These Small Business Owners Are Making Their Own History

carter-g-woodson african american history public domainWhen we honor African American History Month each February, we typically look back at some men and women who influenced the course of history in mighty ways. But just as important are the smaller events that change the course of history in families and communities.

There is no doubt that for many in the African American community, getting firmly planted on a path that leads to financial success is difficult and fraught with obstacles. Last summer we watched as many African American small business owners in Ferguson, Missouri were dealt severe blows.

But despite the challenges and hardships, the entrepreneurial spirit among African Americans is strong and their success stories are many. In their own unique, yet powerful ways, they are defining an important stream of Black History in our country and the lessons they have to share will benefit all Americans who have the courage to pursue the American Dream.

I went looking for some of these stories and asked for African American business owners and entrepreneurs to share their wisdom. Here’s a sample of the sage advice and encouragement I received.

Alvin J. Woods owns The Media Model in New York City where he specializes in branding and public relations. He comes right to the point, “No one cares – work harder.”

“As a business owner, you have to come to terms with comprehending that no one cares. It may sound a bit harsh, but no one truly cares enough about your business brand to help you through a financial downturn,” Woods explains, adding that this should motivate you to work hard so you’ll be prepared for the difficult times.

“We all have the same 24-hours in a day, don’t waste your time looking for someone to save you or help when in need – just work harder,” he advises.

Dr. Dominique’ N. Reese owns Reese Financial Services where she helps her clients create a foundation for wealth through money mastery. In some ways, she echoes Woods: “Practicing diligence in the midst of discouragement is a factor of success and has worked well for me. It’s very difficult to do, which is why most don’t do it, but when it is done, it does pay off.”

“The secret to my success has been a relentless pursuit of my vision – my dream – and good relationship management skills. I have had some moments in building my business when I became deeply discouraged and almost gave up, but then I sought motivation or it came to me through some ‘right-place-right-time’ experience,” Reese explains.

Kimberly Ramsawak is the founder of Tourism Exposed, an online community that helps students and career changers find their dream jobs in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.

Kimberly urges budding entrepreneurs not to “waste time getting ready – just start!” And once started she has two important “secrets to success as an African American entrepreneur”: Focus on what you can control and don’t ever underestimate the power of persistence.

Are you noticing a theme here? This doesn’t surprise me; if there is one thing that entrepreneurs from the African American community understand, it’s the importance of being persistent. Many have experienced persistence that has stretched through several generations of family members.

Dana Rankin, owner of Carter’s Coffee Corner and Not Just Hoopz Jewelry, is a living example of persisting through extraordinarily trying times. Here’s how she tells her story:

“My business started nine years ago when my children and I were homeless living in a domestic violence safe house. Now our business is still online and growing in products offered and is shipping worldwide. We are in the process of locating a storefront to expand offline and will be opening a direct sales opportunity.

“With the help of our business we are no longer homeless and are succeeding in this economy because we have products that people want, buy, love and re-order. I hope this helps someone else succeed in business.”

Rankin is a great example of what Kisha Mays, owner of Just Fearless, is teaching us when she sums up her advice to prospective business owners:

“A diamond is just a piece of coal that did well under intense pressure. Decide which one you are going to be!”