Black women are starting businesses at six times the national average, but they receive very little venture capital. What gives?
If you’re a black female tech founder, you probably have a lot of questions—and you’re not alone.
Let’s cover the basics:
Business is creating value that someone wants or needs. It’s building something better for your customers—and their customers, too. It’s about making the world a better place, whether that means making a life-saving drug, or making people’s lives happier through fun games. Businesses can be non-profits, for-profits, or cooperatives. They can be small mom-and-pops or long-standing global brands with thousands of employees. And yes, a business can even be a single person working from home!
As a black business owner, you may encounter challenges that your white counterparts will never know. But don’t let the odds be stacked against you—you can succeed! Here are some basic tips to help you get started off on the right foot:
- Understand racial discrimination in business. Black Americans were not allowed to own businesses until 1863 and even after that, it was heavily regulated. Understand how racism has shaped the current business landscape and be prepared to work around it.
- Work with a mentor. Mentors can help you navigate the process of starting a business or growing one into a thriving enterprise. A mentor can also help keep you accountable and provide valuable feedback as you grow your ideas into reality.
- Set clear business goals for yourself—then write them down and refer back to them often. Your goals should include what success looks like (e.g., having 100 clients or earning $10,000 per month). You should also have a time frame within which these goals must be reached (e.g., by December 31st or within six months). Consider breaking big goals down into smaller milestones so that you can check your progress along the way: “In six months I want to have 10 clients; by 12 months I want 50 clients.
- Don’t forget about legal and tax implications for your business. If you want your business to be seen as a separate legal entity (with its own taxes and finances), you might want to consider starting an LLC or a corporation. These types of businesses offer personal liability protection and the ability to separate yourself from your business. Speaking with a tax preparer and attorney will give you the insight you need to decide what is the best business structure for your business.
- Be yourself. People want to see that you’re real and approachable—so don’t feel like you have to sound all serious and professional just because it’s business. When we share our products with others, we talk about them like we’d talk about them with our friends: “these are the best cookies I’ve ever had,” or “I love these jeans so much—they make me feel amazing.” Not only does this give people a better sense of who you are, but it also shows that you’re honest and genuine. And there’s no better way to convince someone to try your products than to show them how much you love them!
- Keep learning as much as possible about every aspect of your business—you may not feel like an expert yet, but the more you keep learning after opening up shop, the faster you’ll get there and the better off your company will be for it.
As a first-time business owner, I know you’re busy, so I’m going to break it down in an easy-to-digest (did someone say alphabet soup?) format:
A is for Assessing the market
B is for Believing in yourself
C is for Curating a killer team
D is for Developing a strategic plan
E is for Educating yourself about finances
F is for Fundraising
G is for Getting the right insurance
H is for Hiring the right employees
I is for Identifying your target audience
J is for Joining trade organizations
K is for Keeping track of expenses
L is for Launching your website
M is for Marketing
N is for Naming your business
O is for Obtaining permits and licenses
P is for Purchasing equipment
Q is for Never Quitting
R is for Registering with the state
S is for Staying organized
T is for Testing Strategies
U is for Understanding areas of improvement
V is for Venture Capital
W is for Working towards future growth
X is for Xerox and save key documentation
Y is for Yield on earning assets
Z is for Zone of support