March is Women’s History Month and April is Black Women’s History Month. As one month ends and another begins, NJ Urban News spotlights two dynamic women entrepreneurs in Newark.

Recent studies show the U.S. has 12.3 million women-owned businesses. Women of color launched about 64 percent of all women-owned businesses in 2019. Despite gender bias, women business owners continue to create groundbreaking achievements, advocating for gender equality through representation and embodying the true principles of sacrifice, hard work, and leadership. 

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Alisha Collins (Contributed photo)

Two women who exemplify these values are Newark-based entrepreneurs Alisha Collins and Rhona Vega. Both women have cultivated dynamic programs for children that encourage self-expression, improvement, communication, and opportunity while nurturing their talents and inner passions. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Collins is the founder and CEO of Creatively WE release. A nonprofit she started in 2019. The organization offers creative art and dance programs to children and young adults suffering from mental health issues and low self-esteem. “[The nonprofit] is very effective, fun, and creative,” Collins said. “Once you tune into that inner part of yourself, you’ll discover your talent and what makes you happy, and you’ll be healing yourself using natural resources.” Collins used her master’s in Childhood Development and Youth Studies to combine social services, guided mediation, mindful art and dance, painting and drawing, recreational music, and color therapy into a therapeutic experience. She devises positive and healthy outlets for children to recognize and convey their emotions, releasing underlying baggage. “We’re all pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but we create this beautiful image when you put all of us together,” she states.    

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Rhona Vega (Contributed photo)

Vega founded Parent Matterz in 2018. The educational and mentoring company offers comprehensive support systems, college preparedness, internships, study abroad, networking opportunities, and enrichment programs for junior high and high school students.

She was inspired to start the organization after her teenage son returned from a summer business leadership summit for students of color and asked why his friends weren’t doing the same thing. “I want the community to pour into [students],” she said. “We need to help each other know these resources exist…There are so many things out here that we don’t know about [and] most of them are free.” The organization prepares parents and students of color with access to imperative resources and information. For example, college prep courses, scholarship and college applications, recommendation letter templates are some of the resources offered. 

Additionally, an internal hub of mentors who can assist students one-on-one with college entrance essays and SAT practice exams is available. Weekly checklists and virtual zoom meetings with students who might be overwhelmed with the college application process are essential. Vega said she wants her company to become a global entity. “I want every young person [and] I want every parent to understand the mindset that we have to have and that we have to be involved with our kids’ education,” she said. Parents play a pivotal role in their child’s education. “Let them say ‘oh wow I like this,’ and then when you see something that they’re super passionate about, foster that, then let Parent Matterz connect them to a mentor,” she concludes. 

(In part 2, NJURBANNEWS will highlight Vega and Collin’s reaction to the historic nomination of Ketanji Jackson Brown to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and how all women should celebrate).

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