Two years ago I spoke to five black women within the hair, beauty and creative industry, to get their thoughts on supporting black owned businesses, advice for future entrepreneurs and how they managed negativity and criticism. This time around I have spoken to women in business that have celebrated their first year in business and some women who will be joining them in celebration of their first year in business.
“Recent numbers show that black women (those who are putting down their ethnicity as Black Caribbean) are earning more than white women entrepreneurs, at least in Britain. The figures for 2008 show that black women have been earning around £462 every week, while that for white women has been around £436.” – Black Women Entrepreneurs and Business in the UK
With the rise of women, particularly Black British women building fruitful businesses. It is important for me to speak to women about to the start up process. We tend to see the perfected and polished finished product/service, and as glamorous as it all looks, there is a lot that we don’t see. I wanted to be able to get a few women together to share some of the lessons they have learned along their journey and a few things you will need to consider if you’re looking to start your own business.
Meet The Founders
Latticia Organics – Wellness & Lifestyle brand Latticia Organics – Authentically and passionately empowers individuals with the knowledge and tools to create a healthier, ethical and well balanced lifestyle, through product making workshops and handmade skin care products.
Omolola Jewellery – Ope & Taiwo the sisters behind West African inspired jewellery brand Omo Lola. Create bold and culturally enriched pieces of jewellery that beautifully brings black individuals, style and culture together, in ways we don’t always see in mainstream media.
The Curve Catwalk – The UK’S first Curve dance classes, created by Trina, empowers plus size women through her weekly dance classes. Tri has created a safe space for women to show up and show out, without the judgement and mistreatment that is targeted at plus size women.
What were some of your biggest lessons in the first few months of your launch?
Ope & Taiwo: We learnt that black women support and love black people. They even helped to create our #omololajewellery. Black women have been generous with their time and photos, voluntarily sharing their reviews and photos to support our brand. Also, black people want to feel seen in all aspects of life, from fashion to literature.
Latticia: As I initially launched LATTICIA Organics through an Indiegogo campaign, the first few months of the launch were a learning curve as I had a small window to get the product to the customers which put a lot of pressure on me.
What experience and education did you have before starting your business?
Latticia: I studied Architecture at university and loved it! It is definitely nowhere near the same as running a skincare/ lifestyle brand but a lot of my designs and project managing skills were definitely transferred over to my current business.
Trina: I studied performing arts at college, then went onto do a joint honour course at Brunel University; drama and film studies, so I’ve always had an interest win the arts, performing and the creative industry, but I wasn’t so clued up on the business side of things. I chose to upskill myself by enrolling in the business enterprise course facilitated by The Princes Trust.
This was the real game changer for me. The course forced me to think about my business idea inside-out and my mentor left no stone unturned. From market research, to cash flow, to your target audience, marketing, and suppliers. This course really got my business hat on, not only having to complete a business plan, but having monthly meetings with my mentor and having someone to hold me accountable to what I said I was going to do and the target I was going to hit helped so much.
What have you found is the most effective way to get customers?
Ope & Taiwo: The most effective way to get to customers has been through being authentic/ staying through to ourselves and using digital marketing to find likeminded people/customers. Also black bloggers/ social media people like Saabirah, Curlture, Kelechi to name a few have been very supportive and generous with their time.
Trina: I always heard people say that word of mouth is more effective than other types of marketing, and for my business, this is absolutely the case.The reason being, and what I’ve realised, in relation to my business is not everyone has the confidence to dance. I’m aware that many of my customers have low self esteem, so they want to know how someone else’s experience was first, someone they not only trust, but who will encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.
I feel very grateful to have customers who love my classes so much that they shout about it (more than I do sometimes) and want to bring all their friends.
If you could start again would you? If so what would you differently?
Trina: Not at all, I wouldn’t start again.
I’ve actually really enjoyed the journey and the learning process. In addition, I have some customers who have been with me from the very begin, and to see their individual progress makes The Curve Catwalk that much more special to me, knowing that we’re actually changing lives and the self esteem of so many women is truly special.
Latticia: I am technically starting again. I decided to focus on perfecting my packaging, brand presence and stripping things back so that I can relaunch as a luxury skincare & lifestyle brand. Sometimes you have to take steps backward in order to take steps forward.
What is your favorite thing about your job and the least favourite thing?
Latticia: My favourite job is thinking about products and making them. There is nothing more satisfying then using your sheer passion and curiosity for all things wellness and developing it into a physical product. My least favourite job is overseeing all the financials and doing all the admin stuff, as it’s not creative in the slightest and I generally find it to be a little bit of a drag.
Ope & Taiwo: Favourite thing is creating pieces. This is so fun. Least favourite thing is trying to get funding. It is so demotivating sometimes.
Was there anything you did before launching your business that contributed to its success today?
Latticia: Stirring up interest by showing the behind the scenes like product development, photography, what I was working on that day. It really helps people engage with the brand and also get behind the launch of new products and workshops.
Ope & Taiwo: Funny enough, the business idea came to me when I was meditating. After a month of starting the business, I let my sister help with the organisation of the pieces. One pair of earrings did not look right so she offered to tweak it, it looked great and she started creating pieces after that.
How did you get the funding to start your business? Self founded, business grants, sponsorships, crowdfunding etc
Trina: Luckily, I was able to self fund my business as I only had to pay for the venue space to get going. I then set up the Instagram page which is free, and as I was teaching the class myself and editing footage myself, I didn’t need to pay anyone for anything.
So I would really encourage you to use all your skills where possible to get your business started.
Ope & Taiwo: We self-funded using my PhD grant, working a second job full-time, a loan and other side hustles. Family and friends have bought pieces from us on numerous occasions.
How do you manage the marketing/accounting/branding side of things? Do you have a team? Trail and error?
Trina: Whew Chile! This has been the toughest part as it’s been all me up until September 2019, so almost marking 1 year of The Curve Catwalk.
Honestly, It’s actually not that much to manage if this was all that I did, but because I run another platform (@curltureuk), juggling things and the work load can be a bit manic a times. Thankfully I now have a team of dance instructors and ambassadors onboard who help me out so much and advise me also.
Latticia: Everything from accounting to inventory management to marketing since I have launched has been by me. This has it’s benefits by lowering the amount of money outgoings for a growing start-up business but it also has it’s negatives. Some of the jobs I am tasked to do as a business owner aren’t my strengths but as the business grows I will definitely begin to outsource some of these areas.
Lastly what advice do you have for someone who wants to start up their own bsuinesses?
Ope & Taiwo: Go for it but start small. Do not invest all your savings to start off. Do your research and meditate/ pray on it. Seek advice/guidance from the ancestors, the universe, God. Find likeminded people and work with them.
Latticia: Just start, it’s really easy to procrastinate, wonder if there’s any room for you in the market and second guess your purpose but starting is worth everything.
Huge Thank You to Latticia, Trina, Ope and Taiwo for sharing their experiences, advice and knowledge with us. Be sure to support these ladies and continue to support my #BHMWithSaabirah series.