The pandemic hit Black communities harder. As they faced unprecedented challenges, Black business owners often found themselves responding in new and unexpected ways.
To reflect on the resilience and opportunities that Covid brought about, Inc. contributing editor Teneshia Carr, who curates Inc.'s new destination for Black women entrepreneurs, All the Hats, recently led a panel of Black founders, streamed live. Panelists included Zawadi Bryant, president of Acute Care Pediatrics, a clinic in Sugar Land, Texas, at Mednax Services, a physician services provider based in Sunrise, Florida; Kevin Lloyd, co-founder and CEO of MYLE, an entertainment software and data-analytics company in Columbus, Ohio; and Jennifer Martin, co-founder of Pipsnacks, a food company in Brooklyn, New York.
Here are a few of the most salient takeaways from the session.
1. Build a strong network.
Lloyd, whose company centers on helping people quickly find things to do, places to go, and food to eat--all on their mobile device--is a believer in the power of community. "Build a strong supporting cast," he says. Whether it's family, a mentor, or your work team, you need a group you can turn to, and people to share your startup experience with.
"Embrace the journey. Commit and be prepared for highs and lows," says Lloyd.
2. Get out of your comfort zone.
Bryant encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of the established routes for business owners such as Small Business Development Centers, startup incubators, and anywhere else you can find support. Bryant made the Inc. Female Founders 100 list in 2021.
While these types of programs are often lacking in diversity, Bryant wants Black entrepreneurs to get involved. "Just go for it," she says. "To be successful, failure is going to happen." Don't be shy, she says. Ask for the introductions, and bring others with you. Most important, she says, "Believe in yourself."
3. Take care of yourself.
Martin says she rarely took a vacation in her first decade of running a company. It wasn't until the pandemic that she realized how unsustainable her work habits were.
"Everyone thought it would end soon," says Martin, who was named to the 2020 Female Founders 100. When it didn't, she knew she had to begin prioritizing herself.
The blur between work and life is often more pronounced for entrepreneurs, she says, and the pandemic only exacerbated that. "I had no boundaries," says Martin. In the past two years, however, she learned that she is a better leader and better able to serve her community when she takes care of herself. "It's not failing," she says, "It's learning."