When I decided to be an entrepreneur, it was sheerly out of the passion of knowing my market, because I am my market, but also wanting to create a product that would be out-of-this-world that people would love and use. And although this was a great place to begin, that doesn’t get anyone too far in their business. Why? Because when you’re as evergreen as I was when I first launched, I quickly realized that there was a lot I needed to learn, and fast!
The first step I needed to take was educating myself on funding because every statistic said, “good luck Black woman, but many don’t want to see you succeed.” This sentiment unfortunately doesn’t just show up in entrepreneurial spaces but a theme of odds that meets Black women in every aspect of life. The idea of “boostrapping” for non-marginalized groups tends to look a lot differently than for someone like me who had no straps, much less any boots--but I pushed forward. Then low and behold I found myself on Black Girl Ventures (BGV’s) Instagram page and then the website trying to navigate what it looks like to receive much-needed funding.
Most recently, I tuned into BGV’s latest pitch competition for New York business owners. And yes, although I have watched every pitch competition BGV has hosted, this one was indeed different. It was different because I’m at a newer stage in my business and just a little more knowledgeable in navigating the conversation around what I created and why. I absolutely love watching Black women who are passionate about changing the world, sharing with the world their creations. But I am always more enamored by the panel who pose questions that make me take a deeper look at myself and my business and the finer points of how to get to the bag!
Through watching this pitch competition, one of the bigger points that was constantly reiterated was “know your numbers”. Prior to watching BGV pitch competitions, I’d always walk around saying “I’m not a numbers girl”. Yet, here I was having that sentiment thrown in my face, forcing me to learn and affirming that if I didn’t, I could kiss goodbye any semblance of the success I know my business could have.
What is your revenue?
What are your overhead costs?
Why are you asking for this amount versus more?
When you’re evergreen, a lot of times you’re just winging it and hoping it just comes together. But, I now have a blueprint for the things I need to be very cognizant about and potentially hire someone to get me further in the know with the numbers.
The next thing I recognized was that no matter how passionate the women were about their businesses, when looking for funding, the “why” had to make sense. As a journalist, I would always tell mentees, “if you wrote it, have someone else read it”. The reason is because if you’re doing anything for an audience or consumer and it is only clear to you, but not them, no one will get it and therefore no one will buy it or invest in it. The BGV panelist made this point extremely clear based on questions they’d ask, alluding to the fact that if they, as investors, couldn’t identify the problem being solved, the market, etc. then those points needed to have been fine tuned.
Lastly, one of the most innocent takeaways from the latest BGV pitch competition was to relax! Yes, pitching your business can be extremely anxiety-driven, however when you’re in a room with people you know want to see you win because they created the lane for you to do so, take a breath and leave the nerves. Nerves while pitching can make you ramble and stumble to the point of appearing as though you don’t know your business at all. Finding the balance and taking breaths in between the pitch slides seems to breed effortlessness and the poise of a boss.
Ultimately, I am grateful for what this pitch competition brought forth for me and the ultimate message is: Success is possible when you believe in yourself while extending that belief in being open to learn what you don’t know.