5 Reasons to Consider Entrepreneurship
So, you're interested in having your own business, but you're not sure how to go about it. I've been there. In fact, I was there for several years. I just kept thinking about the possibilities, but not pushing forward to make it happen. Early on in my journey, I discovered that I wanted to help to empower others. As a manager, one of the most important things I could do was to help my team members reach their maximum potential. I was able to work in my profession and satisfy my personal desires. But after awhile, the demands of the job outweighed the rewards. My job was extremely stressful, it consumed most of my time, and I wasn't fulfilled anymore. It was time for a change. It was time for some serious soul-searching with the intent to act upon my findings. No more daydreaming or what-if scenarios playing in my head. It was time to do it! As a starting point, I recommend sorting through your ideas and having a clear understanding of why you want to journey down this road. Creating your own wealth is not for the faint-of-heart so ask yourself the tough questions. Do I have the desire and persistence it takes to do it? What are my goals? Does anyone share my passion? Can I make a living? You may not figure out everything, but I can guarantee you will have answered a few questions and discovered some interesting things about yourself in the process.
#1 reason - you're capable
Being your own boss requires self-belief (if you don't believe in you then no one else will either), dedication to your vision, planning, and a lot of (hard/smart) work. I researched other websites, businesses, and social sites to see if there would be any interest in what I wanted to do. It was great to read other entrepreneur's stories of how they got started.
It helped me to get past the idea that there is a MAGICAL (i.e., right way) to do this. Start where you are with what you have, in the manner that works for you. There is no one way or right way to ensure you will succeed. Research also helped me understand that the difference between successful entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs is that the successful business person went for it versus those that dream/think/wish/hope for it. The latter approach won't get it done.
Initially, I thought I would continue to work and use my free time to establish my blog, but by the time I got home at night I was exhausted - both physically and mentally. I soon realized that I was giving my best efforts to my job and the leftovers to my endeavors. The results of my (part-time) efforts were mediocre at best, so for me, this wasn't the way to go. However, there are many people out there that have been able to build their business while holding down a 9-5 job. These folks have my utmost respect! And (again) it proves the point - there is more than one way to do this! In my situation, it became harder and harder to muster the energy for my job, let alone anything resembling passion to continue doing it on a daily basis. Frankly, the gap between the demands of the job and my utter burnout was too wide. Thankfully, by this time I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about it. My soul searching paid off! Once I realized - as in truly believed- I was capable, and that I was the only person holding me back, I went after it with all the tenacity of a dog with a T-bone! Equally important was the fact that I had the full support of my amazing husband to start a new chapter in my life, as an entrepreneur.
#2 The Facts about Unemployment
Do you remember the show, The Jeffersons, about a black business owner and his family who made it out of poor conditions? I'm probably dating myself, but it was on TV during the seventies to mid-eighties. Anyway, they had that catchy theme song; We're moving on up. I loved that show because of its message of self-sufficiency. It was one of only a few times that you saw this message about African American people on a major network. Fast-forward to 2017, almost on a daily basis, I see an article or video regarding how the African American community should position itself for a better future. While I am happy to see more of us highlighting the issues and getting the message out, there are still far too many of us that have not caught on to the importance of self-sufficiency and wealth building. The old paradigm - go to school, get a degree and land the job - continues to persist in the black community. This way of thinking is problematic, especially when you examine the unemployment statistics among African Americans which are disproportionately higher than any other group in the United States, according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (comparing 1st quarter 2016 to 2017). It's important to know that the problem of high unemployment in our communities has been present for decades. In light of this, the old approach may not be the best course of action. Considering we are some of the most creative people on the planet - setting the pace in music, fashion, pop culture, etc. - it's high time we turn our attention toward creating opportunities, production, and becoming independently wealthy instead of competing for a limited number of jobs.
#3 Student Loan Debt
I'm sure you've seen those commercials featuring a single parent who goes back to school to earn a degree. While the kids are asleep, she's studying into the wee hours of the night. It's a powerful image and a compelling message of taking control of one's situation to make a better life for yourself and your family. Whether the individual returning to school is an adult or a young person just starting out, both will invest a significant amount of time and likely borrow a substantial sum of money in pursuit of this goal. For some, this will be a wise investment. However, every borrower should thoroughly research their options and understand the pros and cons of a particular course of action before signing on the dotted line. The cost of a student loan may be higher than most of us realize.
In 2016, The Brooking Institute, a nonprofit public-policy organization based in Washington DC, published finding on the disparity in student loan debt among blacks and whites in the United States. Researchers found that blacks (at the time of graduate) on average owe more than their white peers and over time the gap continues to widen. Due to differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing, blacks hold over $50,000 in student loan debt just 4-years after graduating, a number that is twice as much at their white counterparts. The obvious concern is that we are paying more for the same or similar education.
Highlighting the challenges facing African Americans and other groups regarding loan repayment has more to do with helping individuals to assess their return on investment critically. The question to ask is, will this debt benefit me in the long run? Let's take an example from a conversation I had with a friend in which she told me of her desire to gain a job-specific certification. A little bit of background information, Carol (not her real name) already holds a college degree and special credentialing for her position. She is happy at her job, and her employer is pleased with her performance. Everything appears to be very stable. I asked Carol what her plans were for the next ten years. She responded that her intention is to retire in about ten years. I asked if she intended to leave her current employer anytime soon? She answered no. I shared with her that most people are worth more in the job market than when they stay long-term with a company. Would she receive full reimbursement or partial continuing education dollars for the expense of the classes? Would her employer increase her compensation once she obtained the certification? To both questions, the answer was no. My final question was why carry the debt? Debt is okay when it works to your advantage. If it doesn't, my advice is not to waste your time or your money. She agreed and ultimately decided against it, which brings us to the fourth reason.
#4 Wage Gap
The pay gap is a topic often spoken about from the perspective of gender, and women's rights. However, the issue of wage disparities is also one of race. You may be shocked to learn you could be earning less than your peers for the same job. A quick Internet search for black versus white compensation (or compensation gap by race) will yield a treasure-trove of research and articles tackling the subject of wage discrimination. In fact, several months ago a list came out showing the disparities in the pay of actors and actresses on some popular television shows. These would be considered hit shows, with lots of advertisers, in prime television time slots and with high viewership. Across the board, the money per episode that African American individuals receive when compared to their white counterparts was significantly less. Just like a television show that can be canceled, a job is a temporary position. Jobs cannot be passed down to future generations - but businesses can, and so can the mindset and tools to build something for yourself. Entrepreneurship puts you firmly in control of your earnings and establishes a platform for your children to stand on and hopefully for their children as well.
#5 Historical Precedence
There is quite a bit of chatter about can we as a community of color build anything of value? I say we only have to look to the past for the answer. And the answer is yes, we can. History shows that blacks were prosperous, industrious, communal, and focused on the future. An obvious example from the early 20th century is Black Wall Street which chronicles one of the most successful (and horrific) periods of time in the African American community. People in that community were unified and thrived. If you have not learned about this fascinating period in United States history, I highly encourage you to do so. Start with Wikipedia and continue from there to find out more. What impresses me most about the community of Greenwood, Oklahoma is that it was a destination for blacks that wanted to escape systemic oppression, racism, and violence. People traveled from all over the U.S. to Oklahoma. It was a beacon of hope, much the way Ellis Island represented liberty and opportunity for immigrants coming to America. The story of blacks searching for a better life once again intersected with that of the Native Americans, but that is another history lesson for another day! The people of Greenwood, a.k.a. Little Africa, worked together to create a space that was idyllic, in an otherwise bleak and all too often violent world.
What once may have been an automatic course of action - go to school, get a degree and find a job - should be viewed as one of several possible approaches to making a living. The reality is, we as a people, used to be much more self-sufficient. Our goals were much larger than getting a job. In part, I attribute the worker-bee mentality to what we see and hear in our daily lives. By and large, our communities lack the presence of black businesses nor is the message of ownership promoted by us or to us. Dependence on others whether it be the government, an employer, grocery, etc. is natural when it is around you, all the time. However, this is a relatively new mindset that emerged during the industrial revolution, when scores of people moved from the rural south to cities for jobs. Before that time, people grew their food, made clothes and bartered with neighbors. Now, I'm not a proponent for the return to the 'good old days' of horse and buggy, but I do believe there is knowledge from the past that is applicable today. Today, we are a nation of consumers, and this mindset will do very little to help any of us attain financial independence. Furthermore, what is widespread and proven to be pervasive in the African American experience are the gaps in wages and disparities in loan repayments and job opportunities. What that tells me is that we need to cultivate new options and return to the cornerstone of self-sufficiency that was prevalent in our communities not so long ago. My next post will look at ways we can do just that.
We're moving on up!
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Always the best,