All Articles Tagged "entrepreneurship"
A new crowdfunding site, currently in beta, is focusing on getting funding and capital for African-American entrepreneurs. BlackStartup.com was started by a group of Morehouse College alumni, all Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers, and is accepting applications from companies and organizations founded by African Americans.
The companies will use the site as a crowdfunding platform, and BlackStartup.com also has resources and a blog to support business owners. CEO Nate Bennett Fleming, who is an adjunct professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia’s School of Law, researched crowdfunding and African-American business, determining that while African Americans have a lot of business ideas, they often lack the access to capital to get the ideas off the ground.
“I wanted to create a solution to address that problem,” he said. “At this point, we do the crowdfunding and address increasing access to capital and as we expand, we’ll create partnerships with on-ground organizations that look to encouraging entrepreneurship and support entrepreneurs to help with mentoring.”
So far, the for-profit BlackStartup.com has received more than 10 applications over the past couple weeks from businesses ranging from technology companies to nonprofits to artistic endeavors.
Do you have dreams of starting your own company but just can’t get going? Maybe it’s fear that is holding you back. According to Inc, the number one factor that prevents entrepreneurs from starting a new company or meeting goals is fear.
“Throughout the years I’ve had many dreams and aspirations yet at times it’s been scary and sometimes extremely fearful,” says entrepreneur Chantay Bridges. Real estate agent Bridges, who has the website Los Angeles Real Estate Now, went into business for herself after working for others. During the process of striking out on her own, she experienced a variety of fears — from whether customers would want her services to finding employees that reflected her work ethic and integrity. But she says she got the courage to start her business by facing her fears and by “self talk.”
“I encouraged myself not on the things I did see but on what was unseen,” she explains. “I changed my thoughts to be fearless and not fearful.”
There are various kinds of entrepreneurial fears.
- Fear of Failing: This is common for many times in life, but when it comes to pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams it can stop you before you get started. Of course you can fail, but what about thinking about “What if I succeed”? Make sure you are well prepared; this will also help alleviate this fear of failing. “You never learn to swim without getting in the water. There may be sharks in there at times but you do your homework beforehand in case one shows up, get in the water and swim upstream until you make it,” advises Inc.
- Fear of Success: “Success brings the requirement to perform, to fulfill the obligation, and to manage scarce resources in an attempt to satisfy demands. Many companies fail because they simply can’t service the demand, and their customers move on to a competitor,” notes the magazine. If you are growing too fast, be scared. Partner with another entrepreneur in the similar business—ask for help with resources, equipment, personnel, whatever you need to embrace your success. “Never confuse a temporary setback with a permanent condition. Know that fear is putting energy in something that may never be,” offers Bridges.
- Fear of Starting: If you are overwhelmed with all the aspects of starting a business, take it one step at a time—literally. Don’t try to do everything at once or by yourself.
- Fear of Loss: Got the company started but it’s not working? Many entrepreneurs fear change of direction. But don’t be afraid to tweak. “By learning from my mistakes I succeeded,” says Bridges. “You keep getting up and pressing on. If at first you don’t succeed, try until you win.”
What’s your biggest entrepreneurial fear?
NewME Accelerator (short for New Media Entrepreneurship) started in 2011 as a 12-week program for startups founded by minority entrepreneurs. Each session, eight startups participate in the program, where they work on their business, network with others in the technology industry, and eventually demo their company for investors and others in the startup community.
Since its inception, 25 companies have “graduated,” with seven more in the Spring 2013 class. Here are 10 of these graduates that have gone on to receive media attention and funding. Learn more about these companies, and what is getting attention from the investment world.
As a teenager, Ayo Ogun-McCants spent a lot of time dabbling in natural DIY beauty treatments. Through that experience she learned how to take care of herself and discovered that having a personalized self-care regimen was “one of the best things one can do for their spirit.”
Over time, Ogun-McCants found that the reality of maintaining a full-time job while taking care of her husband and four children meant that sometimes, her pampering rituals would have to take a back seat.
It was this challenge of “never having enough time,” that formed the seeds of Soultanicals, the toxin-free, vegan hair and body product company she launched this past November.
Now, at 34, Ogun-McCants has finally gone back to her roots and prides herself on embracing her passion for taking high-quality botanical ingredients and turning them into a business that produces products that are good for the mind, body, and spirit.
Here, she talks about the inspiration behind the line, how it’s different from other products currently on the market and where she hopes to take the company over the next five years.
Madame Noire: How would you describe your Soultanicals line to someone who is hearing about it for the first time?
Ayo Ogun-McCants: Soultanicals is an Afro-vegan, hair, body, soul lovin’ brand. Our goodies are not just another body lotion or hair cream in the marketplace; we’re all about producing handmade [products] that awaken the spirit.
MN: What made you want to create a hair and skincare line?
AOM: I’ve always been a DIY beauty girl. [Since I was a teen], I’ve dabbled in at-home facial scrubs, hair care preparations and played with natural and organic herbs and ingredients. Self-love in the form of pampering myself became a ritual that I didn’t even know I was creating! The result was beautiful skin, healthy hair and an unintentional sensation of confidence that people seemed to notice about me growing up. After years of allowing the rigors of life to overwhelm me, I got back to [the basics] aligned my childhood passions with creating a brand that complemented what I love, which is celebrating my me-time!
MN: What makes Soultanicals different from all of the other hair and skincare lines that already exist?
AOM: Soultanicals is truly a new generation of products that speak to the beauty conscious, self-loving and playful spirits who like to stand out with timeless, soul-centric originality. And because we believe that beauty is skin deep, we honor everyone’s inner beauty with a “Soulffirmation”: positive declarations that awaken the beauty within your body, mind & soul, which are included with each order!
Behind the scenes and at the forefront of their events, the Curly Girl Collective celebrates diversity. CGC is the brainchild of six women from an array of backgrounds – their professions range from advertising to computer science, and their ages range eight years – who’ve come together under the common goal of honoring the diversity of natural hair.
“I think of our diversity is what makes us work so well together,” says Simone Mair, Director of Business Strategy. “It makes us who we are.”
In the summer of 2010, Tracey Coleman (Director of Events), Charisse Higgins (Director of Public Relations), Simone Mair, Gia Lowe (Strategic Partnerships Director), Melody Henderson (Creative Director), and Julienne Brown (Marketing & Promotions Director), couldn’t stop talking about their natural hair journeys. Their mutual obsession led to small get-togethers in Tracey’s apartment. The face-to-face gatherings gave them an irreplaceable sense of connection that the online natural hair community, while overflowing with information, just couldn’t compete with.
Determined to make this sense of community available to a larger audience, the Curly Girl Collective was born. I caught up with the ladies behind the brand to learn how they’re bringing online connections to the real world.
MADAME NOIRE (MN): How does CGC carry out its mission?
CHARISSE: Curly Girl Collective is centered around events with a focus on empowering women. Our mission is to create experiences that celebrate natural beauty and creatively inspire and educate women in and outside of the natural hair community. CGC celebrates diversity and creates experiences that give women the freedom to be their natural selves.
MN: What was the catalyst that gave you the confidence to jump into entrepreneurship?
SIMONE: Our launch event was in May of 2011. To be honest, we really weren’t 100% confident that anyone would be interested in our event or even attend. Although a few of us had experience hosting smaller parties/events, we were jumping in head first with this endeavor. We had confidence in our skillsets and used our personal experiences to create what turned out to be a very successful event. It was scary. It was anxiety-driven. It was exhilarating. And at the end of it all, though exhausted, it was so rewarding!
MN: The natural hair phenomenon has spawned many new businesses and blogs. Why is an organization like CGC needed?
CHARISSE: A lot of businesses and blogs were founded for the purpose of promoting, creating and/or reviewing products to help women navigate the landscape of the natural hair community. And that’s great! But our goal is a little different. We aim to truly create environments that speak to specific moments in the natural hair journey, with the goal of leaving our guests empowered, inspired and truly in love with their natural beauty. From coveting another woman’s curls (which is a very real feeling), to the issues one encounters when a love interest doesn’t embrace natural textures, our events seek to speak to the spectrum of topics in the natural hair journey.
MN: The main goals of CGC are issue-based (acceptance; providing a platform). How do you monetize your initiatives?
GIA: We’ve spent the past two years creating the groundwork – valuable experiences that women look forward to attending. From here, we hope to attract sponsors that are aligned with our vision and in return we can introduce their brands to consumers in an intimate way tailored to their business needs.
MN: What are the main issues your target audience is dealing with? How are you addressing them?
SIMONE: Some of the more common issues we hear from our audience are frustrations with hair health, regimens, textures, etc. We also hear about frustrations with the perceptions of natural hair among loved ones, family, friends, business peers, etc. None of us are experts in any of the topics aforementioned but we listen to our fans and we do our best to create events that address those issues such as our last co-ed event, Mane Attraction, where we provided an open judge-free platform to express how natural hair has affected their relationships with their mates. Sometimes the resolution to a lot of issues is just communication.
MN: What’s the key to putting on a great event? How do you make CGC events memorable?
CHARISSE: It’s interesting, we really treat it like an advertising agency. We approach each event with the lens of a creative department, making sure our ideas are grounded in something innovative. With so many brands creating experiences now in the natural hair space, it’s imperative that we break through the landscape of meet ups, launches and seminars with events that push it a little further. And above all, our events are memorable because we make them fun–that’s really all that matters. At the end of the day, ladies just want to come out and celebrate the movement!
Unemployed? The SBA, Department of Labor Launch a Website to Help States, Job Creators, and Job Seekers
The White House has announced a new website, created by the Small Business Administration and the Department of Labor, that will help states create programs to aid companies seeking new staff members.
“On the website, you’ll find model legislation that your state can use to enact these programs, as well as a new online toolkit from the Small Business Administration, which offers courses and training on how to start a business,” the White House press release reports. “There are also courses on obtaining money for small businesses, entrepreneurship and business planning, entrepreneurial marketing, developing entrepreneurial work styles, as well as a host of other topics including accounting, marketing, legal facets, sales and taxes.”
Back in February 2012, President Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012, the first update to the unemployment insurance rules in 40 years. If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because of the push behind the small business component, which was discussed a lot during the election. But another key component is the Self-Employment Assistance Program, or SEAP, which helps individuals receiving unemployment benefits create a job for themselves.
SEAP includes a training program where unemployed individuals receive counseling and training to help them create a business. The program also provides grants for individuals to launch or grow a business. The government has proposed $35 million dollars to be distributed to all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Each state has a different set of requirements concerning who is eligible to participate. There are a few states, such as Texas, that have laws that put restrictions on the ways in which residents participe in these programs. So check with your state to learn more about this program and how it’s being implemented where you live. Not only is it a viable alternative for the present, it would also be a wise investment to avoid future layoffs. Many companies — and entire industries — have cut positions that will not be coming back. As a recent graduate, you may also find this option as a way to begin your career. Starting a business today has many different paths available.
As early as May 2012, five states began to implement this reform. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, or Oregon they have active Self-Employment Assistance Programs and are ready to begin to give grants to their residents.
Vernetta R. Freeney is a Houston-based entrepreneur and award winning blogger. You can follow her @womengamechange.
British businesswoman Jenny Garrett didn’t seek to launch a company. It just kind of happened.
“It’s the best thing I’ve done. I found a passion for coaching. I knew that the only way to do the work I loved all the time was to become self-employed,” says Garrett.
This unintentional businesswoman talks with Business Enterprise about how she launched Reflexion Associates, a leadership coaching consultancy, and the thinking behind her book, Rocking Your Role: The ‘How To’ Guide to Success for Female Breadwinners.
Learn more about Garrett and other black women entrepreneurs on BlackEnterprise.com.
With an eye towards self-employment in a tough economy (even tougher for minorities), more and more HBCU students are seeking out courses in entrepreneurship. And this isn’t just for business students. This trend applies to students across majors. Barron Harvey, Dean of the School of Business at Howard University told Black Enterprise that he’s seeing an uptick in entrepreneurial interest that “really exploded over the last five years.”
“The need to create & educate the next generation has changed from just churning out future employees but also future employers,” the story says.
We’ve reported on the increase in small business ownership among African Americans a number of times here on Madame Noire Business. And there are also some college majors that are more lucrative than others. All of this taken together has inspired students to think differently about their education and careers.
The story reports that other schools, including Bowie State University and Bennett College have created programs for entrepreneurial studies. To learn more about the entrepreneurial streak tearing across the nation’s HBCUs, click to BlackEnterprise.com.
They always say that the toughest part of starting a new business is surviving the first five years. But what if you had a blueprint on how to avoid mistakes that business owners typically make? Well, Yahoo Small Business Advisor reports on the “10 Mistakes New Business Owners Make (That You Can Avoid).”
Among the biggest mistakes is not using a contract. When someone hires you or your company for work, you can’t trust that you’ll be paid just because of someone’s word or a handshake. A contract will also spell out in detail what is expected of you, so that if there are later complaints you can go back and explain that you have fulfilled the terms. It can be hard when a client insists a contract is unnecessary, particularly when you’re just starting out or working with someone you have a pre-existing relationship with. But in the long run, it is the only way to do business fairly — for you and your client.
Another big one is not understanding payment terms. For a small business, when one client doesn’t pay it can have a snowball effect for paying your own bills. It is important to have a buffer fund to handle your urgent bills each month even when clients don’t come through.
“Owning your own company has its drawbacks and at first, payment schedules are one of them. Be prepared to wait for payment, even if you’re an independent contractor in business by yourself. Know your contract — and know what the terms mean and how soon you can collect. The bottom line is that you can’t pay this month’s light bill with money you won’t see until 30 or 60 days after the job is completed,” notes the article.
Yahoo Small Business Advisor also gives a great list of important small business tools. Some of the standouts include:
- Freshbooks – an affordable online billing service
- Tax Receipts – a resource to maximize your tax deductions with an organized system, and learn what deductions you can take in plain English
- Outright – a simplified, secure online bookkeeping service
- Our Deal - contracts that are easy to understand and can be signed online
The Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee held its third annual roundtable to discuss the wealth gap. According to the Pew Research Center, there’s a yawning wealth gap between blacks (average household net worth of $5,677) and whites ($113,150 average household net worth).
To close that gap, the roundtable focused on entrepreneurship and small businesses. Among the suggestions — strengthening contract programs for minority businesses and access to resources, for example — there’s one that stood out.
“Convince Americans that closing the wealth gap is good for everyone,” writes The Business Journals.
“Helping more African Americans succeed in business shouldn’t be viewed as ‘a form of charity,’ said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, whose city has become a Mecca for minority-owned businesses,” the article continues. “Instead, the growth of black entrepreneurship benefits the economy as a whole because of the jobs that are created.”
This idea is so critical. When a segment of the population trips, we all go down. The country benefits from having strong businesses across the board. And it’s obvious from the research what we’ve been reporting that, among African Americans, there’s a strong entrepreneurial streak that should be nurtured. (Rather than just broadly declaring that whole swaths of the general population are “victims” who “don’t pay income tax.”)
The article does note that it’s not just promoting small business ownership, but helping these businesses grow so that they can hire employees. Given the interest in business ownership, this is an economic avenue that the black community is interested in pursuing. Read more about the roundtable here.