All Articles Tagged "entrepreneurship"
It’s not too often these days that you hear about an entrepreneur expanding with brick-and-mortar outlets, but that’s exactly what Dawn Fitch has done. The founder of Pooka Pure and Simple, a 13-year-old line of natural bath and body products, just announced a new store in Newark.
“There is so much development and so many new initiatives going on in the City; especially for the business owners on Halsey Street,” Fitch said in a press release statement about the expansion. Pooka Pure products are also available online and at more than 40 Whole Foods markets.
Black women are building businesses faster than any other demographic in the US. But it’s not just about launching a company. For many, it’s about taking it to the next level, growing the brand and making more money and a bigger name of your product.
With this latest expansion, we asked Fitch for three tips to share with aspiring entrepreneurs on the rise who are also looking to make their business flourish further. Here’s what she told us via email:
I feel like there are 3 things you need: Faith, so that you know and believe your business is going to make it; Perseverance for when it seems like its taking forever; and Support, it’s hard to make it alone
Start your business on the right track.
1. Go to your local college or university and visit their small business department, I’m pretty sure they all have one. The appointments are usually free, they will help you register your business, set up your business entity and file any paper work you need.
2. Keep good records. Even if you aren’t ready for an accountant, make sure you use Quickbooks or Excel spreadsheets to keep track of your finances.
3. Protect yourself and your ideas. Get your trademarks done early so that when your business takes off there are no issues.
If you’re still on the ground floor in the startup stage, you might want to begin with these bits of advice from Delisha Grant, an attorney with her own law firm who launched The WeBelieve Initiative to help others launch their businesses. During a panel discussion at the most recent National Action Network Annual Conference, she also talked about the importance of trademarking your idea and gave a few tips for starting a business with a partner.
When you’re starting a business, every conversation begins with capital — idea, information and investment. However for African Americans, accessing that crucial element can be a struggle. Fortunately, three Black female businesswomen shared their insight with a full room at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY, and I was there to get the details. The event, held in conjunction with the New York Association of Black Journalists and the CUNY Journalism School, featured solopreneur Andaiye Smith, journalist, author and professor Linda Villarosa and media entrepreneur Kelly Virella highlighting best practices to getting a new venture vested and monetized.
The speakers all began their projects with a similar goal in mind. Each undertaking is aimed at filling a gap in the market, making the ideas themselves assets. For Villarosa it was a hyperlocal blog with a dual purpose: enhancing the long-running Black periodical New York Amsterdam News and getting her students published. Virella analyzed the reading habits of herself and her friends, noting that she and her peers — even those who looked like her and worked in her field — didn’t support Black magazines. This inspired her to launch the first African-American narrative journalism magazine, Longview. Not leaving the concept to stand on its own, Virella conducted her own market research — information capital — to pinpoint her product.
Although these women are targeting what could be considered niche markets, they have two things undeniably in common: ambition and a creative approach to securing capital.
Smith, a Newark native, created Brick City Live to combat the alarming amount of negative Black-focused news in her hometown. Seeing a worthwhile long-term investment, Smith built her website on her own. Villarosa tapped into human capital; she staffed her first business with the very people it was helping — her students — and her second with her family. She also partnered with her employers, Amsterdam News and City College, which considerably reduced her need for investors to support hiring.
Smith and Virella have also taken proactive approaches to monetization. BrickCityLive.com is billed as a service that connects people to information and other resources, a bundle of jargon that broaden her ability to generate revenue. Smith also created a loyalty program that incentivizes support of local business through her brand and charges the owners, rather than the consumers, a fee for inclusion in the program. Both allow independence from the typical web income ads supply. Virella carefully outlined a handful of earning opportunities inherent to her project that she can present to potential investors as returns.
Once the women finished detailing creative paths to capital, Chris Rabb, an entrepreneurship and media consultant, expounded on the simplest form of capital. Money. Entrepreneurs need money, and according to Rabb, usually much more than calculated. He imparted that sufficient access to capital and relevant work experience are enormous boons to launching a business.
Together the panel effectively conveyed that entrepreneurs need to know exactly what capital they have already tapped. But more than that, enterprising business owners should anticipate needing more and create a strategy to guarantee it.
Mark Cuban said in an interview with Inc. recently that he knew he didn’t want to work for someone else anymore after working for a bank right after college. Enthusiastic about the job and how to help the company improve and move up the ladder, he started a “rookies club” with all the new employees where they would go out for drinks and invite some of the executives along to network. Well, Cuban’s boss wasn’t too impressed. In fact, he was upset.
“He just started screaming and said you have to run everything through me,” recalls Cuban. Obviously, his manager didn’t like employee initiative — even during off hours.
Whatever prompts your entrepreneurial drive, you should be prepared for the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. Adeshola Akintobi got the work-for-myself bug and started Best Face Forward Makeup Studio, a luxury makeup concierge in Brooklyn, New York.
Akintobi suggests envisioning what you want. “Close your eyes and think about what your ideal life would be like. How do you want to spend your day? If your ideal life would be spent outdoors or traveling, don’t go into the restaurant business (unless it’s a food truck) as you will spend an exorbitant amount time in one place. Speak to someone who is doing what you want to do. Find out the advantages of running that type of business but pay attention to the drawbacks,” Akintobi tells MadameNoire.
Minority women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of small businesses in the United States. And African-American female-owned firms grew the fastest than any other group of firms in number of firms by 67 percent, says the Minority Business Development Agency.
According to the National Women’s Business Council, in 2007 there were 911,728 African-American women-owned businesses in the United States, a huge 66.7 percent increase in number since 2002. And African-American women-owned firms nationwide have total receipts of $36.8 billion, a growth of 78.1 percent since 2002.
If this is the route you too want to take, know clearly what you want to pursue. “You first must identify your passion and does it have retail value,” author and lifestyle coach Qwana Reynolds says. “Once you zero in on what you want to sell and share with the world you should get organized.” Also know your skills and the areas you will need help in. If you are venturing into retail but are not a good salesperson, sales will be an area you should seek help.
Also examine your motives. Don’t venture into business for the wrong reasons. “Are you ready to leave your job because of your calling, family, time, finances, or are you seeking more leadership?” asks Reynolds. “Your calling should trump all of the above otherwise you will lose your desire just like you have lost your job.”
Do an entrepreneurial check list. Make sure ask yourself these questions, says Jean Kristensen of Jean Kristensen Associates, a minority- and woman-owned business consultancy.
–Do I have adequate financial resources to pursue entrepreneurship full time?
–Do I have the support needed to start and grow a business?
–What are my unique talents and how can I incorporate them into a strategy to start and grow a business?
–Is there a need for my service?
–Who will I be selling to? How will I communicate with them?
Be aware you may try and fail. “Entrepreneurship is awesome but it is not for all,” says Reynolds. Adds Akintobi, “Don’t be discouraged. Finding out what you aren’t cut out for is helpful and vital to your success. Being an entrepreneur takes commitment (time and financial) and endurance through adversity. Knowing that running a business isn’t for you can save you time, money and a lot of heartache.”
Bottom line, going into business for yourself will most likely involve some struggles, you have to be willing to ride them out. Entrepreneurship is for you if you are “comfortable with: lack of sleep, putting your finances towards your business as opposed to wasteful spending, tons of self motivation, and have an eye for marketing.”
If you think you have what it takes, go for it. Says Akintobi, “If you have a strong desire to work for yourself and you can except the uncertainty that comes along with running a business, then by all means throw your hat into the entrepreneurial ring.”
After years of working for Nintendo both she and her husband, Derick Pearson, were let go from their marketing jobs in 2008. Although Hatcher, 30, worked in the corporate world she has a history as an entrepreneur. She is the author of The ‘C’ Students Guide to Scholarships and How to Start a Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget. Prior to joining Ninetendo, she launched two companies.
And besides Feverish Pops she is also teaching young people ages 10 to 21 to code through Code Fever, which she founded in April 2013. The program offers weekend trainings for kids and their parents and winter bootcamp sessions. Eventually it will include a full-fledged six-week program in Miami schools.
When venturing back into the entrepreneural world, Hatcher decided use $2,000 and try out her idea. She bought an ice cream cart from Craigslist, came up with fun and funky popsicle flavors and hit the streets. But Hatcher wasn’t taking her cart just anywhere. She took her Feverish Pops cart only to places where adults hung out–in front of night clubs, at weddings, etc.
Now, her boutique gourmet pop company even has a store in Midtown Miami. Hatcher uses organic and natural ingredients sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice for her unique pops. And her flavor menu has expanded to include Pineapple Basil, Mango, Strawberry Balsamic, and Chocolate Salted Coconut. She also has a line “boozy pops” with alcohol: Mango Bourbon, Watermelon Ginger Vodka and Strawberry Mojito.
Feverish Pops has catered events for such A-list clients as Google, Forever 21, Live Nation, J. Crew, Universal Music, Cirque de Soleil, Playboy, Bacardi and even the US Census Bureau. And Hatcher has been honored by the White House as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 30.
The ice cream business was a good choice. Annually, an estimated 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and related desserts are made, generating about $10 billion annual revenue.
MadameNoire: Why the name Feverish Pops?
Felecia Hatcher: If you feel hot, you can cool down with ice cream. Ice cream and pops make people feel good and we wanted to create a brand that didn’t sound like an old-fashioned ice cream company. Plus I love dessert! I even got married in a donut shop.
MN: You and your husband were both working at Nintendo and you were both laid off. Why did you go the entrepreneurial route instead of getting another corporate position?
FH: It’s not that I didn’t look. I looked at a lot of places. I realized I could be depressed or do this crazy idea. So I picked the crazy idea.
MN: Was it a major transition to go from the corporate world to being a small business owner?
FH: I think entrepreneurism is in my blood. I started my first business when I was a teenager. Despite being a “C” student I was able to land more than $130,000 in scholarships because I knew how to market myself. People started asking me for advice and it was my mother who first said I should charge for the advice. So I started my first company, Urban Excellence. We were a college prep company and we were doing really well. I was speaking all over the country and running the business from my dorm room as a college freshman. We created college prep programs for companies like DeVry University, MECA, AMPS Institute, the YMCA, TED Center, and the Urban League. But there came a point when I asked another person to take over an account, only to find out he took the account for himself. I felt so betrayed. I stopped working on the project and swore I would never go into business again. But later on I realized it was available lesson, one that has helped me today.
Now I am very careful who I trust with Feverish Pops. At 24, I started a public relations company but I didn’t put in the effort to take it to places it could have gone. But we did create marketing and social media campaigns for such companies as Nintendo, Sony, Wells Fargo, Microsoft and Little Debbie.
MN: You have a unique marketing strategy for Feverish Pops.
FH: Yes, we didn’t want just to sell ice cream. We knew our target market was adults. Adults like ice cream too, so we wanted to give them some sophisticated flavors. And honestly I took the pops to places I wanted to hang out — nightclubs, etc. We wanted to branch out to catering but I didn’t have any contacts so I would go set up outside of the events and eventually people started hiring us. It’s all about positioning. We recently did an event for Adidas and they wanted us to do 5,000 blue pops to go along with their logo and we had the carts wrapped in the Adidas logo.
MN: What’s next for Feverish Pops?
FH: We want to start offering licensing opportunities within the next five years. This will expand our brand. We already have a program were he help young entrepreneurs set up their own Feverish Pop carts. We have a lot going on, so it’s going to be a fun 2014.
MN: Tell me about Code Fever?
FH: We are teaching underserved kids about coding. There are a lot of opportunities out there but some communities are being left behind. We want to change this. We also get the parents involved. I hope to open innovation centers soon. I think that it is everyone’s responsibility to give back. I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have help. I was a knucklehead student in high school and I want to help those same types of kids.
It’s not unusual for friends to think alike, have similar tastes and like many of the same things. And sometimes such relationships can spark incredible business ideas. But going into business with a friend can either strain a relationship to its breaking point or be the best move ever.
But before even considering going into a joint venture with your BFF there are some steps to take to insure the venture will run smoothly and the relationship will remain in tact.
Here are nine tips for going into business with a friend.
Recently Aaron McGruder, creator and executive producer of The Boondocks, was allegedly forced out of his own project. After a four-year hiatus the show will return for a fourth season on Adult Swim without McGruder. While McGruder isn’t too happy — going as far as saying on The Boondocks webpage that the cartoon had been “hijacked”–sometimes in business, founders have to step aside and let someone else take control.
Take a close look at the state of your company and your approach. Has the company been suffering under your leadership? “When you look deep inside of yourself and with a realistic assessment you discover you are not the best person for the job,” Chantay Bridges, business coach and realtor tells MadameNoire. “When your customers, consumers, friends, colleagues all bluntly communicate this is not your niche, consider hiring someone else to run the organization.”
When you are making the transition, try to do it as smoothly as possible so as not panic your clients or employees. “Create a celebratory atmosphere,” says Bridges. “Invite your colleagues to congratulate the advancement and tools the organization is putting in place to grow to higher plateaus. Depending on the size of the company, it may require you hire a team to facilitate a smooth transition.”
Entrepreneurial coach Carol Sankar agrees. “The transition needs to always be subtle, yet fast in an effort not to disrupt productivity within the company or with employees who may have personal attachments (or dislikes),” she tells us.
But letting go can be difficult, especially if you have built the company from the bottom up. It’s your baby. But like children, when they grow up there comes a time when you must give them some freedom. “There is no way that any CEO or president of a company will not take it personally. However, from an emotional standpoint, if you are doing what is best for the company, finding a replacement is better than losing it all, so take pride in the accomplishment of acknowledging change,” says Shankar.
Step away from the process if possible to make it easier for yourself. “Separate yourself from it, see it as a smart business move,” notes Bridges. “Remind yourself, part of being a good leader, is being able to follow.”
Have a strategy in place who can take over whenever you need — imagine a medical emergency that takes you out of commission. Delegate responsibility and decision-making duties. When business owners need to give final approval at every level bogs down staff, reports The Globe & Mail. And when business owners hire “do-ers” instead of leaders, they don’t feel they have competent staff to make major decisions. Avoid this.
Have a succession plan in mind. Don’t do everything yourself. “Bring in people who can do about 80 percent of the work in the company. Let your team do what they do best,” reports The Globe & Mail. Then you handle 20 percent and use your time to focus on the big picture.
Start your company with the end in mind. Face reality: most likely your business won’t be run by you forever. Whether family takes over or not, someone else will eventually step into your corner office. If you are just starting your company, think ahead 10 years and start planning now how to prepare for a time when you will step away.
As many execs and business owners know, managing and maximizing the use of one’s time is crucial to successfully building and growing a new business. One of the widespread ways that many new business owners waste time (and money) is trying to do multiple jobs themselves. According to the US Small Business Administration, hiring the expertise of subcontractors, independent contractors, or freelancers, your business can quickly scale up without the creating of additional overhead.
Hiring consultants can limit costs such as paying for employee benefits, insurance and training. Most of the time, freelance specialists can do what they do best while your team focuses on their areas of expertise, all of it growing your business. By outsourcing and delegating certain business needs to specialists, you’ll actually have more time to focus on your client’s needs. So while the decision to hire out may seem like an expense now, it can actually end up being a cost and time saver in the future.
Here are four jobs that a small business owner should consider outsourcing.
Accounting and/or Tax Professional
Is your dad the family tax and money man, willing to file an track your business’ taxes and finances for free? While accepting your father’s offer may be tempting, tax preparation should not be taken lightly. If you aren’t an experienced finance professional, you could end up doing a lot of harm to your company’s finances. A recent Huffington Post blog outlines the ways hiring a CPA state that hiring a tax professional is a great way to bring on expert advice, save money, and save time preparing complicated returns. In all, the guidance you receive can save your business run-ins with IRS auditors. Here’s a great Yahoo! Small Business article on why you should think twice before you decide to do your own taxes.
If you do decide to take the route of doing your own taxes, make sure to at least consider taking a class or seminar on tax preparation.
For many businesses, the company website is the first portal to sales, new customer leads, and overall brand messaging and position. Having a mobile optimized, navigable and user-friendly website has become a business necessity. Though it’s pretty easy to use well-known website platforms to start a site, having an expert work on it can save a lot of your precious time that you could be devoting to another important business task. A professional web designer can help you create a custom browsing experience that can help set your company site apart from other competitors in your industry. Before making any hiring decisions, make sure you understand these seven essentials about website development.
Social Media/Marketing Manager
Social media is such an important part of a business plan nowadays that having someone whose sole job is to focus on increasing follower engagement, acquiring new leads, and sharing company content is key. Hiring a social media or marketing specialist can be a strategic move for a young business. One young entrepreneur, Amina Yamusah, founder of Breaking it Down, a diversity-driven black collegiate network, describes how hiring out somehow whose specific job is to focus on social media and marketing is helping to grow her business.
“With me being so busy on business development, I know I couldn’t try to handle social media and marketing myself anymore. I hired a virtual social media/marketing intern whose responsibilities include running and managing our social media, blog, newsletter and email lists so that we can successfully pitch partnerships to sponsors.”
If you’re finding that you are constantly overwhelmed with the number of speaking engagements, travel requests, and overall administrative tasks for your business, it may be time for you to get a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are independent contractors who, from a remote location, support multiple clients in a variety of industries by providing administrative, creative, and technical services. Click here for seven reasons why hiring a virtual assistant might be a good choice for your business. If you’re not sure how to use a virtual assistant, here are 101 examples of how you can use one for your business.
The next time you feel burned while trying to grow your business, take the time to step back and reflect on what you could eliminate from your workflow to free up your time so that you can focus on your business strategically.
When it comes to finding funding for startups, race matters. According to a study conducted by the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, minorities made up only 8.5 percent of entrepreneurs pitching potential investors last year. Of that group, only 15 percent were able to secure funding. The number of minority investors seeking and being approved for business loans are equally low.
Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of discussion around finding a remedy for this problem; but few solutions have come of it. PowerMoves NOLA, a new organization based in New Orleans is hoping to change that with the introduction of their inaugural pitch competition which will take place at the Essence Festival this July. Designed to increase access to capital and resources for rising entrepreneurs, the organization will provide more than $100,000 in funding to minority business owners and create additional opportunities for mentorship and coaching.
I spoke with the September Hargrove, the executive director of PowerMoves NOLA who gave me some insight into the initiative and how eligible business owners can get involved in the competition and potentially win funding for their company.
Madame Noire (MN): How would you describe the PowerMoves NOLA Initiative for people who are hearing about it for the first time?
September Hargrove (SH): PowerMoves NOLA is a concerted effort to showcase talented minority entrepreneurs. Our goal is to increase the number of venture-backed minority entrepreneurs and to help change the national narrative by promoting the power of opportunity for minority entrepreneurs. As a result, we hope more individuals become entrepreneurs and have access to a national network capital, advisors and support.
MN: What is the process for companies/entrepreneurs to be considered as candidates for each of the pitch rounds?
SH: We are accepting nominations now on our website. Nominations will be accepted through the end of February 2014. Entrepreneurs will then be invited to apply in March. Up to 20 businesses will be selected to pitch over July 4th weekend.
Owning a business was not part of the career track Andrea Polk initially envisioned for herself. “As a child, the word ‘entrepreneur’ was never a term that was part of my vocabulary,” Polk explains. “I was never taught how to own a business, but rather how to be a great employee.” But after years growing other people’s brands in corporate America, Polk says she decided to invest her sales and marketing background in her own vision — a skin care business targeting men. Her first foray didn’t work out, but she persisted to launch Solo Noir, an organic grooming line for men of color.
Polk calls her last day working a 9-5 “life changing.” She elaborates, “I remember leaving work that day in a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts of uncertainty and fear. As I was sitting in my car, I turned on the radio and heard Mary Mary[‘s] ‘Go Get It’. At that moment, I knew it was time to go after my true blessing and calling.” She adds, “Two hours later, I was setting up Solo Noir at a pop-up location and have been working purposefully and happily ever since.”
We asked Polk what kept her going in spite of initial setback, and what keeps her moving forward.
MadameNoire: What inspired you to start Solo Noir?
Andrea Polk: Solo Noir was inspired by the lack of representation in the male grooming market. The ethnic grooming market is underserved and major market companies do not feel that ethnic grooming is a profitable market. My vision started in college when I was given the task of creating a mock business plan… While doing research for my project I realized that I had a passion for the male grooming industry.
MN: Were you a little gun shy about re-entering the male skin care market after your initial experience?
AP: I learned a lot from my previous failures and am now able to avoid making the same mistakes with Solo Noir… I have been able to put systems in place to minimize failure such as partnering with a manufacturer that can produce, test, insure, package, and distribute my products, along with developing [an] infrastructure that has the ability to withstand growth. In my mind, I have the perfect recipe for success, and I am not going to allow the downfall of one business be a roadblock for Solo Noir.
MN: How did you secure funding for Solo Noir?
AP: I cashed in a large portion of my life savings toward building my brand… As a child my mother set aside a cash reserve for me to be used for a home, starting a family, and/or incidentals. After I graduated with my graduate degree [in Supply Chain Management and Aesthetics], I realized that life wasn’t falling into the natural order of which most people follow—marriage, kids, home—so I persuaded her in allowing me to allocate the money toward starting Solo Noir.
MN: What are the advantages or disadvantages being a woman and owner of a business geared toward men?
AP: My biggest challenge is convincing them that grooming is not a feminine quality [but] a human quality. Historically the beauty industry has not focused on the male consumer, or better yet the ethnic market, so men have been accustomed to not thinking skin care and grooming is for them.
…Being a woman selling and owning a male product [has] been both a hindrance and an advantage. It is a hindrance because I don’t personally have the same skin issues as a man because of obvious reasons. But it has been an advantage because as a woman I know what women like to see in a man, and that’s smooth and healthy skin so I have created a line to promote that. Although challenging I don’t know a person other than myself that is more equipped for the task.
From Black Enterprise
Kanyessa McMahon recognized an opportunity and jumped on it. In 2008, after a frustrating four-month stint working at a video production company, she acted on her entrepreneurial aspirations.
“I was 25 at the time,” says McMahon. “My job wasn’t working out because I wasn’t getting paid on time. My paychecks were bouncing, and my skills weren’t being utilized.”
McMahon left the company and, through an industry connection, acquired her first client—Nike. The 31-year-old now calls the shots as head of her own production company.
“Most people who become wealthy do it through entrepreneurship,” says Lanta Evans-Motte, a financial adviser at Raymond James, a diversified financial services holding company.
A recent study by U.S. Trust, which surveys high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth Americans, revealed that 84% of the survey’s 450 wealthy respondents earned their wealth themselves.
Read more at BlackEnterprise.com