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  • jonelise33

Diary of a Mad Black Business Woman

Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a girl boss. I wrote books at the age of five in hopes that they would make it to the shelves of bookstores like the black girl authors I read about in Essence. I tried make Ojos de Dios and selling them, but one of my classmates asked, "What would we even do with that?" I made bold and brilliant lipsticks from crayons, and then Crayola released an official statement about the safety of making crayons. The point is, I wanted to make, and I wanted to sell what I made.

While in college, I majored in Fashion Merchandising and learned about the business of fashion. Some things were instinctive and others I never thought about. When I was younger, I read Teen Vogue, Allure, Lucky, and InStyle, but after a while I grew bored with luxury and not seeing myself in these magazines. I was drawn to Essence and Jet. I read Seventeen because I wanted to know how to kiss a boy and how to snack healthily through the holidays. I had no problem reading the magazines cover to cover, but whenever I read about girl bosses, I always grew a little jealous.

"How do they do that?" I would ponder. Girls as young as 9 publishing books, and teens making meaningful impact in their communities. I looked at grant applications for the food pantry I volunteered at and just couldn't bring myself to fill them out. I wanted to help and do great things, but the pressure of high school and getting into college weighed me down. Although I did end up starting a mental health advocacy club and a fashion club at my high school (on top of volunteering and being the National Honor Society), I still felt like an unphenomenal woman. I did so many great things, yet I still felt like I wasn't anything.

When I went to my second choice college with less scholarships than I thought, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had never worked before and occasionally hemmed dresses for extra change. I attempted to make a whole dress for someone, but we couldn't meet for fittings and the final product was an ill-fitting disaster. I made clothes for fashion shows, and people were starting to know me for my sewing. One night, I even stayed up until 8 o' clock in the morning and took a night before my afternoon class because I enjoyed sewing that much. However, at the end of my freshman year, my grandfather passed away, and I quietly retreated from the Black UGA community.

I crossed the Fall of my second year, and I still had very little desire to make things and put myself out there. I had found a job and thought that the money I made was a lot for a college girl, so my entrepreneurial spirit had no reason to keep itself alive.

February 2018. My line sister's birthday was around the corner, and I knew she would be mad if I didn't give her a gift, but I couldn't afford anything, so I ran to Michael's with a couple of dollars. I thought about a bracelet that my prophyte gave me as a crossing gift, so I thought I would make 2 bracelets, one blue and one white for my LS to rock. I was frazzled, but I saw the beads and put them together that night. It took me less than 30 minutes, but I felt relaxed and proud of myself with the results. I even sent the picture to one of the sorors in my grad chapter, and she said, "Those are nice! You should consider selling them!" I laughed it off and put them in a bag. I was so happy to get the gift out of the way.

A week later, I'm on the phone with my mother, and I'm telling her about my upcoming trip to Ghana. She kept asking about money, and the scholarships weren't there yet. I didn't know what to tell her. I had applied and applied, and all we could do was wait at that moment. I thought back on my soror's words and the euphoria of making bracelets, so I got to work!

On March 3, 2018 I set up a small stand of bracelets at a Black Vendor Market in downtown Athens, GA. I told people who I was and why I was selling bracelets. I sold out and received donations for my trip. I triumphantly marched back to my dorm and slept for hours. I posted on Facebook, and prophytes made orders. I was making money! After step practice, I stayed up making bracelets. My friends would sit with me as I strung beads together. I really can't explain how the patterns come to me, but they just do. I started going to bead shows and joining Facebook groups to learn what I could about beads.

After I got back from Ghana, I tried to sell that summer before school started. Business was slow. I went back for my final year, and business was still slow. I sold at events even when the turnout was low, but business was slow. I stopped selling for months because of personal issues that made me too sad to make bracelets and sell. Then January came, and one of my Business Mamas (a group of amazing Athens women who deserve another post!) started a vendor market. I was making great money! My boyfriend helped me set up on Saturdays, and he proudly watched me rack up. We would go out for hot wings and celebrate on really good days. Those days were the days that motivated me to sell, but slow days bred a different type of hunger.

Winter Markets were usually freezing, but I put on my cozy jackets and kept a smile on my face!

When I had low sales, I stayed composed. I would look at what I did sell then I would grow from there. Some weeks, I just didn't make enough bracelets. Other weeks, there was just a low turnout, but I kept selling. I invested back into my business and carefully tracked my profits. I told people about my business and networked with everybody. I created a buzz and didn't back down.

Now as I move away from my fanbase and learn how to tackle eCommerce, I am faced with new challenges, but because I love what I'm doing and know the importance of believing in myself, I am not backing down. I hope that as I continue my business journey that I can inspire and educate others.

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