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How To Start A Family Business The Wright Way

Business

Every day, families are coming together to start a business by building wealth and legacy, a habit that no doubt lends itself to the black buying power but also aids in the effort towards securing the bag with generational wealth.


By extension, the bag, the power, and the legacy are a trifecta that's important to Mena, Iyana and Shantee Wright, who came together nine years ago to start Wright Productions. Wright Productions is a full-service event production, event design, and brand management firm headquartered in Los Angeles that produces large scale and experiential events for high-end clientele, companies, and brands. This sister-owned event production company is a part of the roughly 90 percent of American businesses that are family-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to Wright Productions, the Wright sisters also manage a D.C. office and are currently planning to expand to Miami and Houston, all while working to launch a lash subscription service with celebrity makeup artist Sheika Daley and singer Kelly Rowland. Without question, the Wright sisters are making moves and solidifying the biggest move of them all: building their legacy. "We all had the common passion of wanting to leave something behind for our children. Our father always encouraged us to find something we could build together," Mena told xoNecole. "Since we were always around each other and we had common interests and passions, it was natural for us to come together to form our company."

However, running a family-owned business comes with its own set of obstacles.

The sisters not only had to build a business in a competitive industry in Los Angeles, but they also had to learn how to run and operate a business together while keeping their sisterhood intact. "If you are going to go into business with your family make sure your foundation is strong and that you really like and respect each other," she continued. "Everything about the relationship will get tested and if you don't have a solid foundation where love and respect are at the forefront, it won't work."

Taking The Leap

The Wright sisters come from a real estate background and worked for separate companies before self-funding Wright Productions. The sisters naturally started working together through Mena's non-profit when they realized they had a knack for creating events and enjoyed working together. Their hard work did not go unnoticed. "Slowly people started asking us to plan their events and then it led to referral after referral, then it sort of just took off on its own," Mena explained.

The sisters got their first client before they each committed to leaving their full-time jobs. The client was a NFL player, which opened doors for the Wright sisters to take the leap and become full-time entrepreneurs. "Before this, we just viewed producing events as a project. Securing our first major client made it very real for us and gave us the confidence to leave our corporate jobs. Looking back, we had no clue what we were really doing with a large scale event, but we put so much love and positive energy into it, it turned out to be a huge success."

"Securing our first major client made it very real for us and gave us the confidence to leave our corporate jobs."

Make Sure Sisterhood Comes First

Although the sisters enjoyed the magic they made together, there was some initial hesitancy before they each quit their real estate jobs to form their production company. Like all businesses, owners will experience growing pains, but adding the shared responsibilities with a loved one could present its own set of challenges. The Wrights had the concerns on how the business would impact their family dynamic. For a while, they wondered if it was possible to find a balance between the two. "It became a reality that we could lose our sister-ship and friendship due to the level of stress we were all under to make sure the company succeeded," Shantee revealed.

"It became a reality that we could lose our sister-ship and friendship due to the level of stress we were all under to make sure the company succeeded."

The Wrights had to learn how to manage the load of becoming new business owners in a competitive market while keeping their sistership as the first priority - family before legacy. Mena added, "Learning how to communicate through the various relationships we have, our sister relationship, our relationship as friends, and our business relationship has been challenging and a constant learning lesson for us."

Know Your Role In Business

The Wrights had their share of naysayers, but once the sisters collectively decided to defy the myths about family-owned businesses, they figured out how to manage the sister and work life balance seamlessly. One way they did it was by defining each of their roles for the business. "When we started the company, we were all CEOs until we realized that we weren't working as smart as we could. At that point, we had to have an honest meeting to determine whose skills best fit key positions," Shantee shared.

The sisters broke down their strengths and weaknesses and created roles for each other to help with the workflow of the day. Mena is a big thinker, a motivator and a seller, which made for great leadership to take on the Chief Executive Officer role. Iyana is behind the scenes making sure everything is running smoothly from an internal standpoint because she is the organized and detailed-oriented sister, which made her the perfect fit to be our Chief Operating Officer. Shantee is the creative sister who loves dealing with the clients and interacting with people making her the perfect fit for the company's Chief Creative Officer position.

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

As the sisters each fell into their respective roles to keep the business moving smoothly and efficiently, they also had to learn how to dissolve business disagreements and remember the collective goals of their business. Iyana shared, "My advice to other family-owned businesses is to remember that you're on the same team. The only competition there should be is with yourself to continue making yourself better. Build your business with trust between each other and nobody will be able to come in and divide and conquer. Communicate respectfully like you would if you were working with a stranger."

Communication is key for the trio, as it helps them maintain the balance of sisterhood and business partners. Their go-to method for communicating and resolving issues is called the 2-1 approach. "We have a 2-1 system where if two of us agree on a decision, then we go with that decision but If one sister is really passionate about a point she is trying to make, we let that sister have it. We don't operate from a place of ego, but from trust and love so in our communication, we try to understand each other's point of view," Mena continued.

"We don't operate from a place of ego but from trust and love."

Remember Your Why

Remembering their "why" has helped the Wright sisters face the competitive nature of the event production business. Although, the Wright Production clientele list has included Floyd Mayweather, Serena Williams, Kelly Rowland, BET, and Nestle, attracting top-tier accounts against bigger production companies can be a challenge.

Having sisters to lean on during the rough times in business kept the Wrights perspective and intentions in check. "Having my sisters during those times when we may lose an account to a larger competitor helps keep me sane and focused on the 'bigger why' of why we started our business, which was to build a family empire. Its different than just being in business with some person," Mena admitted. "We can really cry and lean on each other and when we are picking each other up, we know it's genuine and sincere. Having your sisters have your back in those situations makes you pick yourself back up and keep going because your family is counting on you. I wouldn't want to be in business with anyone else."

As a family with the common goal of legacy, no challenge will undermine their love for sisterhood and their focus of expanding their business. This trifecta works as each sister brings to the table their individuality, helping to grow Wright Productions into the business of their dreams.

Be sure to follow the Wright sisters on Instagram. For more information about their clients and services, visit their website.

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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