We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.
The It Factor: Mary Chatman, president and CEO of BlackBride.com, has a passion for all things romantic, meshing her background in business development and enthusiasm for the bridal industry to provide a key online resource to brides of color. Along with tips for minority wives- and grooms-to-be and entrepreneurs in the industry, the company hosts bridal shows offering participants a chance to interact with vendors and get advice from industry heavy hitters, from makeup artists to event planners.
Filling a Void: The road to helming the site was quite unique for Chatman, who acquired it after writing features on romance. “Our site was initially founded by a white woman who identified a need and saw that black women are very rarely featured in high-end magazines on the runways or on TV [in terms of the bridal industry],” Chatman says. “I started writing for them in 2010, and when the site was up for acquisition, I just felt like it was meant to be, with me having a major love and passion for the bridal industry. I thought, ‘This is a key moment to be there for black women and just support women in general for what is one of the most important days of their lives.'”
Dispelling Myths: It’s often reported that black women are the least likely to marry and that they are doomed to a life of being single, but Chatman seeks to dispel that myth. “It’s [an untrue stereotype] that black women are not getting married and not going on fabulous honeymoons,” she says. “We go to Bali, Greece, Paris …. Black women are spending $1.6 billion per year getting married, so there’s definitely a market need there.”
Chatman loves that she can be a resource to women on their special day. “There’s no greater feeling than facilitating the process of finding the perfect elements for their weddings,” she adds. “Just that aspect of providing resources for women for the most important day of their lives gets me going.”
Connecting Black Businesses: Chatman also seeks to put a spotlight on black love and marriage and give brides the opportunity to support other entrepreneurs of color who can provide top-notch services. “For our bridal shows, vendors connect and work together, and some are businesses that would not otherwise get prime exposure.” At shows, Chatman says, the company also provides resources for entrepreneurs of color that will help them forge partnerships and tips on marketing and business practices.
Turning Passion Into Profession: To be a bridal industry professional, she suggests having perseverance and being great at networking to build longlasting relationships. “The wedding industry is a tight-knit market. Wedding pros really stick together,” she says. “You have to go to different events, hand out those business cards and really connect with people.” Also, if you’re just getting started, she adds that you might want to consider offering services for free, initially, to get brand exposure and recommendations.
Winning Advice: For young professionals, she says professionalism should be a top priority. “Once you leave that impression on someone that is not professional, they’re not coming back to you. Sometimes you only get one shot. Try to be professional in everything you do, from your appearance to your dialogue. Always be at your best.”