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5 pro tips for women of color entrepreneurs

Women of color entrepreneurship is on this rise. Black and Latina women are three to five times more likely to start a business than their white counterparts. Despite that, most entrepreneurial resources and articles are not targeting this population. A quick google search of ‘entrepreneur’ and this first image that came up:

Latina women own nearly 1.5 million businesses nationwide, while  African American women are the fastest growing entrepreneurial demographic in the country, increasing at a rate of  191.4% “Non-white, multicultural women are the secret force behind overall progress and the introduction of more than $1.5 trillion in revenue to the nation’s economy, according to a new report“, as reported by The National Women’s Business Council. The study encompassed Census data of American businesses for 2007 through 2012 and show that women of color are the undisputed leaders in entrepreneurship despite the recession and subsequent slow economic recovery. We need more information both about and for these self-employed women to better support and nurture growth.

As an woman of color entrepreneur, I compiled a list of 5 important pro tips to know both for entrepreneurs and for those who want to support this important group.

  1. Don’t buy into respectability politics. The industries where we are highly concentrated include health care, social assistance; and professional, scientific and technical services. However there are women creating online boutiques, hairstylists, nail and makeup artists, consultants of all kinds, and sex workers who all deserve safe and supportive workplaces.
  2. This work does not pay well. It requires many hours of time and investment that is often our own. It is often inconsistent, with different streams of revenue at different times over a year. It requires detailed planning, and well timed risks. It is not for everyone. It is important we don’t shame others who may have a different context for their lives that makes entrepreneurship unsustainable or inaccessible. Instead, form networks with other women and work collaboratively to tackle debt and financial instability like these four Latina sisters.
  3. You don’t have one employer anymore – you have hundreds. That’s why I like the term ‘community employed’ – for me it describes the many relationships with multiple institutions,, organizations and individuals. It isn’t about marketing, but about relationship building and retention. Social media has been a powerful tool we have engaged that has democratized access to media. With cloud based web design software like wix or online marketplaces like Etsy, there have never been so many platforms to share your work and serve your clients.
  4. We are increasingly without safety nets. This is evidenced by a report from the Center for Community Economic Development which found that the median net-worth for single white women was $41,500 compared to $100 and $120 for African American and Hispanic women, respectively. We don’t often have the benefits of large inheritances, financial gifts from parents and for many of us who are queer or trans, we may not have access to a family at all and that lack of support takes a substantial  toll on our ability to amass wealth and access opportunities. Plug into other networks like BossBabe, a networking a site for millennial women. From their website: “We are embodying the change of what the mainstream business woman looks and presents herself as. Times are changing and so is the professional world.  All across the globe, thousands of young, ambitious women have started their own companies through the power of the internet.” This is a great space for networking online and meeting other entrepreneurs.
  5. We excel at it. Years of experience in customer service and working twice as hard come in handy working for yourself. Take time to practice self care or engage in community based healing initiatives created specifically for you. Harriet’s Apothecary is one option: “We are committed to co-creating accessible, affordable, liberatory, all-body loving, all-gender honoring, community healing spaces that recognize, inspire, and deepen the healing genius of people who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of color and the allies that love us.”

For those of you who are seriously thinking about making the jump into entrepreneurship and need to talk to someone, reach out to an advisor.  Check out Forbes profiled attorney Jo-Na Williams who is a ‘New Business Advisor for Artists’. She also has a podcast where she interviews ‘a full-time Creator, a business expert,’ and willgive you the tools and strategies she’s used to help thousands of artists successfully live their dream on their terms.’

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Kim Katrin Milan is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed artist, educator and writer.

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