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Why I Am Determined To Be Heard And Validated As A Female Entrepreneur Of Color

Business

We don't have a choice of how we are brought into this world. We can't choose what sex we'll be, what race, our size, our economic status or sexual orientation etc. Life is truly what you make of it and how you decide to deal with each situation is up to you.


When you're born an African American woman, and have aspirations to become an entrepreneur, you must prepare yourself for an uphill battle. It's a tedious aspiration, however, the rewards are great as you persevere by staying focused, determined, and fueled by passion.

There are so many factors that prevent you from receiving funding or finding investors when you start a business, especially being a WOC (woman of color). There was a lack of knowledge on my end – I had no idea about business plans, banking, business credit, or really anything business related. When you don't have the knowledge, you spend tons of money on items that you don't need, could have gotten for free or done yourself. People will take advantage of you and your money instead of giving you proper guidance. People do this when they see that you're a woman of color or even just seeing that your email address sounds ethnic– I've even changed my email to T. Anderson so that people will just open my messages.

With my first business, I was out in the open – my face was everywhere and the social media photos posted were of me with with celebrities and customers. I was the brand, but I couldn't get financial help from anywhere. I recall a time when I was being pitched to an alcohol brand to give alternative marketing for a new brand – they loved my products (desserts), but as soon as we meet in person, the deal got shut down. I didn't want to blame it on color, but a few months later, on their social media, they located a baker who created a dessert with their brand, but she was not a WOC.

With my second business, I decided to take a different approach. I didn't share photos of myself on any social media, I abbreviated my name in emails, and I even changed the tone of my voice when speaking on the phone to sound less ethnic. Perception is everything because, after that, I had no trouble finding support financially – it was as if people believed in me and what I was telling them, and didn't even ask as many questions as they had with my first business. I noticed that advice was given freely, people volunteered to educate me on the things I didn't know or understand, and support came from every direction. Both of my businesses are creative and very outside of the box, so it wasn't the type of business that people were drawn to. The fact that they didn't know what color or ethnicity I was seemed to open their ears to listen to me and actually want to see this business flourish.

The change begins with education in our communities for young women by making them aware of their options.

They deserve to be prepared for any road block that comes their way, have doors open for them, be progressive in business, and create a line for the next generation to follow so we don't have to depend on men to teach us how to operate a successful, profitable business with upward growth.

You would think in this day and age, sex and race wouldn't play such a major role in business, or maybe I was naive. I know having a good idea and concept is not enough and that you have to learn how to play the corporate game to get to the top.

As women, we should support each other and create a community to help us advance in every aspect of business. We need to instill in the next generation the importance of encouraging and empowering each other. This is specifically important for POC (people of color) to advance in society so we can change the world by becoming a major influence on both the business and political aspect. We can't help transform the world if we are not represented on the panels that make those decisions.

The choices I make today will affect the decisions my daughter can make in the future. I lay the groundwork for her to play in, so I am beyond determined to break stereotypes and change perception in order to be heard and validated as a true female entrepreneur of color.

Through all the challenges I faced as a woman of color, I can say I am proud of everything that I have gone through because now I am able to help the next generation. Currently, my second business is in the cannabis industry and has become the most lucrative. Now I am in a position to teach and mentor people of color in an industry that has a lack of representation of people of color. By being an industry leader as a head executive of the Cannabis Diversity Council, which is a global education business platform for POC who are interested in getting into the cannabis industry, we provide educational mentoring classes. My experience and growth has empowered me to embrace my color and femininity. Being a woman of color in 2018 is a gift and reward once you ignore the negativity and focus on the positive aspects manifesting all things in life, both personally and professionally.

I am what I think I am, are you?

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
8min read
Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.