When I started this journey in 2015 I had no idea where Buy From A Black Woman was going. I never dreamed that seven years later we’d be helping Black Women Business Owners drive almost $3,000,000 in annual revenue, supporting a community of over 200,000 Black Women and allies, and making headlines in places like Black Enterprise and Forbes.
It wasn't until a social media memory notification popped up that I realized it had been seven years. Only 3% of Black Women-Owned Businesses survive past five years! To make it to seven takes a lot of work and in that work there were a lot of lessons. But, for the sake of time I will just share these seven:
1. The work is working
The work that goes into building a business can set you up for long-term success. Creating plans, systems and processes for all areas of your business, and then actually doing what you’ve outlined in these plans is a foundational part of the journey if you want to grow. If you’re running your business on your own, skipping certain parts of the process can be tempting, but putting in the work is how you align yourself with the right support and partnerships.
For example, the first Buy From A Black Woman Inspire Tour in 2018 was just me in a car. I did nine cities in two weeks, drove up to New York from Atlanta and then just worked my way down. I did the planning, coordinating and marketing, on top of hosting and co-hosting events in each city.
That’s basically how it went for the first two years, just me and a car. Then in 2021, H&M reached out to me because they saw the work we were already doing and wanted to be a part of it. They’ve been valued partners since, demonstrating their commitment to supporting Black Women Business Owners by sponsoring our Inspire Tour, the Buy From A Black Woman Holiday Market, our Living Examples docuseries, the Black Woman Business Accelerator Program, and several other initiatives.
If you do the work, the right people will find you. Even when it doesn't seem like anybody's paying attention or that you’re having an impact on your community, know that you are and that the right people will take notice and reach out to you. Your work is working.
2. Time isn't real, but your goals are
Spend time learning how to bend time. This is one of the main reasons I invest in professional development. Working with mentors and other business consultants has helped me grow more quickly than I would have on my own. Which is one of the main reasons we provide mentorship and opportunities like A Black Woman's Accountability House at Buy From A Black Woman. We know the value of coaching that takes into account the unique challenges Black Women face in the marketplace, so through BFABW University we make this level of education accessible to founders who may not be able to afford a six-figure coaching program.
Business books are another good way to learn how to be more efficient with your time. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington has been a bible for me when it comes to working for Buy From A Black Woman. It taught me that time can go as fast or as slow as you allow. If you make time to make a plan and plans to work in that time, you can achieve almost anything. Sounds crazy, but in just 2022 we were able to:
Drive $2.7 Million+ in revenue
Grow our online community to 200,000+
Help 612 Black Women Founders boost their online visibility through our online directory
Put 52 Black Women-Owned brands on H&M shelves across the country and featured them in national media campaigns alongside brand ambassadors Brandy, Cleo Wade and Tracee Ellis Ross
Earn over 50 media mentions on major platforms like Essence, Ebony and Forbes
Showcase over 50 Black Women-Owned Businesses on The Karen Hunter Show on SiriusXM Urban View
Host 32 workshops and trainings
Direct and produce a documentary that highlighted 24 founders
Celebrate 17 Black Women Business Owners at our annual business awards
Collaborate with five brands to produce limited edition products
And these are just the highlights, so get your hands on a copy of the book if you want to be more effective with your time. And check out my 2023 reading list too while you’re at it.
3. Your health is really your wealth
My most productive periods of work have been during times when I was prioritizing my health. Times when I was eating well, being intentional about resting my body and rejuvenating my mind, feeding my spirit and also getting enough exercise (I mostly golf, run, do yoga and dance).
This is because I'm putting myself in the position to have enough energy to do what I need to do to hit my goals, rather than running on low energy. So I've created a schedule that allows me to meditate, go for runs (I just ran my 20th half marathon in my 20th state), and incorporate all of my other wellness practices into my lifestyle as an entrepreneur.
And because I know that I set the tone for our organizational culture and wellness practices at Buy From A Black Woman, this helps me stay accountable. I don’t want my team to struggle with burnout or feel as if they have to compromise their well-being for work, so I strive to hold myself to these same boundaries. Sometimes I work late nights or shift my schedule to meet deadlines, but this isn’t the norm because I want my business to be healthy and sustainable, so I have to live a healthy and sustainable life.
4. You get to give
My sewing teacher Mrs. Harris had many sayings I never really understood but are starting to make a lot of sense. One of her try and trues was, "You get to give." At first I thought this was about getting things and then you give them away. But since being a founder at Buy From A Black Woman, I now understand it means: You have been put in a position where you can give things away without missing them at all. The more you get, the more you get to give away. You are blessed so that you may bless others.
If you take this approach, you’ll be able to build positive long-term relationships where you stand out for always being helpful. One of our longest and most meaningful relationships at Buy From A Black Woman is with Shanae Jones, the founder of hip hop-inspired tea company Flyest and our very first Black Woman Business Grant recipient. I actually received our 501c3 tax-exempt status letter on the same day that I called Shanae to let her know she was being awarded the grant: April 25, 2016.
We made sure Shanae had the guidance and support she needed to maximize this opportunity, and over the years we've helped support her goals by providing mentorship and other tools and resources. As a result, she's grown her startup into a thriving six-figure business that pours back into the community. And we're grateful that she in turn supports Buy From A Black Woman by teaching and mentoring others, donating to our cause, volunteering her time and also sharing our mission with her network.
She truly believes in what we’re doing and has not only stuck around to grow with us, but she’s become a champion for our brand and a lifelong friend. Neither of which would have been possible if our focus hadn’t been how best to serve her.
5. There’s money all around you
Money flows freely to you. There’s money all around you. You have the power to build the wealth you desire. So you don’t have to say yes to the first person who comes along with an offer. Take a moment to check:
Will it support your long-term goals or just meet a short-term need?
What are you gaining and what do you have to give up?
Will it compromise your brand values in any way?
Don’t treat your business like a one night stand. Make sure the people you're only getting into bed with have your best interests in mind. And for the one-time, one check people who just want to write a check in exchange for your carefully developed ideas and intellectual property, who's really benefiting from that?
Ask yourself these questions to avoid predatory relationships and to help you stay in alignment.
6. You are more than just your business
Allow yourself to have a life. And make space for your personality outside of being a business owner. Being intentional about feeding your other passions as well, will help you stay grounded, in addition to helping you hold onto the other parts of yourself.
And this doesn’t mean that you can’t do fun things with your business friends either, because you can. Every quarter I meet up with my best friend for an accountability session where we set our goals, forecast and do our planning for the upcoming quarter. But when we met in March, for the first time ever since we’ve been friends, we did not do any work. We test drove a Porsche, went to the bar and even tried speed dating.
Our time together was centered around our friendship and it was worth every second. I might have to share more on this later (everyone should try speed dating at least once!), but don’t forget to live a little regardless of what stage of business you’re in. You deserve to live a full life.
7. Things are always working out for me
Earlier I said that I had no choice but to create Buy From A Black Woman, but at the time I didn't realize that that feeling that was driving me was my purpose. It’s what helps me keep going when it seems like things just aren’t working out, what helps me seek out a “yes” even when I keep getting “no’s,” and what inspires me to keep solving problems instead of just giving up.
And discovering my purpose has shown me that things are always working out for us. Back in 2016, I applied to be an exhibitor at Essence Festival because I needed to be in the room. I managed to get a booth in their community corner for nonprofits and my family came along to help me. It was crazy but amazing, and even then I knew it was just the beginning.
Fast forward to Essence Festival of Culture 2022 and it was a completely different story. We kicked off the Buy From A Black Woman Inspire Tour in New Orleans with H&M, I spoke on the Wealth & Power Stage alongside Black Women like Stacey Abrams and Tabitha Brown, activist and author Cleo Wade hosted a dinner for us, and we even had a second line.
And none of it was me. I mean it was me, but it was me listening and trusting in faith. Following the instructions and believing. Which just goes to show that everything is leading up to your purpose and everything is leading you to be the best version of yourself. All you have to do is trust the process and do the work. Things are always working out for me.
None of this is on my own
If it wasn't for Black Women Business Owners, Buy From A Black Woman would not exist. I am grateful to have such a strong community, allies and a dynamic team that all are aligned to support and spread the word about our mission. Thank you for believing in Black Women, thank you for believing in this Black Woman.