Message From Special Secretary Martinez

Headshot of Secretary Martinez from Maryland

Celebrating Black History Month
As we observe Black History Month, I am filled with deep pride and a strong sense of responsibility for the work our team undertakes at the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs. This month is more than a period of historical reflection; it is a celebration of the enduring spirit and invaluable contributions African Americans have made to the fabric of our nation. In the rich tapestry of American business history, the stories of Black entrepreneurs from Maryland, both men and women, stand out as luminous examples of resilience, innovation, and relentless determination. Their journeys, deeply intertwined with the history of the state and the nation, are not merely accounts of individual success; they embody the broader narrative of community upliftment, societal change, and economic empowerment.

Throughout Maryland’s history, Black entrepreneurs have overcome immense challenges. Confronting systemic barriers, racial discrimination, and limited access to resources, they have consistently demonstrated an extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit. Consider the entrepreneurial spirit of Madam Esther, whose full name was Esther McCready, born in 1881, she was an influential entrepreneur and cosmetologist in Baltimore. She established the Madam Esther School of Beauty Culture in the early 20th century, providing vocational training and career opportunities for countless African American women. Her beauty school became a center of empowerment for Black women, equipping them with skills to become financially independent. Madam Esther contributions were not just in the realm of business but also in the advancement of social justice and community development. Similarly, the story of Charles R. Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass, who founded Highland Beach, an exclusive resort town in Maryland. It became a haven for affluent African Americans during an era when segregation denied them access to other resorts. His venture was more than a business; it was a powerful statement against racial segregation and a significant contribution to the state’s cultural landscape.

In more recent history, the emergence of Black-owned startups in diverse sectors across Maryland highlights a new chapter in entrepreneurship. These businesses, while contributing to economic growth, are also reshaping markets and communities. They bring innovative solutions to longstanding challenges and create job opportunities, often in underprivileged areas, significantly boosting local economies. The rise of Black female entrepreneurs in Maryland deserves special mention. They are starting businesses at unprecedented rates, bringing innovative ideas and diverse leadership to various industries. Their presence not only challenges the status quo but also serves as an inspiration to a new generation of young Black women, portraying entrepreneurship as a viable and fulfilling path.

The impact of these entrepreneurs goes beyond business; many invest back into their communities, support educational initiatives, and are at the forefront of advocating for social justice. Their holistic approach to entrepreneurship embodies a vision where success is measured not just in revenue, but in the positive changes made in the lives of others. Aligned with Governor Wes Moore’s vision of “Leaving No One Behind,” we are reminded of the critical importance of inclusivity and equality. His commitment illuminates our path toward a more equitable and inclusive society. As we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black entrepreneurs from Maryland, we recognize not only their individual successes but also their collective impact. They have transformed challenges into opportunities, laying a foundation that continues to inspire and drive forward the spirit of entrepreneurship in Maryland and beyond.


Maria Martinez
Special Secretary