The year 2020 has been an especially trying one for many Black business leaders. The economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus has disproportionately hurt minority-owned small businesses, according to an August report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. Further, Black business owners have expressed a range of strong emotions over the police killings and protests against racial injustice that rocked many communities.
For leaders on the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing private companies, adaptability has been key to staying afloat. Here, six top Black founders on Inc.'s list share some of their lessons for entrepreneurs from this year:
Founder and CEO, Glow Global Events
No. 145 2020 Rank | 2,586% Three-year growth New York City Headquarters
"Embrace change, plain and simple. As entrepreneurs, we have this crystallized vision of what we want our businesses to become, but everything from market volatility to geopolitical instability can turn our plans upside down. We can build longevity by learning to make the most of unexpected changes, instead of clinging to what could have been."
Founder and CEO, Propellant Media
No. 78 2020 Rank | 4,310% Three-year growth Atlanta Headquarters
"You have to treat your business, whether you're an individual consultant or a company that's looking to scale, as: 'How am I putting in measures to actually scale my enterprise?' You need to be open to taking a little bit of a risk and putting a couple dollars toward some advertising and marketing. If you're not doing those things, you have to look at it from a competitive perspective. Other people are. And my mama always said, 'Scared money don't make money.' You have to, as an entrepreneur, be willing to take those risks that others are not willing to take."
Co-founder and principal, Impyrian
No. 276 2020 Rank | 1,623% Three-year growth Fulton, Md. Headquarters
"I have always believed that mental and physical health is the most important thing in all of our lives, and sometimes that can get away from us due to our busy schedules, and will cause larger problems if neglected. Disconnecting for even 15 minutes at a time during the day and making time for health and family allows me to be more productive with the time that I do spend working."
A. Donahue Baker
Co-founder and CEO, Money Avenue
No. 199 2020 Rank | 2,136% Three-year growth Iselin, NJ Headquarters
"I have a to-do list, and I have a priority of: 'What is the one thing today that is going to either move my business or really make a difference?' I put that as No. 1, and I don't do anything else until I do that first. It's kind of low-tech, but I have a to-do list every single day."
Founder and CEO, SoLa Impact
No. 247 2020 Rank | 1,791% Three-year growth Los Angeles Headquarters
"People think of mentorship coming top-down--meaning you've got to be more accomplished than me, or you've got a bigger company, or you've been more successful--and I actually think of mentorship very differently. I get mentored and inspired from my peers in the industry and from our employees. I think that there's a 360-degree relationship, and there's a bit of a bottom-up relationship in terms of getting input and advice from people who are below you in the corporate hierarchy, at least on paper."
Founder and CEO, Sassy Jones
No. 75 2020 Rank | 4,516% Three-year growth Richmond, Va. Headquarters
"Three words: Trust your gut. Entrepreneurs can do a lot of validation-seeking, asking for advisers, seeking out mentors, etc. Oftentimes we are so busy achieving that we don't take a moment to listen to the quiet, still voice on the inside. The answer is often already in your gut."