Look back to go forth

A young entrepreneur shares how

I made the first contract bid for my legal transcription company four years ago. I was excited, but secretly, I was also afraid I’d lose out to one of my more experienced competitors. As I waited nervously and alone outside the conference room, I searched for the strength to overcome my feelings of uncertainty.

Maybe you don’t have a mentor to help walk you through your entrepreneurial plans. But if you look back, you’ll find a number of backers in your corner: all the African American businesspeople who helped pave the way for those who would come after them. Knowledge of these black pioneers-all-round businessman Arthur G. Gaston Sr., sausage manufacturer Henry G. Parks Jr. and, of course, haircare’s first lady, Madam C. J. Walker, just to name a few-can give you assurance when you experience a little turbulence.

When you feel unsure of what lies ahead, consider their trials: these pathfinders had to fight off a viciously racist and sexist system that relentlessly attacked from every angle. They faced tremendous odds with very few resources-and still beat them to a pulp.

As I waited, I remembered an inspirational quote by business trailblazer, Ebony magazine Publisher John H. Johnson: “Living through your fear is the summit of life, and people who refuse to take that dare condemn themselves to a living death.” After reflecting on his words, I walked into that meeting with a renewed sense of confidence and won the bid. If you draw on our business past for help to go forward, failure will never be an option.

Kirk Charles, is president of AccuWord, a legal transcription company based in Linden, New Jersey

Find your own inspiration by reading up on some of our enterprising forebears:

African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary by John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman (Greenwood Publishing Group, $105)

African American Entrepreneurs: Inspiring Success Stories of Innovation and Determination Across the Centuries by Jim Haskins (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95)

Black Entrepreneurs in America: Stories of Struggle and Success by Michael D. Woodward (Rutgers University Press, $18)

How to Succeed in Business Without Being White by Earl G. Graves (HarperBusiness, $25)

Succeeding Against the Odds by John H. Johnson and Lerone Bennett (Amistad Press, $12.95)

Titans of the B.E. 100s by Derek T. Dingle (forthcoming) (John Wiley & Sons, $29.95)

Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business Empire by Reginald Lewis and Blair Walker, (John Wiley & Sons, $22.95)

To order, call Books Now! At 800-BOOKS-NOW or visit Www.BooksNow.com/BlackEnterprise.

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