Hey! It’s been a minute. I wanted to tell yall a bit about my entrepreneur journey and hopefully drop some knowledge in the end.
I grew up knowing I would one day have my own business. I just didn’t know I’d gave 3 or 4 at this point lol. Every woman in my family has owned their own business at some point – from my mom’s calligraphy/painting business to my grandma’s quinceñera shop, to my aunts’ various ventures. My dad is a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur along with my brothers. Entrepreneurship and hardcore work ethic is in my blood.
In elementary school, I had a lemonade stand. Middle school, I made and sold jewelry at the end of my driveway. High school, I started freelance graphic design. College, I started my cake/wedding business and even won a few cake competitions. However, after about 6 years, I decided I missed weekends and my friends and husband. I had to miss funerals and friends’ weddings because I was already booked a year out. So I decided to do a 180 and start an 8-5 job doing marketing for a local winery, Messina Hof. I loved it, but after 3 years, I was starting to get antsy not having a business to run anymore. But my life ended up taking another major turn anyways..
There is never a perfect time to start a business.
My husband and I had been in the process of adopting, and one day at work, I received a phone call to come to the hospital and meet our newborn son, Kalvin Elijah! I left my marketing job soon after and decided to stay home for awhile to take care of Kal. But my creative side was anxious to get back to work. So I planned and prepared all summer for what I would do next. Then in 2018, right after my son’s first birthday, and right before my 30th birthday, I launched a new business merging my passions of marketing and mentorship to form Ment Marketing & Creative Services. Everyone said it was bad timing, but we all know there is never a perfect time to start a business.
I started Ment to combine my passions of marketing and mentorship. So I hire creative college students to help them build their portfolios and gain real-world experience before they graduate. We do web design, graphic design, photography, videography, and social media. I started it because I would have loved to have something like that while I was in school.
My second business, of course, is Women Entrepreneurs, which Marie and I started to help women start and grow their own businesses.
Lastly, I am volunteer City Director (along with Marie) for Lemonade Day, which sometimes feels like a full time job too. Lemonade Day is a national non-profit organization that teaches kids entrepreneurship through owning a lemonade stand. They walk away with real life skills and real money.
As you can see, I live and breath entrepreneurship and mentorship. Now let me share some personal experiences I’ve had so far.
"oH sO yOu'Re nOt aCtUaLly SeRiOuS aBoUt It"
As a young black woman business owner, I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gotten the “oh you’re the owner” or “wait this is your business?” or “how long do you plan to keep doing that?” (as if this is a phase doomed to fail). So it’s one of my goals to help others like me do their own thing and hope that one day it become the norm.
I met a guy at a chamber of commerce event in town awhile back. After we did the typical introductions and I was telling him about my marketing agency, he says “oh wait you’re the owner??” I tell him again that yes, I’m the owner. “Where’s your location? I’ve never heard of you.” With a tone like, “so you have a marketing business, maybe you need to market yourself.” I said actually, I just started a few months ago and I’m working from home so I can take care of my son too. He laughs and says “Oh so you’re not actually serious about it.”
I would argue that with an infant at home, working 60+ hrs a week, I promise I’m not just doing this for fun!
Be prepared to get back at the naysayers by proving them wrong. (Flash forward to today, I’m still in business and he’s not. Ope.)
If you fail to plan, you might as well plan to fail.
There’s advice I always give people who are thinking about starting their own business, don’t go into it thinking entrepreneurship is the easy route. It is hard hard work. You may be working 80+hrs a week for the first year while breaking even or in debt. You may be blindsided by a global pandemic. You have to be willing to take that risk and make sure you have a plan. You may have the greatest idea in the world, but it may not go well if you jump right in without seeing if there’s a big target market, or skimp out on marketing, or try to do it all yourself.
Just make sure you have both the drive and the plan. I don’t really believe in entrepreneurship as a backup plan because to me that implies that it’s a sure thing when it’s not. And I know many women in the group who kept their full time or part time jobs with steady income and benefits while they built their side hustle into a full time job. Smart!
Don't do it alone!
A question I sometimes get and often overhear is “why have a group for only women entrepreneurs? There’s plenty of men who need these type of resources too.” That sounds familiar. (Anyone else noticing parallels to the BLM movement or is it just me?) Well as you all know, it’s designed to help address specific issues and challenges that are unique to women-owned businesses. Marie addresses this in one of her blog posts.
I bring this up to say that there will always be people who don’t understand your unique challenges as a woman entrepreneur. Why else would someone question the need for WE? But as I said above, forget the naysayers and know you are doing big things in spite of everything going against you.
My advice to all entrepreneurs is don’t do it alone. With a group like WE around, you have no excuse! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
One of the things I love most about WE is that we are so wonderfully diverse in so many areas, especially in regards to the talents we all bring to help each other. That’s why I encourage everyone to join a WE Mastermind group after you become a member. You will learn so much about your business and yourself.
Now get out there and KILL IT. Prove them wrong by succeeding. Because of course you are actually serious.
Fun fact: Black women are the only racial or ethnic group with more business ownership than their male peers, according to the Federal Reserve. Who knew?
Get inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX3h4Zc9e-Y