Created in 1926 by historian Carter Woodson, Black History Month celebrates the many achievements of African-Americans, including black business women and men.
If anyone knows the secrets to striving forward, breaking new ground and succeeding despite challenges, it would be African-American women. Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, according to a 2015
"Being a woman-owned business is a task in itself," says Teana McDonald, founder of marketing solutions company 3EConnections. "For black business women, the odds are stacked even higher."
To gain even more insight and advice on how to overcome those odds to find business and personal success, I asked 14 more black business women about their secrets to succeeding in the business world.
"Use your diversity as a competitive advantage and champion what makes you unique. Black business women are being sought after more than ever—from academia to corporate environments. It's important for us to market ourselves well, highlighting our strengths and talents, while also keeping in mind that diversity goes beyond gender. The views, opinions and experiences of black business women could be the very perspective that drives business initiatives towards success."
—Nicole Joseph, COO, Sharestates
Be Passionate About What You Do
"It's not always about money. The money will come if you make your passion your business. Along these lines, it's important to value your relationships. I spend a lot of face-to-face time with my clients. Customers stay with you when they know you care about them."
—Marcia Jones, founder and president, Urban Connoisseurs
"Understand how your personality, strengths and natural abilities shape the work you do. This is most important, because it's the foundation for having success that's fulfilling and sustainable for the long-term. Too many entrepreneurs, including black business women, burn out trying to be something they aren't. When you know what you bring to the table, you can decide what opportunities to pursue from a place of confidence, meaning and impact."
—RM Harrison, CEO, RM Harrison Consulting and author of The Pivot Map
Know What You Want
"Happiness is the key to success. If you have a goal, dream or aspiration, your conviction to the end goal is what allows it to come into being. That being said, be clear about what you want. This allows you to say no with conviction and to then bring in more opportunities that are on target. The less time you spend contemplating something that doesn't feel 100 percent right, the more time you have to identify desirable opportunities."
—Cheryl Sutherland, founder, PleaseNotes
"Being decisive is very important when running a business. This is something I started intentionally practicing when I launched my company in 2013. I quickly realized not only was I making decisions for myself, but for my team and my clients. Being decisive assures your employees and builds trust. This leads to lifetime value for your customers."
—Michelle Ngome, founder, Line 25 Consulting
Accept and Overlook Mistakes
"Understand that you will make mistakes, and change will not always come as fast as you would like it to happen. Your internal operations are where to start making positive changes first."
—Cheryl Ingram, CEO and founder, Diverse City LLC
"Have a goal/objective in mind and a solid, realistic reason why the particular goal was chosen. This is important, because haphazard thinking and bumbling through life do not result in success. Have a plan and work the plan. Also, keep your eyes open and stay humble with every success. You want others to respect you as much as you respect yourself."
—Judge Marylin E. Atkins, author, The Triumph of Rosemary: A Memoir
"Decide what problem your product or service solves. Look at the benefits versus features. When we started Girls Gone Forex, it wasn't so women could make money. It was so women could have the options and freedom to live life in a different way. Money is just the vehicle. Understanding why is what keeps people engaged and tied to whatever you have to offer. Having a clear understanding of what motivates people to buy will allow you to be of service while building a successful and profitable business."
—Robyn Mancell, co-founder, Girls Gone Forex
Know Your Worth
"Don't be afraid to ask. The worst anyone can say is no. If you don't ask at all, you miss out on a lot of yeses. When you do get a no, take it with a smile. For me, no means not right now, but maybe later. I've had many situations where a no later became a yes when circumstances changed."
—Tamara Anderson, owner, Sugar and Spyked
"After 10 years of business, I've learned to ask for what I deserve. You may not always get what you want, but asking is very important. It's also OK to say no. You don't have to say yes to every business opportunity."
—Teana McDonald, founder, 3EConnections
"Keep in mind that change is inevitable. I pay attention to business trends and markets, making it a priority to stay in front of the changes and not get left behind. Many small-business owners, including black business women, can be slow to change, but changing is necessary and required."
—Shahara Wright, business law attorney and CEO, The CEO Effect
Be True to Yourself
"In your business, you will always have to jump higher, run faster and still maintain composure and charm. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to be yourself. Remember what made you successful. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box, since that's what got you this far. And don't try to compete with the competitors—compete with yourself, it's so much harder."
—Ashley Hunter, president, HM Risk Group
"Don't be afraid to self-promote. Often, black business women have been forced to hide our greatness. Instead of hiding, toot your own horn. Share the work you've done. You'll soon realize that the more you share, the more others will see the value in working alongside you and your business."
—Stephanie Caudle, owner and founder, Black Girl Group
"Avoid neglecting your health. Drink water, eat your veggies and stay active. It's not about fitting into the mold; it's about you being able to truly enjoy your success. Being successful usually comes with a busy schedule. For you to keep up with that, you need to be healthy. Along the same lines, work-life balance is key. All work and no play makes for a very boring and unfulfilled life. Make time for friends and family. Take a vacation or steal away for a few days to mentally disconnect. This will keep your energy up and your creative juices flowing."
—Pamela Shand, CEO, Offer Stage Consulting
Learn from Failure
"Having a business is hard in general, but for black business women it still poses additional challenges. Beyond outside factors we can't control, we wrestle with our own demons. Owning a business comes with extreme highs and lows. When you land a new client or close a deal, you're on top of the world until something occurs to make you question your skill, worth or ability to succeed. It's important to learn from failure and get back up. If running a business were easy, everyone would do it, but there is a reason you chose to run yours. It's an unpredictable journey, but well worth it."
—Bethanie Nonami, co-founder, Marley Nonami
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