By: Rachel Werner
Making the leap from a steady “day job” to launching your business is no small endeavor. You may feel as if you need to become business savvy in an array of skills overnight from market research to accounting procedures to customer service. The good news is women of color are creating new brands more any than other segment of the population.
According to a 2019 article, “women of color account for 89% (1,625) of the new businesses opened every day over the past year. This number has grown faster than the overall rate of new women-owned businesses in the past five years—21% versus 43%. The number of firms owned by African-American women grew even faster, at 50%.” Moreover, “these entrepreneurial ventures are concentrated in three sectors: service businesses like hair and nail salons and pet care; healthcare and social assistance; and professional/technical services like lawyers and bookkeepers.”
Although data such as this is reassuring in one regard, it can also downplay the struggles female founders face on the journey toward financial independence. "Women of color entrepreneurs, unfortunately, can encounter many challenges from raising capital to being taken seriously with suppliers and vendors to struggling to be respected amongst their peers in the business world,” asserts The Honey Pot Company CEO and founder Beatrice Dixon. “It's important not to harp on these challenges and turn them into your narrative. I believe in tackling these issues head-on and knowing that these issues are the product of someone else's ignorance and have nothing to do with my abilities, skills or talent."
Similar obstacles occur for women of color in striking out on their own in creative fields too. “I started freelancing as a way to supplement my income. I’ve faced rejection and the notion that I can't do the work. It’s tough when you are going after a project and someone does not believe you can do it. I’ve had people who initially seemed interested in my ideas/work. Then the questioning turns to ‘Are you sure you can take this on?’ If I felt I could not put my all into a project, I wouldn't do it. I try not to ruminate too much on the rejection and disbelief in my abilities. I regroup and decide if I want to try again with that same entity or move on and try with another,” reveals writer Hywania Thompson.
“It's also challenging working full-time and pursuing your dreams. I am often exhausted and sometimes frustrated. Those are the moments when I have to really dig deep and focus on my why,” Thompson says. “Why am I waking up at the crack of dawn to write? Why do I spend most of my weekends writing and reading about writing when I could be doing fun stuff? I do it because I want to be a successful writer.”
It’s crucial novice business owners have a solid network they can lean on for advice and additional resources, whether via local professional development groups or online through websites such as The Corporate Sister, The Story Exchange and People of Color In Tech.
“Having a great support system makes all the difference. My mom is extremely supportive and encouraging—reminding me that I can face any challenges that come my way,” Thompson shares. “Talking with women writers and business owners has been helpful. It's amazing when you have a conversation with someone and they've experienced some of the same things. You learn what they did to overcome the challenge. You realize you're not alone.”
In addition, Dixon has a similar perspective when it comes to growing her business acumen and network. “As for support systems, it's all about the people I surround myself with. From mentors, to friends and family and my business partners, I am very deliberate about who I spend my time with and what type of energy I absorb so I can take on these challenges with a sound mind."
Cultivating a positive community of like-minded, goal-oriented women will prove to be a valuable asset while pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. Success is better shared in sisterhood—and creates a foundation of fiscal stability for the next generation.