By Karen Lawrence, Founder, It’s My Affair. Being a black woman entrepreneur means being committed to your business, taking risk, owning the decision, failing sometimes and getting back up. It’s no different than any other entrepreneur. However, there are a few exceptions—competing to get business certifications that used to be strictly for minorities, but no longer; finding capital as a woman and minority; and working through people’s perceptions of a being a black-owned business. Because of these perceptions, I usually have to work a little harder than my counterparts to win over some clients. However, the wins are rewarding and I wouldn’t exchange what I do.
We need to understand that minority businesses are very important to the growth of our economy. Smart businesses understand that diversity in business is just as important as diversity in the workplace. Companies understand that to grow their brand and broaden their base, they must include minority suppliers—some of the same people they sell to.
If we are not doing business, we can’t invest in the community. When companies invest in diverse businesses they help us achieve and there is work for all. In return, we invest back into the community, create jobs and continue to buy from the very companies that support us.
I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish regardless of the hurdles. I stand on the shoulders of the many successful black women-owned businesses in history that few know about, including Madam C.J. Walker, Maggie Lena Walker and Annie Malone.
These women grew very successful businesses and they didn’t have the resources or opportunities that are out there today. So, when I think of these pioneers, I remember a quote by Milton Berle:
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
There are days I have to remember why I became an entrepreneur. My reason? To be a blessing to others. It is rewarding to organize a well-run event and to employ people who need work. Managing a great event and receiving positive feedback from my client’s is just the icing on the cake.
Karen Lawrence, a Certified Meeting Professional, is the founder of It’s My Affair, a company that designs and manages corporate and social meetings, conferences and special events. She has been recognized in the industry as one of the “101 Meeting Professionals” to watch by ConventionSouth, a meeting planning industry magazine as well as a “Sam’s Club Emerging Entrepreneur. She has also been honored by Business Today at a Top Women Business Leader.