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6 Mogul Mavens Give Us The Secret To Overcoming Struggles & Securing A Check

When Black women link, issa celebration, and Renae's latest project, She Did That. gets the party started in the best way.

Workin' Girl

While you're out here laying your edges, securing a bag, and becoming the woman of your dreams, it's easy to feel overworked and undervalued. On your quest to realizing your God-given vision, there will be times where you feel invisible, but digital content creator, PR Vet, and filmmaker Renae Bluitt wants you to know that she sees you, sis; so much so, that she created a whole documentary to put us on display for the world to see.

When Black women link, issa celebration, and Renae's latest project, She Did That., (now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Comcast, Spectrum, and more) gets the party started in the best way. Featuring mogul mavens like bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi, Melissa Butler, creator of The Lip Bar, and founder of Carol's Daughter, Lisa Price, the documentary is the first of its kind and chronicles the struggles, sacrifices, and strength that it took for these women to manifest their best lives and become major breadwinners in their respective industries.

We sat down with some of the women from the film, who gave us the blueprint on how they evolved their business from a startup into a whirlwind success. Here's what they had to say:

Renae Bluitt

Creator & Executive Producer, She Did That.

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on? 

I've always been a storyteller. My career as a PR strategist allows me to tell my client's stories. In 2009, I launched my blog, In Her Shoes, which is where I share the stories of Black women entrepreneurs. Now, as a new filmmaker, I'm diving deeper into the Black woman entrepreneur's story with my first documentary.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey? 

I'm in it right now with the production of She Did That. When I came up with the idea, I never imagined the doors that God would open for this project. For a first time filmmaker, this is a huge feat and I will never take this blessing lightly.

Struggles and uncertainties are part of life's experiences. There's really no way around it. How you respond to those challenging times is what determines your success. It's only natural to let our feelings slow things down a bit when the road gets rocky. I allow myself time to react but then I remind myself that I've been here before and things always work out the way they are supposed to. Even if the outcome isn't what I hoped for, it's always for the best.

"Struggles and uncertainties are part of life's experiences. There's really no way around it. How you respond to those challenging times is what determines your success. It's only natural to let our feelings slow things down a bit when the road gets rocky. I allow myself time to react but then I remind myself that I've been here before and things always work out the way they are supposed to."

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory? 

Seeing how women and girls of all ages are impacted by this film lets me know no matter how challenging it gets, I'm on the right path. When I really look at what I've been able to accomplish so far with She Did That., I am reminded of God's favor and grace.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I would say stop waiting for your moment. It will come to you when the time is right. Instead of waiting for this magical moment to happen, just do the work. And when the work becomes exhausting and you feel like you're losing fuel, don't be afraid to stop and recharge. We aren't machines, our minds and our bodies need rest. Once you've rested, get back in the game and keep going. Your She Did That. moment is closer than you think.

Courtesy of Yaz Quiles

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I graduated college with a Bachelor's in mass communications. The idea then was to work in television or entertainment. Now, I can proudly say I have 20+ years of experience in event marketing, design, and production. I am an award-winning and published experienced brand and event marketer, who has developed and executed industry-leading integrated events for small- and large-scale brands on both agency and client sides. I have consistently delivered strong results for leading Fortune 500 Brands including Dropbox, Verizon, HBO, Instagram, Pepsi, MillerCoors, Moët Hennessy, and Barnes & Noble.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

Oftentimes, it felt as if I were running in quicksand. Exerting an exponential amount of energy, but not feeling like I was yielding a great return. That return was not only financial, but emotional. Finally, after a couple of years, I had clients on my roster who I worked just as hard for, if not more, but the efforts made me feel challenged to be better, more innovative and alive! My clients made me feel appreciated, which boosted my spirit and ultimately made me feel fulfilled.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

It changed my trajectory as I started to focus on projects, which were aligned with who I am, who I wanted to be and made me happy. With each project I sign up for, I always ask, "Am I excited about this opportunity? Will I wake up with excitement to work this client? How will this project help me reach my overall goals?"

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Every step you take, even when it doesn't feel right, is part of the journey. Those moments help you tweak the plan. Knowing what you don't like or want to do is just as important as what you like to do. Take stock of these moments and commit to getting to the other side. It's not easy, but it's definitely worth it.

Anika Jackson

Co-Founder, The TEN Nail Bar

Courtesy of Anika Jackson

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I'm a native Detroiter born into an entrepreneurial family. I first assumed my role at Jackson Asset Management where I am responsible for managing over 500K sq feet of commercial and residential real estate and overseeing the operations of the portfolio of companies including dealerships, golf courses and apartments.

Additionally, I have a passion to create businesses that should exist but did not, namely personal services. I partnered with my long-time friend and savvy businesswoman Kelli Coleman and, in 2016, we opened The TEN Nail Bar. The TEN is a modern self-care destination.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

As an entrepreneur and someone who wants to live their purpose and positively impact the lives of those I employ as well as my family, there are tons of moments of uncertainty on this journey. I keep great counsel around me so that I can bounce ideas off those I trust. I also remind myself that pivoting is OK on the journey as long as it's purposeful.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

These moments further confirmed my belief that this business was needed and desired by consumers. It provided validation that we were on the right path. Doubt creeps in regularly and when the universe provided that validation, it helped reaffirm that my idea was viable. These moments helped me know that if I have an idea and I am willing to put hard work behind it, then I can produce a real-life manifestation of that idea. I felt like I was really living in my purpose.

"Doubt creeps in regularly and when the universe provided that validation, it helped reaffirm that my idea was viable. These moments helped me know that if I have an idea and I am willing to put hard work behind it, then I can produce a real-life manifestation of that idea."

There were times where I would share the idea and was met with skepticism or confusion on why I was seeking to open a beauty business when I had an MBA, but I knew this was a good idea and that it could be successful. Regardless of how it might appear to those who felt I should be pursuing other opportunities, it was something I was passionate about.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I have three things I want to share with budding entrepreneurs. I kind of feel like we are all budding in some way. Businesses evolve over time and while you may have been an expert or performing well one year, in an instant, market factors could shift and you could find yourself reinventing or pivoting. So, remember we are all on the path of continual improvement.

Be patient. While you can put your idea out and receive immediate feedback be patient and ensure you are working on your idea/business purposefully instead of with ego.

Do the real work. You can't fake the hard work of starting a business. You can't get the knowledge through osmosis, networking or asking everyone else their opinions or advice. Get started now!

You are enough! When doubt creeps in, just remember that this idea was planted in you and it's your responsibility to foster its growth.

Courtesy of Chioma Ngwudo

​Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

My very first job was an internship in the Contracts Management Department of a finance firm; that job was just about as interesting as it sounds. I ended up founding Cee Cee's Closet NYC with my sister right around the time I started my first job as a side hustle. Soon enough, Cee Cee's Closet grew enough that I could leave my six-figure job and pursue my business full-time.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

One of the moments when I felt like "she did that!" was when we hired our first full-time employee in Nigeria. Not only were we able to get the help that we needed to continue to grow our business, but we were also able to give her a solid middle-class income. It's still one of my proudest moments.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

That moment was incredibly affirming for me. My purpose has always been to have a positive impact on the lives of black women globally, whether it be through the diverse imagery we produce to represent our brand, the black women that we hire to work for us both on the continent and in the US, or the women who are inspired to chase their dreams when they read our story. As long as my work is improving the lives of black women around me, I know that I am on the right path.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I would tell them to continue to do the work and drive towards their purpose. Behind every "she did that!" moment is hours of work (not all of it enjoyable) but all of it worthwhile for the lessons you learn, the people you meet, and the lives you impact along the way.

Courtesy of Denequa Williams Clarke

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I've always been an entrepreneur at heart. I just never knew I would become a chandler. When I think about it, I've always loved candles and making people feel good, so I lucked up in choosing a path that merged the two.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

Struggles and uncertainty are inevitable in this thing called life. They are important for growth and development and they help to mold and define you. The moment where I felt like "she did that!" was when I was I was featured in a magazine that my mom had been subscribed to for years, ESSENCE. Another "she did that!" moment was being invited to the Roc Nation office by THE Lenny S. Everyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with the ROC, so to be personally invited was dope.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

Those moments solidified to me that I was on the correct path because I wasn't looking for them, nor was I seeking it. My head was down doing the work, putting in my 10,000 hours. I never started a business to become popular, I started it to fill a void. The void was providing people who look like me with an opportunity to afford luxury items. And in filling a void, I became noticed; the rest is history.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I'd tell budding entrepreneurs to unfollow everyone on social media and in life that is doing what they are aspiring to do. I say that because there will be moments in your journey where things won't go the way you'd like and you need to be OK with that. We all have seasons and I'm here to tell you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment because you are bound to continuously compare your path to theirs without seeing the behind the scenes, and that becomes very dangerous.

"I'd tell budding entrepreneurs to unfollow everyone on social media and in life that is doing what they are aspiring to do. I say that because there will be moments in your journey where things won't go the way you'd like and you need to be OK with that."

Courtesy of Tonya Rapley


Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I've been working in communities since I was in college, first through populations at risk of contracting HIV and then I moved into affordable housing and community planning. Because of my desire to be a catalyst for community change, I pursued and received a BA in Public Administration and an MA in Urban Policy and Affairs. The work in financial education came from my own need as well as seeing how financial insecurity contributed to a lot of the issues communities I was serving were dealing with.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

It's happened with each level of my progress and continues to happen. The first time is when someone said the content I created helped them. Then it was when I was on the cover of Black Enterprise. Then when I spoke about financial literacy to women in the Philippines and now on the eve of celebrating my 5th year of being self-employed and generating over half a million in revenue.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

Each moment made me continue to pursue sustainability both as a business owner and change agent. I wouldn't say they changed my trajectory but they reinforced my confidence in myself as an entrepreneur.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Do the work. You can't get away from that. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you can work smart. A book that's been really helpful for me is The System is the Secret. Surround yourself with people who celebrate you yet encourage you to question what's next.

She Did That. is now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, DIRECTV, and Xfinity. Learn more about the film on shedidthatfilm.com and join the movement on Instagram by following @shedidthatfilm!

Featured image courtesy of Renae Bluitt.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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