PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Dr. Joke Alesh owns three businesses: Marigold Dental Studio in Pawtucket, Eliqa Headwear, and Primary Weddings & Events.

“It isn’t easy to be a Black business owner in America, but it’s so necessary,” the Providence native said.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 3% of U.S. businesses were Black-owned in 2020, despite Black adults making up 12.4% of the overall population.

Of those businesses, 66% had fewer than 10 employees, and only 3% had more than 50 employees. Meanwhile, Pew says in 2020, “white Americans accounted for a large majority (86%) of firms whose ownership was classifiable by race and ethnicity.”

While Alesh always knew she wanted to open a dental practice, she didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur too.

“If I see a problem, I try to find a solution,” Alesh said. “In terms of starting a business, I was just winging it.”

During the pandemic, more health professionals wanted to start covering their hair while seeing patients, according to Alesh.

“As a woman of color with textured hair, regular cotton scrub caps will break your hair and people were asking, ‘Does anyone know of satin-lined scrub caps?'” she recalled.

Despite some products being on the market, Alesh couldn’t find what she was looking for: “I don’t really like patterns, so I wanted a solid pattern that would match the scrubs I wear to work.”

Alesh took matters into her own hands. She launched a website and had her tailor make a prototype. She started out with only three colors and now sells up to 19 colors, along with other products.

“It’s gone to every state, all 50 states,” Alesh added, “and I want to say Jamaica, Germany … at least four or five other countries too.”

Alesh said her dental practice is also filling a need in the community.

“I’m happy to exist as the first Black woman from Rhode Island to open a dental office in Rhode Island,” she said. “That is a huge accomplishment for me, for me to be able to be a role model for other people.”

“The fabric of America is a multitude of different kind of people,” she added. “It’s important for us to exist, for people to support Black businesses.”

When asked what advice she had for people starting their own business, Alesh said: “Start. Start now. I truly believe in failing fast. It’s just a matter of believing that you can.”

If you want to support Black-owned businesses in Rhode Island, 12 News has compiled a list you can find here.