Now more than ever, we are seeing Black women-owned businesses making a name for themselves in the global market.
In fact, According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, while the number of women-owned businesses grew 58 per cent from 2007 to 2018, firms owned by African American women grew 164 per cent. Black women-owned businesses make up 20 per cent of all women-owned businesses, and are the largest segment of women-owned businesses after non-minority women. With signs pointing to now as the perfect time to become an entrepreneur, it could be helpful to have some insight into what being a Black female business owner is really like. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered!
Lana Boone is the creator and owner of Kurly Klips, an online company that produces a variety of clip-in extensions in textures meant to match customer’s natural hair. Founded in 2013, the brand has steadily gained prominence within the natural hair community, and was even named Best in Black Beauty by Essence Magazine in 2016.
Lana’s journey to starting her business was not a smooth ride, however. In fact, the idea for Kurly Kilps came to her during a period of uncertainty and frustration. While working as a desk assistant at a news organization, Lana decided to apply for job opening for a different position as a researcher for international correspondence. Despite her experience and credentials, she was told she was “too international” for the role.
“That stuck, because it wasn’t as though the company didn’t trust me; I was a White House producer on the weekends, they trusted me enough to run the desk. So I knew it wasn’t about me not being competent,” she recalls. “At that point was like, ‘Wow, so this is what everyone in the real world is talking about! Workplace discrimination, hello!’ In that moment I realized I never wanted to be turned down, rejected, or have a ceiling placed above my head because of my race or gender. There was a rage starting to form inside of me.”
And, as they say, the rest is history! Despite the universe seemingly calling on her to start her company, there were and still are many challenges and not-so-glamorous sides to entrepreneurship. Here, Lana shares from her experience some of helpful insight and advice for all those prospective or current #BlackGirlBosses!
Business is a service – Before getting into business, it is important to understand why you are doing so. Is your product going to help others, and if so, how? Lana recalls that while her initial motivation in creating Kurly Klips was because she needed hair extensions, she realized that so many others had likely been in the exact same situation as her. “As I was creating Kurly Kilps, something that I didn’t like was how, as Black women, we are treated. We were shopping for hair extensions, and I felt that a lot of the websites didn’t look nice, people weren’t putting a lot of care into their businesses, I felt like we were treated like second-class citizens. I wanted to, and continually strive to do better. There is a market of women who just want a nice quality product, from a really nice quality brand that they can be proud of.” Lana continues: “A lot of people get into the entrepreneurial space just thinking about money, and what they can get – that’s not how a sustainable business thrives, or grows. Metaphorically, if you’re not willing to get down on the floor and wash somebody’s feet, then get out of business.”
Understand finances – Now that you have a plan in place your your business, it is important to actually learn what each expense really means. “Think about taxation. What a lot of people don’t understand about business is that I am taxed at 40 per cent,” Lana explains.
“People think I’m sitting here, keeping all of the profits – no! It goes to Uncle Sam and my manufacturers [laughs]. So much of business is the ‘unsexy’ – health insurance, bookkeeping. It’s about sitting down, and getting practical about all of the aspects of business that aren’t glamorous.“
Beware of scammers – Starting and running your own business is definitely a lot to handle. This is especially true for first-time business owners. Unfortunately, some fraudulent organizations take advantage of novice business owners, disguising themselves as “business development incubators.” “They will claim to do x, y, and z for you, and they don’t,” Lana warns. “Sometimes people get caught in seeking out mentors, which is not a bad thing. But you have to be so selective. Go with your gut feeling, do your own research find people who care about your growth. Be wary, if people are making promises. You are smarter than you think!”
Don’t compare – A healthy dose of competition can be great motivation to bring your a-game to your business. However, like in all aspects of life, comparison is truly the thief of joy! Getting too caught up in what other companies are doing can be detrimental to the growth and integrity of your business. “A lot of business magazines don’t know what they are writing about,” Lana says. “Many of the businesses that claim to be doing well are not. Sometimes you look at people who are being glorified in this magazine, or asked to speak at this conference: it’s all about networks and connections, even if their products aren’t that great. Don’t compare yourself! Most of it is smoke and mirrors.”
Pay it forward – As the market of Black-owned businesses continues to grow, it is important that we remind ourselves to help out other entrepreneurs where, when, and however we can. It does not have to be a grand gesture; Lana is quick to emphasize the value of just a kind and encouraging word!
Written By: Ashleen Grange