BlackEnterprise.com: Your book profiles 12 successful African American women entrepreneurs and leaders with businesses in a variety of industries. It’s highly anticipated as the inspirational genius that will propel African American women entrepreneurs forward in in 2016 and beyond. What inspired you to write this book and what’s your response to the buzz?
Porter and Hoffman: As African American women entrepreneurs are the fastest growing demographic amongst all women entrepreneurs, we wanted to recognize them for their business acumen and history “grit.” The women featured have built exciting businesses, ranging from fashion to construction to cosmetics and everything in between. In the process, we wanted to share their stories and how they overcame business challenges, and in some cases, surpass the million dollar mark and achieve long term success. The response has been tremendous and incredibly positive. We are excited that women, whether looking to start a business or grow an existing business and stick to their guns when times get tough, consider our book an inspirational and valuable resource in which to do that.
Can you explain why women, specifically African American women, are choosing the entrepreneurial route more than ever?
There are many reasons that drive someone to start a business. However, for women, and more specifically for African American women, many surveys suggest financial gain is merely a component, but not the most compelling factor. Some of the top reasons include:
– Opportunity to be their own boss
– Greater control of their own destinies
– Desire to pursue their passions
– Financial gain
– Desire for work/life balance
– Flexibility to spend more time with family and children
Why is it that African American women are starting businesses in record numbers, yet struggle to scale their businesses beyond the $1 million dollar point?
Looking at their phenomenal growth, there is no doubt about their motivation. Yet, they remain challenged by the lack of resources available to them and perhaps even other examples that they can aspire to, relate to or be inspired by. Further, they are often challenged with asking for funding or assistance and they do not always have access to the appropriate circles where a lot of these transactions occur.
What should women think about when trying to transition an idea into an actual business?
This may vary for everyone, but a few things to think about are:
– Let inspiration find you
– Find your mission
– Have patience and perseverance and
– Trust your instincts
How can one turn their passion or hobby into a viable business?
Everyone wants to be an overnight success, but those are few and far between. “Slow and steadyâ€ is a much more realistic strategy. Remember, most Fortune 500 companies started out as a small business. To brand your passion and understand your unique value proposition, you should:
– Understand there are riches in the niches. Big companies focus on the biggest bang for the buck. There is a growing market for products and services that are personalized and delivered intimately
– Seek out defining moments that make sense for the brand and your target audience
– Become the “championâ€ for your brand
– Effectively and succintly communicate how you’re different and why you do it better than anyone else
– Put in the work, even when quitting seems reasonable
There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of a mentor. How can women attract the right mentors to help their business?
As we have seen and heard among other demographics, having a mentor is really indispensable. Unfortunately and historically for African American women, there’s been a dearth of women entrepreneurs that one could closely align with and develop that type of relationship. Fortunately, that’s changing. For women trying to find mentors, they should:
– Think outside the “idealâ€ mentor box
– Have several mentors
– Realize every relationship has potential and
– Create a reputation worthy of mentorship
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