Tracey Solomon is the co-founder and co-president of Hoseanna.com, an automated delivery service of monthly pantyhose. Her company has taken the hosiery market by storm, offering sizes and shades for women of color. The young business owner caught up with ESSENCE.com to explain why she enjoys being an entrepreneur, how she's giving back to her community and what inspires her to serve.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us your journey. How did you become the co-founder and co-president of Hoseanna.com?
TRACEY SOLOMON: I founded Hoseanna with my business partner and childhood best friend. We were both senior execs in corporate at the time (her in the hospitality industry and I was in healthcare) and were constantly on the road. To keep our sanity, we used to have a Sunday catch-up call at an insane hour of the night and during one of those calls, we had a long talk about the need to outsource the little things in life. I think she was the one who joked that she wished she had a fairy godmother who would go to Macy's and pick up all her pantyhose and knee highs so she could stop tying off the toes in the old stockings that were in her sock drawer. The idea started to take root from there. Then, literally on my way to the airport one Monday morning, the word 'Hoseanna' popped out of my mouth. I called her immediately and we were off to the races.
ESSENCE.com: As a Black woman and business owner, who are your role models?
SOLOMON: I am inspired by so many people! My parents are incredible role models for me. They exemplified discipline and hard work and always encouraged me to pursue my goals. Oprah Winfrey has long been a role model for me. She lives a purpose-driven life and she is clear on what she wants to do on this earth. Even when people try to take her down, she holds fast to her vision and doesn't deviate. That takes incredible courage and confidence. Magic Johnson is also one of my biggest inspirations. He could have sat back on his spectacular earnings and lived a life beyond anyone's dreams. But he dove into entrepreneurship and, what I am most inspired by is, that he took a bet on our community. He changes the way Black people feel about themselves and the way people feel about us by investing in our community and being a magnet to others. He also showed me that no dream is too big—who would have thought that a Black man would one day own a marquee Major League Baseball franchise? Or a string of movie theaters? The sky is really the limit.
ESSENCE.com: What inspires you?
SOLOMON: I am inspired by discipline. So many people are willing to abandon their integrity for a quick shot at fame or a few dollars. It's hard to stay on the course when success seems far away. But all the great icons—Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, President Barack Obama—they all had tremendous discipline on top of natural talent. You have to put the time in.
ESSENCE.com: Why do more African Americans need to get involved in entrepreneurship?
SOLOMON: For me, entrepreneurship is a vital part of my personal growth and survival. The world around us is changing at warp speed. We cannot afford to only be consumers—we have to create, we have to own. For me, stepping out on my own has liberated a whole other dimension of my being. Even though I had a successful career in the corporate world, the feeling of personal empowerment and purpose I get from running my own business is unparalleled. Every decision that you make has an impact on the business. This is both frightening and energizing because you realize that you are driving whatever happens next.
ESSENCE.com: What work do you do to encourage other young entrepreneurs to succeed?
SOLOMON: I mentor new and burgeoning entrepreneurs all the time. I volunteer at events, I sit on panels, I advise companies…I really believe in giving back. So many people have helped me along the way and I feel like it's part of the entrepreneur code. You can't keep your learnings all to yourself. You have to keep the energy flowing.
ESSENCE.com: Why did you decide to conquer the hosiery market?
SOLOMON: Basic hosiery is something that many women have to, but hate to buy. Going to the department store only to find out that your favorite brand/color/size is not in stock is annoying and a hassle, especially if you work long hours and can't always get to the store during business hours. There is really no need to go into a store for this type of purchase—you know what you're buying before you walk into Macy's. We felt that this type of market was perfect for an internet-based business—a single destination for hosiery basics that just focused on making it super simple to get the hosiery you need, on the schedule that you want. We're really excited to be rolling out our 'reminder service' which will add another level of convenience for our customers.
ESSENCE.com: Before you started your own business you worked as a business consultant and brand strategy engagement leader. What encouraged you to change directions with your career?
SOLOMON: I love being a consultant—maybe it taps into my inner bossy child! But seriously, from a young age I knew that I wanted to ultimately own my own business. I left corporate because I felt as though unless I wanted to run one of the offices or ultimately the agency, I had reached the top of my ladder. I felt like the time had come for me to strike out on my own and luckily the timing worked out. I am still on excellent terms with my old company—just because you change jobs doesn't mean you have to burn bridges.
ESSENCE.com: During your most challenging times, what motivates you to continue to make strides as a business owner?
SOLOMON: Whenever I am in a tough spot, I remind myself that God has never let me starve. I literally say those words out loud. Then I cook or I take a yoga class. It clears my head. I have also been blessed with some amazing friends and family who I call on when I need a sounding board. My newest thing is what someone said to me the other day, "our lives are our ancestors' vacation." It's a privilege and an honor to have the freedom to pursue my dreams and that alone is reason to push on!
ESSENCE.com: What has been your most memorable accomplishment to date?
SOLOMON: I was going home for Christmas and while I was on the plane I overheard one flight attendant tell the other one how she had discovered this great new site called Hoseanna where she now buys all her pantyhose for work. It was surreal! I introduced myself to them and we all had a good laugh.
ESSENCE.com: What type of legacy would you like to leave behind?
SOLOMON: When we tap into ourselves and our own experiences, there's literally a wealth of opportunity out there. We need to value entrepreneurship and make it safe for our community to take risks. And when our entrepreneurs do take the risk, we must throw our support behind them. Make it a priority to use our services, buy our products, invest in our businesses, help make them better. I want to be part of the movement that is building the fire of entrepreneurship in our communities and nurture that flame. It's the only way we'll break the cycle.