Carmen Tapio comes from a family where she was encouraged to be an independent thinker and pursue excellence. Born among six fearless sisters, they all grew up to become entrepreneurs in academia healthcare, and entertainment.
At 56, Tapio is the founder and CEO of North End Teleservices, a teleservices company which is the largest Black-owned business in Nebraska. She set up the company to create jobs in the Black community.
Tapio began her career in teleservices when she was 18, rising from contact center positions to global leadership roles and a successful consulting business, her website says.
The Black founder often found herself being the only woman of color in the room—at school, meetings companies, venues among others. “And if you’re not there, there is no one. Your being there, as hard as it might be, as difficult as it might be, is important because you have the ability to change that going forward,” she told USA Today.
Beyond being the only woman in the room, Tapio was also worried about the lack of opportunity for Black women. Black female unemployment continues to rise in various states due to a lack of employment opportunities. For some companies, their claim is they don’t find suitable Black candidates for their job offers.
To stem the tide and make it easy for Black women to find jobs that hitherto they may not be aware of or were not confident enough to apply for due to systemic racism and discrimination, she founded Nebraska Black Women United. It is a network for women to share information and find mentors.
“In a midwestern state, when people of color think of moving here, they ask, ‘Is there anyone here who looks like me?’”
“Well, the answer is yes – so let’s find each other,” Tapio said.
Most companies collapse before hitting their five-year anniversary and according to Tapio, achieving this milestone is her proudest moment. She has guarded her company to unicorn status.
“That five-year mark not only cemented our place in the community, but (showed) our impact – we are a model of what business can look like for the greater good, and what diversity in business can look like,” she said.
Tapio serves on multiple boards and was recently appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Omaha Branch Board. Thanks to her work changing lives, the Black founder and mentor is a WCA Tribute to Women Honoree and recipient of the 2020 Urban League of Nebraska African American Leadership Award for Business. She was also honored as a 2021 Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women magazine and was named to the 2021 Forbes Next 1000 list of inspiring entrepreneurs.