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?
WRITTEN BYTamara Anderson