California’s First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, visited Sac City Stems last week, getting horticulture tips from owner Mikaela Baker. Baker also shared the joys and challenges of being a Black-woman business owner.

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

She’s only 7, but Mikaela Baker’s daughter Kennedy already is learning an appreciation for earning her own money and the power that comes with it.

“We call her the CEO,” said Baker, owner of Sac City Stems, a brightly lit plant shop near Sacramento State.

“I like doing a bank with her every week where I give her money, not as an allowance, but she has chores. It’s just to get her starting to think about spending money. If you have your own money, you can spend it how you want to spend it.”

Mom’s the entrepreneur, but she’s planting seeds for her child’s future. Kennedy lives in a country where Black women are paid 58 cents for every dollar paid to White men.

The issue of equal pay had California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom visiting Sac City Stems last week. Siebel Newsom visited to raise awareness for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, observed this year Sept. 21. Black Women’s Equal pay day is held on the approximate date into a subsequent year that a Black woman must work in a year to make the same amount a White man does in a year – that is, an average Black woman working since Jan. 1, 2021, needs almost nine additional months’ income to equal the average White man’s earnings for 2021.

“What is most disturbing or challenging to me is that when you look at it over time, generationally, not paying Black women their fair share for equitable work, what you have is a wealth gap,” Siebel Newsom said.

“Black women basically have pennies, alongside Latina women, on the dollar of wealth compared to White men,” she continued. “That’s a problem because wealth begets wealth. Without some assets or ability to invest to accrue more wealth, it’s hard. There are so many more obstacles in your path.”

Mikaela Baker, a flight attendant, opened her plant shop in June 2021, after the pandemic put a halt on the travel industry.

Baker employs a small staff and acknowledges the importance of equal pay for women.

“I own my own business. There are no pay gaps here; we all get paid the same,” Baker said. “But it’s important for us to be able to own stuff because you don’t have to deal with things like that.”

A flight attendant by profession, Baker opened Sac City Stems as an online business when she was laid off during the pandemic. She’d initially planned for her H Street location only to be a shipping facility for online orders. It grew and a year later, the shop beams with green things with exotic names and personalities.

Baker specializes in indoor tropical houseplants. Most people don’t know the difference between a Swiss cheese monstera and a bird-of-paradise, but she’s knowledgeable and quick to help.

“We have some rare items, but for the most part I try to keep them beginner-friendly,” she said.

Baker since has returned to her regular, full-time job, but when she’s not traversing the friendly skies, she’s in the shop teaching self-proclaimed “plant killers” how to keep their plants alive and sharing information on what house plants do best during Sacramento’s triple-digit summers.

Friend and part-time employee Briana Lucio calls working at Sac City Stems a rewarding experience. “We’re all Black women, we’re all on the same playing field,” she said. “She understands my struggle. I understand her struggle.”

For her 9-to-5, Lucio coordinates civil rights and fair housing investigations.

“I’m the only Black woman on my team, so I know what I make compared to others. You see the difference between people’s pay when you’re working in corporate America,” Lucio said.

The goal at Sac City Stems, Baker and Lucio say, is to help each other rise and grow.