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More or Better … How Do We Get to Both?

by Mia Jackson

Recently, a colleague forwarded an article titled “How Black and Women-Owned Businesses are Doing,” which was first run in October on The author reviews the performance of both business segments, which were said to be outpacing the new starts of white male-owned ventures. Upon his review, he finds that both black and women-owned businesses lagged in terms of performance and sales. I shared the article with several friends to get their take on the topic. Needless to say, spirited conversation followed.

Donna Maria Coles Johnson, founder and CEO of the Indie Beauty Network, rang in loudly. “I see a lot of us doing what we love, what we have a passion for. But if that doesn’t make a profit, it’s a hobby, not a business. As Seth Godin says, it’s a cul-de-sac — a dead end — at least as far as business is concerned,” said the veteran entrepreneur. She continued, “I think what black women need is a bigger vision, an increased focus on profitability, and a reality check.”

I agree that we need to focus on growth and profitability. The reality check and clear business vision should not automatically deter a new or hopeful business owner. Instead, that gut check should serve as a guide or impetus for better planning. If you love it and there’s a way to make money at it, how can you find it? Countless examples of business owners who toyed with their revenue model until ultimately landing on a profitable mix are out there. Go ask! For me, I realized that I waited too long to hire help. The weight of being responsible for someone else’s livelihood was very heavy to me. But as tasks quickly pile up. it’s clear that any one-woman show requires at least two to three others to stay afloat.

Here are a few steps:

  1. Measure Accurately. In a recent sermon by Pastor Wesley of Alfred Street Baptist Church, he reminded us that the first step of any significant life change an honest evaluation of one’s circumstances. The same holds true about changes to your business. Capturing the proper data (including web stats, sales records, expenses, client responses, etc.) allows each business owner to create the best starting point for a plan of action.
  2. Hire Smartly. Once you decide that it’s possible to grow, don’t settle on the first résumé or email response that hits your inbox. Donna Maria suggests that you perform the tasks you’ve outlined in your job description (if possible) as you would expect someone else to do so. Thus, you have a solid understanding of the time, skill and abilities each tasks requires. If, for example, you need a coder and but you thought CSS was a new crime show, ask a colleague who hires developers to help you evaluate the options. HR techniques work for small businesses as well.
  3. Believe Up. If you constantly see yourself as the small business that can’t, then you won’t grow to your company’s potential. You must have the necessary confidence to propel you forward. Does this mean that you’re not afraid? Heck no! I believe that accurate assessment scares me more than anything. But when your passion and faith are stronger than your fear, it’s hard not to act positively. This is not to imply that everyone wants to be Target™ – they don’t. But most business owners want to build, hire and improve profitability.

If we set accurate indicators, get the right people and step out into the market like we belong there, we can add more businesses that are better with a stronger bottom line. Sure, it’ll take lots of hard work and collaboration with like-minded folks, but we can get to both.


ARTICLE: How Are Black and Women-Owned Businesses Doing?

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