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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.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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