RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — African-American women are the fastest growing group of business owners in the U.S., but surveys show they tend to face more financial struggles than other entrepreneurs.

Efforts are underway to help them keep their companies going and growing.

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Kiesha Haggerty always wanted to own a business. She’s worked for the Oakland Police Department for 20 years, but one day, she had an epiphany.

“And I just had this ‘Aha!’ moment. I was like, ‘I could do this!'” recalled Haggerty.

Haggerty, a police services technician, became a franchise owner at a Subway restaurant in Richmond.

For the woman who says she started as a teen mom in a rough neighborhood, she says her hard work and determination paid off.

“Every time I walk into the store, I pinch myself,” she smiled. “I can’t believe that’s my reality.”

Haggerty is one of a growing number of African-American women entrepreneurs.

While women-owned businesses rose almost 60% in the last decade, those owned by black women skyrocketed 164%, according to an American Express report.

However, black women-owned firms only averaged $25,000 a year in revenue compared to six times that amount for all women-owned companies.

Today, black women are working to bridge the gap.

Haggerty gets regular training and guidance from Subway’s parent company just like other franchise owners.

“I felt that I can be in business for myself but not by myself, and that was really important to me,” Haggerty explained.

Haggerty, a police services technician, became a franchise owner at a Subway restaurant in Richmond.

But not all black businesswomen have built-in support.

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Nationwide, they’re collaborating through nonprofits like Black Girl Ventures, which connects entrepreneurs to investors and coaches. Women even pitch their products and win funding in Shark Tank-type contests.

Locally, many are taking free to low-cost business classes offered by nonprofits like the San Francisco-based Renaissance Center. The program runs in the South of Market and Bayview, and in the cities of Richmond and East Palo Alto.

Spokeswoman Ingrid Marielos Marthy is director of the program’s Women’s Business Center. She says mentors offer women critical counsel.

“They’re really coming with an understanding of not only an idea, but their marketing plans, their financials, how to grow a business,” Marielos Marthy said.

Quanisha Johnson learned how to market her homemade dessert recipe into a company called “Yes Pudding.”

“It’s a surreal feeling to develop so many flavors off of that one banana pudding and getting the response I’ve been getting from the community.” Johnson said.

Tracy Phillips learned to focus her lifestyle boutique, Confetti This, to a wholesale market.

“I just needed to develop a system so I can produce more but produce better,” Phillips said.

And businesswomen like Quan Moore can showcase their products at special events.

“That’s the way I make my money through events,” she noted.

And some of these businesswomen now plan to become mentors.

Phillips, a recovering addict who’s been clean for decades, is determined to give others the tools they need for a fresh start.

“I’m gonna go back and help some of those black women that want to open their own business in Contra Costa County,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

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The women KPIX talked to say they can give help and hope so other women can take ownership of their future.