As a new mom and National Sales Director at Coca-Cola, I didn’t give much thought to food allergies. However, when my daughter Vivienne started eating solid foods, it became clear that she was allergic to tree nuts, bananas and corn. In addition, she has a rare condition called FPIES that causes a severe reaction to eggs. I was surprised and frustrated to learn that there was nothing on the market that met her dietary needs and my health standards. With determination and a belief that you can’t wait around for someone else to solve your problems, I set out on a path to create a new line of healthy, convenient allergy-friendly snacks for my daughter and everyone to enjoy - Partake Foods. As a minority and a woman starting a new business, I discovered a few challenging realities that are rarely talked about.
1. Access to Capital
African-American women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US with over 1.5M businesses that generate over $44B in annual revenue. However, out of the 10,238 venture deals between 2012 and 2014, just 24 of those involved Black women. Statistically, that is zero!
Only 11 startups led by Black women have raised more than $1M in funding. When you think about access to capital - having angels in your personal network, having business ideas that are relatable to the VCs you are pitching, and looking like the people you are pitching to, minority women are at a definite disadvantage.
In speaking to successful founders, I’m repeatedly told that one of the most important contributors to success will be my network of advisors and mentors. However, there aren’t a ton of minority entrepreneurs, particularly in the consumer products space where I operate, making it’s difficult to find others with similar struggles, drivers and challenges.
3. People Discount Your Business
I can’t count on my hands the number of times I’ve walked into a room – whether to pitch, at a trade show, or a meeting with vendors - and been with a white female or male counterpart and been totally ignored. People turn to my non-minority counterpart and assume they are the business leader.
When that’s the natural thought, it’s hard to convey to people how serious you are about your business and get them to believe in you, since they’ve discounted you and your business ability from the minute they saw you.
4. Lack of Support from Community/Culture
I have an amazingly supportive network of friends and family, but I may scream if I hear the question again, “Are you sure?” and “Why would you ever leave your corporate job?” It’s unfathomable to many of my friends and family that I would leave the security of a 6 figure 9-5 to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship. “Side hustles” are a huge thing in our community and speak to the ability of managing a full-time job, as well as an entrepreneurial venture, but it’s often taboo to make the leap to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
5. There is a Ton of Opportunity
The time is ripe to be both a female and minority entrepreneur. Investors and large corporations are awakening to the disparity that exists in funding and opportunity, as well as realizing the great bets that they are missing out on.
Because of this, funds that are specifically interested in investing in female and minority founders are popping up, and programs like Project Entrepreneur and CODE2040 are committed to changing the current statistics. While there’s still a gap, there are so many amazing founders and business leaders working to trail blaze a chance.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!