All of us want to be successful at whatever we set our minds to doing, but there are two emotions that keep so many us from maximizing our potentials. That is, fear of taking risks and fear of failure. What’s the common denominator? Fear. Fear is so powerful that many would rather be stuck in a rut, stuck in a bad marriage, stuck at job that is not fulfilling, or just stuck in limbo rather than to allow personal growth to lead them toward much-needed changes. When confronted with the idea of investing in oneself by starting a business, I often hear people say, “Starting a business is not for everyone”, which is true. However, if no one in a community, or at least very few in a community, are willing to start businesses, and they’re all too willing to invest their gifts, time, and money into others’ dreams, then what does that say about the community? I think it says that the members of the community lack trust in each other, and equally important, this speaks volumes about the community’s self-confidence and community expectations.
Much like in all fields of business in America, African-American representation is severely lacking in the world of business, except when we talk about consumption. We have more than enough African-American consumers, but not nearly enough African-Americans who are major international producers and providers of products, services, and goods. But think of how many more African-Americans would be employed if this were a reality. Think of how many more younger generations would not see illegal means of earning income as the only opportunity for them to earn a living. Think of how many more African-Americans would have control over their resources and what goes on in their neighborhoods in terms of gentrification. African-Americans have known for centuries that people who own businesses, property, and land have increasingly more power than those who do not. Thanks to the steadfast insistence of Black farmers during the times of slavery, this is from where the idea of being entitled to “40 acres and a mule” has come. Black people know and understand that land ownership is synonymous with business ownership. We must once again foster this type of strong will to control our community’s resources and the community’s talents and gifts.
In fact, becoming an entrepreneur not only teaches us about the different elements of business, but it also helps us to utilize our gifts and our passions in dynamic ways that will provide products and service to others. I am aware of some folks in the Black community who have a strong aversion to participating in capitalism or capitalistic ventures, but starting a business doesn’t have to be entirely for profit. Humanitarian businesses can provide services that are desperately needed in African-American communities. Some examples are Tutoring Services (for youth and adults), Social Services, Employment Services, Parent Counseling Services, Computer Literacy Services, and Youth Leadership Services. The business ideas are literally limitless.
3 Steps to Starting A Business
Step 1: Discover Your Passion
The first step is to discover your passion. Think of and then write down a list of constructive and positive activities that you find yourself doing all the time, even when you’re not getting paid to do it; think of those natural gifts that you constantly underrate, believing that anyone can do it too. Do you always receive compliments on how well you dress for work, putting together outfits in the morning? Why not start a personal stylist business helping underprivileged women get back into the job market by taking them into discount stores, consignment shops, or local department store sales racks to pull together outfits for their first job interviews?
Step 2: Expect and Reject Rejection
John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony Magazine, first published The Negro Digest in 1942, and it wasn’t as well received as Johnson hoped and expected. Like most entrepreneurs, Johnson had to experience much disappointment and some hard-to-swallow rejection before his Negro Digest folded in 1951 but became the precursor for Ebony magazine. Yes, even entrepreneurs must continue to take risks as they are taking risks. However, those who overcome hurdles soon realize that longevity is captured once they learn the art of rejecting rejection.
Step 3: Research, Research, Research, then do More Research
The importance of research cannot be emphasized enough here. And conducting research doesn’t necessarily mean being glued to a chair in a library buried underneath self-help books. Get out in the community. Find out what your community really needs. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and national leaders started as community organizers. Make ongoing appointments with folks who are already managing successful businesses that you’d like to pursue. Have questions prepared. Ask them how they got started, what resources they used to get started, and the best ways to maintain a business like the one you’re interested in pursuing.
Starting an Online Business vs. Brick and Mortar (Physical Business) Every business venture is a personal experience based on personal preferences and interests. While online businesses have skyrocketed in recent years, some entrepreneurs prefer making more personal contact and personal connections prospective customers. There’s something nostalgic about inviting a customer into your personal space, seeing how you designed a space, and how you express yourself in your very own store. But these days, online business competition is fierce. Even well-established businesses, earning millions in sales, are finding it a challenge to keep up with the barrage of online shops that are created literally every second online. It’s the reason why so many businesses have resorted to waiving all shipping charges in an attempt to create business loyalty. But don’t let this competition discourage. Your destiny is your destiny, and it’s up to you to decide how you’d like to connect to with your very own customer base and target market.