When you take the risk to build your own business or brand, you will find a lot of naysayers. People will try to discourage you from starting your career and will have only negative things to say about what you are trying to do. Unlike many young Black business entrepreneurs, I was fortunate to have business role models in my own family. It is important that young Black entrepreneurs and professionals understand that we too can succeed in building our own businesses and careers, regardless of our background.
Today, I own and operate my own company, J + S Insurance Agency, in an industry that is not for the weak. It takes a lot of hard work, and I like to describe it by using the phrase, “We eat what we kill.” Insurance is a sales driven industry, and you can’t be scared to go out there to do what it takes to be successful.
Now in my third year of business, I’ve been able to create job opportunities for others. Every employee offers a different perspective, and as a business owner it has challenged me to learn what each individual excels at and what motivates them. In doing so, I’m able to help them grow in their professional skills while they, in turn, help the business grow.
I was fortunate to gain invaluable business insights while working with my father as he built his first business, an insurance agency. We didn't launch the agency by purchasing an established book of business. Rather, we started the business from scratch by getting referrals, reaching out to friends and family, and spreading word of mouth. My father always told me, “Slow down. Achieving business success is not a race, it’s a marathon.” You’ve got to steady yourself, take your time, and take every opportunity to learn. I learned so much during that experience working directly with my father, and many of those lessons I carry with me now.
Prior to opening J + S Insurance Agency, I worked for Time Warner Cable for about 10 years. The experience I gained while working with my father gave me the confidence to step out and believe in my potential as a business owner. Not to mention, a majority of the women in my family own their own companies. Having witnessed and played a key part in the entrepreneurial success of my family members, I knew that it was possible for me to succeed in business too.
If I could give any advice to budding entrepreneurs, I’d say, believe in your vision. If you continue what you’re doing, the right people are going to come along to help you. I have been fortunate to have a circle of people throughout my life that supported and encouraged me to reach my goals. They encouraged me to believe in my vision, challenged me not to be afraid, and instilled in me the mentality of success.
Coupling their natural drive and youthful exuberance, young Black entrepreneurs and business professionals are capable of the highest levels of success, and all they require is our support in the form of encouragement, guidance, and recognition.