The entrepreneurial journey, particularly for Black women, is a constant wave of challenges and triumphs. Statistics show that Black women represent one of the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., yet they face unique hurdles. From the process of establishing a business, achieving a delicate work-life balance, to maneuvering through predominantly white business landscapes, the journey is layered with both obstacles and opportunities. Many ask me about the start of The Fit In and my ability sustain. As I reflect, I'm keen to share insights that might guide others embarking on a similar path.
Embrace Your Unique Path
Business is not one-size-fits-all. Early on, I recognized the ineffectiveness of mirroring another's journey. Embracing my unique path, tailored to the community I aimed to serve, unlocked a clarity of purpose. While it's tempting to benchmark against others, understanding that each brand's pace, growth, and offerings are distinct is vital. Deviating from one's mission to chase another's vision can inadvertently derail genuine progress and passion.
Commitment to Authenticity
Throughout my experiences, I've understood that being vocal doesn't always equate to being right. A study by Harvard Business Review highlighted that quiet leaders often possess traits like humility and introspection, which can be crucial for successful leadership. Reflecting on this, I've consistently taken a behind-the-scenes approach, allowing data-driven insights to guide the creation and implementation of innovative strategies. These strategies have been pivotal in achieving remarkable results for the companies I've worked and consulted for. I've found my quiet but mighty approach to be more aligned with my principles, ensuring that I remain mission-focused and can filter out distractions.
Staying Anchored to Our Mission
The core of any endeavor is the 'why' behind it. According to Simon Sinek, renowned leadership expert and author of "Start With Why," companies that understand their 'why' are more successful and better able to inspire others. At 'The Fit In', our guiding principle is the belief that everyone is entitled to a better quality of life. To actualize this vision, we provide an array of scientifically validated movement methods, avenues for fostering social bonds, and alliances with partners dedicated to health, particularly in underserved communities. While there have been temptations to deviate from this mission for financial gains, history is littered with examples of companies that lost their direction and subsequently their customer base. A report from Harvard Business Review indicates that businesses that stray from their foundational mission can face decline or even collapse. At 'The Fit In', every initiative we undertake is evaluated against our foundational 'why', ensuring that our endeavors are not only impactful but also sustainable, allowing us to serve our community consistently and effectively.
Belief in a Self-funding Model
In 2020, following the tragic death of George Floyd, there was an uptick in funding for Black founders. This brought about a surge in Black VC funds and grants aimed at supporting Black businesses. However, the VC landscape is complex. Data suggests that investors know that about 75% of their investments may not offer returns. They spread their funds across a portfolio, banking on a small number to yield substantial returns. Yet, this investment often comes with strings attached, which might not always align with a founder's vision. In 2022, VC funding for Black founders decreased by 45% from an already small fraction, representing just 1.3% of all VC funds. The landscape was even more challenging for Black women founders. This environment led to a proliferation of pitch competitions, grant applications, and accelerators. While these initiatives often benefited the funds, they sometimes capitalized on the aspirations of Black entrepreneurs, and throwing many into a state of self-doubt. My focus remains on devising business models for 'The Fit In' that not only stay true to its mission but also effectively cater to the community, ensuring sustainable growth and outreach.
Understanding the Entrepreneurial Sacrifice
Transitioning from a corporate environment to entrepreneurship undeniably involves relinquishing certain comforts. A report by Forbes emphasized the relentless efforts entrepreneurs put in, often extending beyond typical 9-to-5 timings. Such commitment means foregoing the luxury of leaving work behind post office hours and sacrificing paid holidays. However, there's also the essential aspect of self-care. A study by the American Psychological Association underscores the detrimental effects of chronic work stress, including burnout. Recognizing this, I've taken steps to establish boundaries to ensure my well-being. Whether it's designating specific work hours, dedicating quality time with my partner, or scheduling periodic getaways, these measures are crucial for my overall health and the sustained success of my ventures.
Entrepreneurship is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor, but there's something special about doing what you're passionate about. For me, the opportunity to uplift my community and offer a better quality of life is the driving force that keeps me going. It's this drive that ensures The Fit In remains a cherished and trusted part of our community's journey, mine included.