Day 2 of the ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Summit and Target Holiday Market featured a dynamic panel discussion moderated by ESSENCE UnBossed ESSENCE Podcast host Marquita Harris, who spoke with several successful women entrepreneurs—FLR-PLN CEO Adia Dightman; Don’t Get Mad, Get Paid CEO Simone Spence; Royelles founder Mukami Kinothi Kimotho; Fria founder Sheilisa McNeal Burgess; PowerHandz CEO Danyel Surrency Jones, Well-Kept Beauty founder Sheena Franklin and Adorned by Chi creator Jacque Aye—during the New Voices panel, An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Building Momentum.
The conversation kicked off with each of the women introducing her business to the crowd and sharing at least one accomplishment she was proud of to-date.
Don’t Get Mad, Get Paid CEO Simone Spence shared that her business was born out of her personal experience with trying to collect unpaid child support and was honed after years of helping thousands of others like her. Aiming to solve for the reported $118 billion in uncollected child support, Don’t Get Mad, Get Paid locates income sources and then provides the paperwork needed to collect it.
CEO Sheilisa McNeal Burgess started her jewelry line, Fria, to combat hot flashes and cool women down during menopause. Thanks to the New Voices Fund, Fria is headed to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas at the top of 2020. Meanwhile, FLR-PLN CEO Adia Dightman announced that her pop-up retail store concept is a finalist in rapper/businessmen Chamillionaire and E-40’s $100,000 Pitch Competition.
And, according to entrepreneur Jacque Aye, who owns the character-driven lifestyle brand and “original comic series for magical girls,” Adorned By Chi, her biggest “flex” is growing her company into a profitable six-figure business in less than two years.
Throughout the discussion, the women shared a plethora of great business insight. “Every single woman on this stage is trying to solve a problem that is very real to her and I think one of the key characteristics that will drive success is that passion and that purpose,” Royelles founder Mukami Kinothi Kimotho noted. Royelles is a doll line or “avatars” of strong women who help empower girls to lead. Powerhandz CEO Danyel stressed the importance of realizing how important the right people are to drive your business forward to the next level when building a company.
Spence shared how helpful attending accelerator programs, like Melissa Bradley’s Emerge from 1863 Ventures, was in her journey to becoming a non-tech founder of a tech company. Kimotho also cosigned this, sharing the tremendous value she got from the mentorship accelerators offered. Houston native and Clark Atlanta University alum Adia Dightman credited living in Atlanta and its culture of entrepreneurship for her being an entrepreneur. “Atlanta was built on the shoulders of Black entrepreneurs,” she shared, “and for me to see that and be in the room and smell it and touch it and feel it [is why I’m here].”
Well-Kept Beauty founder Sheena Franklin launched her skincare app by informally collecting data from customers in Sephora and outside dermatology offices.
“When it got to the point where I could have conversations with partners,” she said, “it was ‘okay, she may not have all the capital, but she has close to 4,000 people who are already in her beta community,’ so that was a leverage and the traction that I needed to open up doors.”
Similarly, Surrency Jones advised entrepreneurs “to start online” and “not let fear of not having enough money or not having enough resources stop you from starting.
In closing, Kimotho stressed the importance of gratitude, imparting this message: “Gratitude moves mountains. It parts seas and it creates miracles, which we all need, all day every day.”