Business Startups

Tips for African-American Women in Business: The Art of Balancing a 9-to-5 and Entrepreneurship

August 8, 2018

Follow these tips to learn how to blend your side hustle with your professional industry.

By Lauren Bealore

Political Savant. Entrepreneurial Opportunity Maker. Those are two hats that I wear from aligning two different industries that maintain the same narrative: being a bridge builder to resources and roles by showing that representation matters, especially as a woman of color.

Understanding the importance of intersectionality, I am able to use my passion for challenging the statistics of the retention for women of color operating small businesses. I try to encourage women to engage in a process built to protect their businesses, such as voting on current ballot initiatives like earned paid sick time to ensure healthier business environments or keeping up with legislation presented by the small business policy team of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Being multi-dimensional is all about shattering glass ceilings and turning them into open doors, especially for those who have acquired less upward mobility due to historical hindrances that have created mental and physical barriers to success.

In today’s social media-driven society, it is very easy to brand yourself with your 9-to-5 or side hustle; however, it is also easy to get pigeon-held to being one-dimensional by separating the two. There has been a significant increase in female entrepreneurs both statewide and nationally — but many aspiring entrepreneurs get deterred from startups because they are misguided by preconceived notions that some women business owners are operating in sole proprietorship when, in fact, they have multiple streams of income driving their startup. This has created a “war of worlds” where corporate and entrepreneurship are seen as two separate entities, leading to a misconception of how to develop a multi-faceted career as a woman in leadership.

But Ursula Burns, Rosalind Brewer, Oprah Winfrey, Desirée Rogers and Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey — just to name a few — did not become Fortune 500 CEO powerhouses by being one-dimensional. Each strategically combined her industries with business, whether it be medicine, politics, food management or entertainment, to successfully rise up the C-suite ladder and balance a cultivated career while also making room for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Below are tips to take you up the ladder of engagement from startup to the C-suite as a professional woman on the rise:

Find Your Why

If we look back historically, some of the greatest leaders all operated under the premise of a specific mission. With innovation being the starting point, many became inspirations because of their ability to identify the gaps and be the leader to close them. When businesses or organizations post about job opportunities, they typically are looking to fill a need for their brand to grow. That is how women must approach their entire career. Whether in corporate or entrepreneurship, it is imperative to work from the foundation of why your idea, work or product is needed. What is missing from today’s society that could create convenience or change? Finding your why already gives you leverage in any capacity and will make it much easier to intertwine your passion with your professional trajectory.

Breathe Your Brand

A gorgeous website and professional photo makes for a great Instagram page, but it is not a resume builder. I must admit, I love seeing a professional landscape come across my feed — and may even indulge in hitting the “Like” button — but I often find myself asking “what does this person actually do?” Balancing multiple hats means building a craft in the art of storytelling. If you are using your social media to tell the story of your brand, your why should resonate with your followers without coming across as if you are trying to convince people. Results breed positive convictions. When you are living your brand through showing the change that you are trying to be, people will have a greater understanding of your mission.

Authenticity Works With Any Audience

It is OK to be an advocate for the communities you represent. When approaching diversity, equity and inclusion in leadership, it is imperative that the discussions around it include the demographics that are impacted by it. In order to address any challenges or gaps in society, you must be vocal about how you fit into the statistics that have resulted from those challenges, which starts with being your authentic self. Assimilating into any environment only hinders the impact you could have in creating opportunities for others, in addition to beneficial partnerships for your career.

Stop Cheating On Your Business With Your 9-to-5

The art to balancing corporate and entrepreneurship is to stop hiding them from one another as if one is the spouse and the other is the side partner. The best approach to having your business benefit from your 9-to-5 is to hold hands with both to create a professional marriage. Don’t just look at one as the funding tool and the other as a gateway to happiness because the grass is not always greener on the other side. Water and fertilize both by choosing a 9-to-5 that coincides with your business. Every startup has at one point been a side hustle or small business. Every professional leader has sat on boards, held director roles and founded organizations. Your passion is not one to hide; it only makes you more marketable long term in your career.

Lauren Bealore is the MI Political Director for America Votes, a national c4 organization that is the central hub for supporting progressive organizations to engage voters on critical political and policy issues. Lauren is also an appointed and elected official, serving as a City Commissioner for the city of Southfield Total Living Commission and Precinct Delegate for Precinct 19 of the city of Southfield. Additionally, Lauren is the co-founder of Y.A.B., a venture conglomerate that houses startups owned by women of color and challenges the statistics of this demographic of women in business. In this role, Lauren works with the business development entity of Y.A.B. and acts as a pipeline of resources to women of color nationally by partnering with coworking spaces city to city, funders and investment programming, and national millennial women networks.

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