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Diary of a Wannabe Black Businesswoman

Complete with a list of past failures....

By DamilolaPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
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Diary of a Wannabe Black Businesswoman
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

I was thinking of the right approach for this particular challenge and I realised that whilst there are so many amazing black business success stories, stories that are often left behind are black businesses that perhaps haven’t been successful or are currently failing.

Failure is a very huge part of businesses. In fact, many businesses fail a few if not 100 times before becoming somewhat viable or successful. With every failure comes a new opportunity to review your past approaches, a new set of lessons to learn, new ways to improve on your craft, and an opportunity to go back to the drawing board.

It’s the ultimate metaphorical death and rebirth.

Many a time we become so stuck on our dreams or our ideas, and are unable to weigh pros and cons without bias. But failure gives the opportunity to perhaps try something completely different this time and employ a new set of eyes to spot issues or problems you missed the first time around.

There are so many black businesses that have failed. And whilst there are many different reasons for this, it’s also important to note that issues like subconscious bias and prejudice are worth mentioning. Statistically, black business are more likely to fail than their white counterparts. A Yale study has done some research on why this is the case. Whilst these issues cannot be seen as the sole reason for failure, always remember to pat yourself in the back as a black business owner because sometimes the odds are against you.

So the black business owner who I know personally more than anyone else with experience of so many different business failures could only be....me. Before you write this off as a narcissistic or promotional attempt, hear me out.

Throughout my life, I’ve been inspired by so many amazing black business owners surrounding me, including my mother, father, my sister and my grandmother. I’ve been in many networking sessions with successful black business owners with curiosity and admiration as I wrote down all their tips and advice in my notes. Social media is no exemption, you’re constantly faced with many successful black business owners who are making a way in various industries. Whilst these individuals paving the way have made things more feasible for me, and serves as an amazing source of inspiration, the person who inspires me the most is actually myself.

It’s very hard to cheer alone for your team sometimes, especially when things aren’t necessarily going the way you’ve planned. The business which you saved up all your money for and the services which you planned to provide, have all failed. And there you are in your room, on your bed crying yourself to sleep every night and wondering if you should just give up. You might take a quick trip to social media and remind yourself that other black people have been successful in a similar business venture to yours. But the strongest form of inspiration and perseverance can only come from yourself.

Most of the time, you’re the best and most qualified cheerleader for your team. Why? Because you know better than anyone else the emotions and self-doubt that comes with failure, the many times you’ve given up and started again, the mental stress that comes with running businesses and of course your dreams and ambitions. You could watch many motivational speeches on YouTube, get inspiration from others but the resilience to keep going can only come from you.

The first business I ever attempted was a jewellery making business, I was about 10 years old. I remember the first time I sold a necklace to my social studies teacher, it was about 150 naira which converts to about £0.30 in U.K’s currency. I was so excited that I refused to spend a dime out of the money and kept it for a long time. That business failed mainly because of that mentality, I wasn’t able to secure as many customers as I had hoped and therefore felt I needed to hold on to whatever cash I had made. By doing that I didn’t recycle my profits into capital for new accessories and supplies. I ended up being preoccupied with my studies after this and slowly the business died.

What I learnt from this is the all-important business lesson, “Risk”. Risk is synonymous with business and without it, you have little to no chance at success. Sometimes it’ll pay off, sometimes it comes at a heart-wrenching loss, but whichever way it goes, you pick up a new lesson along the way and it sharpens your business acumen. Perhaps what I could have done better then was recycle some of my profits into buying new types of jewellery making accessories, since the previous styles were no longer desired. I later attempted this business venture again about a year ago, but put it on hold in order to come up with new designs.

My new bead making prototypes

The second business I attempted, was a bag making business. My idea was to create a type of system where only a few bags would be available each month. This allows for a subscription based model where loyal membership could be created, and in turn, customers would return to purchase the exclusive bags every month.

On paper it sounded like a good idea, it seemed to have a low barrier entry, since I’d be creating the bags myself. Except, to cover the cost of the supplies needed, the hours spent on making it, the aggressive marketing required, the bags would need to be somewhat pricey. Without any reputation to go by in this particular market, and barely any funds in my pocket as a struggling artist and student, as you’ve probably guessed, the business failed. I limited the marketing to Instagram ads, but the problem is people are more likely to purchase an exclusive product from a well-known brand and not a new one.

The first prototype I made

The lesson I learnt from this is to spend time on creating an audience in that particular niche first, as it helps with giving the brand/business a reputation to start with. Having a Facebook page posting memes about bags and fashion might be a good start. I haven’t abandoned this project yet even though it failed the first time, rather I’m working on saving up some capital and trying again.

The third business I attempted, which will be the final in this list is the popular business model, “dropshipping”. YouTube might have suggested the videos with very catchy titles, “how I made £10000000 in 2 days from drop shipping” or “turning £0.50 to £50000000 in 24 hours” to your homepage. Those are of course exaggerations, but some YouTube business owners really do advertise this business model without really explaining the dynamics of it comprehensively.

I watched one of these and instantly became inspired, it’s once again a low barrier entry, you don’t have to spend a dime to start and of course, it seemed like a business that could be very profitable. I decided on the sunglasses niche. I am very interested in fashion and thought it’d be a good industry to go into. I contacted a few sellers on Alibaba, chose what I thought were the most fashionable and unique sunglasses, downloaded the product pictures and uploaded them onto my website. All that’s left is to watch the profits roll in right? Well, I was very very wrong. In my defence, I was about 17 and a bit naive and stupid.

What’s love got to do with it🎶

To have a successful dropshipping business, it’s very important to have good capital for marketing. There’s also the fact that when a customer purchases the product from your website, they might have to wait 20-30 days to receive the product from Alibaba. I don’t know about you, but from a customer’s perspective, that’s very off-putting. Why wouldn’t a customer looking for unique sunglasses just go to amazon and get it on their doorsteps the very next day, instead of waiting for an eternity for one from your website?

There are ways around this of course. The first is to use a personal courier for your products which costs more. The second is to market aggressively then scale up as you go along but even that requires a lot of money. So after spending all my food allowances on marketing on Instagram without any sale, I eventually put that product on hold too.

What I’ve learnt from this, is to consider a completely different form of marketing that many small business owners don’t use as much. Times are changing and old marketing techniques aren’t as effective anymore. A new effective way of marketing in 2021 is;

Influencer marketing!

Think about it, would you rather buy a product from an Instagram ad or from an Influencer you trust and look up to? I’m guessing your answer is the latter. The truth is no matter how amazing amazon is with their delivery times, we all form a somewhat personal relationship with people we watch and look up to, and so when they recommend products to us, well it’s easier for us to purchase!

So whilst I’ve failed the first time around with this business, the next time I will be making use of my capital on influencer marketing.

Those are just a few of the failed business ventures I’ve attempted in the past as a wannabe black businesswoman. There are many more I attempted during my teenage years. But what I know is, no matter how many times one fails, the inspiration and resilience to continue can only come from oneself. When you give up, that’s when it all ends, and so I inspire myself to always keep going.

So if you’re a black business owner and you’re currently failing, buckle up, learn from past failures and every time you get up again, give it your absolute best.

Who knows, maybe in 5 years I’ll be back on Vocal to tell you one of my business ventures has finally made me millions!

goals
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About the Creator

Damilola

poet, wanderer, writer.

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