It may be possible to grow and navigate an industry with greater ease by maintaining a full-time job.
This decision has proved favorable for some Black entrepreneurs who often don’t see the same investment dollars as their counterparts. And sometimes, keeping the vision afloat means carrying forward with your financial resources.
Ultimately, you can lean on what route will be most beneficial for the longevity of your business.
However, we have compiled some tips from Black women small business owners who have scaled their brands and attribute their growth to their 9-5.
The Silent Investor
As an entrepreneur, you can lower your startup burden by benefiting from capital that is not entirely dependent on your earnings from your business. This is useful as gathering funding for Black-owned businesses is still difficult.
Although many saw an increase in financing following the call for racial justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the progress has regressed.
CNBC reports, by the end of 2022, there was a 36% decrease in overall venture capital dollars, and Black entrepreneurs received 45% less financing.
Consequently, bootstrapping a business with personal capital might not only be the best decision for some, but it might also be the only way to maintain it.
This was the case for Shirley Dor, a therapist and marketing professional.
“My full-time job is the silent investor to my business,” Dor explained to AfroTech. “Being that finding access to capital is very challenging for small business owners who are within that first year to second year gap, they don’t really take you serious until you hit the third year. In that one to three year gap, it was super challenging to find someone who would trust that we were going to have a successful business.”
She continued: “It’s already 10-times less of a likelihood because there’s just not that much support and belief in Black-owned business. So, having my full-time job allowed for me to use those funds to then pour it into my business, which would then be flipped to business income.”
Senior IT Project Manager and Curvy Fox Founder Christina Howell shared similar sentiments.
She started her business in 2013 after she recognized the difficulties of finding plus-sized clothing with personality for her job. She spent seven of her ten years as an entrepreneur relying on income from her 9-5 before the business became self-sufficient in 2020.
“I’ve never had any investors or gotten any business loans or anything like that. My 9-5 has been the primary source of bootstrapping for building my brand. l’l’ be honest and say that it was the only thing sustaining my business. But it did grow to a point where it was able to support itself,” Howell expressed to AfroTech.
Build Your Team
For Howell, the additional capital also proved to be beneficial to scale her team from one to six. This has contributed to keeping up with revenue growth and a positive change in demand while running her e-commerce business in the midst of COVID-19. In addition, more hands on deck also ensures the business can stay afloat even when she is absent.
“This will be year 10 for me,” Howell said. “I ended up having a full team and a full warehouse. My 9-5 really helped me understand time management and the importance of putting systems in place. I think that’s the biggest thing that I would say to entrepreneurs is make sure you have systems and everything is not dependent on you.”
Enhance Your Services By Narrowing Down Your Niche
You can have more flexibility to hyper focus on your target audience with the support of additional earnings from a full-time position. By becoming more intentional, you can improve the customer’s experience, leading to improved reputation, thus increasing exposure and growth for your venture.
Devin Owens, Less the Agency founder and consultant, credits her position as a director of equity, diversity and inclusion, for allowing her to understand sometimes less is more.
“I’ve cut back on the number of clients I have, but because I’m sustained by a full-time position, I can niche down to industries and be pickier with clients,” Owens explained. “Before when it was like, ‘This is my bread and butter.’ Sometimes you had to take on clients that were kind of a pain, but we need this money to shake.”
She added, “Now, I have a waitlist of people that want to work with me because now I’m applying more of a premium service. The contracts that I have are longer, whereas before we were just moving a lot quicker. The pace of which the business is moving allows me to develop deeper relationships and be more integral with whatever company or organization I’m with.”
Delegate Set Work Hours
Leaving a 9-5 to work 24/7 as an entrepreneur may not be a possibility for all entrepreneurs. Therefore, to position your business for success while still maintaining your full-time gig, you should delegate time blocks around your 9-5 that you can maintain each week.
“That work-life balance that people usually scream at us is very true,” Dor mentioned. “You have to find that balance to be at your highest point for maximum creativity and find minimal distractions to do that. So you really need to work on building that day to day.”
Apply Learning Lessons
Furthermore, you shouldn’t sleep on the skills you can acquire from your 9-5 that can be applied to your business. You can gain more understanding of frameworks or policies to consider. Additionally, you can interact with people from diverse backgrounds, which can add to your ability to communicate across cultures.
“I’ve definitely learned from big corporations how to manage time, even pulling together an employee handbook, understanding what were some of the things that my job required of me, what were some of the rules they had in place and quickly learned why some of those rules were in place, right in the employee handbook,” Howell explained. “I’ve managed a lot of projects and and I understand how big corporations handle not failure, but lessons learned. How do they bounce back from that? Understanding how to work on a budget, how to work with different people of different backgrounds and the importance of communication styles. All of that has helped me to grow and develop my brand.”