In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha M. Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs.
Stepping out on your own and deciding to start a business can be daunting. Most people know going in that there’s going to be a lot of time, effort, money, and sacrifice to make your entrepreneurship dreams become a reality. And if you’re a woman who is juggling work and life balance, being an entrepreneur can sometimes have its own unique challenges.
In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs. A seasoned entrepreneur herself, who has founded six businesses and two organizations, she weaves in her sage advice with biblical principles and role models. Urban Faith® had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Brown about her new book, her practical advice for budding entrepreneurs, and what we can learn from some of the women entrepreneurs in the Bible.
When should you not venture out on your own to be an entrepreneur?
People who really need to work a job, get their credit together. Or you need to build up some capital, save up some money. Because at the core of entrepreneurship is financial risk. If you’re not in a position to do that, if you need to feed your family, then maybe you need to work a little bit. It doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out into entrepreneurship later, but there are just some things you have to have in place.
Will you have to have a quarter of a million dollars to launch out?
No, not necessarily, but should you work towards having at least $200 to pay for the Articles of Organization. Yeah. And so there are some individuals who are thinking, “I just need to launch out. I’m going to give up everything and start being an entrepreneur.” That is quite possible, but it’s just a little easier if you can manage that financial risk by planning.
What organizations have you started?
I started the Women’s Leadership Network because I recognized a gap in leadership development for women in ministry. And so back from 2008 to 2011, I was working on my Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral and Spiritual Care. And my thesis was around women in leadership or women in ministry navigating the leadership waters. It was my hypothesis that women did not have the same type of informal spaces to learn and grow as men. And so I wanted to create that space. And then most recently the Arise Prayer and Outreach Ministries.
You’ve got makeup and hair products in your portfolio. Why did you get in the beauty business?
In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister was diagnosed in 2007. And so she went through her procedure in 2010. When I was diagnosed I did not have chemo or radiation, but I did have a mastectomy. And in 2011, I had what’s called an oophorectomy. I had my ovaries removed. And so in 2011, I went into menopause. And as your body ages, as you age, there’s hair loss. I also had to take a pill daily to prevent the cancer from returning and that also caused hair loss.
And so when you are going through a stage of your body changing, you look for really quick ways to feel beautiful. And so I already was in the space of having a body that was aging well beyond my 35 years of age when I was diagnosed. And so it was at my 40th birthday in 2015, that I was with my cousins and I told them that I would use mascara and edge control to cover up my edges. And I was like, “We need to create something. We need to create something.” And Dem Edges was born. Dem Edges Tinted Edge Control. And in 2016, Dem Edges was brought to the marketplace. But I didn’t want to be a one-trick pony, so I worked with someone to get a lipstick line. So it came really out of a space of being a breast cancer survivor, wanting to feel beautiful and I didn’t see things out there that really would help me.
How do you keep your faith when it comes to starting something new? Is it tough when sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t?
Initially, it was. In the beginning, I just couldn’t understand because I felt like I had this vision. I felt like God was leading me in a particular direction. But on the other side of those experiences, I recognize that number one, it was really important for that to happen, the experience to occur. Because in that failure was a seed, a seed of success. In that failure was a seed of wisdom, a seed of knowledge, a seed of information. And so that failure provided so much data that informed the next steps. I mean, it’s the same thing as an inventor or even someone who is in a lab, a chemist. They’ll try different things and learn what not to do. What do I need to pull back on? What do I need to add more of? And so I’ve just learned through my walk with the Lord that there is seed in that failure. And then the second thing I learned is that God is not bound by my time, just because I think it needs to happen the first time out the gate, doesn’t mean that God is like, “Yeah, it does have to happen the first time out the gate.” Sometimes I’ve got to take a couple of laps around, but I’ll still get that wind. So I just have to trust God’s timing in all of it.
What went wrong?
Small things got us ensnared, like not filing the annual report, and just not having a business process in place. Our heart was in the right place, but we didn’t have the business acumen. We didn’t have the tools. Just not having the knowledge to keep it going.
If you could go back to when you started your business, though, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is such a misconception that you become an overnight success and that people are just exploding on the scene. Well, a lot of preparation goes into that moment. And so recognizing that you may have some success right out the gate, but you have to keep planning for recurring success. It’s the long game that really works. It’s not, “Man, I did $75,000 in sales. That’s great.” And then you stop. Well, no, you gotta keep going. And so to understand and not get seduced in the trap of the immediacy of the instant gratification, but to really look further and to plan for the long haul. That’s what I would tell myself.
During the COVID-19 pandemic many people faced homelessness, hunger, and loss as a result of the coronavirus and related shut-downs. But one newly opened restaurant outside Sacramento, California was able not only to survive the pandemic, but thrive and help others survive in the midst of it.
UrbanFaith sat down with Chef Q who is the Executive Chef & Owner of Q1227 restaurant outside of Sacramento as he shared his recipe not only to survive, but thrive as an restauranteur, person of faith, and community catalyst in the midst of the pandemic. His restaurant was able to feed over 40,000 homeless and in need families in 2020 and he has made his restaurant one of the most impactful and successful institutions in his community. The full interview is above.
When speaking out directly against injustice, our white counterparts are perceived as brave, while Black leaders see our anger weaponized.
Like most of us, my inbox has been flooded for weeks with pointed statements from organizations condemning the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. Most of these messages have shown support for the calls for justice and reform being heard across the country and taken a stand against racism and hate generally, and anti-Blackness specifically.
Many organizations have been applauded for these bold and vocal stances. But I’ve noticed another dangerous and more subversive trend that has largely been ignored. Multiple — primarily Black — leaders of nonprofit and youth-serving organizations have shared with me that they have faced negative backlash from “supporters” who found their statements off-putting.
These “supporters” have found the direct reproach of abject racism and calls for justice regarding violence against Black citizens just a step too far. It turns out that sanitized language regarding the education, housing, food, and health inequities faced by people of color is palatable, but direct language about Blackness — and the reality of our country’s history of fear and weaponization of Blackness that underpins those inequities — is a bit too unpleasant.
I founded and run the Surge Institute, an organization that supports, educates, and elevates Black, brown, and Asian/Pacific Islander education leaders. It’s why we exist, which means I’ve never felt the need to sanitize or downplay who we are and why we do this work. That has admittedly made it more difficult for us to secure some investments and scale as rapidly as we would like, but that’s been a consequence I’ve been willing to accept.
I didn’t have to hesitate to publish a statement from Surge in which I said, “We must understand and never forget that the roots of this nation are forever stained with the blood of our Black ancestors … We cannot — especially now — passively accept or ignore the anti-Blackness that infects our country like a virus.” In response, one of our most dedicated white investors responded with, “Surge’s focus on strengthening Black educational leadership seems even more urgent and vital for communities these days,” and pledged to continue to work in partnership with me and my team.
Conversely, a Black colleague and CEO who sent a much tamer statement in support of Black lives was told by a donor in writing that they would cease their financial support because of the statement’s “racially divisive” tone. They went on to remind this leader that the focus of their work was “education, not race.”
I worry, too, that when speaking out directly against injustice, our white counterparts are perceived as brave, while Black leaders see our anger weaponized. This difference in reception is not news to any of the leaders of color with whom I’ve discussed this issue. Quite the contrary. We are accustomed to being held to the impossible standard of speaking our truth, but not too directly.
This is the ugly truth far too many Black leaders are facing. I’ve spoken to leaders who are now facing six- or seven-figure losses in revenue for daring to take a public stand for the calls for justice, and all of them are leading organizations that directly serve communities that are primarily Black and brown.
This backlash is not trivial. It is well documented that leaders of color face steeper challenges in securing philanthropic support than their white counterparts. And in the midst of a global pandemic that has already led to uncertain financial futures and tenuous commitments, it is the type of thing that can lead to nonprofits that disproportionately serve those who can least afford to be without their services to sunset or downsize.
And fundraising challenges aren’t the only burden of fear these leaders are carrying. They are also carrying the weight of not speaking so bluntly about their outrage and pain that they offend non-Black team members who now have a budding consciousness of the reality in which Black people lived for so long.
This is not an irrational fear. I spoke to an executive leader this week who was called to the metaphorical principal’s office by his CEO because of an email in which he shared how he had been pained within the organization and provided resources and articles regarding white fragility and unconscious bias. Apparently, a white female colleague found his email deeply troubling, even threatening, so this gentleman was given an HR warning for sharing his truth in a moment of deep reckoning in this country. The irony of this is so deep it’s almost laughable.
But it’s not funny. It’s a natural extension of what so many of us have faced for so long. In 2012, as I shopped the idea for Surge around among my network, I consistently heard, “Surge sounds like a wonderful idea, but I would suggest you tone down the specific focus on the race of your fellows” or “This sounds amazing! But could you possibly incubate under [fill-in-the-blank white leader]? I think it would be better received by funders that way.” I wish I could say those were one-off comments, but they were not.
So my privilege in this moment makes me compelled to speak up on behalf of others who find themselves caught in this bind. If they speak with raw vulnerability, they may face the wrath of those on whom they rely for the financial lifeblood of their organizations or those internally who revert to fear tactics when they are made the least bit uncomfortable. If they don’t speak at all, not only do they suffer the personal trauma of internalized pain and racism, but they are also letting down their peers and those they serve by not utilizing their proverbial “seat at the table” to lead.
So, as you’re asking yourself what you can do in this moment, I say this:
2. If you know of leaders who are being negatively affected by their vocal stance in support of Black lives in the wake of the multiple crises being faced by Black communities, applaud their courage, double your financial support of them, and encourage others to do so as well.
3. If you are a board member of an organization being led by a Black leader, create the space for them to tell you what they need you to do to support their leadership at this moment, not just share how they feel. There’s a difference.
4. If you are working within an organization being led by a Black leader who has been relatively mute in this moment, give them some grace. Don’t assume that their silence means they are asleep at the wheel. Share how this moment is impacting you and ask how you can help them create space for others. They may surprise you!
5. If you are uncomfortable with these direct stances being taken by organizations that you have otherwise ostensibly supported, or have friends who are, encourage them to explore the sources of their discomfort.
We are all angry. We are all disillusioned. But outcry is not — and has never been — enough to quell the lie of racial superiority that leads to individual, institutional, and state-sanctioned acts to demean, disempower, and damage Black people. We must act, and act with a spirit of hope and optimism.
But that spirit requires honesty. Honesty about the impediments we face, the negative consequences often associated with speaking the truth, and the disproportionate weight carried by Black leaders and other leaders of color during these times.