Women Entrepreneurs: 3 Ways to Get Your Piece of the $44.9 Billion Pie

In terms of entrepreneurship, African American women are making their own history and they are doing it at incredibly awesome rates. They are starting their own businesses at six times the rate of the national average and have generated $44.9 billion dollars in revenue with those businesses in 2013 alone according to the Center for American Progress.

So when these entrepreneurs speak, people listen.

I recently had the honor to participate in a panel discussion with phenomenal women entrepreneurs to detail the best practices for building a business.  We all learned from each other about about branding, financing a business, and my all-time favorite, whether or you should work for free.

The panel was held at Brooklyn Nights in New York City and had powerful women in business such as the Taneshia Nash Laird, the U.S.Womens Chamber of Commerce’s regional leader; Cynthia Horner. editor-in-chief of Hip Hop Weekly and author of New York Times bestseller; The Magic Of Michael Jackson, celebrity fitness instructor; model and fitness apparel owner, Charity Lynette; Michelle McClymont, vice president of business services at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Andra Tomsa, founder of SPARE, an award-winning iPhone app; and Gwen Devoe, creator and executive producer of Full Figured Fashion Week.

What were some of the takeaways learned about being a better entrepreneur and getting your piece of the $44.9 billion being generated by this demographic?

Secure in-kind sponsorships. Not everything for your event or business has to involve money. Bartering for services is also a way to get what you need without coming out of pocket. “I was the host of the event yet I learned a great deal myself from the panelists about work-life balance, as well as the key to success in starting a successful venture.  Andra’s tip about securing in-kind services as a form of business financing was particularly helpful,” said Nash Laird.

Get your brand space on the Web. Being on social media is a great way to engage with your followers, but if Facebook and Twitter go away, where will your audience find you? “As an actress I have been struggling with not having a website and if it was important in my field,” Lawson said. “After listening to the panel talk about branding and structure, I realized I must have the site in place, because being an actress is still a brand.”

Be creative in how you build your reputation. “As a publicist I have learned that you have to do a lot of free stuff and bartering in order to build your brand,” said organizer Ernest Jackson of MNS Media.

With African American women making history daily, it was an honor to have a conversation with and learn from these female history makers.  Our—and by “our” I mean African American women–success depends not only on how we are presented in the marketplace, but on what we can teach and take away from the failures and successes of our fellow African American women entrepreneurs.

Ella Rucker (@ellalaverne) is in the business of mentoring entrepreneurs for their business’s success.  She is the co-founder of Weekend Startup School and director of operations for #MentorMonday; Both are safe places for entrepreneurs to learn practical advice for their big dreams. She has made her living for the past three years as a freelancer working as a writer, editor and content producer with some of the most successful personalities, brands, and blogs. She has also written an eguide for Blogalicious entitled Tick Tock Goes The Blog Clock: The What, Why and How Of Creating 365 Days Of Content TODAY.