Tag Archives: hbcupreneurship

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


 

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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.

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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

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The HBCUpreneur Corner – Howard University’s Michiel Perry & Black Southern Belle


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Name: Michiel Perry

Alma Mater: Howard University

Business Name & Description:  Black Southern Belle, Lifestyle Brand Focused on Showcasing Weddings, Fashion, Home Decor, Food and all things Southern!

What year did you found your company? 2015

What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career?  Deciding to do Black Southern Belle full time versus part time. I knew this was something that needed a full time role, but I also had a mortgage and a husband. It all worked out, but not without some serious scary days.

What made you want to start your own company? I was planning my wedding in Charleston, SC where I am from and decorating my home in Maryland and looking for lifestyle inspiration that was both African American and Southern. After looking with little success I realized this needed to exist and started Black Southern Belle.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? I had a constitutional law professor who went above and beyond. He let me miss classes for internship interviews and even passed along my information to senior level executives. From him I learned the value of helping people who aren’t even asking.

How do you handle complex problems? As I am a hot head, I often handle complex problems by first relaxing and then reaching out to my mom or husband who are much more calm than I am and often view something very differently than I would.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? To reach out to my personal contacts more. I built a large network from my past careers but was afraid to reach out as to seem like an opportunist, but so many people I reach out to want to help even more than I ever thought they would. If you are genuine about your business and really want to make the relationship mutual most people want to help you row.

Some would say that today’s playing field is more leveled with media companies like yours not having to focus on print and being able to be exclusively digital. Do you think that is true and do you have any plans to do anything with print? I would agree. You can grow your brand digitally pretty quickly, you don’t even need a website at this stage, just a large Facebook or Instagram following can help you grow. Just build an audience and the business will come. I have a tech/digital background. The main print I deal with is stationery. If I did something print it would be a partnership, not just myself. I love paper but not enough to launch a magazine but I appreciate those who fulfill that goal as I have more subscriptions than I like to tell my husband.

Pinterest has had a significant impact on lifestyle sharing and your company is very active there. What do you think has allowed that platform to set itself apart from all others in that respect? I think it grabs your attention and is beautiful. It’s first focus was the beauty and then technology which is rare to see.  Often times tech comes first then aesthetics but Pinterest took a different approach.

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We often talk about the need for African Americans to manufacture more products. Being a lifestyle company affords you all to potentially engage a myriad of products with your own brand attached. Do you think this is something your company will pursue? Or are there other avenues of opportunity that you feel are unexplored by lifestyle companies? I love products and I love supporting small businesses. I currently have a signature product line of select items and would love to grow that business more with partners. I think there are so many opportunities and I am all about partnering to help not only myself but other brands grow.

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 would say they can develop mentoring programs for students who want to be entrepreneurs. Like develop an alum system for entrepreneurs like myself to help current students. I also think adding it to the curriculum is an important thing. We already have the network, just need to utilize it more.

How do you deal with rejection? I have always had roles building partnerships and relationships. Most of the time you hear no. I am very used to it. Often times no is temporary and not because of you but because of other factors. I say no is just for now, not permanent so there is really no true rejection in my opinion just bad timing.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? Antique shopping and watching historical documentaries. I am a serious history buff.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Having a Howard Alum find me on the first day of my internship on Capitol Hill. Howard Alum are crazy and will always find you. I do that now and I hope it makes the students feel as special as I did that day.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? Take the risk and do full time if you can. If you can’t, don’t be afraid to outsource some work to keep your business growing. Just because you can’t do it full time doesn’t mean it can’t be done but you should find the resources to move forward.

 

The HBCUpreneur Corner™ – Florida A&M’s Makya Renée & Mareta Creations


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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

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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.

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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™. 

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Virginia State University’s Steven Knight & The Steven Knight Show


 

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Name: Steven Knight

Alma Mater: Virginia State University

Business Name & Description: The Steven Knight Show – An internet-based radio talk show that covers the latest in entertainment news, sports, fashion, music, and movie reviews.

What year did you found your company? 2011

What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? In the early days of the show, not knowing if I would attract enough listeners to support the show.

What made you want to start your own company? I was asked to do it based on my Facebook page. Initially, I turned down the offer but after considering the exposure for my own music and the opportunity to interview interesting people, I thought it was a good idea.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? I had some great professors who led by example, but the most influential people were some of the students I had the opportunity to meet. Their diverse backgrounds, goals, and things they accomplished just while we were in school impacted me in ways they probably never knew.

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How do you handle complex problems? Well initially I pray for clarity, then do my research and consult with people within the same industry.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? How to get sponsors early on. That would have been very helpful.

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 think the biggest thing is to support past graduates and influence them to mentor and be supportive of current students. If they can build those relationships it could be instrumental in the success of the school and past and present students.

How do you deal with rejection? In this field it is common. It’s really a numbers game. For every five people who reject you, one major guest is interested in being on your show. So it doesn’t bother me.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I don’t get much down time between my show, music, and working full time. I make time to workout most days of the week and there are certain days I will take off for a mental break.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Graduation day. I had a friend and we were really close for years, but we had a falling out and were not on speaking terms. The morning of graduation, he came over to my house and we had a chance to talk and relive the last four years. It really left everything on a good note. Plus, the accomplishment of completing school with people you went through so much with. That was a good day.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? My advice would be that hard work really pays off. Even if the dream is never realized, something really great can really come from your hard work. I know that first hand.