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14 Women of Color Entrepreneurs On The Advice They Wish They Had Before Getting Their Start

For National Small Business Week, we’ve gathered valuable tips and resources to serve as your guide to all things entrepreneurship.Follow along all week for features that’ll help you navigate the small business landscape on your own terms.

You don’t need us to tell you that women are crushing the workforce and entrepreneurship game. Not only are there 11.3 million female-owned businesses in the U.S., but according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women of color entrepreneurs have seen remarkable growth, more than doubling since 2007 from around 2.2 million to about 5 million. To break that down even further, eight of the 10 new companies launched from 2007 to 2016 was by a woman of color.

These are pretty amazing figures considering the obstacles WOC face in launching their businesses. Small business owners of color are more likely to be denied loans, or receive them with higher interest rates. That coupled with blatant racism and gender bias leads to even more challenges. But nevertheless, WOC are killing it. And passing the baton and ensuring that others like them feel empowered to start their own enterprise is essential. So we asked 14 WOC entrepreneurs what advice they wish they’d known before striking out to start their own businesses.

Here’s what 14 women of color entrepreneurs had to say…
Patty Rodriguez
Co-Founder Lil’ Libros and Founder of MALA by Patty Rodriguez

“I wish I knew early on before starting my businesses that the biggest obstacle to face was myself. We are our biggest challenge. Once we get over that fear we have within ourselves and we jump that wall, everything begins to fall into place. I really believe the hardest thing in this journey is believing in yourself. But once you do, life begins to happen.”

Jacque Aye
Founder, Adorned By Chi

“Back when I was starting I had this idea that business would be so fun and glamorous, and that’s not always the case. If I could go back in time and mentor myself the first thing I’d make sure I understood was budgeting for taxes and other business expenses. You never have as much as you think you do, and saving for tax time and other things throughout the year will save you a headache later on. Also, I’d tell myself to take it easy when it comes to networking and let things happen organically. Believe it or not, you don’t have to be in the “in crowd” to make things happen. Just be yourself and do things because you want to help yourself and others, not because you want to fit in.”

Grace Lee
Designer, Founder, Grace Lee

“There will be always be critics and haters but you have control over yourself and your work.”

Ana Flores
Founder, We All Grow Latina Network

“I wish I would have known how difficult it is to get back up when your business goes through a very bad bump, especially if you own a service-based business with no collateral. If you’re bootstrapping your business, you’ll most likely rely in credit cards and lines of credits to sustain your cash flow. It’s very important to know that if you ever default, your personal credit will be the one affected. If you have to file for bankruptcy, it’s also on your name and credit.”

Nyakio Grieco
Founder, Nyakio Beauty

“I wish as a woman of color entrepreneur I would have received the following advice before I started my business: Know your worth, trust your instincts, and stay authentic to your vision. What I know now is that I always knew my worth, I had strong and correct instincts, and my vision was on point. It’s just now, 16 years later I have gained the confidence to believe it.”

Jocelyn Ramirez
Founder, Todo Verde

“The advice I wish I had gotten before starting Todo Verde is to be confident in your curiosity. We create solutions by pushing aside mental blocks like insecurity and vulnerability for an eagerness to learn.”

Zoila Darton
Founder, WORD Creative

“One thing I wish I had known when I started WORD was that my personal voice would be what would carry the brand. As women of color, we have a unique experiences that potential clients or customers will resonate with. If we truly own our experiences and inject our lifestyles into our brands, unapologetically, the right clients/customers will gravitate towards us leading us to create more fulfilled, authentic and purposeful businesses and lives. Also, just start! There’s no time like the present to live your authentic life.”

Julissa Prado
Founder, Rizos Curls

“What you lack in marketing dollars, make up with uniqueness and creativity.”

Mitra Raman
Founder, The Buttermilk Co.

“It’s much easier to get started than I thought. I held off for so long because I was building it up to be so much harder than it was in reality, but all it took was putting rasam ingredients in little Ziploc bags to really test the idea, and it all kept going from there. Also, I wish I did more research into the food industry before really jumping in, especially because it’s so different from my background and experience (software engineering). The licenses, communication methods, hiring policies, everything is so different.”

Bethany Yellowtail
Founder, Designer, B.Yellowtail

“There isn’t just one way to do anything. Activate your ingenuity. Your ancestors did a lot more with less. I come from a corporate fashion background and when I left to launch my own fashion business I didn’t have much to get started. Sometimes my biggest hang-ups were that I didn’t have the financial support/infrastructure/employees etc. like the brands I worked for, so I convinced myself I was doing it wrong. But the truth is, there isn’t just one way to do anything. When I discovered this for myself I found a sense of relief and the boundaries and roadblocks I thought would stop me, were simply leading me to discover a new route.”

Patty Delgado
Founder, Hija de tu Madre

“When I first started my business, I wish I would have never felt ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty for asking for what I deserve… Don’t let others dim your worth just because they don’t find value in your work and art.”

Lora Arellano
Founder, Melt Cosmetics

“I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I went into starting a business without knowing anything about how to run a business. And I think if I would’ve known how much work it is, it would’ve probably scared me a bit—not completely, but I would’ve gone into it a little more prepared.

I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world though, being an entrepreneur is the most rewarding thing to me. I pinch myself every day when I get to see how many people my cosmetics brand has reached, and how many girls it inspires to want to go out there and do the same thing.”

Elisa Shankle
Co-founder, HealHaus

“What I didn’t expect upon opening HealHaus was that we were giving birth to a baby and what that entails. I’ve been an entrepreneur for eight years, but nothing prepares you for brick and mortar. Having your own physical space requires so many things, and being able to delegate is super important. In order to generate growth and bigger picture ideas I need to be able to free up my time from the day to day.”

Lucia Rios
Founder, Twisted for Sugar

“One piece of advice I wish someone had told me when I started, or even before I started, was actually something I was recently told and it brought me peace to my soul. A powerhouse woman CEO, and founder of a large organization, told me ‘No one knows what they are doing at all times, most of those you look up to are also faking it till you make it.’ Basically it’s okay if you don’t know everything, you will learn.”

This story was originally published on September 24, 2018. It has been updated (and will continue to be updated) to include new tips, advice, and guidance, to ensure we are always giving you the best, most valuable resources.

We’re covering every step of the entrepreneurial journey in Startup Studio at the Girlboss Rally. Join workshops that will walk you through how to turn an idea into reality, and get actionable advice on how to fund your growing business and hire your dream team. No matter what stage you’re at, register now at girlbossrally.com.


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