As a young, divorced mom of the smartest, coolest, and most handsome 9- year old on the planet (of course, I am bias), the thought of maintaining and balancing my life as a full-time entrepreneur is enough to make my head spin. Yet, despite the ensuing craziness, millions of women have elected to take this entrepreneurial journey. According to Fortune magazine’s “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express Open, “the number of businesses owned by African-American women grew 322% since 1997, making black females the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. Women now own 30% of all businesses in the U.S., accounting for some 9.4 million firms. African-American women control 14% of these companies or an estimated 1.3 million businesses.” Coming across these statistics were a great reminder that I am not alone, and neither are you!
Even with this positive trend, it remains far from an easy feat to develop a sustainable and profitable business. You will encounter many disappointments along the way that can range from financial setbacks to time restraints to relationship conflicts. Despite the challenges that may arise, I am here to remind you, You Can Do It! When I encounter moments of discord or I am feeling discouraged, I take a moment to reflect on the following statement: Oprah wasn’t built in a day.
Most women entrepreneurs respect and have a certain level of admiration for Lady O. She has not only been able to amass a great deal of wealth but has managed to accomplish this doing the work she loves. Although her success is well known (ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century, the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and is currently (2015) North America’s only black billionaire) so are the not-so-great parts of her journey. She was born into poverty, a teenage, single mother, and faced many hardships in her youth. Despite being raised in a less than ideal environment, Oprah went on to become, well, Oprah- a single moniker synonymous with success and resilience. A shining example of what is possible for African-American women.
Prior to her well-documented success, Oprah worked for years at local stations as a radio personality, co-host, and anchor before she received the chance to host “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in national syndication. Overcoming the many obstacles she faced did not happen easily or hastily. She diligently and brazenly created a journalism career path that has yet to be mirrored. This path, however, was not without its hurdles and challenges to overcome and neither will yours be. She has no doubt been rejected, ridiculed, laughed out, and belittled. As you travel along this entrepreneurial journey, realize that the same is likely to happen to you, but like Oprah you can face them and triumph over them.
In addition to a being resolute; one must also be patient. You must wholeheartedly understand that business ventures do not tend to flourish overnight. They all take a measure of time to become financially sustainable. The amount of time varies depending on multiple factors (upstart cost, salary, loans, expenses, etc.); but don’t be discouraged and keep it mind that it takes time to turn a profit. Oprah began her career in 1976 in Baltimore; began her talk show in 1985, and in 2003, was listed by Forbes as the first black woman billionaire. That is a span of an almost 30-year career. Oprah Winfrey did not become “Oprah” without putting the time in to solidify her name in households across America. You will have to do the same!
So my fellow Passionistas, as you continue to face disappointments and distractions along your way know that with hard work, diligence, and time, you may be famously and successfully be known by a single moniker.
‘It doesn’t matter who you are; where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.” ~ Oprah