Lateshia Pearson of OWN Network’s Belle Collective is an entrepreneur and certified life coach building an empire with sisterhood in mind.
A Pelahatchie Belle at heart, Pearson is uniting Black women all around her home state of Mississippi to fill the need most Black entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners don’t have access to: support.
It all began with Women’s Brunch Mississippi in 2017, providing a space for women to expose their products and services and a professional network to equip them with financial literacy and business credit information from bankers, credit repair specialists, loan originators, grant writers, business accountants, and more. Despite COVID-19-induced shutdowns, Pearson’s brunches continue to thrive.
“When they leave a women’s brunch event they will have everything they need to succeed,” Pearson told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
With her National Women’s Brunch Association Inc., the empowering founder and CEO also created a platform for “entrepreneurial training and workshops designed to expand self-worth, enhance knowledge relative to financial management and planning, and to educate and equip entrepreneurs for success,” according to a statement obtained by BLACK ENTERPRISE.
As a sisterhood champion, Pearson curated one-on-one empowerment sessions, which in her own words, have allowed her to “empower women from all over the world and to do what I love to do—inspire, give hope, and help aspiring entrepreneurs find their place in the world.”
Pearson reflected on her journey with BLACK ENTERPRISE and also dropped a couple of business credit and loan tips.
How has growing up in Pelahatchie, Mississippi, influenced you to pursue entrepreneurship?
The influence was that there wasn’t an influence. It’s a community of maybe 1,200 people right now. What influenced me to want to do better was seeing women who worked at factories and plants.
Growing up in a small community like that, I realized that I wanted more and I wanted to break generational curses. There was a factory out of my bedroom window, and I would see family and people walking in and out of that factory through that window, and I knew that I wanted more out of my life.
When and where did your financial literacy journey begin?
I created an event called the “Boss Bank,” where I invited loan originators. After having the empowerment brunch in 2017 and 2018—women started asking questions about how they could get funding, if we had any grant writers in the organizations, etc.
We received emails asking how they could get business credit and receive loans and grants to start and expand their businesses.
What are you witnessing first-hand about what Black woman entrepreneurs’ and aspiring business owners’ needs and challenges are?
The needs and challenges of small Back business owners are that they need more support. They need encouragement to move forward; they need that extra push because it’s hard running a small business. There is also a need for marketing, publicity, and funding to scale and expand small businesses.
As a reality TV star, in what ways have you leveraged your television footprint to grow your businesses?
TV has exposed me to more opportunities. I’ve been able to coach more women around the world, my business has grown tremendously, and I’ve created one-on-one empowerment sessions—we talk about everything from business to personal issues that women face in business and in life. Being on TV has exposed me to opportunities that I would never have been able to experience coming from the small town of Mississippi.
What is some of the best advice you’ve given to Black women entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners about establishing credit?
Apply for a DUN, Dunn and Bradstreet—one of the three major business credit bureaus. Open a business credit card, and establish trade lines with your suppliers.
Through our partners at the brunch, many different financial professionals are there, in person, to discuss various ways and options to help them establish credit. I provide the platform and space for the connections to be made, and the credit experts help them.
What’s the best advice you’ve given on how to qualify for a business loan?
Have a business plan and loan proposal. Keep good personal credit and excellent business credit. Also, be aware that most banks take into consideration your annual revenue and years in business, among other relevant factors.
A lot of women were afraid to go into the bank and talk to the originators because they were told that Blacks don’t qualify for loans. So, one of the main hurdles is face-to-face, in-person contact with financial advisers who are interested in meeting them.