The Dallas Examiner
Women own 30 percent of all businesses in the U.S. – with Black women becoming the fasting growing economic force owning 14 percent of U.S. businesses, according 2015 State of Women-owned Businesses Report conducted by American Express Open.
African American women are quickly gaining economic power in the nation, but still encounter hurdles such as discrimination, lack of resources and capital, along with balancing their personal lives, which may discourage other groups of aspiring entrepreneurs.
During the Inspire U Fest, June 2, a multitude of successful Black female entrepreneurs gathered at the Quixotic World event venue to provide solutions to issues many minority entrepreneurs face today.
“I started Inspire U Fest because I felt like there was a need in the city of Dallas to bring women from all walks of life together to learn, so we can get educated, have a girls day and learn how to be a better woman and entrepreneur,” said Sabeina Harris, Inspire U founder and CEO of A Seat at the Table branding agency.
Each panel broke down various aspects of Black entrepreneurship from health and wellness to social media marketing to starting a business.
Mind and body
The most important thing throughout a businesswoman’s journey isn’t just the money or the business plan itself but the health of the woman. After juggling family life, a regular work schedule, and entrepreneurship, most women are mentally and physically drained from their busy lifestyle, according to life coach Chanique Leggins.
“Make sure your health is your number one priority,” she said. “Make sure you take good care of yourself because your body is what transports you to your vision.”
The leading causes of death for African Americans is heart disease, cancer and stroke, which could be attributed to stress, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These ailments could be factor of what Black women put into their bodies and what they place on their bodies. Makeup products, laundry detergents and hair products have toxic ingredients such as BHT, PEG and alcohol that could damage your health over time, according to the presenters.
“A lot of the products they’re using has parables in them, which is causing breast cancer and skin cancer,” said Dr. St. James Limoges, life coach and MindTKO Academy founder. “So we have to start finding products that will still allow us to be beautiful on the inside and out.”
Despite entrepreneurs’ many responsibilities, the festival speakers asserted that putting yourself first is essential for a successful business.
“Yes, I work multiple businesses and also work [for] corporate America but if I’m not healthy and not together, none of this can be possible,” Harris said.
For women who are on-the-go, Dr. St. James suggested incorporating a short self-care routine somewhere in women’s busy schedule that would improve her wellbeing along with regular checkups and healthy practices.
“God gave us 24 hours in a day,” St. James said. “It only takes 15 minutes to take care of yourself. All you need is a 15-minute regimen. If you do a seven minute exercise, which will bring up your heart rate, and then a 7½ minute exercise in regards to your physical being, then who doesn’t have 15 minutes?”
Branding and social media
Before starting a business, future businesspersons must clarify what is the best product or service they will be providing to their audience.
“One of the things I see in the forefront is that a lot of people don’t take the time to really develop branding,” said Leah Frazier, fashion editor and Dallas Entrepreneur Center brand ambassador. “You get so excited about your ideas, innovation and passion that you just throw up a website and get social media channels without saying ‘What is that DNA [or gift] that God just gave to me.’”
Branding is the overall image, style and make up of the company business created and conveyed to potential customers.
“Your brand is your message. Your business is your services,” said lifestyle blogger Xayli Barclay.
The branding experts insisted that aspiring entrepreneurs geared their brand and their business toward a particular passion that has come naturally to them, rather than a trade that accrues the most money.
“If you’re not into it, your audience will read it,” said blogger Jalisa Vaughn.
The next step is to execute and present that idea to your target market through networking and social media. Branding and digital marketing strategist Tangie Seals disclosed that most consumers buy based on their emotional connection to the seller. Social media accounts should display transparency and a businessperson’s uniqueness to usher buyers into their lives as well as their company.
“Find a way to separate you from the rest of the brands, so that I am always receiving something from following you,” Seals said.
The most common mistake among business owners is the lack of visibility due to fear. The speakers advised that fellow minority entrepreneurs must be willing to put themselves out there for the world to see.
“When you realize the only person holding you back is you … many people look out to friends and family and they are not your target customer most of the time,” Frazier said. “Your target customer is someone who doesn’t even know who you are and if you are too afraid to put it out there, you’ll never connect with them.”
Start your business
Once your blueprint is completed, it is time to execute and start up your dream business. Research plays an important role in helping entrepreneurs understand the exact paperwork and licenses needed to acquire and protect their companies.
“My biggest advice is before you start your business or whatever you’re doing, chart all those things – LLC, DBA, Sole Proprietorship – out,” said Sydney Chandler, founder of The Baddie Brunch Series, Inc.
A DBA, or “Doing Business As,” registration is where businesswomen will need to file their trade name for their business and without it could lead to legal fines and lawsuits, according to LegalZoom. A LLC or “Limited Liability Company” is a separate and distinct legal entity that allows entrepreneurs to retrieve a tax identification number, a bank account and conduct business under one name. A business with no LLC can lead to lawsuits and, ultimately, losing your business to another entity.
“Take care of your business before your business takes care of you,” said Montana, owner of The Afterparty Radio station.
Aside from the legal side, the personal side of business such as family lives and maintaining a 9-to-5 has to be addressed.
“There’s no good way of balancing it,” Montana said who is working a regular job while investing into her own business. “Something is always going to suffer when you think about it. You have to figure out in your personal life, what point and on what day can you let something, basically slip because you’re not going to be able to give 100 percent to everything.”
The constant worry to provide a stable home and business life while remaining positive in a predominately White male ran industry burdens modern-day African American women entrepreneurs. To counter these issues, the panelists encouraged the all-female audience to continue to follow up with their business and surround themselves with positiveness, despite the problems they’re facing.
“Trust your process because your process is going to look different,” said graphic designer Jennifer Briggs. “When I started my business, it looked different from other people. So, don’t get bogged down when you don’t succeed as fast as you hoped. Trust your process. Keep going.”
The business savvy panelists also urged future business owners to not be discouraged by competition in their particular market.
“Don’t fall into the mindset of an oversaturated market,” Montana expressed. “So many people are scared to start a business because they think the market is oversaturated, and that’s not true. You need to move beyond that realm you’re in and figure out how you can touch other people.”