“THE EGL GIRL CLAIMS HER BLESSINGS, SHE CREATES HER DESTINY, AND SHE ABSOLUTELY OWNS HER TOMORROW”.
-Yandy Smith-Harris, (CMO of Everything Girls Love)
Everything Girls Love (EGL) presented on November 4th & 5th an awesome weekend for ladies who needed guidance in developing their entrepreneurial path! The panelist of successful, well-respected, black women – and yes, men – shared their personal journeys to building their brands, secret jewels on making their business profitable, and answered questions from aspiring ladies of what may be hindering growth from their start-up brands.
So I highly suggest you get your digital or physical notepad out, put on your favorite headphones, and get ready to listen to some pointers that will HELP you spiritually and financially on the right path in branding your company while remaining grounded to push through and never give up on yourself and your dreams. WARNING: your soul will be touched, you will be inspired and you will be reminded to keep the faith. KEEP SCROLLING!
Purpose, Passion & Profits
What a way to open the EGL Girls Hustle Harder Weekend with is sector! If you wanted to get your head, or mindset, right, THIS was the place to be. Speakers like Tashara Simmons (author, motivational speaker, notorious known as DMX ex-wife), Lucinda Cross (personal development expert and contributor writer for Black Enterprise and Huffington Post) and Monique Rodriguez (Owner of Mielle Organics hair care) to name a few shared their painful struggles and breathe into the attendees with courage and confidence in finding their passion and how to monetize on their purpose. Watch it all here:
VIP ROOM FRIDAY
Saturday night were speakers involved in different areas in the entertainment industry – fashion, media, television and music. Speakers like Mona Scott-Young (TV producer, talent manager, Owner of Monami Ent), Arian Simone (celebrity publicist) and Tekoa Hash (celebrity makeup artist) discussed their stories that revealed the power of pushing through harsh circumstances. Special guest panelists, Rae Holliday (insprational coach, blogger, author) and Mave (Brand Strategist).
VIP ROOM SATURDAY
VENDORS & REFRESHMENTS
Brand Building 101
Attendees got a huge dose of Vitamin C and caffeine from this branding panel bright and early Saturday morning. Speakers like Shante Bacon (Owner of 135 st Agency) and Courtney Adeleye (Founder of The Mane Choice) piggybacked on each others stories and advice. Read what they said below and take out your notepad. You will need it!
Shante Bacon is the owner of 135st Agency for about 11years. Born in Jamaica, Queens, as a young girl her mother pressured he to be an attorney, but in her heart, she loved hip-hop and marketing. She started her career while going to college and after graduation at Def Jam Records. After 8 years with Def Jam, she branched out in creating her own business. She had mentors where one of them was Kevin Liles to guide her on the journey. While launching her business, she met a lady, (name unknown), who love her idea and suggested to her to do PR. Shante created a press kit and went out to conferences, meetings and any businesses of black professionals. It was a slow growth because of industry projects that needed to be done. Soon, she broke into film in 2010 which grew her staff. This lead her company to do more branding projects like launching Lee Daniels “Empire” with Fox Broadcasting company and Carol’s Daughters. She worked with 15 number one films and many non-popular films for paramount, Disney, Sony, Warner Bros and many television projects. Shante met Mona Scott Young and Yandy Smith. She worked with VH1, WeTV, BET, Sundance, IFC and every television network program African Americans would take interest. Currently with Oprah Winfrey Network for 5 years
SHANTE: This journey of entrepreneurship has been totally different than any other hustle ever. It’s the hardest thing you would ever do. I am not going to lie to a single person in her and say ‘follow your dreams and God will do the rest’. Not at all. It will definitely keep you up in the moments you are no longer sure you are strong enough to kind yourself up. But, it’s going to be a lot of hard work, dedicated, sacrifice and not a lot of sleep. And if you are the kind of person who wants to make a brand to stand behind with pride, you are going to be uncomfortable, you are going to work hard, you are going to loose sleep. For us, we like to teach our staff the lessons I have learned. I was taught at Def Jam was before you get to the brand building part, you need to make sure that the work is something you can stand behind. Because one thing that a lot of people of entertainment, They make the store front look shiny but the inside is falling apart. They make sure their Instagram is on point, but when people would hire them, everyone walks away unhappy. Or the work is just shitty. The deadlines is never met, work is late, emails has typos. So, it’s not all branding, it’s hard work especially if you’re a service provider. The word of mouth can kill your business. There is a reason why the beef industry sued Oprah Winfrey for saying ‘don’t eat beef’. A hotel website sued someone for giving a bad review. People make purchasing decisions based on word of mouth. You had to make your word of mouth equity on point. Especially as African Americans, where there are assumptions made about your skill level before you walk in the door. You walk in as a deficit and you had to prove you are better than the mainstream industry/competition. The way you do that is being so committed to an excellence that no one can shake. Even if they don’t hire us, they would come back and say ‘I was wrong. Those people could not do it’. That’s how we build a brand where we got 6 naming excellence in multicultural marketing awards where I was the only woman of color on the advertising age woman to watch this year. Each one of those awards and accomplishments is building my brand where not having to say what I am.
Courtney is the owner of The Mane Choice hair care line. Before she launched her company, she set a personal goal to grow her hair very long, which is not common in the African American community. She shared her journey on social media and people wanted to know what she was using. With all the positive feedback, she used her $500 budget to launch her first product which sold very quickly. A friend told her she can sell anything, but Courtney was very realistic and strategic to do the best she can do with her marketing and presentation with the limited amount of money she had.
COURTNEY ADELEYE: You want to people to buy something, they have no idea about. So, it has to look good. The presentation have to be there for you to believe in it. You can have a good product and the presentation is not there and it will never get passed that point. You can have the prettiest packaging, they use it and don’t like it. It is tough to scale a company. The beauty industry is one of the toughest industry. But being good at it, now you are up 24 hours a day. We put our shoes, and makeup on but it’s so superficial to what the situation is. There are nights you are not sleeping. There’s nights you are doing customer service. People don’t see the back end. It is not easy by no means. I spoke to a young lady last night and she said ‘the beauty industry is so saturated’. You say saturated, I say saturated at which level. Are you talking about people on Instagram selling hair products or people who is taking it to a national level because it is not that saturated. Not many female owned, black female owned companies.
There are times when we have orders and we can put it out tomorrow. Well, why? We still here. Let’s get these orders out today. I don’t care what is on the website. Let’s exceed their expectations. We have retailers saying ‘hey, you are in New York’. You never know you is watching. Make sure your presentation is always crisp.
Latoya Shambo is the owner of Brooklyn Brand Lab. Her main focus is advertising, media.
LATOYA SHAMBO: We literally don’t sleep. If you specializing something on Instagram and you see someone say something about your product, respond to them and be apart of that conversation. Then they want to come back. I don’t do PR. PR is different. If you want exposure, then PR is for you. You have to invest in your brand. You have to buy media. You have to spend money if you want to scale and build. If you want to reach the masses, spend the money on Instagram. Do be afraid to say here is my quarterly budget I can only afford 500 dollars in February or whatever. You might ignore an ad but it works. Make sure you have an advertising budget if you are selling anything. If you are looking for expose, don’t only rely on Instagram to help you because it is not going to save your life. You may see scrappy commercials, but they spend money for you to see their scrappy commercial. It may not be that millionaire Jonson and Johnson ad. Think about that when you are building your brand.
Mahisha Dilinger owner of CURLS.
MAHISHA DILINGER: I am a firm believer that you cannot understand and appreciate someone’s testimony until you understand the tasks they had endured to get to where they are. I’m born and raised in Northern California. A very impoverished neighborhood. A lot of gang violence, drug addicts, drug abuse, drive-by shootings. My home had drove a few times because my brother was blood. We had a lot of teen pregnancy and a lot of my friends, brothers get up to 18. No one in my family finished high school, much less college.
So how to you change your destiny without resources, information or access? I decided to change my destiny through education for entrepreneurship. And was the change to change my children’s lives. I had a child in college, and their father left me and I had a little girl to take care of. And that was the catalyst for me to turn on the brain. What am I going to do? I’m going to make it. That’s how curls was born. It the time I was an Intel employee. That was my goal. I was so proud I gotten that job because it’s hard to get in. Lot of old Caucasian men. I was a young, black woman managing department with a lot old men. And had my first experience with racism and this man Lionel was determined to get rid of me. I was the first one in, last one out. I was a dedicated employee. I was leaving my mark. He put me on a plan to get rid of me in 6 months. I had little girl to take care of – single mom, rent, car note, private school. I prayed to God like God you have to take this man out of here. Every single time that I interviewed, he would bash my name. He left taking a job in Malaysia. My finance now my husband took my out to dinner in Santa Barbara. Over dinner on a napkin I wrote down business ideas. What am I passionate about? I had some ideas similar to American Girl. I wished I have done that. Another was hair care. My husband was like ‘listen you have so many products under your shelf. Why are you not doing something that space’. I was truly natural and I start thinking , I am going to create a product for women like me. It was 2002 before Instagram, Facebook. You had to grind like nobody’s business. We was not socially available to promote.
I created CURLS with 4 products. Now I have over 60 queues. I came home and started my process. I went to work. Looked for a cosmetic chemist, web developer and grew my business during lunch at work until I left. Ladies. Do not quit your day job while you grow your business. Later left Intel because I couldn’t create my passion in an 8 to 5 office. I went to do pharm sales – legal drugs. I was able to be in and out by noon and worked on my business for the rest of the day until I couldn’t do it anymore. I kept both incomes. The money I made from my business went back into the business. The money I made from working was for the household. You have passion, God’s vision, purpose but listen – be realistic of your time and finances.
The change in the business started when I got the call from Target. ‘We want your brand in our stores’. Curls, Miss Jessie’s, Shea Moisture and Jane Carter was the original 4. A 500-door trial and we blew it out of the water then we went nationwide in Target. In that process, other companies called, like Walmart, CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid.
Being a black woman, nothing had been easy her me. We are expected to fail. We have to show them above and beyond. It’s one thing to get into retail, but to stay and to grow is another thing. Whatever you do with your brand, be authentic with your consumer. With retail, you will go in a space where no one will look at you. You will not get the respect until you perform. Everything you do, have the presentation sharp. Everything you do represents us, as a whole. If you trying to put a product on shelf and you don’t ship, you’re gone. If you don’t sell those products off the shelves, you’re gone. That will take your business away because they charge back a huge amount product fee and product amount. Have passion purpose and diligence in everything you do.
LATOYA SHAMBO: It’s OK to work for someone until you have the money to commit to your business. You can’t just say ‘I wanna be an entrepreneur. Imma leave my company. I don’t want to work here no more’. That’s silly. You need health insurance. I left Complex in March. I called my mother and father and daughter’s father and said’ This is what I’m doing. I have this money that will last for these amount of months. Just be sure if I call and ask I need gas money, I mean it. If I need groceries. I mean it. I was prepared to take off 6 months to work on my entrepreneurial role. Theni also got to September and was like guys I can’t do this anymore. I needed the work. I like to be around people, I like the corporate environment, I also need health insurance because health insurance is not cheap when you are on your own. Food stamps is ok. But be real to what your expectations are. Make realistic goals.
SHANTE: To start at zero with a neutral impression, it is so important that where its retail or service base that you understand that however uncomfortable you think you are in that moment, you will 100 times more uncomfortable if you have to overcome a negative impression. It last forever and shit goes at nano speed before you can go to the elevator. 3 times of the amount of people heard that you screwed up, you came late, there was a typo, presentation wasn’t good. However uncomfortable you feel getting the packaging/presentation together, when you’re staying up all night to deliver an order early, if that order was late, all of the sudden you got all this chatter and static and now social media, it can go forever. Those small details make your brand. Some people take a bunch of beauty shots on a private plane with their hats, bags and shoes, they think they are creating a brand. No, it takes work to create a brand. The brand is being said about you behind your back when you are not able to speak for yourself. What are they saying about your work?
Yandy: It’s very important that you decide the corporate world is just not for me, I have an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s where I was at one point of my life. But you also have to be committed. The same amount of time I put in for someone else, I was committed for doing that for myself as well. My boss at the time said ‘you can’t manage artists and manage me on my own time if this artists’ ain’t in the fold, so what are you going to do? I had to make the decision to go on my own. But in doing so, I had to build a team, know my purpose and manage artists. For those of you is saying ‘I got to leave my job. I can’t focus on both. Understand that you have to put in the work. Research. Google is your friend. Figure out your demographics. Know your market. When she made your CURLS logo, she was very specific in color and font. We went over EGL logo a million times. I had a team around me who were experts in branding, logos, marketing. The little money I had, invested in the business I thought I wanted to be in. It started with putting in the time, work and money.
COURTNEY ADELEYE: I had a lady looking at the product and said ‘I don’t think people is going to like purple’. Mind you these were selling. I wasn’t feeling like doing business with this particular person. And I got an email last week and guess what the subject line said – ‘I was wrong’. She said everyone is asking about this product. I told her ‘I wanted to do business with you, but we’re not going down that route’. She wanted to do whatever she can. ‘I flew into the city thought you was going to be here’. So, sometimes you have to be confident in what you are selling. Know what you want before you approach talking to someone.
SHANTE: Confidence is definitely required. You have to have faith in what you’re doing. One of the ways to build a fire wall around yourself is spirituality. I am always stunned how people can’t handle rejection. I feel like I have a PHD in rejection. When I transition into entrepreneurship, when I heard a no, I was like they can’t wear me out. I will be still here until you are ready to say yes. You have to make people do the mistake of turn you down, come back and say I was late for the party. For me, I charge more when people are late to the party. I gave you the price the first time and then you say ‘I think you guys don’t have it’. Then come back and realize I do have it, there is a premium. People hear rejection and they get sick. They are in bed. You know someone that is doing something different every year is because when they hit rejection, they got thrown off and start something new. You have to fight through the rejection and pain.
Darnella Dunham is a celebrity multimedia professional & web manager.
DARNELLA: You should definitely make the spirit of you can’t motivate you. Three years ago, I had twin boys and my father told me you have four strikes against you. You’re black, you’re a woman, married and have kids. As a professional, those are things that work against you. But that really affected me I never thought about it like that. After having my kids, I make three times as much before I had kids. I used that as motivation. You can be successful like everyone up here and you can have a family, a husband and a life too. I have never been more successful than I have now. I would be inspired if I hadn’t had those two hungry children.
MAHISHA: Let’s talk about balance because I am a mother of four and count my husband so that’s five. I don’t know it’s realistic.
YANDY: You got to cut the things that don’t matter. I love my girlfriends. But they don’t like me half of the time because I can’t make all the birthday dinners, the clubs. It’s because I got to build a business. I got to be there for Omere and Skylar and my husband. I don’t know how I get it done. Thank God for my mother and all my support system. I am figuring it out every day. I cut out a lot of things that don’t support the end goal. The end goal is to have healthy children. The end goal is to have a business I can stand behind. Creating jobs for women.
LATOYA SHAMBO: I had to grow up and get a nanny. I literally can’t be everywhere and do everything. I have to go to a client dinner. My daughter’s father is a correction officer, so his schedule is rigorous. My daughter needs special attention. I can’t leave her with anyone. My mother lives in Jamaica. My father’s dating. There is no help. I had to make an investment and not feel bad leaving my child with a stranger.
COURTNEY: You have to know what’s important in that particular time. Balance may mean me being here today. If I get home, my kids in school, I know my husband wants to go the movies. I have to go to the movies. You have to prioritize versus balance. That’s what I think is more important.
SHANTE: Work, life, balance, is something is only asked to women. When is it last time a CEO or anybody asked Obama ‘how is your work, life, balance?’ We have the responsibility to take care of the home. It’s insinuated that if you are a professional woman dedicated to your profession, something at home must be lacking. Usually, when people ask me that I say ‘I don’t really look at it like that because I don’t think of it as work’. If it’s what you love to do, you’re enjoying it. If you enjoy what you do, your competitive – you need to be competitive. If competition scares you, entrepreneurship is not for you. There is always a lot of competition. What is it in the marketplace I can provide that is not there? How am I having fun in doing that one thing makes me different? I have a big family. I pull them into my world. If I have my work life separate from my personal life, I am living a double life because both requires a lot of attention. You need to find a way to synergize those things. How can they be there while you enjoy your big moments.
Darnella: No matter how great the guy seems, when you’re dating him. If he shows you he’s not feeling it when you’re working a lot, recognize that before you get married to him.
Latoya Bond (CEO Everything Girls Love): Branding starts with yourself. How you speak, where you’re from, what you put on social media.
Latoya Shambo: You don’t need to be on every social media platform. You need to master 1, 2, maybe 3. You’re using Instagram for images, Snapchat for moments in real time, Twitter for a voice and being in conversations, Facebook to amplify conversations.
Courtney: With my company, when I launched one of my products, it was sold out for months before I even launched it with the power of social media. Utilize it as a business tool.
Be inspired and please, never give up!