“You can start late, look different, be uncertain, try and fail – and still succeed.”
I’m not quite sure who said this quote, but I’m living proof that it’s nothing but the truth.
But up until 4 years ago, I was the girl looking from the outside in–wondering, how did she do it?
And I’ll let you in on a little secret. During my first 2 years in business, I nearly lost all of my edges worrying about failing.
So when I pitched Black Enterprise Magazine, my first paid gig as a freelancer writer, my story angle came from a place of selfishness.
I chose women and entrepreneurship as a topic because I was curious, clueless and scared as sh*t about the road ahead.
I didn’t know any entrepreneurs or anyone who made a major career change. Pretty much everyone in my life played it safe–especially when it came to their careers.
So I figured I would write 2-3 articles about women who could also teach me a thing or two about pressing the reset button on life and running your own business.
Fast forward. Look at Gawwd.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of women (and a few men) who have shown me that it’s never too late. Yes, you can try and fail. In fact, failure is necessary for success.
Embrace failure, learn from it and quickly move on.
Now I want you to be inspired by a few of the women I’ve interviewed over the years. So, if you need more proof that once in a while it’s OK to break the rules to achieve success, check out a few rule breakers below.
Desiree Verdejo, Lawyer Turned Entrepreneur Opens Beauty Boutique for Women of All Skin Tones
Harlem-native Desiree Verdejo, spent seven years practicing law before she decided to take the leap from public finance attorney to beauty boss and founder of Vivrant Beauty, a go-to beauty destination, located in Harlem, for women of all shades, nationalities, and hair textures.
“One of the greatest difficulties is one that I probably see as a blessing now.”
After practicing law for nearly five years with a prestigious NYC law firm, I was laid off. That was a huge blow to my ego and to my security. Of course, being removed from such a comfortable environment made me think about what I really wanted from life and what I really needed to be happy. I found another job in law immediately (NYC rent is high!) but I also started writing my business plan then.” Read more here.
Chef Elle Simone – From Social Worker To TV Co-host of America’s Test Kitchen
“I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a chef, but I didn’t grow up seeing my image or anyone who looked like me in the industry.”
As a social worker, I used cooking as an outlet for the stress of my job. I would “moonlight” as a line cook in the evenings and even though I’d be exhausted at the end of a day, I loved it and it was worth it. After a year of working in restaurants, I went to work on a cruise line as a cook, later moved to New York and interned at The Food Network. My career took off from there.” Read more here.
Cherae Robinson, Founder & CEO at Tastemakers Africa, Turned Termination Into an Award Winning Global Business
Anyone who’s been fired from a job knows how devastating and paralyzing it can be. But take it from New York native Cherae Robinson: Getting fired could be the best thing that ever happened to you. One moment she was fired from not ONE but TWO jobs, the next thing you know, she was on Forbes, 10 Emerging Women Entrepreneurs To Watch In Africa. Read more here.
From leaving her job as a financial analyst and taking the leap into entrepreneurship to living in a factory in China for 6 weeks so she could learn how to manufacture hair extensions, Opara is one of the fearless new faces revolutionizing the beauty industry.
“I always had my foot in both hair and accounting. I went to hair school when I was 15. While I was in college studying finance and accounting, I was doing hair on the side. I saved up enough money to survive without a job. I was afraid of the idea of letting go of that security, but the fact that I was afraid meant I had to do it.
“Initially, I had a timeline in my mind—I planned to quit around March 2012, but then I said August. Then something came over me and I decided to resign that day. I wouldn’t suggest that to everyone but for me it made sense. Read more here. ”
Felecia Leatherwood, From Production Assistant to Global Hair Educator & Celebrity Natural Hair Stylist
From Ava DuVernay and Jill Scott to Teyonah Parris, and Issa Rae of HBO’s Insecure, chances are if you see a brown beauty with natural hair walking the red carpet–Felecia Leatherwood is behind her tresses. Felicia also hosts empowerment conferences where she shows thousands of women from the U.S. to Paris and Senegal to Germany and London, how to transition from relaxed to natural hair.
“I worked for BET, Fox and Warner Bros in various production support positions. During that time, I was just playing with my own hair and styling my friend’s hair, so I decided I wanted to go to cosmetology school.”
Most people thought I would need to get a backup job because I couldn’t make a good living off of just doing hair.” Read more here.
Wife, Mom, founder of Creatively Flawless Branding Agency, The Powerful Women, and Co Founder of Femology, Detroit’s first ALL Female Business Lounge. Meagan was tired of being overlooked and overvalued so she took matters into her own hands.
“I remember sitting in my boss’ office for my yearly review. He told me, “No, you won’t be getting your raise right now.” I went numb and felt like the room was closing in on me. I didn’t get the raise I felt I deserved. I returned to my desk with the thought of entrepreneurship still in my gut. This experience changed the game for me.
So I put in my two weeks notice and transitioned into full-time entrepreneurship.” Read more here.
Karen Mitchell, Former Corporate Girl Turned Serial Entrepreneur, operating five brick-and-mortar businesses including True Indian Hair (three locations throughout New York), the Brooklyn Wine Yard, and a wine and spirits store.
Her hair extension brand has appeared on top celebs including Rihanna,
“My biggest challenge was finding funding to start the business. I was laid off from my job, which at the time was paying me 60K yearly. I had only 15K in savings and no real investments, but I was determined to start my own business and not go back to working for “the man.”
I cashed in my 401(k) retirement fund. Although it was heavily taxed, I used that money and my savings along with loans from friends and family as my seed money. I basically starved the first three months and ate lots of canned soup for dinner. It was a huge risk, but I was determined to be successful.
I believed I would be successful.
“As my own boss and a leader for many, my business moves are watched and sometimes copied. Being an entrepreneur suits my personality and I had to let my personality be very involved in my business. Because I didn’t have prior experience in any of the businesses I own or any inkling as to how they should be run, I had to create my own rules every step of the way. I had to learn to challenge convention and to be creative and take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Read more here.
Venetta Carraway—Mom, Wife & Trailblazing Founder of Ritzy Glitzy Girlz Club a glam spa for young girls. She quit her full-time job as healthcare administrative assistant.
“My biggest fear, of course, as with many entrepreneurs was the fear of failure. I had the drive, the dedication and the passion for what I was doing, but I didn’t have a business degree. I had many naysayers doubt what I could do because I did not have this degree. It was hard in the beginning. I had to learn a lot of things through trial and error. There were many long hours, sleepless nights, and missed meals, but I plowed through. With the help of my super supportive husband by my side, working hard in the background and cheering me on every step of the way I knew I could make this dream happen.” Read More here
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