Entrepreneurs according to a report by the Center for American Progress, women of color “are a principal force behind one of the most important components of America’s current marketplace and our nation’s future economy: entrepreneurship.” Specifically, from 1997 to 2013 women-owned firms grew by 59 percent overall and African American women-owned firms grew by 258 percent! Sisters are definitely doing it for themselves.
Check also: 12 quality tips to be a successful entrepreneur
Although mainstream media touts the wage gap at $0.79 for every dollar earned by a white male (and that’s bad), African American women are even worse off, earning only $0.64 for every dollar earned by a white male, states a newly released report from the American Association of University Women.
Whether it’s our frustration with wage and other inequities in the corporate workforce, the entrepreneurial pull, or a myriad of other goals and desires, it is clear that African American women are leading the entrepreneurship charge!
So, whether you’ve already started your business or are considering taking the leap, congratulations and welcome to the vast world of entrepreneurship.
There is a great deal of “conventional wisdom” about what you need to know as entrepreneurs and business owner. As an entrepreneur myself, I have consumed loads of information to prepare for this journey, an incredible journey which no one is ever really prepared to take. This article focuses on those internal and external factors that are within your control, which I have found can lead to success in your business if mastered.Follow @newslexpoint
Let’s roll in and see what women Entrepreneurs must put into consideration!
1. You need to know yourself as an Entrepreneur.
When I interviewed Black Enterprise Women of Power TV host Caroline Clarke on my podcast, she shared that her favorite quote is, “To thine own self be true,” by William Shakespeare. Being an entrepreneur is hard, yet for most of us it is a voluntary choice. There is something inside of us that yearns for more: more freedom, more control, and more money than a traditional job or career is able to provide. And while we choose to be entrepreneurs, and are often following our passion, those facts do not make the path any easier.
My Bahamian grandmother, when speaking highly of someone and his or her lineage would say, in her oh-so-comforting lilt, “She come from good stock, you know.” And that meant that the subject’s family was solid. The same is true for determining whether you are cut out to be an entrepreneur.
This is not about judgment. There is no “right answer,” only the “right answer for YOU.” This is a gut check moment—because you will feel at times like you’ve been kicked in the gut. You are going to want to quit, repeatedly. The question is, will you? This is about having an honest conversation with yourself about your level of desire, dedication and GRIT. In her TEDTalks presentation Angela Lee Duckworth defines grit as, “Passion and perseverance for very long term goals… and working really hard to make that future a reality, Living life like it is a marathon not a sprint.”
While passion will drive us to start our businesses, there will come a time when we lack the passion for the tasks necessary to make our business thrive. We will need to carry on anyway. There are ways to rekindle the flame of passion for your business, should it wane.
2. You need to know other people and build lasting connections.
It’s not only lonely at the top, it’s lonely on the way to the top. Unless we have partners, when we pursue our entrepreneurial endeavors we are solo-preneurs, it’s just us. And depending on your industry, it is very easy to feel isolated and in the weeds. It is important that you remain (or become) connected with three types of people for the success of your business and your own survival.
Mentor—You must have at least one person on your team who is or has been an entrepreneur. Remember when I said you’ll want to quit? This is definitely the person who can help you determine how and whether to stay the course. Above all, this is a person who can help you navigate legal, financial, and other questions that arise in business.
And if this person is in your industry, even better from a networking perspective. (I want to make a note here, that while having mentors with similar experiences as us can definitely be a benefit, we do not have to only seek out mentors who are Black or women. I’ve found personally and through observation that having a variety of people including white men as mentors can really help you position and run your business for success.
Professionals running your business like a business requires that you invest in a good business attorney and a certified personal accountant (CPA). (Also, note that a CPA is different from a book keeper.) You may feel that you are too small, but there are financial responsibilities that you must be aware of so that your business is structured properly and your taxes are handled accurately from the outset. I will also add that if you are not comfortable with or don’t have the time but do have the budget hiring a qualified social media and marketing expert can really do wonders for your business’s growth.
Network of peers—This can be an industry-related formal group or just people who you meet along your journey with whom you can commiserate and share best practices. These are folks in the trenches with you who will not scoff or judge you when you misstep or have self-doubts.
3. You need to have a full customer or client pipeline.
However you generate your income, whether from the sale of products or services or from passive sources—it is key that the revenue pipeline remain full and flowing. When I was a new real estate broker, I was so excited when I got my first few clients that I focused on giving them the best customer service experience possible and did not focus on marketing so that there were clients lined up behind them.
When those deals closed, I had to scramble to market to new prospective clients, and during that period I had no deals close or income generating. Don’t make my mistake, you want to be sure that you keep a steady flow and focus your efforts on both customer service and current income sources, as well as taking the steps to generate future income. This can also be important if you need to pivot with your marketing to get good results. You don’t want to have to act from a place of lack.
4. You need to use social media.
Whether you like it or not, social media is an integral part of most if not all successful business and marketing efforts. As I mentioned above, if you have the budget, then I would suggest hiring a qualified social media strategist and watch the magic happen. But if you’re like most new entrepreneurs, you will need to manage your channel(s) on your own as you build an audience and revenue.
The key is to choose the most appropriate medium for your business and industry. An awesome resource for choosing which platform is best is the social media marketing handbook, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hookwritten by Gary Vaynerchuk.
The platform you use matters for reaching your target audience. For example, if you are selling handcrafted jewelry for middle-aged moms, Pinterest may be the best platform for you. However, Instagram may prove optimal for selling the same wares, but targeting those in their 20s and early 30s.
5. You need to know when it’s time to pivot.
The concept of pivoting, or changing course in your business to reach your goals, has really taken off with the success of the Lean movement. The goal is to find out what works quickly by discarding what doesn’t work and changing and optimizing until you hit your sweet spot. While you don’t need to ascribe to Lean sensibilities, being small and nimble can allow you to take calculated risks and pivot much faster than your larger competitors.
Pivoting is sometimes used interchangeably with failing. While no one wants to fail, I think that sometimes as women we put a lot of stock in the opinions of others and bear unnecessary burdens to avoid failing. Remember, when Thomas Edison asked him why it took 1,000 failed attempts to invent the light bulb, he replied: “The light bulb took 1,000 steps to create.”