Launching your own brand as an African American woman is a dream come true for most. But transforming your start-up into a successful venture is what truly measures success for any Black woman in business.
The path to success is far from simple. You may fall down a few times. But that’s no reason to give up. Awesome Black businesswomen like Tracey Edmonds, Ursula Burns, Condoleezza Rice, Pamela Thomas-Graham and Oprah Winfrey didn’t give up when their roads got rough.
And neither should you!
Two of my 2019 business goals are to do more networking and partake in more mentoring sessions. I’ve been working with life coaches since the beginning of the year. And I must say, I literally feel transformed, and it’s only March.
In particular, my new purpose coach, Joey Chandler, helped change the way I think when it comes to my business life. Through a deep purpose-driven session, he helped me realize that my purpose in life, both personal and business, is to help people. It makes me smile and it fulfills a deep desire within my soul.
Click here to get life coaching and other services via barter… no cash needed.
So, I’m writing this post to help other Black entrepreneur women not make the same common mistakes I made when I launched my brand. Use these five tips for Black Women in Business to help you and your brand succeed.
NOTE: Black men entrepreneurs can also learn from my mistakes.
When you came up with the idea for your first product or service, your goal was to provide a solution to a problem other people were having at the time. That solution transformed into a brand, and soon both became your little babies.
But let’s be real. We’ve all seen products for sale online, in stores, on billboards and on TV, and thought to ourselves, “What idiot invented that?” And let’s not get into those weird services I keep stumbling upon like goat rentals and snake messages?
Some ideas are just plain stupid to some, yet they make a lot of sense to others. Think of it like this: One brand’s trash is some consumer’s treasure.
Apparently, there are people in the world who rent goats to trim their lawns. A grand idea if you live in an area where the typical back yard is over an acre in size. But don’t try launching that in the City of Compton. It just won’t survive.
And what about your local “ma and pa” massage spot? How would you feel if one day you walked in for your usual massage to find out they now “utilize various non-venomous snakes to help relieve tension and relax muscles and joints”?
May sound like an awesome idea to adventurous snake-lovers. But to me… I don’t even want to be INSIDE a place that houses snakes. I’m gone. Loyal customer lost forever!
My point of all this is… no idea is a bad idea. Your idea will always be your baby. But at some point, you have to understand your market. Just like you probably can’t sell many goat renting services to a Black woman in Compton, you probably can’t sell many hand-sewn stuffed animals to elderly Black ladies in their retirement years.
So, if that’s who you’re reaching with your online content, then your SEO is out of whack. It needs to be tweaked so it gets in front of the people already online searching for your solutions.
But the only way to conquer your SEO is to understand the BEST target market for your services and products. Sometimes, that means allowing your current target market to evolve, so you reach people ready to convert, whether that’s:
Toiia Rukuni of Mother of the World originally branded herself as a Pinterest Marketing Mentor. And she was awesome at it. But as sales started to decrease, she took a look around and realized that she’d been doing much more than helping Black Women in Business use Pinterest for branding and marketing.
Now, Toiia focuses on Black Women on Missions, versus simply providing Pinterest marketing services. By allowing her original idea to evolve, she’s allowing her brand to grow into something more valuable to the masses.
Why? Because not everyone uses Pinterest. It’s that simple.
Lesson: Don’t marry your idea. Let it evolve as you go. And remain open to changes that lead to transformations.
Remember: Coca-Cola failed when they changed the soda’s flavor. But the brand’s sales SKYROCKETED when they made the choice to replace the old flavor and give fans a new look for the cans. Even after what looked like a failure, they were able to come back by listening to their audience.
At some point, most entrepreneurs end up on Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, Craigslist and other such sites looking to hire help. Whether we hire employees, contractors or freelancers, we always think we need to hire now, and we want the cheapest help possible in the beginning.
That leads many of us to make the mistake of hiring some foreigner in Africa to write content and perform other jobs, tasks and gigs for us. I mean, why not? He speaks English, and he only wants $5 for 1,000-word blog posts!!!
Then, we spend HOURS editing the garbled English, so it at least sounds like an under-educated American wrote it. We waste money and time by not just hiring a quality content writer right here in the United States in the first place.
But that means paying a bit more. That also means taking your time when vetting the applications. You need to:
The bottom line is… you need to take your time and choose quality people to work for your brand. You only want people on your team who respect your brand, you and your solutions, so they give their jobs their all.
When I first started, I hired a lady on Odesk (now Upwork) from Taiwan to write some jewelry articles for a client. I JUMPED on it because the client was paying me $10 per piece, and she only wanted $3 each.
Well, NOT ONE of those 20 articles passed Copyscape! They were ALL plagiarized. She did a copy/paste job on me. And because it took me two weeks to start editing them, Odesk had already paid her. Done deal.
I spent that entire night having to write all 20 articles myself, so I could meet the client’s deadline. What a waste of time and money… because money IS time!
Lesson: Take your time when looking for people to hire. Your small business means the world to you. Make sure your people understand the quality work you expect for your brand… and they’re capable of and prepared to meet those standards.
Remember: If you have to end up doing the work yourself, or spend hours “fixing” it, you’re hiring the wrong people. And that’s easy to do when you hire too fast.
Whether you launch a brick and mortar location, online store, novel or other types of book, or new or trendy service, you probably won’t become an overnight success. In most industries, competition is fierce.
And even if your solution is innovative and one-of-a-kind, if the right people don’t see it, your venture won’t be successful.
Your brand is a major part of who you are inside. You dream about it, night and day, daydreaming of the day it becomes a million-dollar company with numerous employees.
Be proud of yourself for taking the leap to transform your dream into reality. But know that it’s going to take hard work and sweat to take your brand to the top. And this takes time. Even when sales are great, you must prepare for industry downtime, recessions and changes in your market.
During your entrepreneurial journey, there will be quite a few twists, turns and bumps on the road. You may even hit a few big dips. The best advice I can offer here is to… never give up.
But that is so cliché, I feel I owe you more than that. So, let me say that the best thing you can do for your brand is to utilize every resource possible. That means seeking out people, tools, apps, programs, etc… that provide resources to help you reach your business goals, such as:
…and most of all, listen to the people around you who know what they’re talking about in real life.
I get so frustrated watching Black women on Facebook rebuke the advice of business-minded winners on group posts simply because they are African American men or women. That’s just silly nonsense. And until we get past it, our Black women-owned businesses will continue to fail and/or become stagnant.
Lesson: Be prepared to put in hard work and reap very few financial benefits in the beginning. Your patience is most definitely a virtue on this journey. Embrace the journey by staying open to all valuable business tools and resources around you.
Remember: Your business goal is to succeed. Utilize good advice offered to you by people already winning in their industries, no matter who they are in real life. And always seek out other resources to help educate yourself and keep you in the right networking circles for your brand’s success.
There are so many things I can say here, but I’m going to keep it light. But the bottom line is… you are your brand, and your brand is you! So, how could it not matter that you’re a Black woman doing business in a man’s world? (I know, I know. I said I’m keeping it light.)
As an African American woman, you already have to deal with the stigma of being “angry” and aggressive. People call us hostile and we all know we can be a bit dramatic at times. (Just check those Facebook groups.) That alone means we have to be much more conscious of how we come across to people as to not “scare them away.”
Then, there are the issues of US WORKING WITH US. Many Black entrepreneurs and small business owners speak about the greatness of shopping and buying Black and working with each other to create and build great things.
Yet, behind the words, the actions of many show that they’re too worried about the next Black person getting “bigger” than them to network together. I call it the “crabs in a bucket” syndrome. It’s the idea of “I can’t share what I know with you because you may succeed using my help.”
But here’s my question: Why can’t you help me succeed without your own brand failing???
Until we can get past this preposterous idea instilled in our ancestors by their slave owners, we will never succeed as a race or as women on a level that counts:
As I sit here writing this part, I realize just how many Black men AND women have supported me with good information and valuable data over the years.
My cousin and mentor, JaWar, was my sole supporter when I first decided to become an entrepreneur. He hipped me to Odesk, which helped me get my first content marketing gig. That’s also where I began hiring when it was time to create my Content Marketing Geek Team.
Where would I be had I not taken his tips and advice to heart? I’d be a telecom technician with daily back and shoulder pains hating my job, with that hatred trickling over into my personal life. Instead, I’m putting my sweat and hard work into my brand… meaning… ME!
JaWar also hipped me to Ty Cohen, which set me on my path as a published author. How stagnant would my writing life as an author be without the lucrative self-publishing guide I followed from The Kindle Cash Flow Mastermind back in 2011? Thanks to Ty and Ja, I don’t just have one published title on Amazon, I have well over a hundred.
And who knows if my journey would have ever included my upcoming YouTube channel launch without the consistent phone calls, pep talks and sharing of online marketing resources from Cool Water? It’s Black businessmen like him that make Black businesswomen like me proud to say we know them!
On a positive note, as a Black Woman in the business world, you have funding options not offered to others. You’ll find that most are grants at that. So, that means you never have to pay them back. There are also scholarships and contests that help Women of Color build business brands.
There are numerous grants and other free money resources for African American women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Entrepreneur shares seven grants black women business owners should consider here.
Lesson: Being a woman means people expect you to be over-emotional. Being a Black woman takes those negative expectations to whole ‘nother levels. But we are also strong Black leaders with dreams and business ideas worth taking chances on in life. Allow yourself to stay open to receiving help from others, including other African American women and men in business.
Remember: Others have already reached their goals. There are Black entrepreneurs all around you who are now working on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th successful business ventures. Can you really afford to ignore the advice of these business-minded winners simply because of Black woman pride?
Check This Out – Closing the gap: How to overcome obstacles as a female entrepreneur
I have no stats on this, but it’s been my experience that most Black women entrepreneurs start off with essentially the same basic target market: Black Women
And that’s fine, in the beginning. But if you really think about it, doesn’t that feed into the idea that “all African American women are the same”? I mean, what product or service could you possibly come up with that every single Black woman on the planet wants/desires/needs?
When you choose a very broad target market, you give your brand more competition than you can handle. That means you’re competing with the big dawgs to win THEIR customers.
To keep this light, I’ll just use Coca-Cola as an example. There was a time when this top-notch soft drink brand specifically targeted white men and women (because they assumed our people couldn’t afford soft drinks).
Soon, Coca-Cola realized that the only way to stay #1, was to get as many people to drink their sodas as possible, that included People of Color. That’s how Black people specifically ended up enchanted with such marketing campaigns and slogans as:
Somehow, with such cool phrases, the marketing firm behind the Coca-Cola brand caught our attention. We became consumers of value.
When the brand’s marketing team decided to add Bill Cosby to the mix, the brand won an entirely new market back in the 80s. Fast forward to the 90s, and the marketers reeled in a completely different generation of young Black people with that Tyrese Singing on the Bus commercial! #WattsUp #CaliLife
But truth be told, it wasn’t fast-forward thinking that created this transformation from marketing to white people only to including Black people as target markets in Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.
In actuality, most people don’t know that the brand’s #1 competitor, Pepsi, was created for Black people from day one. Check out A Brief History of Racist Soft Drinks if you don’t believe me.
The Pepsi brand launched with an ALL BLACK MARKETING TEAM. So, they quickly took over the entire cola industry when it comes to the African American demographics. And Coca-Cola didn’t like that.
So, the powers that be had to get rid of their original way of thinking and let their target market evolve to include Black consumers too. Just imagine… Pepsi would actually be the #1 soft drink in America had Coca-Cola not smartened up.
Lesson: Target markets evolve over time. Their needs change, thanks to innovations. Their wants change due to consumers aging over time. What captures their attention changes due to innovative marketing tactics. Be prepared to allow yourself to target a different group, even if they don’t look like you.
Remember: You may want your target market to be African American women. However, maybe your product or service better serves a target group that has nothing to do with race or gender. Choose your target market based on who is searching for your solutions online, not who looks like you.
Need some assistance figuring out who is already online actively searching for your products and services? As the owner of Content Marketing Geek, I’ve made it my personal mission to help Black Women in Business rediscover their target markets.
The goal is to help you reach the people who will actually convert into subscribers and buyers. But you have to be willing to reach out for help. I’m here to help you as a Black women in business when you’re ready to take the leap.
Kiesha Joseph, aka The SEO Goddess, is a content marketing maestro based in the heart of Hemet, California. With a passion for helping new and established brands discover their ideal target markets through psychographics, Kiesha combines the power of SEO-friendly content with a personal touch.