Name: Makya Renée
Alma Mater: Florida A&M University
Business Name & Description: Mareta Creations; specializing in Fine Invitations, Corporate Design, Photography, and Graphic Snob® Apparel
What year did you found your company? 2005
What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? Most exciting AND fearful moment was participating in my first bridal show. It was the first time I took samples of my work out of my home and exposed them to complete strangers. Although I was hand-selected to participate in the show, I wasn’t sure how the public would react to my work. I was in awe of and honored by the caliber of other participating vendors and the fact the show’s executives believed I was on their same level.
What made you want to start your own company? An internal desire to create while calling my own shot. To pursue what I was passionate about without any restrictions. To see my clients smile and know that I had a part in that. This is happiness to me.
Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? My mentor Wallace W. Johnson, the first person to give me a job and expose me to the field of graphic design.
How do you handle complex problems? I always strive to have a plan – and a plan to back-up the back-up plan. I remain calm, pray without ceasing, research, and take things one day at a time. I demand more of myself than anyone else, but recognize when I need help and humble myself to accept it. I don’t tolerate stress or drama, so once addressed, I keep it moving.
What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I knew that although you should be passionate about your profession and have a desire to serve others, you must also have a desire to serve and protect yourself. Several people will take advantage of you if you allow them to, so it is extremely important to establish business policies, practices, and boundaries that allow you to serve your clients while protecting yourself. Business relationships are a lot like personal relationships and if you don’t ensure that you receive a return on your investment of time, talent, effort, and energy, you will get burned out and be unable to serve anyone.
What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? I believe each program offered at HBCUs should offer business-centered courses that align with their respective fields. Learning and practicing how to develop contracts; research industry rates and set pricing; interact with clients, vendors, sub-contractors; network with other industry professionals and professional organizations; brand and market company services; and apply ethics to ensure longevity as it relates to that field will spur more innovation and entrepreneurship among HBCU college students. Successful entrepreneurial alumni should be encouraged to return and address students on a consistent basis to provide insight and exposure. Unfortunately, black students as a whole aren’t encouraged to work for themselves as much as students of other cultures and don’t have the opportunity to observe many successful black-owned business. If we don’t pass these experiences down and encourage this option for our children, this cultural and economic divide will continue for generations to come.
African American banks struggle to attract African American small and start-up businesses. Is there something you believe that can be done to improve the relationships between African American business institutions? Exposure and marketing. African-American banks should establish relationships with HBCUs and target entrepreneurially- minded students through speaker series and event sponsorship. People can’t seek relationships and opportunities they don’t know exist. You have to meet people where they are, and HBCUs are the best breeding grounds for future entrepreneurs of color.
How do you deal with rejection? As an Architecture major (initially) and a Graphic Design major, critiques were a daily part of my training in undergrad. I learned at a young age how to separate my personal value from the opinions of others. Everyone has different taste and I put more emphasis in trying to capture my clients’ style than trying to force my own upon them. Therefore “rejection” to me isn’t personal, its merely a statement that I need to do a better job of learning my client and communicating their vision.
When you have down time how do you like to spend it? Travel and spend time with friends. I hardly ever watch TV or go the movies, so a day of vegging out and catching up on Scandal is always nice as well.
What was your most memorable HBCU memory? SGA Bus Trips! FAMU’s SGA, Presidential Ambassadors, and Royal Court traveling to cities all over the country to support our football team, host recruitment fairs, and represent our beloved university to prospective students. These trips bonded us for life and gave me the best network an HBCU graduate could ever have -Priceless!
In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs?Do your research, align yourself with other entrepreneurs, build plans knowing there is always a “subject to change” footnote. Pray about your passions and ask the Lord to guide you where He wants you to be. He will place people in your path who will help you get there and you will have joy working in your purpose. Remain humble and accept help from people who have a genuine desire to help you. No one makes it to where they need to be alone. Be patient with yourself and your dream, but set milestones to encourage yourself along the way. Be slow to take offense, but know when to end the pursuit of certain opportunities and clients that drain you. A sinking ship saves no one.
Fear will be something you constantly have to overcome. Don’t be afraid to make a “wrong” decision as long as you know how to follow up with a decision to correct it…for this is how you learn what works and doesn’t work. Not everyone has the stomach for entrepreneurship life, but you have to learn how to listen to and follow your gut. There will be periods of discomfort, but as long as you apply commonsense and wisdom, they won’t last forever. Align your sights as best you can and pull the trigger. The only way to test your wings is to jump, but make sure your wings are in the best condition before you do.
HBCU MONEY™ wants to sincerely thank Ms. Makya Renée for taking the time with us here at The HBCUpreneur Corner™.