The final panel of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit featured two Black women who are the walking definition of the word entrepreneur.
BLACK ENTERPRISE Vice President/Deputy Chief Content Officer Alisa Gumbs sat with Miss Diddy, founder of The Brand Group LA and Milan Rouge, founder of clothing brand Milano Di Rouge, to discuss Leveraging Your Brand to Build Your Business hosted by Comcast RISE. The women talked about what made them take the leap and start their own businesses during the conversation.
“Being a promoter is 100% entrepreneurship,” Miss Diddy told the audience.
“Building from that place, that’s what took me to the next level and say I really got to start my own agency, my own company. I was working with my boys and promoters who I still love to this day but I knew that if I wanted to get the recognition for the hard work that I was doing I would need to create something that is mine and it would need to look like mine coming from me for people to identify with.”
They also discussed the strategies that helped them become who they are today and leveraging the internet to become an entrepreneur. Rouge talked about her start on Instagram and social media.
“Instagram helped me a lot, it was really life-changing for me because I was able to see the Miss Diddy’s, the Karen Civil’s and others making money and creating businesses, and I knew if they did it, I can do it too,” Rouge said. “So I would literally just say I’m selling shirts if anybody wants to meet me and people would Place an order online and I would just travel around the tri-state area and sell them shirts.”
Rouge added that she was eventually able to rent a warehouse and open a store in Philadelphia, but she didn’t stop there.
“I knew that I didn’t want to work at my store so I stopped paying myself and built a team,” Rouge added. “In March 2016, I wrote my last check to myself and put it in the Bible and I focused on growing my team and paying them and a year later we made enough money to move to Los Angeles and really grow the brand and from there every day I just worked hard.”
One of the most impactful subjects the women discussed was not being taken seriously as Black females and how they turned that around. Milan said she always came with the approach of asking questions, but at the same time demanding respect, adding that she doesn’t mind being underestimated because her work speaks for itself.
Miss Diddy had a different take on the matter, warning the audience that what she had to say may make some people uneasy.
“What I’ve learned as a woman is that men don’t have the ability to look at women as equals; not because we’re not capable or we’re not amazing people all of these things,” Diddy told the audience. “It’s because they’re natural-born men and that plays a part, but it doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate us or respect us in other ways but I don’t believe that they have the innate ability to see us as equals. So what we have to understand as women is sometimes the system is just kind of what it is so what you do is just do your thing. I’ve learned that I’m known off my work as well, so all I can do is do my work and however you perceive it I don’t have anything to do with that.”
Building an audience was also a topic in the hour-long discussion and the pair provided several tips to build an audience and build one doing by something authentic.
“First really find out what would make you happy and what you would do without being paid for it,” Rouge said. “Once you figure that out, Google different ways you can make money from it even if your goal is to be the best mother you can be. I just had a baby so I want to learn from moms, so create a YouTube channel that teaches different strategies or techniques on being a better parent.”
Miss Diddy told the audience instead of worrying about your audience and who needs to hear you, focus on doing your best and the rest will come.
“I think people spend too much time trying to figure out the audience instead of just doing your thing,” Miss Diddy said. “For myself and my career I had an advantage because I didn’t have to look to the left or the right I just did my thing and I built my business around that same type of concept.”