Photo Courtesy of American Express
People 15 November 2017
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.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.