We’ve often heard from founders that running a business can be a 24-hour experience. Still, recently, many of us are denouncing hustle culture for a balance of our own. As women who wear multiple hats, how we spend each moment of the day matters.

For Black women, time is precious, but often we forget that the time we spend outside of building our empires is just as important. In this ESSENCE.com series, we’ll get the scoop on how some of your favorite entrepreneurs are spending time off the clock to refuel, recenter and to remember their north stars.

Meet Shelly Omilâdè Bell, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, Washington, D.C., 40

Since founding Black Girl Ventures (BGV) in 2016, Bell has traveled the U.S. and the world to speak about Black entrepreneurship, fundraising, venture capital and the disparities Black women face in building their businesses. BGV has created a community for Black women to find the support they need and has funded over 270 women whose businesses have a collective $10 million in revenue and support 3,000 jobs. BGV has chapters in over 12 cities and partnerships with Nike, Visa and Experian.

As a single mother of three with 11 employees, Bell admits she doesn’t have much “me time” when managing her family and business. “I’ve been counting family time as ‘me time,’ which I think is a common thing that women do,” she explained. When she gets up in the morning, the first thing on her mind is what she needs to do for her kids and her business. Therefore in December 2021, Bell took her first leisure trip as a founder to give herself the “me time” she desired and deserved. Discover how this solo trip helped Bell set intentions about having a holistic future that focuses on her being.

Learning how to be present.

When Bell felt like she was ready to step away from her business for a bit of reprieve, her sister suggested Greece, where she spent a week enjoying Santorini and Athens. “The team has everything they need, and everything is in place for them. This is a moment where I can get away,” she explained. However, she found it hard to rest the first two days of her trip. Bell was still checking in via email and learning how to trust that everything would be handled. By the third and fourth day of her vacation, she finally became present with her experience in Greece. During an ATV ride on the beach, she said to herself, “Why am I this way? Where is my brain wired that I just can’t like relax and be present? Just take a moment to say I did that. I did all the things that I set out for Black Girl Ventures. It is that and more.” Once she acknowledged the moment she was in, she took advantage of getting rest, enjoying activities, creating fun content of her trip and realigning with herself.

Being intentional about scheduling “me time.”

In 2022, Bell has instituted weekly massages, quarterly trips and spent time with her family to help her achieve her goals. “What I realized is that I have to move from doing to being. The power of Omi is in how I’m being,” she shared. Bell uses “me time” as the key to reaching her goals because it allows her to think, strategize and ideate for BGV.

Hired employees to support her self-care.

To make sure her mind, body and spirit are nurtured to be what she needs to run BGV, Bell hired coaches to her team as part of her CEO support system. “Our parents take care of everything up to the point where you are handling your own healthcare. I think it’s actually a natural behavior for somebody else to manage our health and wellness. It is just not taught that like societally, that’s not a norm,” she shared. As someone who has difficulty making room for herself, hiring a support system helps prioritize self-care through these accountability partners.

Reclaiming her feminine power.

“In business, it’s hypermasculine. I’m constantly entering into spaces where you’re expected to be able to have masculine-centered conversations,” she explained. After being in male-dominated rooms for the amount of time she was a founder, Bell felt it necessary to get grounded in her femininity. She hired a feminine energy coach to her support team to help separate her energy as a founder. 

Putting wellness first.

Bell’s LinkedIn post about her trip to Greece shared, “Wellness should just be life. To move toward doing better at holistic nourishment in 2022.” Bell feels like the notion of being well is seen as an independent experience once we become adults with our own healthcare access, but she realized that we don’t have to manage our lives by ourselves. “I spent my whole life thinking I gotta do better, go harder, do this, do that, handle this, handle that. While I’m getting things done, for me to go to this next level, I really gotta focus on how I’m being,” she said. Therefore she hired a Director of Wellness in 2022 to help her manage and coordinate her wellness. Bell believes this decision will be the future of wellness and hopes it will be accessible for everyone.  

“Let’s lean in to help. Let’s lean into support. Let’s lean into what it means to not have to do life alone, regardless of marriage or family,” Bell said.

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