I realized he’s not insured and doesn’t have a business license. He’s just doing a business. Which, that’s not a business. In order for you to run a successful business, it has to be a business. You need to be incorporated, you need to have a DBA, you need to have insurance, you need to have a bank account. What do your books look like? Are you making money, or do you feel like you’re making money but you’re not sure? I know talking to somebody else they’re like, “Well I have cash, so I make money.” But you probably spent $500 last week on products, but you only made $300 this week, so really you’re kind of in the negative at this point.

I realized that they don’t know how to run a business, just provide a product and service. If somebody just sits down with them and teaches them how to do it, because we don’t get this in school. Our parents probably don’t have a business to teach us how to run a business. It's kind of like someone like me needs to come in and say this is what you need to do. This is how you do it, make sure you’re legit so you don’t get shut down, that way you can succeed.

I kind of created this system where these binders have kind of a checklist of, first you do this, secondly you do this, third— It just goes in order by this is what you need to do. Just staying on top of them, creating that accountability. Hey, did you do this? Did you file you're incorporated? Do you know how to do bookkeeping? Not only that, but yes, I can probably provide bookkeeping services, but I don’t want to, I want them to do it themselves. I want them to know how to read a balance sheet, I want them to know how to use Excel, I want them to know how to use QuickBooks. That way, when tax season comes, they know what’s going on. A lot of times they’re getting to the end of the year and they’re guestimating how much they made for the year.

Emma: If you know, if you’re looking at your numbers every day, which you should be looking at your numbers every day, then you’re making better business decisions and that’s how you grow your business.

Sheri: Right. Does this work? This doesn’t work. You know? Just finding out what works and what doesn’t work, and I think that’s just what the community needs.

Emma: So many of moms and I’m interacting with thousands of single moms every week, a lot of them are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, they don’t feel like they have hardly anything even to give to themselves, much less give back to their communities. I hear them say things like, “Emma, you know that single moms are just burnt out.” As if it’s a foregone conclusion. That’s why I think it’s so important to celebrate moms like you. You have a full-time job, you have three daughters, and I’m sure you have other things going on in your life. We’re videotaping, you’re fit, it looks like you work out. I don’t know. Tell me what else is going on in your life and how and why you prioritized this giving back?

Single mom finds time to prioritize giving back

Sheri: What goes on in my life? My day starts at 4:15 in the morning, and I do work out. I’m at the gym by 5:00, I’m home by 6:30. I’m getting the kids ready, off to school, and then I go to work then I work all day. Then, I get off work and I still work, because I’m trying to start Black San Diego. On my lunch break at work, I’m doing Black San Diego. On my lunch break, I’m doing Black San Diego and then when I come home, it’s dinner, Black San Diego, and homework. So, it’s like constant movement. Then my daughters are busy. They play soccer or basketball, gymnastics, and what else? Softball. My oldest daughter is on a travel team, so anybody that knows travel ball, it’s practice three days a week, travel to LA, travel to Vegas, travel to Arizona. She’s even been to Spain. So, we’re all over the place with soccer. I still find time in between. Sitting at practice? Black San Diego. Writing things out.

Emma: And why? Why are you so driven to prioritize Black San Diego?

Sheri: Because I think it’s needed. I don’t want the community to just be left behind. I don’t want it to be driven out. I don’t want it to just be down here. I feel like we need to be up higher. I feel like we need to be able to come to a standpoint where we’re able to compete with other businesses. I want us to be out there and know that we do more than just work a 9-5, we do have our own business.

Emma: What is that? Where does that come from? Where does that passion come from? Why do you care so much?

Pushing kids to be entrepreneuers

Sheri: I care because I think because that’s just how I am. I know I want to help everybody. I want to get to where it’s not just the black owned businesses, I want to extend to the kids too. Somebody brought up a good point. We push our kids to go to college, but we don’t push our kids to be entrepreneurs. That made me have a different outlook on not only just helping adults but also helping the kids, so that way they know, they want to start a lemonade stand, they can. If they want to sell, they can. If they are an artist, push them to do that instead of just saying, do this, and do this, and do this. Because once you get out there, it’s competitive. So what are we going to leave our kids when they turn 18? That’s just a passion I have for the community and even for my girls too. I see them, whatever they want to do, I push them to do it. I’m like, yeah you can do that because I saw this person do it so I know that you can do it too.

Emma: That is honestly the most powerful thing. It’s just seeing people, that is far more important than making them do good on their math test. I mean, watching you hustle every day and then seeing these other people in your community is so incredible. I should look it up, but there’s this really great set I’ve just seen published recently about how kids that had a black teacher, black kids who had a black teacher, they just did exponentially better in life because they just had that African American role model that looked like them in a professional job. I so appreciate that.

Tell me about the rest of your life. You work out, you have your kids, and you have a business and a non-profit, and then what? Do you have a spiritual life? Do you have friends? Do you have a boyfriend? Hobbies?

Sheri: Yes. Spiritual life, I go to church every Sunday, the girls are in church with me. I feel like that’s the foundation for everything. We’re on top of that every time. We try to help out with that as much as possible. Hobbies? I like to rollerblade. That is my go-to to release some stress. I try and do 10 miles and by the time I’m done, everything that I was probably stressed about, I don’t even know what I was stressed about. So, that is my hobby. I am truly the single mom. Dating? What’s that? There’s no time.

Emma: Okay, we’ll work on that. If you can do all that, we can get you out for a nice date every once in awhile. There’s got to be some cute guys at these organizations. You know there are.

Sheri: Yes, there are. Yes.

Emma: Networking can mean lots of different things.

Sheri: I agree. I agree.

Emma: I love it though. You’re prioritizing your well-being, your physical health, your mental health, your spiritual health, your family, all of these things you’re doing. And you look awesome.

Sheri: Thank you, thank you.

Emma: What’s next now for Black San Diego?

Sheri: Future plans, I would say in the next two or three years, I want to create a hub, a building, like a strip mall. Maybe like in a warehouse that has little incubator spots in there, because a lot of times we don’t have storefronts. We’re doing business outside of our house. So, if we can just have one big building where you have your own personal office space, where you can rent out monthly, or you can rent out daily where you can meet with clients. Then clients don’t have to come to your house. You don’t have to meet at a Starbucks, you can come to a professional setting. Or even just pop-up shops, just to kind of sell your soap, your jewelry, your clothes, whatever it is. I already have a name. It’s going to be called The Spot, so that way everyone can just go on there and it’s a hub for all of us.

Emma: And everyone’s hanging out together and supporting each other. It’s just a coworking space, which everyone loves coworking spaces for all those reasons. It’s efficient because you don’t need 20 copiers, you have one copy machine, right? Then you’re hanging out and sharing and inspiring and supporting each other. I’m going to write this, and I’m going to send this to all the San Diego media because I think they should come out and interview you. I think you should get funding and get your spot going.

Sheri: Thank you. I love it.

Emma: Alright, congratulations. I’m going to PayPal you the money right now, and I’m really proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story.

Sheri: Thank you so much. Thank you.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

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