BBWO: BLACK BUSINESS WOMEN ONLINE

I own a very succesful and profitable business, but as I look around BBWO and read the forums, amidst all the boosterism and frenetic activity there is little thought about the costs of trying to get a business off the ground - a business which will never be viable. Not every person was cut out to be an entrepreneur. In my own experience, here are some characteristics of a true entrepreneur.

 

1 True entrepreneurs are creators. They are not out there flogging someone else's concept. As an example, think of Warm Spirit skin care products. The creators of this business made lots of $$$, mostly by signing up hundreds of Black women as salespeople for Warm Spirit products. In this situation, the entrepreneurs were the product creators. not the independent saleswomen who were simply selling someone else's product.

 

2. True entrepreneurs did not wait until a recession to create a business. There is a difference between having an unquenchable drive to start a business, and starting a business simply because one is suddenly umemployed and needs revenue.

 

3. You won't find successful entrepreneurs hanging around social networking sites. I don't have a facebook account, I don't belong to twitter, or bebo, or those other social networks. Who has the time when you are running a profitable company?

 

If U.S statistics are any indication, about 5% of members here will ultimately operate a successful business. The other 95% will still be working at their day jobs. It's important to take a really close look at your business model. If you are spending all your free time trying to sell someone else's product, then you are probably not going to become financially independent. If you are starting a business simply because nobody is responding to your job application, then you may never be a successful businesswoman because entrpreneurial drive is not situation dependent. If you spend more time on social networks than actually running your business you are definitely not for real. A student won't pass their algebra exams by logging for hours onto facebook, and business owners won't become profitable by spending hours on social networks, no matter what their intended purpose.

 

warm regards,

 

Denise van Esche

Founder/Owner

OMR Security Group

 

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Denise,

Thanks for this post! I agree with 99% of it as (if you ready some of my past post) I have been echoing a similar sentiment! I think women have a slightly misconception on what being an Entrepreneur really is. I have been having this debate with someone before who told me they were an entreprenuer b/c they sold Avon. No you were an independent sales woman and generated some revenue for Avon who paid you a commission. Let's be real!

I don't know your motivation for this post, but I do disagree with 2 points. One While I agree with your sentiments and have had similar frustrations with netowrking sites (I've only just gotten active on them recently) I think sites like this are very good for women looking to get into business for exactly the same reason you posted you comments. To provide honest, transparency and truth about establishing and growing a business. This is (to me at least) what these types of sites should focus on. I have read numerous posts from women seeking advice and the women offering a combination of honesty and truth as well as encouragement.

The second part I disagree with is about not having time to belong to social networking sites. An entrepreneur may not have hours available to spend on these sites, but they do have some time, if not them a representative of them (assistant) as I'm sure you know one of the habits of an entrepreneur is their ability to delegate duties thus maybe leaving time to build a brand on facebook or twitter (which can all be done via cellphones now) I agree TOO much time doing this is hareful, but I see the benefits. I don't sell, I build. Even Micheal Gerber (or his assistant) is on Facebook so successful entrepreneurs DO hang around social sites in some shape or form - I do wonder though what brought you to this site and to leave a comment though if you aren't a fan of social sites? Just curious.

Anyway, good post to spark conversation and hopefully some lively debate! There are thousands of women on here who are successful and many others trying and what each of us needs in common is honesty and truth and a little dose of reality!

(disclaimer...I do see more women creating a joining networking social sites than I see men...something to think about)
Very interesting post, indeed! I completely agree with point number one. Yes, there is a big difference between selling someone else's product and producing your own. Got that one. For point two, is it possible that one is initially driven to start a business because they are unemployed and then they realize they are good at it and this is what they were purposed to do from the beginning? All one has to do is take a look at the numbers to see how critical and important social media is to small and big businesses a like. I agree that an entrepreneur or business owner cannot afford to spend all of their time in these spaces as they do need to exert most of their energy on the strategic planning and focus of their business.

If 95% of us will have to keep our day jobs, I am grateful for a network such as this where I can be exposed to and learn from the 5% that will be successful. If we all put our heads together, encourage and motivate each other, while keeping it real, we can change statistics like these. But, among other things, it will take answers and solutions and not just a statement of the problems and what we are doing wrong or what we are not.
Great post.

However, I disagree with the blanket statement that true entrepreneurs are creators. An entrepreneur in my humble opinion is someone who desires to work for themselves in whatever capacity they see fit. They can build on what has already been created and make it much better for the consumer. For example, I worked as a Respiratory Therapist and one of the patients I took care of happened to be paralyzed in an accident about 30 years ago. Now at that time it was difficult to speak when you have a tube in your throat helping you to breath. The device that was available at that time was okay but not ideal. This particular patient saw this as an opportunity to recreate what was already there to make it better. He worked intensely at it and voila!! Now, you have what is called a PassyMuir ... an instrument/ device that help patients who have a tube in their throat to talk without creating undue respiratory distress. WOW!!! talk about helping other paralyzed individuals. Awesome!!! Thus, this device has become the national standard in the medical field for paralyzed patients who can now communicate with their family. This device which was recreated by this patient has allowed Christopher Reeves ( Superman ) and countless of others well known or not to talk and communicate with their family and has sent this paralyzed man to the world of unlimited income, stocks and fame. This happened because someone saw the need for improvement in an area to help others. Some times you don't need to reinvent the wheel just add some WD 40 to remove the squeeks and it will work even better then before. This certainly was not for personal gain. Therefore, a one size fit all is not a true characteristic of an entrepreneur.

Secondly, not everyone can become an entrepreneur from the word go. Starting a business from scratch takes dedication and wit and as life would have it can be a balancing act. Furthermore, some individuals may decide to become an entrepreneur because it allows them to work on their passion and not solely for monetary gains. I agree there is more to becoming an entrepreneur and one must be able to realize that marketing your business on social networkig sites such as this one is good but not the only marketing skills one need to have. There are others out there such as the Chambers of Commerce, networking medias, promotional events etc that may be more suitable in getting the word out about your business. In all, anything in life worth having takes practice, dedication and drive. In the same vein the entrepreneurial road is far and wide and has left and right turns. Seemingly the road that allows you to help others is the road that ultimately make all the difference in the world no matter if that road leads to a side hustle after you've been let go, as a direct marketing mlm consultant, a bed and breakfast inn, a law firm or a medical practice or whatever you see fit as helping your fellowman or fellow woman.

Here's to your success
Hi Marlene!

Thank you for your comments. I had an opportunity to visit the Passy-Muir website and learn a little about this amazing device. I can certainly see how it has transformed the lives of so many people. But keeping to the topic of this discussion, I wanted to add that the creation of this instrument meant that the person who created it was an innovator. He took an existing device and imjproved upon it. What made him an entrepreneur was the fact that started a company to market and sell the device for a profit. Simply being an innovator does not also make one an entrepreneur.

I would also respectfully disgree that a multi-level marketer is an entrepreneur. Persuading gullible folk to work their rear ends off (by recruiting other "victims") via a get-rich-quick-scheme while taking a cut from their small, hard earned profit is hardly entreprenurial. It's also unethical.

Otherwise, I do agree with much that you have stated.

warm regards,

Denise
Hello Denise,

It's been a year since I've seen you on BBWO, but as always you come back with very heated discussions worth debating both on BBWO and as I see folks are even talking about this post on facebook. Before I even get into the post at hand, I have to say your presence on BBWO has always baffled me. You obviously don't like that people promote themselves here, you don't like the mention of spirituality on the network, you obviously have no respect for network marketers, and you feel that most of the members are not 'business women' but posers, fakers, 9-5ivers running around on BBWO and the web wasting their time trying to be everything you clearly believe you are, always noting your success requires too much of yourself to associate with anything like social networking or the things the 95% group does because you are in that top 5% of real successful women right?

We have enough spaces that cater to your 5%, make you feel special and important, and successful. I created this space for real women, the 95% who are working their way to be in a space they define as successful, not you. Not everyone is an innovator, not everyone is a creator, but that does not mean that every single person has a right to create their own freedom and build their own business by their standards. BBWO time is not about looking down on others and implying that the women on this space will never be successful. How dare you think so much of yourself and so little of others to come on my space and that. If you want to give advice, support, encouragement, do so. How true are your truths, do you even know?

Are you kidding me when you say successful people don't waste their time on social networks. I can't walk into a Best By without seeing big posters about following them on Twitter and Facebook! Tell CNN, BET, ABC and the like their twitter marketing is not working. If you don't understand social media, leave it at that, but it is ignorant on your part to say people are wasting their time on social networks. Similar to using TV and Radio, business owners are learning how to successful grow their businesses via these mediums. You don't have to use it, but that by no means is an indication that it is not working for others.

You are entitled to your opinions, I won't stop you from sharing them as we are here to say what is on our minds. I could only hope that at some point you would learn to get to know more people, different types of people on a more individual level before you continue to make these blanket statements about the vast majority of the members on this network or any others. We as women, and black women at that, need to learn how to build each other up and stop tearing each other down. What can anyone possibly gain from hearing 'Will their business ever be profitable.'

While I know network marketing has its bad points, it ain't all bad. If you can't do any business well, learn how to improve your skills or do something else. It's just that simple. I am here to make sure we are all here to ask questions, provide solutions, and discover new opportunities. Anything short of that is a waste of time, so if you can't get with that program, why are you wasting your time on our space.

LaShanda Henry
Black Business Women Online Founder
I haven't had a chance to read everything that everyone had to say yet, but when I read the original post, I got a little worried. I do spend a lot of time on Social Networks and I am a 9-5ver with an ambitious goal of quitting my job before next summer. Will I be successful, I pray I will. But these Networks teach me everyday that I am on them. I have failed at many things in my lifetime, but pride myself in never giving up, because there is a purpose for me just like their is a purpose for every other woman that you come in contact with. In my opinion these networks are allowing many to mature into great womenprenuers.
Thank you Jenise for your reply,

My point about social networks was not meant to offend, but to emphasize the point that once your business reaches a certain threshold of success, little time is available for social networking. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. When I began my business in 1997 there was no such thing as social networks. However, I did find a very good mentor. A good mentor will be there for you, even when you call them at 3AM. They'll look over your balance sheet if, for some reason, you're not good with numbers, they'll make contacts for you in their own business field. They'll advance you monies you need. And they'll also tell you, often in very blunt terms, what you are doing wrong.

I have no doubt that you will become a successful womanpreneur. You've got determination, another great quality for success :D

warm regards,
Denise
LaShandra,

You mention that the topic I posted is worth debating, then you go on to trash me personally because you are personally offended. The other responders to my post were courteous enough to respond in a professional and engaging manner. Most of the private email I have received here since yesterday evening now revolves around your personal attack against myself. You had mentioned in a BBWO post a few years ago, that this site belongs to it's members. You could have asked why I held the opinion, instead of launching a full fledged assault on me personally.

This topic is currently being discussed on another forum for people of colour. Yes, I personally brought up this topic over there for a reason. It is being discussed without defensiveness. It is being discussed by men and women who have experienced the grief of trying to start a business which ultimately failed and attempting to understand how their enterprise could possibly have failed considering the high fives and "you go girls" they have received on various networking sites, and which they thought were sufficient to carry their business into the realm of success.

The truth is that words of encouragement as well as other forms of support are critical for any individual who wishes to start a business. However, encouragement, high-fives, marketing manuals, etc, are not sufficient without another critical element. And folk who offer these, important as they are, are rarely qualified to critique or mentor a new business owner.

On a personal level I have been assisting a Black woman, a former Army non-commissioned officer who quit her career in the army a year ago because someone here on this site persuaded her to try selling skin care products instead. The promise was that she'd be a successful businesswomen making a six figure income in a few months. She didn't need an army career and it would simply hinder her ability to sell, sell, sell... Well, after a $9,000 check from me and some help from her Mom at least she has now caught up her mortgage payments and is no longer in danger of being thrown onto the street. She has a lot of thinking to do.

There is a danger when any site, agency, organization, website, etc, etc becomes simply a cheering section. BBWO is a great site, and I've garnered some valuable information myself from reading the posts.. One should never stop learning. But there is room for all of us here. I'm sure you would agree.

warmest regards,
Denise van Esche
Founder/C.E.O.
OMR Security Group
Both posts are all the more reasons why we need this sort of conversation as I agree with both Lashanda and Denise.

Denise, I'm only speaking from my perspective but after I posted my comments to you and went to re-read your post while I fully agreed with most of your opinions, your post did fell somewhat disingenuous based on the tone. It did begin to read as a "put-down" on social sites such as BBWO. I do not know if that sentiment shared by others but I do know that is I what I took from it (the harm in putting things in writing is that you loose the intent and true tone of the speaker).

I responded to this post on facebook stating that I agree that we don't need MORE sites like this, we need more balance on these current sites and I've even been blogging ALOT about it. I LOVE the sisterhood on this site and I LOVE the multitude of positive women who are here looking for answers to the questions of how can they achieve their dreams of being a business owner. I LOVE the wealth of Marketing tools on here, I LOVE the connections I have made so far! I appreciate the work LaShanda has done and is doing with this site and look forward to the growth. Now that there is a captive audience of what 8000+ members we've got work to do! But thing is one person can't do it all.

You and I and many other successful business women here know first hand that success in business is only one part marketing and sales. We know that yes you need marketing and sales to generate business and to keep a flow of cash coming in, but you also need a great strategy, a sound financial management system, HRMS, and a host of other things if you are looking to sustain this business. That sort of information IS on this site, but yes it's not as prevalent as the rest.

Who's fault is that?

People like us are responsible to 1. raise the conscientiousness of black women about entrepreneurship based on our experiences and knowledge and 2. Create groups that offer content, resources and education to create balance on this and other sites. 3. Continue to still uplift, motivate and yes give "Hi Fives" to the women here who are still on their journey because quite frankly no matter how successful any of us are we are still learning ourselves and still need to reach back to bring someone up.

Not to plug my business but simply as an example of my point. My business YourSimple Bookkeeper, Inc. is more than just a outsourced bookkeeping firm. I've consulted for small businesses for the past 3 years many of them black women business owners and the consistent theme I saw was where there was passion, skill, drive, and raw business instinct, there was HUGE lacking on all the other components of how to create a sustainable business. How to control spending, how to price yourself, HOW TO COMPENSATE yourself as the owner and so many other things. My company is committed through yes revenue generating and free activity to help address this issue by offering services, ebooks, webinars, and so on that expand the realm of traditional bookkeeping.

The point I'm suggesting is that if folks like us see a gap, we need to fill it with content. Blog post like this are AWESOME b/c again is sparks conversation that is needed, but it must be backed up with some real solutions.

Last example, Lavada Thompson posted a blog post about her frustration about lack of information on SEO, she was very honest in her post, but what she did next was actually offer a forum and solution to the problem she found and folks responded. BBWO is a community of knowledgeable women, if we ALL did our part in raising the minds of black business women and not sit in the background observing and shaking our heads (I'm once guilty of that) we may actually have a shot at closing the business survival rate gap between black women and other races.

What solutions do you and the rest of the ladies here offer to improve upon the way business women network? I'll go second (Lashanda has gone first by offering marketing tools for black women which I use), I've committed myself to offering free webinars on proper business recordkeeping, an ebook on business budgeting, tips on tax issues effecting small business, and host of other tools and educational resouces. It would be awesome if a few of us can put together a Business Toolkit that was fully comprehensive and was the prelude to a web-cast conference for women entrepreneurs who would like offer some practical hands-on teaching on business concepts that you won't get from your local SCORE.

Who's next?

Katrina M Harrell
I did feel the post had a negative connotation, even the title. But, for myself I reworded the question and asked, "How can I ensure that my business becomes profitable?". Because, none of us want to think that are business will NEVER become profitable. If we truly thought that, would we be here? Maybe some of us are here simply for the social aspect, but I think most of us are serious about growing successful businesses.

I feel for your friend, Denise, and my prayer is that she will get back on her feet as soon as possible. A few years back, I was "persuaded" to pursue a direct selling opportunity at which I failed. The mistake put me out of about five thousand dollars. Did I blame the person who I feel talked me into it? I wanted to, but deep down inside, I knew that I made my own decision and the best thing I could do was to learn from my mistake and keep going. I made sure that the experience was not a total loss and actually use some of the business principles that I learned in my new business today.

High fives and cheers do not make a successful entrepreneur or business owner. And, if that's all that BBWO provided, I would not be a member. I love what you said about having a mentor and one who actually knows what they are talking about :-). Someone who has been there before and has reached the level of success you are trying to reach. Someone who cares whether you succeed or not. Now, that is invaluable.
Denise,

Before getting into the topic at hand, let me say this - the energy you put out is the energy you receive in return. Its not just what you had to say, but how you said it that rubbed both myself and many other women who read it the wrong way. In every line that you wrote and word that you chose you made it clear that by your definition you feel that most of the women here are not successful, are not 'true entrepreneurs', and will never be able to build a profitable business.

To that, I took offense and came to their defense because it is not your place to look down on others. Please be clear, I did not personally attack you or even think to ban you for having an opinion (as it is your right to have one) and if members sent you emails, they did so on their own accord. My point is simply that every business has its risks, rewards, and learning curves. While you rarely participate on BBWO, I find when you do its always from a place of stating what is wrong on this space or with these women, rather than from a place of educating and making an effort to change what you believe to be major issues among business women.

As Katrina pointed out, no one person can do this alone but I do, which is why I don't have time to get in heated debates about stereotypical issues. I want to see people make an effort to provide solutions and I love to see those moments when other people's ears perk up and they take the advice that is being given. BBWO has never been some 'you go girl' network, I make it a point to share all my mistakes, imperfections, and questions and encourage all members to do the same because it is in our biggest mistakes that we find our biggest improvements being made.

I am always posting information about startup mistakes to avoid, network marketing mistakes to avoid, business building mistakes to avoid and the list goes one. So many women feel I have given them guidance in not just pointing out the mistakes, but sharing my recommendations and resources to point them in the right direction. What often puts me in a place of disagreement with the things you post, is that you post with a tone of agitation and contempt with little regard to the feelings of the people you might possiblly offend or who share a strikingly different point of view. While you may not hear the way you come across, let it be clear that it is being heard by others.

That being said, let me see if I can say something to you that resonates beyond me previously taking offense to your comment. I quite frankly I'm tired of hearing (in all aspects of black life) black people state the ways we go wrong and get fixated on the injustices and the mistakes, without providing practical real world solutions. Critiquing doesn't change lives, but I know for a fact creating the solution that was BBWO has change many lives, mine included. So the next time you feel compelled to open up a discussion about how you think things are, I would encourage you to also share your recommendations on how you think we can get them to where they need to be.

If you know of better alternatives to marketing their businesses...
If you know where women can get mentors...
If you know alternatives to network marketing opportunities...
If you know how the can find startup capital...
If you know how to start a security business....
If you know something that can turn 5% of 95% from 9to5ivers to successful Black Women... share that... take time out of your schedule to share that....

I guarantee I will do my part to share your wisdom as BECAUSE if there is one thing we could always have more of on this network, its experienced business women who are willing to take the time to share as much information as they are willing to share opinions.

Alright, I think I've written more here than I've written in one post in ages, but I wanted clearly state why I said what I said and where I believe you could stand to say alot more.

LaShanda Henry
Thank you LaShanda,

I will set aside some time within the next few days to compile some useful suggestions for the budding entrepreneurs here at BBWO. In the meantime I have taken Lavada's advice and changed the discussion title to "How can I ensure that my business becomes profitable?"

warm regards,

Denise van Esche

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