Four years ago the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin changed the course of my career and my life. In 2012 while working for Coca Cola the tragic news of the shooting hit. I was devastated and like many of my peers, identified with the slain teenager. I lived in a gated community in Central Florida, just like Trayvon. One-year post undergrad, my Fighting Illini hoodie was still a wardrobe staple, just like Trayvon. And finally, I was black, just like Trayvon. It was scary and deeply disturbing to know that an innocent young man was taken from his parents and lost his life for no reason. I was compelled to do something. I became obsessed with signing petitions, but was left feeling dissatisfied with the process or lack of results. And so, a seed was planted.
The following year, I moved to South Beach. I kept my day job, but evenings were spent channeling my talents to help people who looked like Trayvon and me. I created and updated resumes and held strategy sessions for career advancement and overall development. As the people I helped began landing higher paying jobs and more fulfilling careers I couldn’t help but feel good. I actually felt like I was making a small difference in people’s lives. Results!
Fast Forward to 2014, I found myself making another move due to my career, this time to Atlanta. Although I was excited about the move, I was disenchanted with corporate America. It didn’t help that the job wasn’t what I expected. When a marketing opportunity opened up within my company I wanted to apply, but was prevented from interviewing for the position because of political reasons. Enough was enough. I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny while uplifting my community.
The first thing I did was create a YouTube channel. My videos discussed my frustrations. I subscribe to the school of thought that buying black is a major key to effect change. But finding black businesses felt like a never ending scavenger hunt. Did anyone else care? Or was it just me? The positive response from my videos was super encouraging. After reaching 400 views I decided to take this thing more seriously. I hired a business coach and we hit the ground running. Nine Months after my first YouTube video, I left Corporate America and stepped into full-time entrepreneurship.
In 2015 I founded Melanin Business, a strategic planning and marketing firm. The first project has been the development of a database featuring quality black businesses housed at http://www.MelaninBusiness.com. Users can sign up for free, add businesses and write reviews. The database includes black-owned bank branch locations, grocery stores, beauty supply stores and more. Black-owned businesses in the UK, Nigeria, New Zealand and Guyana are listed and I intend to continue expansion. The goal is to encourage individuals to find black owned substitutes for items they use in their everyday life.
In 2015 I also began the development of my personal brand at http://www.AverageBlackGirl.org. The mission for Average Black Girl is two-fold. True to my foundation, I continue to create resumes, provide career advice, one-on-one strategy sessions, LinkedIn profile content, marketing tips and online courses. I also create and promote positive black content on the Average Black Girl YouTube channel and blog. To be featured submit your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lifestyle of an entrepreneur is easy, and I made lots of sacrifices to really do this. At the start of 2016 I moved back to my parents’ home in Chicago. This has significantly reduced my expenses and allowed me to put 100% into my businesses. So far, the experience has been LIT! It allowed me to singlehandedly build the Melanin Business Database and manage the upkeep for both of my websites.
The tragic and untimely death of Trayvon Martin forced me to really look at my life and figure out how I could make a difference. I won’t be another person polluting the conversation with complaints. Thanks to Trayvon I am actively living in the solution, and it feels amazing. If I can do it, anyone can.
5 Tips from Average Black Girl for anyone with an idea:
1. You can create something great while working full time. The first step is to believe it! Know that you are entering a marathon and not a race.
2. Your day job should fund your idea. Starting a business is a big deal comprised of many small achievements. Keep the positive momentum going by celebrating every victory and achievement no matter how small.
3. Rely on free social media channels to build your following and get your message out there. Use metrics to check for progress as you grow. Set goals for likes, views and customers.
4. Start a Facebook page ASAP and get yourself some fans! Growing a social media presence is an untamed beast, the sooner you start conquering it, the better. Once you hit 5,000 Likes, Fans or followers on a social media account you can sign up for platforms like Fame Bit that will compensate you to post and do reviews from major corporations.
5. Reduce your overhead as much as possible. Everyone may not be able to move back home with mom and dad, but you can cut costs in other ways. Meal prep, learn how to give yourself a pedicure, and shop at resale and consignment shops. You’d be surprised at how much you’ll save. Use the extra cash to feed your dreams.
-Danielle Mitchell aka Average Black Girl
Personal IG: https://www.instagram.com/danisofancy/