Rare, beautiful, and more mysterious than their off-white counterparts, black pearls are recognized by many cultures as a symbol of wisdom, wealth, and prosperity. It is no wonder Johanne Civil named her community of entrepreneurial women of color The Black Pearl Collective. Its members embody the drive, imagination, and professionalism that spawned the organization, all qualities that Civil began cultivating in herself at a very young age.
Coming from a long line of female entrepreneurs – a grandmother and great-grandmother who were seamstresses and merchants – Civil’s uncanny ability to “make a dollar out of 15 cents” is “in my blood” she says. As a teenager in high school, she bought cases of chips in bulk and sold them to students between classes to make extra cash. Ambition met creativity when she reached college and came out with a t-shirt line featuring the Haitian flag. She describes them as “different graphics with different themes” and though the design gained popularity over time, Civil recognizes herself as “one of the first people to create a line like that in Florida in the early 2000s.”
Post-college and beyond, Civil flexed her ingenuity in even more ways designing websites for entrepreneurs and devising programs for Empire Startups. It wasn’t until she was back in New York in 2010 when she hit a rough patch that would be the catalyst for one of her most pivotal career moves. At a loss for connections, contacts, and work, Civil “realized how important a personal and professional network is.” Ever the go-getter, she found a networking event which ultimately would connect her to the NYC tech community – one that she continues to be a part of. About her experience, she says:
“In networking with women in tech, beauty, and fashion I heard the same overwhelming echo of not having a place they feel catered directly to them. A community that is their own and meets their entrepreneurial needs. That’s what spawned The Black Pearl Collective.”
As with most great ideas, Civil saw a need to be fulfilled. Fulfilled by strong, innovative, ambitious women of color like herself. The Collective makes sure this is the case by screening their members, who are required to fill out an application in order to join. Civil specifies:
“You have to be engaged in some way. As an entrepreneur, you either need to be in the process of launching a business or in the process of scaling. As a professional, you either need to be in the process of advancing or pivoting.”
With all she’s accomplished, Civil may seem unrelatable and out-of-reach, but she’s refreshingly honest in recognizing that maintaining The Collective and a full-time job at Empire Startups is “a juggling act. What has made it workable and manageable is keeping to a strict schedule, knowing when not to take on too much and leveraging my relationships when I need assistance.” She credits the “incredible group of women who believe in the Collective and have gone above and beyond to make sure that everything we do is successful and well received.”
And you may not believe it, but Civil does actually have a weakness: expensive chocolate. She even goes as far as to joke (we think) that she could be “bribed with chocolate, but if it’s not 70% cocoa don’t bother.”
When asked if she’s planning to take a breather any time soon, she replies as any woman of action would:
“Breather? What is that?”
We can’t help but laugh at this enterprising yet honest response and can’t wait for her next move, which most immediately is The Black Pearl Collective’s big launch. They’ve already hosted numerous events, but Spring 2019 marks the release of their global social networking marketplace geared towards entrepreneurial women of color.
Furthermore, on the future of The Collective, Civil’s dream event guests would be songwriters “Estelle and Claude Kelly. I would love to know the inspiration behind ‘Conqueror,’” she says.
Of all the reasons to admire Johanne Civil, we love the path she’s paved for ambitious women – a path she walks herself. Her experience based advice to fierce females:
“You are strong enough, worthy enough, intelligent enough, and capable. In the blink of an eye the time you will have to accomplish ‘it’ will be gone. Do it now. Plan it to the best of your ability and do it now.”
Take her advice ladies. She’s got the experience and success to prove it. Wisdom like that? Well, it’s as rare as a pearl.