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This Entertainment Lawyer Started Her Own Firm To Help Black Creatives

Workin' Girl

Entrepreneurship ain't nothing new, but more and more people are opting out of a 9-5 to become entrepreneurs and with information becoming more accessible, it makes it easier for people to act on it.


Social media has also played a significant part in the entrepreneur lifestyle. To an audience of entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike, this certain lifestyle looks sexy and glamorous while not only enticing others to want that way of life, but actually try to achieve it right away, overlooking the proper steps necessary to take in order to have success as a business owner. But in order to make sure you don't make those common mistakes, we have enlisted some professional assistance.

Meet Desiree L. Talley, Esquire, attorney and founder of The Talley Law Group in NYC.

After working for major corporations, such as Turner Entertainment Network, Pandora, and Viacom, Desiree opened up her own law firm with the primary goal to help creatives of color protect their work.

Growing up in the Bay area, Desiree never really saw many successful African-Americans and so it was television that gave her a glimpse into her future. Watching characters from prominent Black TV shows like "Joan" from Girlfriends and "Teri" from Soul Food introduced her to law, but an episode of My Super Sweet 16 made her want to be an entertainment lawyer. "There was a Black man on there and he was an entertainment attorney. And he worked with celebrities and had this big flashy house and that's when I made the connection that I could become a entertainment lawyer and combine my true passion," she shared with xoNecole.

After graduating from Hampton University, Desiree moved to New York City, attended law school and began a successful law career. Along with her law practice, she is also the co-host of the PopLaw podcast where they discuss celebrity legal cases and breakdown the laws around it. Being that African-Americans only make up 7 percent of lawyers, she also makes it a point to mentor younger lawyers of color by being that person that she didn't have in law school.

Recently, Desiree opened up to xoNecole about starting her law practice and gave some advice for black creatives who want to start their own businesses:

What inspired you to start your own law firm?

I decided to open my own law firm because I was feeling a little stagnant and I wasn't getting a lot of work that I wanted to get at my job. I knew I had a lot more to contribute but I wasn't getting the opportunities and the chance so I found myself not being happy going to work and [I began] dreading to go and I found myself not liking the work I was doing. So with different groups that I'm involved in in NYC and having a lot of friends on the creative side, I just started seeing that a lot of them needed help and they didn't know how to start a business or protect their work.

From being on the corporate side, I saw how when you create something, companies just take it because you just put it on social media and then they get inspired by what some Black creatives create. That's when I knew it was time for me to leave my job and start my own law company and to help my friends.

Instagram/@Desiree_Talley

"I saw how when you create something, companies just take it because you just put it on social media and then they get inspired by what some Black creatives create. That's when I knew it was time for me to leave my job and start my own law company."

What services does your firm provide?

I help register different trademarks and copyrights for my clients. I create standard business forms if they're trying to start their business and they need something in particular. I also do a lot of contract review if they are in partnerships with different companies or with friends, and I also do negotiations for my clients as well.

What has been the most challenging part of your journey?

I thought it was going to be a fast process. I expected to have my business and all the paperwork done at the top of the year and it took longer than I expected. It was a learning curve, learning the paperwork you have to fill out, determining if I wanted to make it a LLC or corporation for different types of tax purposes. Those were the main things and then there were costs that I didn't expect to have. I thought it was gonna be very simple for me to just read the corporation paperwork but it was harder than I expected and took more time than I expected.

"I expected to have my business and all the paperwork done at the top of the year and it took longer than I expected. It was a learning curve."

What is the #1 mistake people make in starting a business?

Not researching the market very well. I think a lot of times people just have an idea and they wanna go for it and they're excited but they don't understand who their competitors are, they don't research if a business has a similar name, and they don't have any trademarks or start up costs available to them. They just put it out and I think that works sometimes but when you're trying to turn your cash and creativity into a business, you can't do that.

What is your advice for going into business with a friend?

A lot of times I see partnerships with friends go wrong. There wasn't an understanding in the beginning regarding profit and who pays for what, the different roles and responsibilities that each person has, and some people may be upset that some people are getting social media or print media shine as opposed to the other one, so these types of things I deal with often.

A lot of people just go off of friendship, but you want the friendship to last, so have these hard discussions in the beginning and if you're uncomfortable, then bring a third party in to do it on your behalf so you can maintain the friendship even during business. Understand that you can go into business with a friend but definitely have those conversations in the beginning. That's why a lot of people say don't do it because they don't have those conversations when doing business with a friend.

Highlight the roles and responsibilities and you do that by simply pulling out a piece of paper and say, 'You're gonna do this and that.' If [we] are making money, are we splitting the money? Are we putting the money back into the business? You can write everything down on a piece of paper and have both sign it and that's a binding contract.

How should an entrepreneur determine their salary?

I think it depends on – one, is this your full time job? Do you need a salary? How much is the business making? Is it more important to grow the business or give yourself some money? It depends on the type of business but for me, I'd just put all the money back into the business.

You might need marketing, there might be printing, mailing. If you have a website, then you have to pay the fees for the website so it's kinda just determining the money you have in upfront costs and ongoing costs and if you can physically do it. Then again, it depends on the business. [For example], are you selling a product or is it service-based?

Keep up with Desiree on Instagram @desiree_talley or check out her website Talleylawgroup.net! You can also check out her podcast here.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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