“Are you Sure You Want to be an Entrepreneur?”
By Tyra Seldon
There is quite a bit of hype surrounding entrepreneurship, especially in Black communities. Many of us see it as a chance to claim our slice of the American pie and live the quintessential American Dream. But, if you are not careful, your dream might become a nightmare.
First, entrepreneurship is not for everyone which leads to the question: Who should consider entrepreneurship? To be honest, this is a deeply personal question that can be answered in numerous ways. I did not become an entrepreneur until I was in my late 30s, but I should have started earlier. In fact, if I knew then what I know now, I would have started in my 20s if not before. But before you run off and quit your current job, there are several things that you must consider.
Entrepreneurship and self-employment requires discipline and a willingness to go above and beyond what is required. No matter how skilled you are or how innovative your services or products are, you must have the fortitude to stick with your game plan. I sometimes work seven days a week and my daily schedule fluctuates depending on the number of projects we have. There are times when I can’t attend events or socialize like my peers because I have deadlines and business-related commitments. Because I am my own supervisor, I can’t wait for someone else to tell me what needs to be done or with what urgency or frequency. I set the tone and without discipline, there are other things that might pull me away or distract me.
Paradoxically, you must also accept that failure is often a part of your journey towards success. I can’t think of a single entrepreneur who I have worked with or taken on as a client who has not experienced some form of failure. Failure can be defined in numerous ways, but ultimately, I see it as something that did not go as planned—this can be as straightforward as not being awarded a project to something as complicated as not having the cash flow to pay your business expenses. Regardless of the context, the key is not to stay in that space; instead, learn from your failures, grow from them and move on.
This leads me to my next point: Do not try to do this alone. Even if you plan to be a sole proprietor, give serious consideration to having a team. I have several high profile/celebrity clients and the one thing that they all have in common is a team of people who are deeply skilled at what they do. These people, in turn, help to position the “face” of the company/brand to be successful. You may see Dr.__________or Mrs.____________or DJ____________, but what you often don’t see are the lawyers, accountants, managers, personal assistants, and handlers who focus on making sure that everything goes smoothly.
When you first start, you may not be in a financial position to start with an entire team; therefore, I recommend starting with one or two people who are gifted and giving of their time and talents. If they believe in your success and your vision, there is a strong possibility that you can work something out where they are fairly compensated.
Unfortunately, one mistake that many Black entrepreneurs, in particular, make is rewarding loyalty over competency. Running a successful business is not about hooking up your best friend from 3rd grade who has had “your back.” No amount of loyalty can overcompensate for someone who is ill equipped to do a job. So, be careful about who you team up with. Yes, they may have your best interests at heart, but are they the right people to help you fortify your vision?
These are just a few of the things that I wish someone had told me before I started. Like anything, we experience things differently, but if you go in with your eyes wide open then you will probably discover that entrepreneurship can be your ticket to freedom.
Dr. Tyra Seldon is the owner of Seldon Writing Group, LLC. Her clients have ranged from Dame Dash and Kenyatta Griggs to Dr. Boyce Watkins. She frequently writes about the intersections of race, culture, gender, and education. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org