SCORE

Conversations With Black Business Owners

It’s important to have an accurate vision of what being a Black business owner will look like before investing time and money into your idea. SCORE sat down with the founders of four different companies to learn about the truths and intricacies of being a Black business owner in the United States.

What is the reality of being a Black business owner? 

One thing I would say about Black business owners is that we acknowledge the challenges that are at hand. But we work harder to work around that. I do ten times the work to get around that. It's like we have to work ten times harder, be ten times stronger, and preserve beyond the challenges that are at hand. 

-Rhandi Foster, founder of Choate BODY

You don’t have the same level of access or entry into those conversations as white men do. When you hear the conversations about VC funding or investors they want to see traction. We often have conversations like, we have customers, we have traction and yet the same level of interest is not there. Meanwhile, when you look at tech companies they are launching with an idea, have tons of investment, yet have no traction. So, that, I think, is just what a lot of women, especially women of color, are experiencing when you're talking about launching these businesses. 

-LaToya Stirrup founder of Kazmaleje

We have been in situations where not necessarily related to funding, but related to potential partnerships, and working with this person would have helped us get our cost down. Everything would be great over the phone when the person couldn't tell if we were Black or White or Asian and they insisted on us meeting in-person and we drove four hours to meet this person and their countenance instantly changed when they realized that we were two Black people. It was extremely evident and we never heard from that person again.

-Shallon Thomas, co-founder of T|W Tote

In White America, if you want to go start a company, you can go to your uncle, you can go to your family for the funds. In [the Black] community it's rare to have those types of funds that you can set aside. There is a disadvantage. 

-Rhandi Foster, founder of Choate BODY

What is your one piece of advice to other minority entrepreneurs? 

I would tell people to invest in is your website and web design. The people that did my website made it amazing. In the beginning, I only had a couple of products and my designer said, "Don't worry about it, we'll make that one page enough." She made it so beautiful that people were calling me just because of the website. They hadn't heard about Beurre. They were just like, "I just want to tell you that your website is so amazing and now I want to learn more about your product." 

-Shirley Menard, founder of Beurre

I say this to everyone-- everything in life is negotiable. That's what I live my life by. I don't do well with the word no. I might take no for a nanosecond but then I'm back asking you again in another way, shape, or form. I think if you want to be an entrepreneur, you're going to have to negotiate your way through this. It's a process. It's not going to be cute, it's not clean, it’s not cut for who you are. It's all about how well you're able to show yourself and to navigate and negotiate. It might seem like a no right now but try them again in a couple minutes. You got to get creative. The process is not easy; it's not what you think it is.

-Sherika Wynter, co-founder of T|W Tote

Start in your own backyard. Most likely there are organizations, there are communities, grants, community funds. There are resources that you can tap into. Sometimes you may have to do more work to find them, but they're there. A lot of times, they're looking to other businesses to give their money to.

Don't let the lack of apparent access stop you from moving forward. Once you get into the groove of things and you start letting people know what you're doing, the resources will start to come. It may not necessarily look like what is happening in Silicon Valley but it will look like where you're located. People will find you and you will find people. That's where the connections and the magic happens.

-LaToya Stirrup, founder of Kazmaleje

Everyone talks about having a mentor, which is great! Mentors are amazing and helpful. They've helped me immensely. But it's also helpful to have a business bestie because you're going through it together. They know all these little details about the industry and potential partners that you yourself won't know. You can talk about all those little detail-y things that will save you money. We'll even say, "You need to contact this person because they're going to want you in their store." It's an exchange of information but also when you're discouraged you have someone to call that is doing it with you and understands why your label design sucks and you need someone to fix it. You need those people that encourage each other, especially for Black business entrepreneurs. 

-Shirley Menard, founder of Beurre

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