Not everyone has the unique opportunity to see things from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an investor. But Mandela Schumacher-Hodge has experience in both worlds, giving her a well-rounded vision of the world of start-ups, business and entrepreneurship in a super authentic way.
She's currently the founding portfolio services director at Kapor Capital, a startup blogger, the founder of MandelaSH Videos, was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30, was in the Case Foundation Top 50 Inclusive Entrepreneurship Champions, is the author of three Top 20 Medium Posts, is a TEDx presenter, and has been a featured speaker on more than 55 stages (including events at Google, Facebook, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Safe to say, she's been there, done that. And she's sharing some of her wisdom with us regarding transitioning into tech spaces, embedding diversity initiatives into the DNA of companies, the intersections of education with entrepreneurship and more.
Get to know Mandela further before she presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with her below:
Blavity: What were your career goals early in life? And how did you transition from a teacher to an entrepreneur in tech?
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge: Up until the age of 20, I was a full-time student-athlete. For the most part, I took general courses in school (with no speciality in any one area), and I spent the rest of my time perfecting my craft as an elite soccer player, at the time I was the co-captain of the NC State Women’s Soccer Team. It honestly wasn’t until I made the decision that I did not want to pursue a career as a professional soccer player that I really started to reflect more on what I did, in fact, want to spend my life doing. It was also during this time that my father unexpectedly passed away. That experience absolutely rocked my foundation and forever changed my perspective on life. More than ever, I recognized what a precious gift life is, and that it isn’t something to take for granted or waste. My father’s death broke my heart, but it also emboldened me to make the very most of my life, and to do it on my own terms.
Thinking back to that time in my life, I didn’t necessarily have a huge vision for my career, but I also didn’t let the opinions of others (“You’re crazy for walking away from a full scholarship” or “You should do this...or be that”) sway me. I was OK with not having everything all figured out and giving myself some time to find my way. One thing I did know for sure, though, was that I needed to be in a different place; an environment with more diversity of people and career opportunities. So I packed up all my stuff into one car and moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles (thanks mom for driving with me; I couldn’t have done it without you!). Once in LA, I took a semester off from college to work at a law firm. Then I transferred to Pepperdine University, and immediately studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was my first time traveling outside the United States. I ended up graduating from Pepperdine with a Bachelors in Intercultural Communication and a minor in Spanish.
It was a few years later and I was now 23. I still wasn’t positive what I wanted to do for a career yet, but I had gained some valuable experiences that made me more clear about which paths would suit my interests. One of those interests was educating others, particularly those who come from underserved and underprivileged backgrounds. I had grown up in a household with two civil rights lawyers for parents, who were extremely dedicated to uplifting and empowering historically marginalized peoples and communities. I wanted to contribute to this mission and en route to investigating options to join the Peace Corps, I stumbled upon a program called Teach for America. It felt like the right fit for me at the time, and that’s how I began my career as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. I went on to get a Masters from Loyola Marymount University in Education Administration & Policy, and was then admitted into a top six PhD program at UCLA, and my concentration was Urban Schooling.
As you can see from my past, it was never my intention to pursue a career in tech. In fact, I had never taken a technical, business, or entrepreneurship course prior to launching my first startup in 2011. My introduction to this thing called a “startup” was via an event called Startup Weekend Education, and it was there that I bumped into this even bigger thing called “entrepreneurship.” And I’ll tell you this much: It was love at first sight! I felt like I had finally found my tribe — people who are “crazy” enough to challenge the status quo, courageous enough to propose alternatives to the way things are currently being done, and dedicated enough to put in the very hard work it takes to bring those ideas to life. Since that event, I have continued to identify problems that I'm passionate about solving, and I've stayed true to my passion to take action to bring about change versus just theorizing about what could happen.
And as I’ve learned more, my career has blossomed, and my network has grown, I feel like it’s my duty to bring others with me. Success in my eyes is not determined by my individual ascent; rather, it's about all of us getting the opportunity to succeed.
B: What motivated you to focus on the intersections of education and entrepreneurship?
MS-H: Entrepreneurship is all about being brave. Being brave enough to push back on the way things are currently being done, being brave enough to pursue a vision most others can’t see, and being brave enough to believe that all your blood, sweat and tears will pay off.
Entrepreneurship is an incredibly inspiring act to me, and I want to teach more people how to be brave enough to pursue that route. To not just accept the world they were born into, but to question it, challenge it, and create solutions that make it better.
B: What do you love about startups and the startup environment?
MS-H: I love startups because I love making progress and making it quickly. Startups are all about building, testing and iterating. Over and over again in a startup you’re taking deliberate actions to see how different variables influence your ability to grow and make a profit. There are constant challenges (e.g. competition, new legislation, changing technology) you have to work with, so there’s never a dull moment, which is also something I appreciate. Operating in a startup keeps you on your toes and makes you uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable is the best way to grow.
B: Where do you turn for inspiration?
MS-H: My biggest inspiration is the calendar. Being reminded that I have a finite amount of time here, and that I can’t get out of this life alive; that’s honestly my biggest inspiration. Remembering that there’s an expiration date to my life helps me consistently be courageous and keep my own doubts and the opinions of others at bay. I recognize life’s too short to put off pursuing what I really want to do and who I really want to be.
B: What are your biggest motivators? What keeps you going through your busy days and your packed schedule?
MS-H: Aside from the calendar, other places I turn to for motivation and inspiration are other entrepreneurs and creatives. I am in awe of the way they think, the big vision they have, and how they’ve been able to bring their ideas to life. Seeing them succeed inspires me to succeed. And because one major pillar of how I define my success is linked to helping as many people as possible, I am willing to invest the hard work required to build an operation that scales.
B: What do you do to unwind? How do you make time for you — for self-care and mental health days — despite being so busy? Do you have any go-to activities, musical artists, movies, books, etc.
MS-H: My morning rituals are a must: Drink a glass of water, engage in at least 10 minutes of guided meditation (I use apps like Calm or Headspace), writing in my journal (what I’m grateful for and what my intention is for the day); running around Lake Merritt in Oakland (~3.5 miles), and drinking a homemade kale, spinach and fruit shake.
I’m engaged (yes ladies, he put a ring on it! lol), and having a great relationship with my partner is also a high priority item for me. In order to create the loving, adventurous relationship my fiancé and I want, we do a few things consistently: Greet each other every morning and night, engage in a daily conversation about each other's day, have what we call a “Life Meeting” once a week (to make progress on our joint goals), take turns planning a weekly date night, taking a quarterly trip (even if it’s just hiking for a weekend), and attending pre-marital counseling (a good foundation must be deliberately built).
Also, I love documentaries and getting immersed in biographical films or movies that raise my awareness about topics that I’m interested in.
Maintaining my mental, physical, and social-emotional well-being are all non-negotiables for me. I’ve seen what life is like when I don’t prioritize my health and happiness, and I refuse to revert back to that place. Every day, I make deliberate choices to be healthy and happy.
B: What has it been like to work for Kapor Capital, considering they helped fund Tioki, where your tech/entrepreneur career took off?
MS-H: It’s been a great experience working at Kapor Capital because it’s given me the opportunity to see how “the other side” operates. I’ve been an entrepreneur, and will continue to be one, but I haven’t been an investor yet, so it’s been a very educational experience for me to see how investors make decisions, how their success is defined, and the various stakeholders they’re responsible for maintaining relationships with.
I’ve definitely built more empathy for the investor’s perspective and have been able to utilize that empathy to build bridges of understanding with the founders. I’ve also been able to help the investors gain more insights into the mindset and experiences of the founders, and more efficiently and effectively service their needs. I’ve pioneered new processes, programming and resources that are intended to scale the support we’re able to provide our portfolio of 118 tech startups of varying sectors and sizes. It’s definitely challenging work, but work I find incredibly worthwhile and exciting.
B: What do you find most rewarding about helping to develop the portfolios of early-stage tech startups? What do you find the most challenging about it?
MS-H: As I mentioned earlier, I’m absolutely in love with entrepreneurship and the people who pursue that route. Entrepreneurs are the special people who are on the ground doing the really hard work to create the things that the rest of us get to enjoy. Think about you reading this article right now. It’s only possible because of all the technology that entrepreneurs built — the internet, website, a computer, tablet or phone. Technology has advanced our lives, and it’s showing no signs of slowing up. So from my perspective, as the Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital, it’s a privilege for me to be able to be work alongside these innovators when they’re just starting their business and trying to figure out how to find product market fit and scale their solutions. Getting to lend my time and talents to the achievement of that end is incredibly rewarding.
Another cool perk of the job is being able to see the future before anyone else. Every time a founder pitches an idea or shares their three-year roadmap, I get a glimpse into what the the future may look like. I get to peer inside the minds of visionaries and it’s a spectacular sight to see!
It’s been exactly one year since I joined Kapor Capital as its inaugural Portfolio Services Director. It’s been an amazing ride already and as I look back and reflect on these first 365 days, I feel most proud of working with Kapor Capital Partner and diversity and inclusion (D&I) expert Dr. Freada Kapor Klein to launch the Founders’ Commitment, the first ever VC-backed diversity pledge. Never before has an investment firm required that their founders prioritize diversity and inclusion the same way they prioritize growth and revenue, and after nearly nine months of working with 82 tech startups on their Commitment, our team has taught countless founders and diversity advocates how to bake D&I into the DNA of their companies and has inspired a slew of other diversity initiatives to launch. By no means done (and by no means easy), I'm optimistic that a shift is underway for tech to finally become the inclusive industry we all know it can and should be.
B: Who can be a successful entrepreneur? Do you find there to be certain personality types or traits that are most successful? What strategies do you use to help people to hone in on their success?
MS-H: Anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. The problem, though, is not everyone’s given the opportunity to be a successful entrepreneur. My colleague, Mitch Kapor oftentimes says “genius is evenly distributed across zip codes, but opportunity is not.” I love this quote, because it drives home the point that everyone — no matter their place of birth, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — is intelligent and capable of achieving success. However, the issue is with access; access to opportunities that allow everyone to not only survive in life, but thrive and contribute their talents to the advancement of society.
2% is a powerful statistic in tech. 2% of all employees at major tech companies are black. And when it comes to the employment creators, less than 2% of all VC-backed startups are led by black founders. (Blavity’s own founder, Morgan DeBaun, is a part of this very small percentage.) There’s a clear underrepresentation of blacks in tech when you compare that 2% to the total population of blacks in the U.S., which stands at 12.6%. Simply put, it’s not a level playing field, and that’s really important to acknowledge. Because until you’re willing to acknowledge it, you can’t fix it.
Another problem I think is vital to call out is that fact that entrepreneurship is really, really hard. I’ve seen many people — from all different backgrounds — be given the opportunity to build a company, but the fact of the matter is, not everyone’s cut out for it. It truly is one of the hardest things you could ever pursue. So my advice to folks is that before you leave your life jacket at shore and take the plunge into entrepreneurship, really take some time to learn what the life of an early-stage founder is really like. I refer to becoming a founder as entering “Sacrifice Central,” and in this video I pull back the curtain and let you see behind the scenes of entrepreneurship. It’s not always as glamorous as it may seem.
And if you do decide to become an entrepreneur, start yourself off on the right foot by watching “4 Qualities That Make a Great Entrepreneur.”
B: What can we expect next from you?
MS-H: Every week, I publish a new video and article where I give people insights and advice on how to accelerate their success in both business and life. I just filmed an interview with Blavity founder and CEO, Morgan DeBaun, and you can sign up here to find out when it gets published. You can definitely expect more of this kind of support from me for entrepreneurs and anyone interested in advancing their life or career.
B: Anything else we should know?
MS-H: My Instagram Stories are poppin’ with daily inspiration, tidbits of wisdom, and tons of fun adventures. Follow me @MandelaSH to keep yourself on your A-game.
For more from Mandela Schumacher-Hodge and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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If you're looking for an expert opinion on how to work at a startup and gain success as an entrepreneur in general, look no further than Everette Taylor. Taylor's an entrepreneur, a public speaker and a marketing expert. He's currently serving as the CMO of Skurt, an on-demand car mobility service. But he has a ton of experience starting his own companies and helping to bring success to everything he touches.
Check out our convo below to see his opinions on the marketing landscape, what sets millennials apart and what pushed him to start his first company.
Get to know Everette further before he presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with him below:
Blavity: When did you decide that entrepreneurship was for you? Was that always the kind of career you were interested in? Or did you realize it slowly?
Everette Taylor: It was definitely a journey for me, but I started fairly young. When I was in the 3rd grade, I started going to the corner store to buy gum and then resell each piece to my classmates at a premium. As I got older, I found any way to hustle and make money on my own whether it was cutting lawns or selling CDs.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of college, I had to drop out to help my family. As I was searching for jobs via LinkedIn, I noticed that I barely was getting any responses or interviews despite having 5 years of working experience at the time. I had this hunch, so I decided to do an A/B test.
I created a fake LinkedIn with an identical resume except I changed my name and put a photo of a slightly older white male. I reapplied to 10 job openings in which I did not receive a response and was contacted by 7 of them. The anger and frustration from that pushed me into just starting my first company and fully embracing entrepreneurism.
B: What qualities do you think one needs to thrive as an entrepreneur in a startup environment?
ET: A strong relentless mindset — startups aren’t as glamorous as people make it seem. A lot of ups and downs and constantly going through a range of emotions. It takes someone who will keep pushing through and can deal with adversity. A lot of long days and nights, a lot of sacrifices have to be made.
Emotional intelligence and the ability to delegate tasks is crucial. EQ helps you manage people well and bring out the best in them, but also helps when understanding consumer psychology. As an entrepreneur, you have to recognize that you can’t do everything and you’re not the best at everything. Smart delegation can help you survive the rigors and workload of startups.
Lastly, have to be able to take a scientific approach to things and be data-driven. Money is a tight and you have to be lean as a startup entrepreneur. You have to be smart about how you spend your time and money, the clock is constantly ticking. Taking an experimental and data-driven approach helps you accomplish this.
B: What do you know now that you wish you would have in the beginning of your career?
ET: The importance of learning how to code, I’m still kicking myself to this day — I didn’t take it seriously. It empowers you to be much more independent as a startup founder or someone who works in startups. If you’re reading this right now, go learn how to code now. Trust me.
B: How did you get involved with Skurt? What excites you most about this endeavor in particular?
ET: I had been watching Skurt for sometime, I met the founders last year and they struck me as eager and passionate about what they were doing. When we reconnected this year, I saw so much growth not only in the young founders, but the company itself.
What really sold me on the company was the mission to one day provide affordable access to mobility to everyone. Coming from Southside Richmond, I saw plenty of people without the means to be able to get around or people whose whole lives consisted of a few block radius.
Not only is the mission something I’m passionate about, but also the product. It’s absolutely amazing and I do believe at scale will change the world. I already see us changing people’s lives on a day-to-day.
I’ve started a few companies and worked at several startups, none of them had anywhere near the potential that Skurt has.
B: With the current digital landscape, how do you see marketing as a whole evolving? What do brands need to do to stay ahead of the curve?
ET: “Listen to the kids brooooo” - Kanye West
All jokes aside, really listen. Millennials and the younger generation are a completely different type of consumer than the older generation. Being hyper-aware of pop culture and changing trends is essential.
Creativity will always be key when it comes to marketing, but gone are the days when you can just rely on branding and marketing campaigns that aren’t data-driven. Having structure in marketing and growth is necessary now, and making sure that what you’re doing on the marketing is are pushing your KPIs (key performance indicators).
I believe a mix of strong data-driven marketing, putting an emphasis on customer success, staying culturally aware and embracing new platforms will be the keys to success.
B: What sets millennials apart when it comes to marketing to them and for them?
ET: First and foremost, optimizing your marketing and website for the mobile experience and having a strong genuine presence on social media. Millennials spend an insane amount of time on their phones, almost 90 percent of them use the internet on their phones every day and over 50 percent use social media to make spending decisions.
Attention spans for millennials are short and trends change at an instance, being well versed with tools like Google Trends and studying social media, viral content and influencers can help you stay relevant with millennial consumers.
Customer success has to be a strong initiative in marketing and making sure customer support is easily accessible on the web. Millennials, more than ever, are focusing on the sustainability and social aspects of the products they’re using.
Lastly, you just have to keep it real. Stay authentic and consistent with your branding. Millennials want transparency and to feel that they can trust your brand, not just the cheapest price.
B: What’s your biggest motivator? You’ve worked on so many incredible projects, and I’m sure your schedule and workload are jam-packed. What keeps you pushing through?
ET: I simply want to be the best at what I do. Earlier in my career, I was super motivated to prove certain people wrong and make enough money to support myself and family. Now what pushes me is the desire to be the best at what I do and use that as a platform to change the world around me.
I have major goals and a lot I want to accomplish in life. I know my time on this earth is so short, I want to make the biggest impact I can and leave a strong legacy.
People ask me how do I work such long hours and not drink coffee? (haha) I’m genuinely passionate about what I do and my future dreams.
B: Along with that, how do you unwind? What do you do to be sure you’re taking care of yourself on a daily or weekly basis?
ET: Meditation first thing in the morning, clearing my head and getting myself ready for the day. Startups are a rigorous grind, mental and emotional health are extremely important.
To unwind is as simple as getting home, putting my work down, throwing the newest Soulection mix on and vibing out. I also love spending time with the people I love, doesn’t matter what we do or where I’m at — as long as I’m with genuine people.
Also, I recently made the commitment to eating healthier, sleeping more and just living a healthier lifestyle, already feel a difference on a day-to-day.
B: What's up next for Everette Taylor and your current endeavors?
ET: Really excited for the future here at Skurt and how the product will evolve as time goes along. Also excited for all the expansion we have planned. We just launched our 4th city, Miami, and very bullish on our plans to expand to new cities and grow. That’s really my main focus at the moment, making Skurt live up to its full potential.
Also want to continue to build a diverse team and build a great culture at Skurt. I see where a lot of startups and other tech companies have failed miserably at this, I don’t want this to be the case at all at Skurt.
B: Anything else we should know?
ET: A lot of black creatives and entrepreneurs I know don’t have a car or access to affordable transportation to run errands or make longer distance trips.
So if you’re in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Miami or reading this in the future when we are in other cities, use code “BLAVITY” to use Skurt and get a free car for the day.
[Of course I had to plug Skurt, I’m a marketer at the end of the day (smiles).]
For more from Everette Taylor and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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When it comes to being a successful entrepreneur, or a successful person for that matter, one's appearance is key. Your appearance is the first thing that people will notice before you get the chance to say hello to a new client or even shake the hand of a potential business partner. As an entrepreneur, it's imperative to always put your best foot forward while in the office or just during the day-to-day. Now, I’m not saying that you have to always be in a suit and tie; but if ever there were a time for a business owner to dress well, it's now.
#SuitGrid by: @mikeswatches ________________________________________ Follow @inisikpe for daily style/advice #SuitGrid to be featured IniIkpe.com for fashion updates and more ________________________________________ Tap 👉🏼📱For Brands Shirt: @twillory Tie: @thetiebar Tie Bar: @sprezzabox Denim: @uniqlousa Belt: @lacoste Shoes: @colehaan Socks: @manrags Watch: @omega Phone Case: @tmbrs
A photo posted by SuitGrids For All (@suitgrid) on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:26am PDT
I have taken the liberty of putting together a list of 8 timeless pieces that every entrepreneur should have in their wardrobe. Let’s call this "The Great 8."
These aren't the only items you need in your wardrobe, but if you start building or revamping your wardrobe today, these pieces should definitely be the foundation of your closet.
Item 1. A Navy Suit
I know I just said that you don’t have to always wear a suit, and that point still stands, but you still need a suit in your wardrobe. If you only have one suit, a navy suit is the one to have. It’s a very versatile suit; you can dress it up with a dress shirt and tie for a meeting or dress it down with denim and a pair of Stan Smiths for an after-work happy hour. For women, the principle still applies — instead of an Oxford button up, do a stylish shirt, cuff your blazer sleeves, lose the heels and put on some flats.
Item 2. The white Oxford Shirt
Like the navy suit this, too, is a very versatile piece to have in your wardrobe. More specifically, a white dress shirt pairs well with almost everything, from a complete suit and tie outfit to denim and loafers.
Item 3. A quality watch
I don’t expect anyone to go out and cop a Rolex, but if you have it, blessings. I’m a firm believer that both men and women should always wear a watch, because it's a very classic piece of jewelry. Gentlemen, unless you’re married and honoring the institution by wearing your wedding band, the only other jewelry that should be shown off in the workplace is a timepiece.
Item 4. A handbag or briefcase
I think this item is a no brainer, but for those who need an explanation, here it goes: You need a nice, well-kept bag to tote your work and personal items. From time to time, we all have a take-home workload. Instead of carrying it in our hands, bulking up our pockets or stuffing files under our arms, ladies — put it in a work-appropriate handbag and fellas — get a workbag. Oh, and simplicity speaks volumes in the work place; Now isn’t the time to show off your monograms or designer brand logos on your bag or briefcase.
Item 5. Dark denim jeans
If ever there is a time for business casual or a dress down day, dark denim is the way to go. I can’t stress this enough. Depending on the nature of your job, distressed jeans might not always be appropriate. So keep it simple. A slim or straight leg dark wash pair of jeans is definitely an item to have in your rotation.
Item 6. Hard bottom shoes, heels
Disclaimer: Just because I say you have to have a pair of dress shoes or heels for work doesn’t mean that they should hurt your feet. What I mean is that you should have work appropriate but functional footwear. Find a pair of dress shoes or heels that look good, but won’t have you hobbling or limping through your day-to-day and/or business meetings.
Item 7. Overcoat and umbrella
It doesn’t always rain and the weather isn’t always cold, but when it is, a good overcoat or umbrella is just the thing to get you through. Not to mention, it’s a great combo with a suit and dress shoes or denim and heels.
Item 8. Fragrances
You are only as good as the fragrance that you wear. Smelling good is just as important as any article of clothing you decide to put on. Although fragrance isn’t technically an article of clothing, you do indeed still wear it on your body. Always smell your best.
What wardrobe additions do YOU think every entrepreneur needs?
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Ini S. Ikpe is a menswear and lifestyle blogger of the self-titled 'IniIkpe.' He’s also the creator of the men’s style Instagram account SuitGrid. Focusing on highlighting and creating menswear flat lay looks; SuitGrid has become a go-to resource for guys interested in upgrading their style. Ini is also a style consultant working with professional athletes and host of 'TheGentsMANual,' an online men’s fashion segment teaching men the how tos of men’s...
Confession: I am a recovered beauty product junkie. Like most women, I’ve plucked, arched, waxed, bleached, painted, lightened, cut, shaved and whitened all in the name of beauty. Sounds normal, right? Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.
Hidden in my apartment was a department store display’s worth of hair, makeup and bath products that I bought and accumulated over the years. I had beauty products on the counter, makeup in boxes, makeup on my desk, makeup on my dresser, makeup in my closet, makeup and perfumes hidden under my bed, bath products in special pretty boxes both big and small, makeup in drawers, makeup in my purse and even a small bag of makeup hidden under my car seat for those days when I thought I need that little extra "umph." Working at a high-end department store only served to fuel my addiction.
Before long, I was the official makeup artist for all my friends, family members and co-workers. Occasionally, I’d get a paid gig doing makeup too. To my surprise, I learned that my husband and I were expecting a baby. Life couldn't get any better, or so I thought at the time. I was blissfully in love, living a life filled with makeup, yoga, girlfriends and on the verge of starting my own family.
One evening after dinner, I was stricken by a jolting pain in my lower abdomen. I passed it off as cramps and slept it off. As the days went on, the pain became more and more unbearable. I scheduled an appointment to see my obstetrician. After my ultrasound appointment, my physician sent me across town to see a specialist. That’s when I was informed that I had an ovarian tumor four times the size of my ovary. I left the appointment numb, sat in my car and cried.
The ovarian tumor kept growing and it was absorbing the nutrients from my growing fetus. With the huge probability of the tumor rupturing at any given time, I was put on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy and I was barely showing. In fact, my doctor said that if I didn’t stop my 7 days-a-week workout regimen, the tumor could rupture and kill me in the process.
Monthly appointments turned into weekly appointments. Nothing seemed important anymore, not even makeup. I hid in my apartment, avoiding calls from the outside world. I was not sure how to process what was going on, let alone how to explain to my friends or family what I was going through. I didn’t want to hear any negative comments or have a pity party. I just wanted to get back to my normal life as soon as possible.
My mom passed away when I was 15 years old from a car accident. If there was a time when I needed her the most, it was then. Just to hear her voice or give me that look of assurance that everything was going to be okay. Oddly enough, as I sat in our apartment alone, I could hear her voice tell me, like many times before, not to give up. I realized I was allowing this tumor to suck the life out of me and my unborn child. I made a decision to stay positive, to fight, and more importantly, to learn as much as I could about what was going on with my body. I became obsessed with ensuring my survival.
I asked questions at every doctor’s appointment. I asked so many questions, my physicians became annoyed. When someone wasn’t able to answer my questions, I found a physician that could.
The more I learned about my health and my pregnancy, the more my hunger for knowledge increased. One afternoon, I stumbled upon a research study explaining the impact ingredients have on our overall health. I discovered the link between food, beauty products, toxic preservatives and the affects certain chemicals have on the endocrine system, the reproductive system and on unborn fetuses. I began to change how I ate and what I used on my skin and in my hair.
Years earlier while in college, I would craft and experiment with natural butters, oils and conditioners in my apartment. I made my own hair care products and thought since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, then I would just make my own natural, luxurious, chemical-free bath and skincare products to use. Years later, I found solace and peace in learning about formulations, plant oils, local sourcing and creating healthy options that were safe enough for me to use while I was pregnant and later on, on my baby.
In retrospect, becoming pregnant actually saved my life. While bearing my child, life began to have a new meaning. While my pregnancy was difficult and trying, I learned about self-love and the true meaning of self-care. I also learned about the willpower I had to overcome obstacles and to truly love all of me, both good and bad. Balancing life and death at my fingertips, I made the choice to enjoy life each day, because tomorrow, after all, isn’t guaranteed.
During my c-section, the tumor was removed and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Four years later, I own and run an amazing skincare business where I get to make natural and organic products that don't contain the toxic stuff that harms us all. I can truly say that I am no longer a beauty product junkie, but instead I use makeup and skincare to educate individuals about the effect ingredients in skincare have on our overall health. I have a huge passion for helping others learn about wellness, self-acceptance and staying informed when it comes to their health. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire and encourage individuals to stay strong when faced with challenges.
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A self proclaimed recovered beauty product junkie, Barbara Jacques is the Founder, Creative Director and Chief Formulator at Jacq's Organics, an all-natural plant-based skin and body product line based in South Florida. She speaks and writes about natural skincare. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and check...
According to Russell Simmons, Hollywood would make more money if it were more diverse.
The music mogul and serial entrepreneur offered his thoughts on the lack of diversity and black power in Hollywood in an interview with LinkedIn,
"I think Hollywood is incredibly segregated. I've never seen any place like it," he said. "The gatekeepers who are the most progressive activists inspired to make the world better ... they're better people, right? They're segregated. It's self-segregated in some cases, but there's nobody Black in charge of anything in Hollywood."
He went on to discuss how the lack of diversity is hitting Hollywood where it hurts the most — in the pockets.
"The lack of diversity is costing money. I think that the bosses, the chairmen, want the CEOs to create and the CEOs want people to create success and money. Without a diverse team then, even if you're a good story teller, you're telling a story that is maybe not cultural. If it's not cultural then you have a big hurdle to jump like [with the movies] Carol or Brooklyn. It's not Straight Outta Compton. They'll see that before they find out if it's good or bad."
Hollywood's lack of diversity gives media entrepreneurs like Simmons a leg-up, and he's well aware of it. He spoke about how urban pop culture is "left out of Hollywood" when "it's the most mainstream thing there is."
"They're lacking culture in Hollywood," he said. 'That gives me a big up, right? I know something about pop culture."
Simmons founded All Def Digital, a media network on YouTube, in 2013. It's brought us videos that challenge the black and white cultural experience showcasing situations like a white family experiencing their first black BBQ and white people watching Martin for the first time. All Def Digital now houses an ad agency called ADHD, which helps brands reach urban audiences.
But according to Simmons, Hollywood is catching up. The question is, will they catch up before it's too late?
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At age 13, Adenah Bayoh escaped the civil war in her native country of Liberia and came to the United States where she became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her home state of New Jersey. She became the youngest IHOP franchisee at age 27, and that IHOP became the fastest-growing IHOP in the Northeast where it remains one of the top-grossing restaurants in the region.
Her diversified portfolio includes "$200 million in urban redevelopment projects", and she is now "dedicated to revitalizing struggling New Jersey communities," PIX 11 News reports.
In addition to astounding financial success, Bayoh is also a philanthropist. She runs a free breakfast program for children under 12 at her flagship IHOP Irvington, and she also hosts dinners for needy families during the holidays.
In 2015, she was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Advisory Council on Small Business and Agriculture and was also named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list.
Next year, Bayoh plans to launch Cornbread, her signature line of fast-casual, farm-to-table, soul food restaurants.
When asked by Shoppe Black what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, she said, "I would tell them to be present and stay in the moment because you never know when you will need to draw on your various experiences. Don’t allow your circumstances turn you into a victim and keep a positive attitude."
"There’s no substitute for hard work, but when you’re motivated and driven, nothing or no one can stop you," she added.
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When I made the decision jump headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship and move 3,000 miles away from family and friends in New York City to start a new life in Los Angeles, I was petrified.
In the months leading up to my final day at my former job and spontaneous move to the West Coast, I suffered from uncontrollable bouts of depression and anxiety. Sleepless nights became my norm. Self-doubt and fear consumed me. “Are you really doing this? Can you really afford to move across the country? Where will you live? What if you fail? Can you really handle a big move AND a startup? Are you insane?!” These questions and thousands more tormented me and threatened to derail my plans, but I fought back.
I’ve always been rather stubborn and headstrong, prideful and impulsive too. When I decide to do something, despite immense fear, there is no turning back.
The flight to L.A. was terrifying. During the taxi ride to the airport, I tried so hard to hold back the tears, but failed miserably. My stifled sobs alerted the cab driver. He tried comforting me by sharing details about his journey to America from Mexico, where he didn't know the language, didn't have any support and had to live in a tiny apartment with 15 other people. His story gave me the courage I needed to board that plane.
The first week in my new city could not have been more beautiful and blessed. I’d booked a week’s stay via Airbnb with a complete stranger. I had seven days to find a permanent place to live…seven days. Although my sister and I were working tirelessly to get Birds of Paradise Public Relations up and running, we had a few hurdles to overcome before we could make our official announcement that we were open for business. So, I’d moved to LA with a small savings, few possessions, no place to live and technically no real source of income. By the end of the week, God had provided all my needs: I’d found a great roommate, landed a freelance job with a public relations agency in San Francisco, reconnected with friends from the East Coast who had moved to L.A., and had a new budding friendship with one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met — my Airbnb guy.
I’d never felt more blessed, loved or happy in my entire life. I loved everything about L.A. and was convinced that my move and decision to start Birds of Paradise Public Relations was destined.
Four months later, while on a trip home to the Virgin Islands to coordinate a client event, promote my company and partake in the Carnival festivities, chaos struck. I was suddenly facing the reality of my situation. My freelance contract with the PR agency in SF was cut short due to issues at the company. Panic slowly crept in as I realized I was going to have to make a very difficult decision: Abandon my dreams or tough it out and focus my attention on my company.
I chose the latter.
My trip came to an abrupt end as I headed back to LA to regroup. In the midst of all the confusion and fear, I realized something. What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement while I grew my business had turned into a crutch. My “gig” had made me comfortable — too comfortable. The illusion of having a safety net meant I had lost a bit of focus on what I was supposed to be doing — growing Birds of Paradise Public Relations.
I was determined to turn things around. The team and I hit the ground running. We ramped up our marketing outreach and focused on our growth. Within weeks of returning home, we landed a very small contract with a new client and published two of our advice columns in top industry publications, PR News Daily and Bulldog Reporter.
Despite the ups and downs, various highs and lows, bouts of fear and anxiety, I have never felt more free or happy in my entire life.
I have an amazing group of supporters, from the ladies who believed in my vision and embarked on this entrepreneurial journey with me to the friends (both old and new) who push me even when I’m ready to give up. I’ve learned so much about myself, and more importantly, the people I have surrounded myself with. This journey is hard. It is frustrating and extremely stressful. But in spite of it all, it’s beautiful.
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One Saturday night at 9 p.m. EST, I found myself curled up in front of the television intently watching a movie that I've easily seen a dozen times. Although my mind was telling me to scan social media for the many events occurring in the city that evening, I just couldn't will my body to move.
In my head I was ready, willing and able to get up and get out. But my body wasn’t havin’ it. I was exhausted and I didn't even realize it. My body was giving me an eye-rolling, finger-waving, neck-twisting tongue lashing that my mind chose to actively ignore. There was a full-on dancehall party going on in my head that the rest of my body apparently wasn't invited to. Being an entrepreneur, I spend my days and nights working, vowing that I will give myself a “break” when I reach certain financial goal.
Because I could in no way will myself to get off of the couch and I couldn't fall asleep, I spent the next few hours reading Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes. The musings of a socially-awkward, introverted and successful black woman is my idea of a good read. In the first few pages of the book, Rhimes made a statement that snatched my edges so violently you would have thought I was at a Beyoncé concert sitting front row center. One chapter into the book, she tells a story about being broke and having to choose between one of her favorite treats and a necessity — wine and toilet paper. In telling this story she made the realest statement I've heard in a while, “sometimes the toilet paper does not win.”
Laying on my sofa, so physically exhausted that my body was in hibernation mode, I realized I passed up many moments when the wine should have won.
In my quest for success, I failed to understand that sometimes your sanity means more than “the grind.”
I should have said yes to happy hour and yes to that movie or yes to dinner instead of constantly burning the midnight oil.
Being a creative, employee, mother, activist, or whatever combination of things you spend your days doing can be stressful. For entrepreneurs and professionals alike, it's important to take a moment, an hour or even a day to do you. Our culture of the constant hustle and the notion that getting no sleep is a catalyst to success causes us to forget about the fragility of our mental health. It’s as if we're in a competition to see who reaches the Jack Torrance-level of insanity first, sacrificing our mind, body and will to move just to be able to say we've achieved something.
Well, all work and no play makes Bukola a dull girl.
Yes, you should always remain focused and you should always be about your business no matter what that business is. But it's always important to remember that, “sometimes the toilet paper does not win.”
Buy the wine, sip and be happy.
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A few weeks ago, I hosted a party for one during my Periscope broadcast in celebration of my 10th broadcast show.
I started my Periscope journey back in March of this year after sitting in the office one day, thinking to myself, what can I do to get people more interested in hearing what I have to say? After a few short minutes, I remember reading a blog post online that mentioned this new phenomenon called 'scoping.' That was the day I knew I could no longer be silent and had to get my messages out there. I called up my Creative Director (who also happens to be my fiancé) and said “Hey babe, we’re recording a live show tonight at 8:30 p.m. and I need your help rearranging the furniture and making sure the lighting is absolutely perfect.”
He didn’t ask me any questions and was 100 percent game. I sat at my desk shortly after thinking what in the world am I going to talk about for 30 minutes LIVE? Typing is one thing, but sitting in front of the camera is an entirely different story.
Fast forward a few hours, I put together a really cute blog post about spring cleaning and the importance of making room for new things in our lives, logged onto my Periscope account and, to my surprise, there I had 31 live viewers from New York, Oklahoma, California, Russia & even London!
I couldn’t believe it. My very first broadcast and people showed up for me. I was on cloud 9.
What do I talk about next week? was all I could focus on from that moment on. Approximately four months later, I celebrated.
It’s super important to celebrate your small victories (no matter how small they might be). They serve as opportunities to acknowledge that you've accomplished your short-term goals.
Here are 3 tips on why you should celebrate your small wins
1. Build your self-esteem
Celebrating small victories promotes self-confidence and reminds us there truly is nothing in the world we absolutely cannot do once we make a decision to be consistent and go for it!
The ability to cross a small victory off your list motivates you to keep pushing forward and working toward the next action item on your to-do list.
3. It’s your turn
You’ve put the work in, the time, the sweat, the dedication, and now you deserve to celebrate your achievements.
Here are examples of small wins worth celebrating:
The completion of a goal or challenge
Starting a new chapter in your life (starting a business, career change, new baby, new apartment, etc.)
Meeting fitness goals
Standing up for yourself
Saying “Yes!” to a new opportunities
Having an extra zero in your bank account (this one's my favorite)
Remember, we all have small wins, and each win creates the opportunity for us to learn something new from the experience. That’s how we grow — by continuously learning. That in itself deserves to be celebrated; so remember to find time to celebrate your small wins. You never know who you might be inspiring along the way.
What are some small wins you’ve celebrated? What would add to the list of things to be celebrated? Let us know in the comments below!
You can keep up with Karlet on Periscope during her livestream broadcast on Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. EST and/or follow her on Instagram @forever_karle.
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Many believe that the millennial generation will be the greatest entrepreneurial generation in America's history. Being a millennial hiphopreneur (entrepreneurs influenced by hip-hop culture), we stand to spark an economic revolution for our people like we've never seen. We have the tools to uplift our community socially and financially, and the time is now.
I think millennials are perhaps the most entrepreneurial of any generation in American history. We are equipped with an arsenal that, if exploited properly, will change the game.
As a millennial, I know firsthand our strengths and weaknesses.
Without excluding our sometimes pampered pasts and entitled presences, we are built for enterprise, and knowing the tall order of economic, political, educational and social issues standing in front of hiphopreneurs, we stand ready for the challenge.
Perhaps our best weapon in battle is our mastery of technology.
The role technology plays in everyone’s entrepreneurial journey can't be ignored. Smartphones, tablets, apps, and social media were introduced or innovated during the millennial generation, making us the first to handle and master them.
Technology has been mobilized and made costs of starting and doing business cheaper, all so advantageous to the hiphopreneur. Before, enterprise costs were high, high enough to lock most out, especially African and Latino Americans. Now, cheaper tech, marketing, distribution and sales costs have opened the door for everyone.
Probably the greatest gift handed to the hiphopreneur is social media. All degrees of separation have been removed due to our advanced technology, especially social media, so we can reach whomever, whenever. We can build massive followings, build connections, and set up sales channels all from free or low-cost social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and many others.
Our technological advancements are once in a lifetime, never to be witnessed again — and we had front row seats to it all. We were able to experiment and ultimately master the greatest innovations in the digital world. Harnessing these experiences into dollars is perhaps our greatest advantage.
We’re natural-born hustlers
Our parents were the first big entrepreneurial generation in America. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bob Johnson and so many others came from our parents' generation. So it's kind of a no-brainer that our moms and dads would instill in us the heart of independence and enterprise.
“We saw entrepreneurs, not corporate titans, as the rock stars -- and we all wanted to be them.”
If you're from where I'm from — the inner city — then you witnessed an entrepreneurial experience that either most of us have never paid attention to or never cared to embrace. Our folks were hustlers, making their living in the 1980s crack era. Never in history of America, other than our generation, did a population of young people take on enterprise in the way our parents did. Whether you like it or not, those gold-rope-chain-, Cazal-, tracksuit-wearing guys and gals from the '80s were entrepreneurs who taught us everything we know, even if you don't realize it.
Not ignoring their detriment to society at the time nor the destruction thereafter that's still felt today, our folks pioneered a blueprint that us hiphopreneurs follow today. We are simply chasing it like our old folks did, except we can do it 100% legit.
We have witnessed firsthand the continual social barriers such as racism, classism and discrimination that continue to plague our people. Knowing this from a conscious standpoint, our profit motives are driven behind a bottom line of social change. This generation has a heart, but still possesses the heart of a paper chaser. We will be able to not only make money, but use our newly-built wealth to put others on. In essence, we're conscious capitalists.
"If you want to make money, you have to help someone else make money"
There are tall challenges standing in front of the millennial enterpriser, especially the hiphopreneur. Although typical millennials are focused on molding the next business model that will change industry, us black businessmen and businesswomen are focused on establishing an economic base for our people that we've never had. Like Daymond John said in The Power of Broke, “Innovation comes from the bottom” and that's where we are. It’s a great place to be. If we work together and play our cards right, we'll pull ahead and do what we need to do.
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Anytime I get to talk about my marriage, I get extremely excited. I’ve married the person who, to me, was made for me. I know there are a lot of people who don’t believe in that concept, but I do. A few things I’ve learned since being married on March 1, 2015, is that the person you marry is crucial to your business' success.
Why do I say that? Because the atmosphere at your home controls your attitude. We already have a million and one things that we’re thinking about, and knowing that you're failing as a spouse because you can’t find time can take a toll on you. You’re so engulfed with your business that it can make your significant other bitter if they don’t understand you.
Have you ever heard the saying “happy wife happy life”? Exactly. And vice versa, the same applies for husbands who are supporting their ambitious wives or any combination of spouses supporting each other's dreams.
But beyond that, think about what it would be like if you married someone who dreaded the entrepreneurship lifestyle? Someone who really didn’t understand how you thought. Think about every time you share a new idea and it being shot down with sarcastic narcissism and with a hint of a “here they go with another idea” look on their face. That’s draining for any entrepreneur. We are full of ideas and excited about almost each and every one of them. If you have a spouse who doesn’t understand that, it can make for a rocky marriage.
I was a little timid about getting my wife on board with my business at first because I felt like mixing business with my personal life could end in tragedy. But to my surprise, it has been the best thing I’ve ever done!
If you’re married but have reservations about involving your spouse in your business, I get it. But you could be missing out! Here are 7 things to consider:
Marry the right person
Don’t marry anyone negative. If you’re with a spouse who has nothing but negative things to say about the desires on your heart, I feel for you. It’s alright to have a healthy balance of optimism and realism, but trust me, entrepreneurs are already thinking what the critics thinking. When things fail, we’re hard on ourselves, and whether you believe it or not, sometimes we want to throw in the towel. Our spouse is key to keeping us motivated and encouraging us when rough times hit. If you marry the wrong person, gosh, you’re going to feel bad about yourself often.
Share the vision
Entrepreneurs really want our spouses to care just as much as we do about our vision. That doesn’t have to mean that you do what we do. But we would like you to own what we’re doing and be as invested in it as we are. You can show that by simply saying, “Hey, what can I do to help?” Sometimes we don’t need much, but we do need to know if you have our back regardless. However you show that depends on the culture of your marriage.
Be their anchor
You remember what I was saying about us having so many different ideas? This can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s easy for us to get distracted. I suck at patience. If something isn’t working and I can’t see results immediately, I’ll move on to the next thing. This isn’t a good trait at all. My wife helps to keep me grounded and focused; she’s my anchor. She doesn’t let me run off and pursue every idea that comes to me. This is a life saver, or we would probably not have a business at all.
Don’t stress us out
I know you’re worried about bills, living expenses and groceries. But I need you to know something — we’re worried about those things too! This is why we’re breaking our necks to make sure our next move is our best move. Please keep us aware of our current condition, but please don’t nag. You’ll only frustrate us more. If we’re stressed out, we won’t be productive. Your happiness and well-being are important to us, so please cut us a break.
Can’t be afraid to jump
Or in layman’s terms, you can’t be afraid of risk taking. We love taking risks. We aren’t your typical human being. Having a spouse that’s afraid to jump can delay the process. I’m not saying you can’t have reservations, but I am saying that you can’t have reservations EVERY time. Feel the wind beneath your wings. Smell the fresh air! On three……. One, TWOOO *pushes you out the plane before saying 3* I love you, babe!
Quality time might not look how you thought it would
What does that mean? You have to be open to saying that quality time with your spouse might not be dinner and a movie. Quality time might be you both teaming up to make sure this project meets its deadline. It’s hard to harbor animosity toward your spouse when you’re just as involved as they are with the business. This isn’t a green light for you to do nothing but “work” together, but it is saying you should be open to QT time looking a little different than normal.
Don’t try to change them
Trust me, this won’t work. Entrepreneurship is not a phase. They’re not going to wake up different one day. If you try to change us, it’s going to breed dissatisfaction and we’ll probably end up leaving you. I surely hope this isn’t the case but it’s a reality. We love to try new things and look at different options. If your goal is to get us to be okay with a 9-5 job, that’s a long road you’re choosing to walk down that doesn’t get pretty in the end.
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If you're looking for a web series to fall in love with, I of Africa is it. The series was created in 2013 by Nigerian-American model and entrepreneur Aina Fadina. It serves to celebrate individuality, innovation and inspiration through storytelling. Africa sparks so many cultural conversations worldwide, and 'I of Africa' showcases some of them.
If you flew on South African Airways last month, you might have even seen some episodes of the show, as it aired on each and every international route.
Fadina is NYC-based and has a background in the fashion business (working with brands such as Oscar De La Renta and even Alexander McQueen) as well as in traveling the world. In the video above, you can see a video of Fadina explaining exactly why she created the series and more behind-the-scenes details. Watch more episodes here.
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