Jasmin Smith

Community Voice

A headshot of Black woman with her hair up, wearing earings that read, "Black Girls Rock".

Recognized in 2017 by the state of Alaska for her achievements as a community leader and entrepreneur, Jasmin Smith has her sights set on investing in the next generation of community and business leaders.  

Smith, who launched her own small business, Baby Vend, in 2016, has coached more than 650 entrepreneurs in owning and operating their own businesses across the nation. In 2020, she helped launch the new Alaska Black Business Directory, where people can search for Black-owned businesses across Alaska from shops to restaurants.

Smith also co-founded in 2020 the Umoja Coworking and Incubators, a business services space focused on cultural empowerment and what role that plays in business development. She also wants to bolster the work of underrepresented entrepreneurs and communities as a whole.

Part of this co-working space was the Umoja Cultural School, an initiative hosting spring break and summer youth programs and other culture- and community-driven, educational after-school programs. At the end of last year, she established the “Ujamaa fund,” setting aside monies to help Black entrepreneurs in Alaska.

“I am very [passionate] about all things involving economic empowerment,” Smith said in an interview with telecommunications company GCI’s small business blog. “I am very passionate about civil rights, about culture and my people and the next generation standing up and becoming leaders.”

That passion led her to start up Baby Vend, a network of vending machines stocked with baby supplies. Running out of diapers while shopping with infant twins sparked her business idea to create a way for parents to access baby supplies and products when they need them most. Since its launch, she now has vending machines in Ted Stevens International Airport, Dimond Center, Anchorage Museum and other retail-based businesses across the country.

As a lifelong Alaskan, it was just as critical to focus her work in her home neighborhood of Mountain View — once dubbed the most diverse place in America, according to Census data. In her neighborhood, Smith has served as vice president of the Mountain View Community Council, third vice president of the Anchorage NAACP Chapter, and president of the Alaska Black Chamber of Commerce. — Bio by Monée Fields-White