Picture it: July 2016. It's a warm, sunny and already humid morning in Washington, D.C. at my work desk. Uncertain, confused and disheveled are a few of the adjectives that could explain my mood in that moment. I wondered, "Why am I here? What am I doing? But really, why has my business plan been a draft for the last two years?"
To be clear, I enjoyed my job. I liked my coworkers and I had great clients. I just knew that being there wasn’t serving my purpose. I knew there was something more out there for me, something that would connect to my purpose every single day — and not just when I walked out of church every Sunday. I knew I had to make a shift to make this a realization.
The word "Elevate" had always been embedded in my brain, but I wanted it to be a word that steered my life. And then, it happened.
Around 2 p.m. that same day, I received an email from The Black Upstart announcing that applications for the next cohort of prospective entrepreneurs were open and due. I took this as an immediate sign and applied without hesitation. I said a quick prayer and left it in God’s hands.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I received my rejection letter. I was bummed… However, I didn’t give up. I knew that another cohort would be added at the end of the year and that gave me time to think through my idea more.
However, the week after that I received yet another email from The Black Upstart, this one saying that a seat had opened up. I was like, "Yes, look at God!!" Again, I applied immediately and this time, I got in!
My initial deposit for program admission was due four days after my acceptance letter, and it was 99 dollars. Now where on earth was I going to get that? Mama had billllsssss, child. But this was my second chance and just the push I needed. So I said, "Forget it," and sent my coins over via PayPal.
The remaining program fees were due within two weeks, and they offered us two options: pay it yourself or try crowdfunding. I chose crowdfunding. I had 11 days to reach out to my family and friends, basically asking them for donations that would be put towards my program seat. I hopped on the phone, sent emails, texts, Instagram DMs, Facebook messages and more.
Was it challenging? Yes. But it was a testament to how amazing and supportive my tribe is, too. Not only did I meet the goal, I surpassed it. That gave me all of the amo I needed… Until day one.
The program's landing page told us that it would be intense. But y’all, it was intense! Weeks of digging into and validating our product or service, creating landing pages, analyzing cash flow statements and more. But I loved every minute of it: The early mornings, the afternoons (at work, doing homework) and class well into the night, It was all worth it.
The Black Upstart changed my life. Being able to matriculate through this program with other black entrepreneurs was so inspiring. Being led by the program's Chief Executive Officer Kezia M. Williams and other black entrepreneurs and experts was empowering. Receiving positive feedback from the audience during our Shark Tank-style presentation was validating. I left that program feeling like I'd finally found my purpose, and now I’m ready to activate it.
These days, I’m working full-time in my purpose as Chief Strategist of Elevat8 Digital, a marketing agency that works with small to mid-sized black-owned businesses to craft profitable solutions that will help them reach the general market. I love it. I get to work with amazing companies like Freeman Capital, Tastemakers Africa and Koya Webb (and yes, she’s a whole company — amazing!). I learn from each of my clients, and they are all unofficially training me on what it means to be a full-time entrepreneur (because I still have my full-time job).
Someday, I will be sitting on the patio in Barbados with my laptop taking calls, doing work and letting the ocean breeze embrace my melanin. Until then, the work must continue because "no" is never the final answer!
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