3 Lessons I Learned as a Woman of Colour in Entrepreneurship

BIPOC women founders face economical and social barriers in addition to racial barriers when they start a business. Often times, we have to go through an added layer of dealing with this complexity as we handle day to day interactions, conversations, and relationships.

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

Why wait till you learn the hard way, when you can share your learnings with others as we all stumble through it. As a woman founder, I find myself learning, re-learning and doing some unlearning constantly. This has been a constant for me for the past several years, since I launched Parkdale Centre.

I share my thoughts, reflections and sentiments on social media so that others may benefit from them. Often times though, they’re more of reminders for myself of what I should do more of. I aim to make my (twitter) timeline one that inspires me to go back to and remember my own words. It’s a way to hold oneself accountable to practice what I preach, and it helps me to stay focused on my own vision, mission, and goals, without having to look to others for that guidance.

Distance yourself from people who bring you and your energy down. Focus on those who lift you up.

Professional jealousy, toxicity and negative energy is real. We all have likely experienced it at one point or another in our career journey. It’s not easy to identify those feelings towards you and your work, often it comes in the form of negative feedback or a constant negative voices that keep trying to stop and discourage you from doing what you’re seeking to do. Often times, people might not be as happy for you as you’d like them to be, or do not express their real feelings and lack transparency.

It’s so important to distance yourself from these relationships as they’ll tend to drain your energy, and time. Instead, focus on relationships that are uplifting, inspiring, and impacting you in positive ways. This will help you to feel energized, and give you a network of support that you need in this very critical time. As new entrepreneurs, it’s really important that we learn to navigate through these relationships in a way that doesn’t hinder our progress, and our mindset.

Go easy on yourself.

One of the biggest thing that entrepreneurs need to hear is to go easy on yourself. We get into a habit where we’re doing it all and everything. We wear many hats throughout the day, you’re the marketing department, you’re sales, you’re partnerships, you’re funding, and you’re also human resources, and operations. While giving everything 25-30% of your attention, you’re aware of that and you know you could do much better across all areas, but you have no choice. And then you blame yourself for not doing 100%. It’s never easy.

You have to go easy on yourself and know that you’re doing the best you can given the current circumstances and stage of your business. You can’t do it all, nor should you. There’s no expectation for you to do it. You simply have to try your best, and believe that what you’re doing, no matter how small it might feel, is moving you little by little to your goal.

Live in your truth and don’t be apologetic about it.

Speaking our truth can often be conflated with getting in the way of our success. For the first year, I was afraid to speak my truth so as to not deter prospective funding/partnerships etc. I was afraid of speaking out, despite living in my truth for over a decade. This time, it’s different. When you’re business you’re building and nurturing from the ground up, there’s a lot at stake. And non-entrepreneurs won’t understand. I lived in my truth by ensuring that I stick to my mission, and values. Aligning myself and my organization with partners and good people that are also on a similar mission and goal helps to keep you grounded and to reach your goals.

Now that my organization is a little bit older than 3 years, I feel more at ease with speaking my truth. I let people know why an interaction they’ve had is not on par with our beliefs on equity and inclusion. For me, I feel that if we’re at a point where not being able to speak our truth is compromising our own values, and mission, then something needs to change.

Of course, speaking your truth, and being comfortable doing so without jeopardizing your mental health, and your livelihood takes time. I often wonder if we’ll ever reach a point where speaking one’s truth as an entrepreneur just becomes an inherent part of one’s identity, in the utmost unapologetic sense. We could get to that point, and there has to be a lot more security for us in both mental health and livelihood, but I believe we could get there.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your vision, and this will help to build your courage up to speak your truth & be unapologetic about it.

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