Category Archives: Entrepreneurs

Internet Services Startup Launched By Three HBCUpreneurs – Who Have Never Met


“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

It is a business story worthy of Hollywood. Mainly because it seems to be a storyline that you only find in movies. However, the story is very real and very powerful. Not only because of its potential, but also because of the possibilities that it presents. Three HBCUpreneurs from three different HBCUs start a business, but have never actually met each other in person. The power of the internet, the power of Twitter and most importantly, the power of the HBCU community.

The company, HBCU Real Estate, is an internet services company that seeks to help the HBCU community (but not limited too) find and use HBCU real estate service providers. Everything from real estate agents, mortgage brokers, interior designers, and more. The founders hope that it will even lead to business creation in the spaces of real estate that the HBCU community may have little to no presence. HBCU Money is aware of only one title company* owned by an HBCU alumnus. HBCU Real Estate’s mission is to help facilitate circulation of the HBCU community’s dollars and keep them in the HBCU community. If successful, it could potentially keep tens of billions of dollars within the HBCU community. The fact that none of the founders have ever met in person makes what they are trying to accomplish even more astounding.

For two years it sat on the proverbial shelf according to organizer, cofounder, and HBCU Real Estate’s Director of Product Development, William A. Foster, IV, a Livingstone College, Virginia State University, and Prairie View A&M University alumnus. “I am a multipreneur and have learned that more hands and brains on deck is almost always a good thing. I needed to meet and find the right people who could understand, compliment, add value, and who could see the potential just as much as I could. Also, I promised myself no more solo projects. When you are involved in as many businesses and organizations as I am, being able to spread the load is vital to success – and sanity.”

Enter Christen Turner, Spelman College and Southern University alumnus, and Marcus King, an alumnus of Prairie View A&M University, both HBCUpreneurs themselves. Ms. Turner, HBCU Real Estate’s Chief Technology Officer, also owns Janelle T. Designs, a graphic designs firm, as well as Forever Femme, an accessories company. Mr. King, HBCU Real Estate’s Chief Marketing Officer, owns Hardly Home, a clothing line that is catered towards travel that was featured on HBCU Money’s The HBCUpreneur Corner in 2015. What does it say to you (King) about the potential of collaboration for HBCUpreneurs that 5 different HBCUs are represented among the 3 cofounders? King answered, “The motto at my alma maters is that “PV produces productive people” and I think that can be said about HBCUs across the board. For years HBCUs have been producing top talent and should continue to do so as we seek to move forward and provide solutions to the problems our community faces.”

The three have followed each other on Twitter for years, although no one can remember for how long. It was towards the end of 2020 that Foster said he approached Turner and King about doing a collaboration or tweeted at them rather. “I sent out a tweet and tagged both of them saying that I need to cofound something with the two of them. Having watched them over the years I knew we would click and have the same kind of work ethic. I just needed to find out if they thought the idea had any legs. If it was not this, it was going to be something else.” The work ethic was confirmed when he said he got an email from Turner on Thanksgiving while he himself was working. Turner further drove the point home of the potential of the moment, “This business will be successful because of two reasons, respect and trust. Despite not having met in an ‘official’ capacity, our partnership seems to have a natural fit to it; almost like pieces of a puzzle. With William’s intuition, he was able to unknowingly add the right people to his team who would each be able to add something different. Whether from a professional standpoint or specific personality traits, we all came in with an immediate respect for each other’s talents and skills. This is why the business will be successful. There’s no questioning; there’s only action, openness, and honesty.” Usually in Hollywood the movie ends with and they lived happily ever after – The End, but in this case it is clear that this is just The Beginning.

For more information, visit http://www.hbcurealestate.com

Love & Entrepreneurship: Relationship Therapist Misha Granado On How Spouses & Relationships Impact Entrepreneurs


If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who is an entrepreneur, then you know it can have its fair share of ups and downs. Although most relationships do, there is something unique about those ups and downs when it comes to being with an entrepreneur. We were able to catch up with Misha Granado, an alumnae of Florida A&M University and Prairie View A&M University, who is herself and entrepreneur through her company Love Grows, a relationship consulting firm, to discuss what all comes with loving and living a life with an entrepreneur.

A relationship with an entrepreneur is not for everyone, what “warning” label would you put on entrepreneurs for those considering dating or getting into a relationship with one?

As an entrepreneur you are the only one who truly knows yours schedule, goals and needs for both your professional and personal life. It is imperative to be extremely clear on who you are and the characteristics and qualities that compliment and constrict both you and your goals. Reflect on your previous relationships (historical markers) to identify what does and does not work for you. Also, it is important to be honest with yourself about where you are on your journey.

If you are interested in a relationship, ask yourself, “What type of partner complements me?

  • A fellow entrepreneur? If so, what type of entrepreneur? Someone at the beginning stages (idea)? Growing? Established?
  • An entrepreneur who also has a corporate gig?
  • Someone with a demanding corporate career requiring significant time and dedication outside of the house?
  • Someone with a career with a traditional schedule (M-F) but has an active personal life who is self-sufficient?
  • Someone who is artsy and a free spirit who does not require much ‘hand-holding’ from you?
  • Someone with traditional relationship expectations?

Do you have the resources (time, energy, emotional and mental bandwidth) to co-create and co-nurture a relationship or is a social, casual dynamic more feasible? There is no universal right or wrong answer, only the only right for you. Once you are clear on who you are and your needs have honest, unapologetic conversations with potential partners.

All entrepreneurs are not the same, but what are some baseline ways you believe spouses and significant others can be supportive to their entrepreneur partner?

Significant others and spouses can be supportive to their entrepreneur partner by:

  • Holding the vision of the overall goal(s) – Being an entrepreneur is not easy and there will be many moments where the stress, loses, delays, frustration, fear, anger, despair, panic, etc obscure the vision of your entrepreneur spouse. Having the skill and ability to hold the vision for him/her at all times, but especially in these moments are key. Remind them of their why, the reason they embarked on this journey and all of the ways they will succeed.
  • Informative – Are you knowledgeable about their entrepreneurial endeavors? You do not need to be an expert in the field but showing real interest is very supportive. By having a bit of knowledge of the industry, goals, challenges coupled with knowing your spouse you become a wonderful asset because you can help with troubleshooting, be an empathetic ear, strategize and/or provide support. Of course this varies per entrepreneur. However, some entrepreneurs desire a ‘mental break’ from their work and prefer not to speak business with their spouse, which is okay as well. Knowing your s/o and what they need is another way to be informative.
  • Patient – The entrepreneur life does not follow the trajectory of other fields nor does it provide the ‘comfort and safety.’  On this journey income may vary significantly depending on project, climate, acquisition of clients, etc. Traditional hours do not exist. Sacrifices are the norm. Questioning self seems to be scheduled on the calendar daily. Therefore a s/o who is patient is a welcomed reprieve. Patience varies for each couple.

What are some common issues you see that arise between spouses and entrepreneurs in relationships? How do you believe couples can get ahead of them or best deal with them?

One of the most common issues between spouses and entrepreneurs is unspoken expectations. Each partner has expectations in their head for the other but has never articulated it to each other. As a result, needs go unmet and resentment silently builds meanwhile the partner is oblivious. It is similar to your employer setting goals for you without telling you only for you to discover you did not meet these benchmarks during your annual review. Unspoken expectations are a set up for failure. This is unfair.

The best tool for any relationship is transparency, vulnerability and honesty. For both partners to articulate to each other their expectations, needs and areas where they desire more support. If you do not feel emotionally safe to be vulnerable with your significant other, seek therapy to identify the barriers that serve as a hindrance and gain the tools and healing needed to overcome this barrier.

An entrepreneur sees the world in a very different way than most people. What are the ways spouses can impact how an entrepreneur sees the world?

The relationship one has with self, determines and influences all relationships in their life. In a partnership, especially a romantic relationship due to the intimacy of the space, both parties have the ability to impact each other in a negative or positive manner and this can influence the way partners view self and the world. This is such a delicate space because of the direct access to the heart and mind. A spouse who has unmet/unspoken expectations, resentment, frustrations, etc will knowingly or unknowingly begin to engage in behavior (i.e. passive aggressive, argumentative, petty) that constricts both their partner and the relationship. This behavior increases the entrepreneur’s stress level impacting business, creativity, productivity etc. Whereas, a spouse who is happy with self, articulates their needs and wants, feels fulfilled, supported, loved will demonstrate behaviors (i.e. encouragement, support, joy, happiness, consideration, patience, kindness, etc.) that complement the relationship and their partner. The latter has the ability to change perspectives. When we feel seen, heard and validated we feel inspired, energized and creative all of which are excellent for business.

Women entrepreneurs have an even tougher road ahead of them typically. So for the men/women/partners who love them, what advice would you give specifically to the support and love that will be needed?

Whether it is the entrepreneurial, corporate, artistic or the academic route, unfortunately women are not treated equitably. This adds another layer of stress to the already taxing entrepreneur life. As the partner behind the scenes supporting a woman entrepreneur, perhaps the best way you can support her is by knowing her, implementing and executing what she needs when you know she is stressed, excited, hopeful, disappointed, etc. If you do not know what she needs during these various spaces, ask her directly (when she is not in it). For example:

  • How can I support you when you are scared?
  • What can I do when you are stressed?
  • How do you like to celebrate your wins?
  • What would make your daily routine run smoothly?
  • How can I support your business?

When she needs/wants to vent about something before she begins ask: What do you need from me in this moment? A sympathetic ear? To help strategize a solution? To serve as your hype man? Knowing which role she needs from you is important, because she does not always need you to fix it. Sometimes she just needs to vent to effectively move that stagnant energy through her. Other times she just wants you to listen and validate her feelings.

A relationship is not all about the entrepreneur and in that respect reciprocation is important. How can entrepreneurs, who are often demanding a lot of their significant other/spouse, ensure that they themselves are being good partners?

Make your significant other a priority. The business will always be there. There is always something to do. You can always fill each minute with something for the business. Place weekly dates on the calendar and be fully present. Inquire about your significant other and their life and developments. This is a no business/dumping zone, instead it is a place to renew, restore and reciprocate all of the love and support your partner has and continues to give to you. Invest in your partner as well. Show up for your partner and be fully present. If you are attending an event as his/her/their date, be engaging, light, and attentive. Implement a cut off time where you disconnect from gadgets and connect with each other.  This is also applicable if children are involved. Time is one of your most precious commodities; invest it intentionally with your loved ones.

How can relationship counseling help a spouse and entrepreneur keep a happy and loving relationship?

Therapy always begins with the individual even if you are in a partnership. This is because individuals bring everything with them into the relationship (experiences, values, culture, perspective, emotional wounds, isms, insecurities, fears, family dynamics, beliefs, etc.) and all of these influences and determines the quality of the partnership. Now add the stress of an entrepreneurial journey to the equation and there is plenty of material here for therapy *wink*.

The benefit of therapy is having an objective person who provides a safe space for both parties to explore their emotions, identify expectations, stressors, goals and tools to address each. Therapy allows each person to speak, be heard, seen and validated. Also, therapy provides strategies; tools and techniques the couple can implement to help cultivate a relationship that is nurturing for both parties. Additionally, therapy provides different perspectives which are extremely beneficial in those times where a couple cannot agree. This alternative option may be the very catalyst to re-establishing or establishing a healthy relationship baseline.

You can follow and contact Ms. Granado:

www.mishaNgranado.com

Twitter & Instagram: @lovegrows_misha

Jackson State University Alumnus & Former NFL Player Turns HBCUpreneur/Chefpreneur


“Cooking is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.” – Guy Fieri

The road to success rarely takes the path we have drawn up for ourselves. Along the way as we are pursuing our success we start to learn more things about ourselves. We may realize what we thought was our passion really is not and something we have tinkered with actually is the thing that truly brings heat to our kitchen. Enter, Tobias Dorzon, a Jackson State University alumnus, who spent multiple years in both the NFL and CFL, but whose true calling had been more or less a mere hobby.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Tobias Dorzon reveals how he hung up the cleats, picked up the apron, and became a culinary superstar –  actually the latter following in the footsteps of his father. He tells CNBC, “Cooking was something I always loved. But it wasn’t until I ventured off and stopped playing (sports) that I realized I loved it more than football.”

Now, Dorzon is the owner of Victory Chefs, a catering company started in 2014, and Victory Truck, a food truck venture which launched January 2018 and tackles the streets and stomachs of Washington D.C. The food truck and catering company are a launching pad for Dorzon to one day open a full-service restaurant as word travels throughout the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area of he and his teams exquisite cuisine.

HBCU Money reached out to Mr. Dorzon and Victory Chefs, inquiring how his time at Jackson State helped prepare him, “Being the unofficial team chef while I played ball was my first segue into preparing meals for athletes. We were a family on and off the field, and me being able to feed my brothers the home cooking that they were used to from back home was a great feeling!”

This is a prime opportunity to connect the work that agricultural HBCUs also known as the 1890s do with African American farmers and farms and connect them with the end users like Chef Dorzon, all while creating research opportunities for the institutions themselves. It also bodes for an argument, that an HBCU culinary school should be formed to diversify, hone, and explore the interest of many African Americans who may want the HBCU experience, but have a non-academic interest. There is lot to bite off and chew in the possibilities of connecting our ecosystem, but with stories like Chef Dorzon’s, we expect it will be an amazing meal that we can all enjoy.

Visit The Victory Chef team at https://www.thevictorychefs.com/

You can also find them on Instagram: @kingcheftd & @thevictorytruck

 

Kolors By K Hops Into Rarefied Air By Landing Leaping Bunny Certification


In another milestone for startup cosmetic company Kolors By K, they recently became a recognized company by Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Program. The program per their website, “is the gold-standard in cruelty-free certification for personal care and household products companies and signifies no animal testing at any stage of product development.” Internationally, there are less than 1,000 companies with such designation. As consumers become more conscious about how the products they consume are made, being an early adopter of Leaping Bunny’s criteria is poised to position Kolors By K as an up and coming leader in the cosmetic industry.

The beauty industry itself seems to just keep going and going like another bunny, growing from $160 billion in sales in 2003 to almost half a trillion in sales today. It is an industry that seems to show no signs of slowing down either, especially with people living longer and the rising middle classes in developing nations, there will be demand on vanity and simply feeling good about oneself that the beauty industry provides. It also does not hurt that this industry is women-centrist as we appear to be entering a golden age of women empowerment. Women who want to conquer the world, look good doing it, and who just happen to be more and more in control of the household incomes the world over. The industry is brimming with opportunity and that is one reason Kolors By K looks poised to leverage this recognition.

We reached out to Kolors By K Founder and CEO Kalauna Carter for comment on her company’s achievement, “To see Kolors By K get the Leaping Bunny Certification really gave us the push to keep going. If you are an entrepreneur and you hand make your products, to have your products Leaping Bunny Certified makes them official, internationally. The certification helps with reaching other potential customers in other countries. To be Leaping Bunny Certified is truly an amazing feeling for my company.” It is clear that Ms. Carter sees this as a moment that could take her company to another level. This just reaffirms the values, strategy, and direction that Kolors By K is setting for its future, which at the moment is shining brighter than ever.

 

 

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Tuskegee University’s Kalauna Carter & Kolors By K


 

kolorsbyk-logo

Name: Kalauna Carter

Alma Mater: Tuskegee University

Business Name & Description: KolorsbyK is an environmentally friendly, FDA approved Nail Polish Company whose mission is empowering all women from the outside in, one Kolor at a time. A Kolor for each mood, occasion or simply just because, from Bright and Bold, Heavy Metals or Soft Pastels, we at KolorsbyK have the perfect Kolors for you. Each bottle of nail polish as well as the Kolor is handmade and 5 FREE of: Camphor, Toulene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resins, and Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) all of which are non-environmentally friendly and cancer causing chemicals. ALL products are cruelty free and are NOT TESTED on animals.

What year did you found your company? 2016; I founded the company the summer shortly after graduating.

What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? Overall, this has been such a rewarding experience. I have learned so much about the whole concept of how being a business woman works and I am still learning. This entire process thus far has shown me my strengths and weaknesses. I have received so much support. In the beginning, I remember feeling fearful that I would fail or none of my polish would sale, but I remember my parents and my cousin Teresa encouraging me every step of the way.

What made you want to start your own company? The passion behind starting my business was based on the strong connection I have to the environment and its connection to us. I wanted to do something that could be beneficial to all communities and further help us become healthier with the products we select to use on bodies, specifically as women on our nails.

How do you handle complex problems? In situations where complex problems could take place, I try to think with as much logic as I can. First, I think to myself can I fix this and/or if it is out my control. Then, I try to make the best of the complex problem and create a plan on how to avoid it in the future.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? The most influential person for me while I was in college was my big sister Kaleah. Growing up she was the most beautiful and smartest girl I knew and I was lucky enough to call her my sister. She was involved in her church, achieved good grades, and still managed her personal life. I admired her for her ability to balance and maintain and I remember telling myself I would do the same when I got the opportunity to go to college as well.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? The one thing I wish I had been prepared for when starting my company was the bad days, the slow days. Everything is all good when you are doing big numbers, but when things slow down and then the days where you don’t have any sales. Those are days I wish I had been better prepared prior too.

How is vegan nail polish made, and what separates it in particular from traditionally made nail polish? Environmentally friendly nail polish leaves out several chemicals. In regards to KolorsbyK, it is handmade made without the use of animal byproducts making it vegan and without camphor, formaldehyde or formaldehyde resins, Dibutyl Phthalate and Toulene. All of which are prone to cause cancer. Vegan polish is made without the use of animal byproducts.

Technology seems to be disrupting every industry, but most nail services, social media aside, seems largely untouched by technology over the past few decades. Do you see technology disrupting the industry in the near future? If so, in what ways? In regards to technology, I don’t see it disrupting the nail industry in the near future.

In terms of distribution, is Kolors By K focused more on direct to consumer or direct to professionals or mixture of both? Why was that strategy chosen? Being a one woman business, I tend to focus on the direct to consumer sales, but I have had the opportunity to sale a few of my collections to Lavish Nails and Spa in Vancouver, WA and currently have some other opportunities in the works.

According to Nail Magazine, over 75 percent of the approximately 130,000 nail salons as of 2015 in the US were located in states with HBCUs and major African American population centers like California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts. The nail industry as a whole is an almost $9 billion a year industry, but African Americans have largely been resigned to consumers. Despite this, very few are owned by African Americans. Why do you believe so few of us have tried our hand at this ownership given its large economic presence in many of our communities? I honestly believe that many of us have not tried our hand at this ownership given its large economic presence in our communities primarily because we don’t have the access to the resources to do so. It will be just that, it will take us HBCUpreneurs to open those doors and create opportunities for those within our own community.

image1

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 that HBCUs can hold workshops and small business classes to spark the flame in students and instill in them how important their degree (paper) is, but it is just an important to invest in yourself. It’s fine to work for someone else, but think how much more rewarding it would be to work for yourself when you have the opportunity to do so.

How do you deal with rejection? I deal with rejection from this standpoint “What God has for me, is for me and no man can or will get in the way of that. Whatever doesn’t come to me, was not meant for me.”

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I like to spend my downtime brainstorming new ideas for KolorsbyK, reading and working out.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? My most memorable HBCU memory was being able to speak alongside the Madam First Lady, Mrs. Obama at the 2015 Spring Commencement at Tuskegee University. I had to opportunity to speak with her and she gave me some amazing advice that motivated me to start KolorsbyK.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? Pray and GO FOR IT. The only thing in YOUR way is YOU.

Website: kolorsbyk.bigcartel.com
Facebook: kolorsbyk
Instagram: @KolorsbyK