If you’re female, black, and you have an idea for a business, now is a good time to step forward. According to a new report released by American Express, the number of businesses owned by African American women has grown at a staggering rate of 322% since 1997, which means that for the first time black females are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S.
In total, women now own around 30% of all U.S. businesses, and African American women run 14% of these companies, accounting for an estimated 1.3 million businesses.
As Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce tells it, when you peel back the figures, it’s not hard to see why this should be the case: “Women of color, when you look at the statistics, are impacted more significantly by all of the negative factors that women face. It’s not surprising that they have chosen to invest in themselves.”
And invest they most certainly have. Since 2007, black female entrepreneurs have contributed some 340,000 jobs to the economy in a business climate that has seen employment at male-dominated companies go through something of a prolonged slump.
Your business idea could just be the next big success story, and to help it along, we’ve pulled together some handy tips to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey.
If you have the glimmer of an idea for a business, be sure to do your homework. Don’t just plunge in, or you’ll lose out. A half-formed business plan can be worse than no business plan at all. Dust off that C.V. and try to look at it objectively: what does it say about your strengths and most importantly what does it say about your weaknesses? You’ll know what they are, and why you need to improve them.
Before you make the exciting step of setting up your business, it could be worth going back to school to shore up on those weaknesses. You could be big on ideas but fall short on administrative skills. Unsure about how to manage tax and payroll? You won’t be the only one, this is complicated stuff. But there are courses available which can help.
Pick the one that’s right for you, and before you know it, you’ll know your business inside and out, and when you do, you’ll find future clients and contacts and employees will all treat you with that bit more respect. After all, the key to good business is getting the basics right.
The stark truth is if you want to be your own boss, it won’t come easy. The good things in life never do. And as a black woman, you already know you’ll have to put in more legwork, work for longer and harder than other folk with similar ambitions. But prevailing against the sad odds is possible, and also benefits your community.
Consider the legacy of Sarann Knight-Preddy (1920-2014), who in 1950 became the first woman of color to own a casino in Nevada after doing a series of related jobs. She certainly is a rich source of inspiration for the modern businesswoman. She is perhaps best known as the guiding force behind the famous Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, but this wasn’t a position she achieved overnight, by any means.
In fact, her compelling life story is one of constant knockbacks, and the personal fortitude necessary to overcome them. Beyond the prejudice of the age, she faced fires that swept away her businesses, and trenchant opposition from councilors.
However, by the time she passed away in 2014 at the fine age of 94, she was the bearer of an honorary doctorate from the University of Nevada and also the recipient of the Racial Harmony Hall Of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, she somehow found the time to pen a wide-ranging autobiography and featured as the subject of at least two documentaries tracing her life story.
The moral of her tale is that hard work will get you where you want to go, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds – just be prepared to do a lot of it. Thankfully, times have changed for the better since Sarann first plied her trade as a Keno writer at the Cotton Club. The maxim, though, still applies: be prepared for a lot of hard work if you want to realize your dream.
Life is full of distractions, some of them nice and some of them less so. When things get too much, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And that makes for poor decision-making.
Picture this scenario: your partner just broke up with you via a text message. Cringe-worthy, but can happen. You received it just moments ago, and you’re now headed into a really important meeting that requires a clear head and delicate negotiating skills.
At the moment, you have neither. Yet here you are, prickly and aggressive, with half your attention engaged on the matter in hand, and the rest of your cognitive functions still processing the extent of your oh-so-raw heartbreak. You’re over-reacting, acting in haste and, most probably, in error.
Poker players have a name for this condition – it’s called “tilt”. It describes that tipping-point moment when a player enters a state of emotional confusion or frustration so intense that it clouds their judgement. During a tournament, this can be disastrous – over-aggressive decision-making is bad decision-making. Professional card players have various strategies to deal with tilt in poker, and their advice applies equally well to the high-stakes world of business. By identifying your triggers and your tipping point, you ensure you don’t make important decisions while emotions are clouding your rational judgment.
If you find yourself taking out your internal frustrations on your staff or clients, you’re handling it all wrong. Time to take a deep breath and step back from the situation. Put your personal life back in the box marked “private” and focus on the now; do it right, or don’t do it at all.
Lend a Helping Hand
What goes around comes around. Entrepreneurship is a tough path, and it’s all too easy to feel you’re alone on it. Sure, it’s your personal journey, but you could always do with some company.
Check your local area for business support networks, where you can mingle and exchange advice with like-minded entrepreneurs who get how challenging such an environment can be at times. The friendships forged at such events will serve you well for the future, whatever it might hold. And it’s an ideal opportunity to help others on the way to attaining their life goals. Spread the wealth of your experience, and learn from the experiences of others.
Together, people can achieve so much more, and nowhere is this more evident than in the business world. Success is not a prize to be coveted, it is a gift to be shared. So get out there, and start networking…
All in all, it is certainly the right time to consider realizing your dream and starting your own business. And yes, you’ve certainly heard that it requires market research, preparation and lots of number-crunching, even before the launch of your enterprise. However, there is also a certain mentality to successful business, and that is why tips like these will certainly make a difference.
Top image source: lifecoach2women.com