If you’re an aspiring minority business owner, you’ve probably heard the following with respect to business and life: You have to work twice as hard or be twice as good to get half as much as your majority counterparts.
Perhaps you have some personal experience and can point out some examples that evidence the veracity of this statement. It certainly rings true for Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons, the founders of Mixtroz, a mobile app that enhances networking experiences at live events.
Kerry and Ashlee confronted this issue head on. They frequently donned shirts that read “Black, Female, Founder, Fund Me” on investor shows and at startup pitch competitions to highlight the fact that they were exactly who countless initiatives and investors claimed to be looking for.
Though Kerry and Ashlee made their presence clear to everyone with an initiative designed to help them, their fundraising path was difficult and long. On numerous occasions, the duo thought the experience might have unfolded another way if they weren’t quite so different from the investors they encountered and the other founders against whom they were competing.
Those differences forced Kerry and Ashlee to be the absolute best versions of themselves and required Mixtroz to be far superior to peer companies when seeking an investment opportunity.
A journey in entrepreneur education
The Mixtroz journey is a journey in entrepreneur education. The founders can teach a masterclass in equity compensation, developer relationship management, convertible notes, commission agreements, accelerator participation, or investor pitches.
On the fundraising trail, Kerry and Ashlee were asked every question that could be asked of a company’s founders.
I now realize that they were really being asked one question: “Why would I do business with you?”
This question, referred to herein as the essential question, helps explain why entrepreneur education is so important for aspiring minority business owners.
For minority entrepreneurs entering fields with only a few (or perhaps no minority-led companies), the first thing prospective customers, vendors, and investors have the opportunity to see is a difference, rather than a similarity.
Questions naturally follow:
- Why are you in this arena?
- Are you here for the right reasons (whatever those are)?
- Are you qualified to be here?
- Have you paid your dues?
- Do you really belong here?
- And of course, the essential question
That can be a lot to answer when you’re new to entrepreneurship and have a host of your own questions:
- Will the environment accept me?
- Is this the right time to start my business?
- Am I going to have anyone in my corner who understands or cares about me and my success?
When apparent similarities aren’t present to kickstart the process of uncovering commonalities (as is often the case for minority entrepreneurs), a dialogue will get to the essential question much too quickly for a minority business owner to answer the question as well as, say, a competitor who does display those similarities and is able to gain perspective and build goodwill more quickly.
How, then, does an aspiring minority business owner level the playing field?
You guessed it, through entrepreneur education!
Prepare for success
You can prepare for success by seeking education within any area in which you or your business needs to improve. If you aren’t confident that it’s time to launch your business or take your business to the next level, ask yourself why, and create plans and metrics for what you need to do and see in order to be confident that now is the right time.
Prince’s Hot Chicken, the creator of Nashville hot chicken, an item that has been added to KFC, O’Charley’s and scores of others’ menus nationally and internationally, began because the Prince Family wanted people in the North Nashville community to have a place to eat late and supplement their incomes. Now that the world knows about Nashville’s hidden gem, the family is in new-business-owner mode, making a one-location family business a scalable, multi-location restaurant concept.
Key to the first family of hot chicken’s entrepreneur education has been entering into nondisclosure agreements to vet potential partners, building a team of business advisors and professional service providers, and exploring models to expand into new cities, airports and museums.
The path to dispelling fear and maximizing and achieving potential is education. Study the environments and types of people you’ll encounter; create a game plan and an elevator pitch; and give each room your absolute best because you and your business both deserve an opportunity to see who reciprocates.
Finally, know as much about your industry and your company’s specific value proposition as possible; research, follow, and reach out to experts in your field; identify all relevant programs, agencies, accelerators, and information repositories that could benefit your company.
Develop yourself into the most prepared, confident, eager-to-learn, and open-to-connect version of yourself, and you’ll attract people of all persuasions who will help advance and enhance your business.