As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
Black women are extremely excluded from the investment world.
In fact, the numbers have dropped. When we started hosting our annual conference four years ago, women saw 5 percent of business funding—if that. Now, depending on the report, that number is less than 1 percent. These numbers have been stagnant, and backing women has suddenly become trendy with big businesses hosting pitch competitions, awarding 6-figure checks for photo opportunities that tell a glorious story about female support and blah blah blah, *insert supportive stats here*
But make no mistake about it, scaling a business takes real money.
We created a safe space for women to come learn about best practices in excelling as an entrepreneur, all while placing you in front of investors. We packed it up, created avenues, and decided to have the conversation.
This is when Flourish Media Conference was born.
Photo Courtesy of Flourish Media Conference
Here's why: as a team, we have attended more than 100 conferences, but never quite felt like panelists were speaking to us. There was always something missing—whether it be speakers that understand the struggle of a female entrepreneur, being of color in spaces that we don't already exist, brands that focus on the needs of people of color, or successful unconventional young entrepreneurs speaking on trials and tribulations of reverse ageism.
We wanted to create a space that didn't have the fluff. We wanted people to attend our conferences and leave with actual action steps, relationships, or tangible items to propel their entrepreneurial journey. We're not here to be your beauty guru. We're here to tell you how many times we fell on our asses before learning how to be a player in the game.
And we strengthen your tenacity along the way.
If you had access to $15 million in capital, what would you do? How would you pitch? How would you invest? How would you position yourself to be successful?
That's what FMC is all about.
They say that good things come in threes, right? Here's each of our advice on how to be the ultimate entrepreneur in a world where we aren't often acknowledged:
Sasha | @iamsashar
Becoming an entrepreneur was always in my cards growing up. Both my parents were entrepreneurs, as was the majority of my family, so getting a job was never in the forefront of my mind. I also grew up in a strict Haitian household where all we did was Leglise, l'ecole ak lekay (translation: church, school and home). My parents only asked me to get good grades, be a servant of God, and go to college. Given that, I had the opportunity to be in the art club, run for student government, learn to sew, and really find myself creatively. Looking back now I was a minipreneur preparing myself for the life I have now.
I made my way into the creative world as a clothing designer and hair stylist in Miami after I graduated from Florida International University, until I decided to refocus and give back to my country of Haiti. My vision with all the businesses I have, was to move the female agenda forward.
We assembled Flourish Media Co. after finding a void in the black female entrepreneurial space. Vivian was starting her second company I came on board to help her with branding. Our contacts list from years and years of work made funding dollars available and we began introducing female, small business owners to willing investors. We knew that we wanted attendees to get the best information we had to offer. We knew we wanted to highlight using media to grow a business.
But our first year had no mercy on us and I am pretty sure I cried a lot.
We went into it like this will be great, we can totally do this ourselves! ...but very quickly learned building a team and learning how to delegate tasks would save us a lot of mental breakdowns when someone brings you kelly green balloons and not forest green balloons (I had a level 50 meltdown that day haha).
Eventually, we got into the swing of things, and became influencers in the industry. Now, my only goal is to pay it forward in every avenue that I have access to—and even those that I don't.
My most significant lessons in entrepreneurship:
- Build a team you trust. You can't do it all by yourself.
- Don't do things that make you unhappy. It drives my business partners crazy but I will politely excuse myself from situations that disturb my energy.
- Be flexible! You can always have a plan but sometimes the plan needs to change for the better. I am never so planted on an idea that I can't hear what God is telling me.
- And while competition is healthy, collaboration is key.
I'll see you ladies at the top.
Vivian | @vivianolo
I have a fantastic relationship with money. I just understand it. I understand that money is our way of saying 'thank you' for a job well-done. I knew that, even when I was underpaid and stressed out over bills.
Traditional career planning gave me the chance to work on fantastic projects with Disney Corporation, The Wall Street Journal, Miami International Airport, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate and the Miami Heat. My career put me in rooms with CEOs of major banks, high profile real estate professionals, and celebrities. I quickly learned that profitable business systems are transferable. Ask me and I'll certainly tell you all about it.
I grew up surrounded by safe choices in non-traditional environments. Both of my parents are immigrants who joined the United States military. My father is from Nigeria. My mother is from Panama. I was born in Germany. An exotic origin story to say the least. I attended 8 different schools in 4 different states, collecting friends along the way. Despite moving around often, my parents went out of their way to build structure for myself and my brothers. My parents encouraged me to try new things which built my confidence. They taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
But creating a business went against everything I grew up seeing. My parents are first-generation Americans, US military veterans, and teachers. They believed in me, but they didn't have any advice to give me about running a business. I had to go out and find mentors.
Finding a group of like-minded people to bounce ideas [off of] makes all the difference for me. I highly recommend it.
Yet, even with success, I can always remember thinking, what if no one shows up?
My most significant lessons in entrepreneurship:
- Content is king and time management is vital. If you've never done an event it's easy to let ego get in your way. You might think you need to be flashy, have celebrity speakers, and fancy gift bags but that's a lie. Your people will find you.
- Get clear on why you're bringing people together and express that clearly. Those people who want what you're offering will show up.
- If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, get a team. There are so many lessons to learn along the way. I find that I enjoy the journey because I have a strong support team.
- I cannot express how much you need a sales plan. The hardest part about producing any event, is putting people in the seats. Don't forget that part.
Ladies, it's our responsibility to take care of all women. It's your responsibility too.
My concept of entrepreneurship was pretty skewed. In college, two of my professors specifically told me I should start my own business. But that sounded like sales, yuck! It wasn't until I started my YouTube channel that I realized how much money I could make just by being myself. When I realized that, I was super duper sold.
I grew up in a single-parent household (my father was a career military man and died in service when I was 7). My mom is from the Philippines, and we were very middle class. So, growing up, I had this interesting middle class mindset upbringing, but always had this seed of a desire to become something more.
I think I knew very early on—maybe 6 or 7–that I'd probably do something different with my life. I had no clue what that was because everything I was exposed to was the contrary. Its funny, because 15 years ago, I thought I'd be in some high rise C-suite running things and telling people what to do. Now I get to do that, just from my bed and in yoga pants.
Over time, my passion has developed, sustained, and nurtured FMC. And what I love most is we empower, but in a real tangible way.
We make sure our attendees leave with more than fluffy fluff fluff motivational talks. We want them to feel like they are ready, not just in theory, but in practice.
And that's exactly what they get.
Because I frequently have to go from one thing to the next, I invest very heavily in high-level support. Coaches, mentors, etc. I believe in the power of coaching (otherwise I wouldn't be one). I've had coaches all my life—from athletics, to academics to singing and music. This season of my life is no different.
And what Sasha does on our team to bring to life to the FMC experience, and what Vivian does to ensure we have the right partners to make it all happen—it's really phenomenal. They are geniuses.
And together we've figured out how to pay it all forward.
My most significant lessons in entrepreneurship:
- Successful entrepreneurship is really a science. There's lots of moving parts, lots of formulas, lots of trial and error. And mindset matters more than anything.
- Start before you're ready. Don't have a website? Put words on a page and a PayPal link at the bottom. Make it better over time. And build as you go!
- Consistency compounds! So, keep going, don't waste potential.
- Be scared of complacency. I'm always moving, and always expanding and always trying to figure out how to push to the next level so that I can serve as many people as possible. It's always a conversation in my head that says "Well that sounds scary, I don't want to do it." But the higher version is of myself answers back with a resounding, "If you're scared then that means you definitely need to do it!" Growth solves everything. So, that is always the goal.
Your goals are where success lies. The success is where the work is.
Remember that, ladies.
Featured image by courtesy of Flourish Media Conference