As a child growing up in the rugged Rust Belt city of Rockford, Ill., Michelle Youngblood loved to make sketches of dresses and outfits. After high school she went to design school in Chicago.

But the immediate demands of making a living and caring for twins as a single mom pushed her dreams aside. She settled for a steady paycheck working for a health insurer. At least that promised a measure of security — until last summer when, in a Zoom call, she and a dozen co-workers were abruptly laid off.

Youngblood, who is Black, was shocked, but also ready. In her spare time, she had never stopped designing and making plans to sell stylish children’s wear online.

Using $10,000 in severance pay, she arranged for a company in India to turn her sketches into ball dresses, twirl skirts and other garments. In October, her company — Brooklynn & Blake, named after her two kids — was born.

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