Major companies are showing commitment to diversity and inclusion. How can small business owners maintain and accelerate that progress?
In this recording from Yelp’s Women in Business Summit (March 24-25, 2021), panelists tackle how Black business owners can navigate the increased attention and support for the Black community. The speakers also share actionable takeaways for small business owners who may not have access to the resources of larger companies.
Hear more about:
- The process of starting a business, overcoming challenges, and finding solutions
- How to navigate the transition from one industry to another
- How to support a diverse and inclusive work environment
- How to make connections that will support your business
Yolanda founded Dayo in 2018 to celebrate the diversity of womens’ bodies and provide them with comfortable, stylish loungewear with function. With over 20 years of experience building brands, including for Fortune 100 companies, Yolanda was named one of the top 50 African-American women in Advertising and Marketing by Black Enterprise and highlighted on BET’s entrepreneurs’ list. Through Dayo, she aims to empower women, supporting equality, anti-ageism, and self-love.
In 2014, Beatrice founded The Honey Pot Company, the world’s first plant-based feminine care company. She is a recipient of the New Voices fund and was one of the first 40 women of color to raise one million in venture capital. Through sharing her experiences raising capital as a Black entrepreneur, Beatrice hopes to inspire and pave the way for other women in business.
Dr. Tucker is a professor at Georgetown University and has over 20 years’ experience in hospitality and event management for restaurants and Fortune 500 companies. In 2018, she co-founded DMVbrw to provide resources, education, and professional development opportunities to Black entrepreneurs in the hospitality, food, and beverage industries.
For five years at Yelp, Michelle has performed tenaciously to support local business growth and champion diversity and inclusion. Michelle is also a public speaker and advocate for diversity and inclusion in her personal life, furthering the cause of equitable business environments in the tech space and business at large.
Michelle: Good afternoon everyone. Top of the hour. My name is Michelle Billingy as Emily said, I am a local sales planner for the Yelp Washington DC office and when I’m not doing that, I’m a public speaker but more so an advocate for diversity and inclusion, not only in the tech space but in the business corporate world as well. Now, I am super, super, super excited to be sitting moderating this panel with what I would say are three brilliant minds when it comes to business entrepreneurialship.
Michelle: So I hope you have your pens and your paper ready and you’re going to take lots and lots of notes because it’s going to be a fun conversation. Now, I could sit here and talk about these women to an extent but you didn’t come to see me you came to hear from them and so what I’m going to ask is for these ladies to take their mics off and we’re going to go down the line and just give us your one minute elevator pitch as to who you are and what your business is and I’m going to go ahead and start with the CEO of Dayo miss Yolanda White.
Yolanda: Oh, thank you. And thank you for having me here, I’m super excited about the discussion as well. As you said, my name is Yolanda White, I am an executive turned entrepreneur, that’s the easy way to put it, many years climbing the ranks. But I really pride myself in Coca-Cola but today I actually have a luxury loungewear line which is Dayo Women and it really is just aimed to allow women to redefine how they show up at home, to be comfortable, beautiful, and sexy all at the same time with no compromise. There you go.
Michelle: I love that, with no compromise. Next I’m coming over to miss Beatrice Dixon, CEO and founder of The Honey Pot Company.
Beatrice: Hi everybody, my name is Beatrice Dixon, I’m co-founder and CEO of The Honey Pot Company. The Honey Pot Company is really the first plant derived feminine care system on the market and the other thing about us that I think is really beautiful is we are a brand who really focus on making products, we focus on making products for humans with vaginas because we love humanity.
Michelle: Humanity. Absolutely. I am a big, big advocate for Honey Pot and Dayo, I’m obsessed following you guys on Instagram, shameless plug. And so we’re having a little bit of technical difficulties with Erinn joining us, she’ll be joining us in a second and then I will introduce her but I’m just going to move the conversation right along until she comes in. So I think that there is this misconception as to how entrepreneurship works. People think you have this idea in your head, you roll out of bed, you go to work, you quit your job, and then boom, you’re successful, right? Beatrice is shaking her head like, no, not at all, that is not how it works, right? And so I’d love to start with Yolanda first because like you said, corporate exec and you’ve come over into this world of entrepreneurship, can you share with us what called you to the start of your business?
Yolanda: Wow. My calling really started because I began to dream. I was an executive and literally I hit this place where I started thinking about what could the world look like in the future for me like how I work, what I work on, how I help women, and how I could do something different to uplift and empower women. And so you know this story but it’s a conversation that I had with a girlfriend that actually started with her telling me that her marriage was failing. And in that I had had two questions, do you want to save it? Which was yes, and the second was, what do you wear when you get home? And literally as I’m hanging up the phone with her I’m like, “Let me go find you something so you can at least show up at home for your husband,” and I couldn’t find anything.
Yolanda: And it was the one time that I listened to a friend and instead of just listening I decided to create something that really provided an answer not only to her but to all of us as women about how we could show up at home and feel complete and beautiful in all those things that I talked about earlier. So for me it was just about dreaming about the future, listening to my friends, and beginning to believe in my skill set enough to take the risk to leave corporate America and invest in an idea that I really felt like was something that women needed. And today as you see we’re still sitting in quarantine, of course it’s needed, so it’s been an amazing journey for me but that’s how it started, honestly.
Michelle: Yeah. And I think that you knew way way in advance that we were going to be work from home because-
Yolanda: I had no idea my friend.
Michelle: … you’re ahead of the game. I don’t understand what’s happening here but I want to be like you.
Beatrice: That’s hilarious.
Michelle: It’s like she saw it coming, right?
Michelle: Dr. Erinn Tucker has joined us so I am just going to ask you to give us a quick one minute introduction into who you are and what your business is.
Dr. Tucker: Absolutely. Thank you so much. My name is Dr. Erinn Tucker, I’m one of three co-founders of DMV Black Restaurant Week and DMV stands for DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We started in 2018 but my business actually started in 2011. And what my business does is that we do hospitality consulting and curate programs and DMV Black Restaurant Week is one of the major programs that we produce. And I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, I started in restaurants, I was a sales manager, group events booking, big events and things such as that for restaurants and for sports and all that. And then I decided to start teaching it, I loved it, started to teach what I knew, started at Johnson & Wales University and just decided that I wanted to take it all the way and get my PhD in hospitality, continue working, and I’m just fortunate enough to be able to teach in the same area that I also have my business in.
Michelle: I love that, thank you for that. So coming back to the question that was at hand, what was the call to your start of your business? And I’m going to come back to you Dr. Tucker. But Beatrice if you can share a little bit because yours is more of this personal story that happened and then brought you what I would say is to your calling which is The Honey Pot Company now, so can you shed some light for us on that?
Beatrice: For me back in 2011 going into 2012 I was having an almost year long reoccurring bacterial vaginosis infection and literally everything that I tried nothing worked. I went to the doctor, I took every medicine, I lived on Google forums, all kinds of things were happening because if I found a remedy I was not opposed to trying it because I was desperate. But one morning my grandmother came to me in a dream and we were just sitting down at a table talking and she handed me a piece of paper and it had a list of ingredients on it. And she told me that I needed to memorize what was on the paper because that was going to be the thing that solved my problem and that’s what I did basically.
Beatrice: At first I tried to talk to her and she quickly let me know that that wasn’t why she was there, right? And so I just kept repeating it over and over again. When I woke up I woke up saying the ingredients that I was repeating over and over again in the dream and I had a piece of paper and pen by the bed, I wrote them down. And literally within a couple of days because I worked at Whole Foods and Whole Body at the time so I just went to work and I bought all the things. And then I made a formula and I started using it and in four to five days into using it everything that I was dealing with went away and that’s how I got started in this business.
Michelle: So if you are listening out there, please, when you have a dream write it down. Sometimes we think that our dreams are just messages that are coming to us or people that we want to visit us and have this conversation with them but like you said, your grandmother was like, no, that’s not what I’m here for, come with a pen, write it down, receive it and let’s get rolling, right? Dr. Tucker your story is also interesting because you are a co-founder for DMV Black Restaurant Week and so on this entrepreneurial path, but you’re also a professor, which is very cool, so you’re juggling two sorts. So I know you shared some insight in your elevator pitch but talk a little bit about what brought you to your calling of starting DMV Black Restaurant Week.
Dr. Tucker: Absolutely. So I moved to DC in 2017 to run the hospitality program at Georgetown University, a global hospitality leadership program. And what I do when I move to a new place I need to find out, where do I go to church? Where do I get my hair done? And where is some really good places to eat? So it was through church that I ended up meeting Furard Tate who was actually doing the food service for my church metropolitan and I said, “I really want to know and understand and learn the nuances of the food scene in DC,” and, by golly, he knew it. And so when we met we found that we have a common thread of loving education in the space of workforce development and training. Then we ended up meeting Andra AJ Johnson through an article about some of the work she was doing in the mixology space and we brought her on board and when we met her we found that we have a love for education.
Dr. Tucker: So our model of culture, education, and good food really stems from the fact that we all love training and education. So we were starting to do that, that was what we were doing, and in 2018 there was the incident that happened at a Starbucks in Philadelphia where two African American males, the police were called upon. It hit me hard because I lived in that area because I was a professor at Temple University prior and so I knew that place. And there were all these stories that started to come about BBQ Becky, Coupon Charlie. And then I started reading articles about, where are the Black chefs? And where are the Black owners? And I’m sitting here going, I’ve been in this game now for 20 years, what do you mean where are they? They’re here, but we realized there wasn’t a platform for them.
Dr. Tucker: So we started to look, I started to do research and I saw that there were some other Black Restaurant Weeks throughout the country, they looked a little bit different, and we decided that, well, let’s use the same platform but let’s make it hyper regional because we wanted to be able to really come out the box creating an awareness of Black owned restaurants and food service providers and creating the ecosystem. So our approach was always about ecosystems because we knew that our restaurants and our food service providers needed the access to information, they knew their businesses but it was the access of being able to make their businesses productive, and that’s how we got started.
Michelle: I love that. Access is so important and sometimes we forget as we’re going along the way to create that access for others that are coming up behind us so I think that that is phenomenal. Now, the commonality between you three women is the fact that, yes, you are women in business, in entrepreneur business specifically, but also that you are Black women in business which can be a double edged sword no matter what industry that you walk into. And so with that Yolanda, I’d like for you to talk a little bit about some of the barriers that you encountered along the way in your journey.
Yolanda: Yeah. I mean, I will say as a Black woman, and I do think this is a little bit of the barriers that exist for women in general, is access to capital as well as access to resources is something that we deal with as business owners and business leaders. I will say, my business is completely self-funded and that really was important to do because for me as I wanted to move with speed I couldn’t get my hands on investors quick enough, I had to prove out my concept first in order to get that level of support. Which doesn’t exist for all businesses but I do feel like as a Black woman that really was in front of me to really prove out the concept.
Yolanda: But I will say, my real barrier for me was a little bit different than capital and resources, it really was learning a new industry because I’ve been in food and beverages. So fashion was a completely new industry and it was really more about me learning the industry from start to finish. The supply chain to the retail activation to e-commerce, all that was new for me so it was more about learning, understanding and executing on a completely different business model than what I was used to previously. And then I would say the second for me was really around digitizing my business. So technology is something that’s moving at the speed of light and even as we started to get faced with COVID I felt like technology was another piece of that that I had to continue to learn.
Yolanda: But the last one that I think is most important as a Black woman, we hit COVID and then we hit the Black Lives Matter movement and that for me started to really elevate my voice as a Black woman, to elevate my position in the marketplace and my power in order to share with not only the people who were supporting my business but to have a point of view about where we wanted to move forward and how we wanted to be an advocate for what our women were facing. So I think there were several challenges in front of me honestly, I mean, I think that comes with entrepreneurship.
Yolanda: But it’s learning a new industry and then in front of me was like, ooh, I have to build new capabilities around technology and being able to effectively find resources to help me go build those capabilities and do it cost efficiently, to be honest. And then the third one was really about increasing my voice and making sure I could stand and not alienate the breadth of my consumer base while still standing not only with African American consumers but all consumers was really important, but to do it with the sensitivity and balance and from a personal perspective of what I was feeling as a mom, as a mom with boys, as a Black woman, all those things came into play for me.
Michelle: Thank you. I love the fact that you’re not limiting your space and you are expanding it to all. I’m going to kick the same question to you Beatrice. Now, of course I want to know what barriers that you encountered, excuse me, but I’d like for you to take it from a current day perspective. Because 2020 was filled with a lot of peaks and valleys and still are for several business owners, you hear them say all the time that 2020 was a demise of the business and you see a lot of them have this loss. And in our conversation that we had last week you said something that was so profound to me where you felt like 2020 was probably one of the best years for your business. So I’d love for you to just share the positive that came from some of the barriers and the highs and lows of supply and demand.
Beatrice: I mean, really for us we had some very painful moments in 2020, right? Our company went viral, nobody can be prepared for that first of all. But when COVID happened we really weren’t prepared for that, right? Because there were ingredients that you couldn’t get because they didn’t come from this country, right? Ports were closed, all kinds of things were happening, right? We couldn’t get components and bottles because our bottles were being used for hand wash bottles and for antibacterial gel and things like that. However, even though it was very uncomfortable and hard what it did is it showed us where the holes were in our business, right? And so it helped us to figure out how to fill those holes, first of all, and then how to come back from them by understanding what we didn’t do in order to be prepared for everything that was happening. So it took months for us to get back in stock in store, it took six months for us to get back on our website, right?
Beatrice: We were having very close conversations with our retailers and telling them exactly what was going on and exactly how much product we had and like, look, this is how much we can send you every single week and we can’t send you anything else. So I think it allowed us to be able to connect with our retail partners in a way that we may not have been able to connect with them had that not happened because they wanted to lean in because everybody was going through the same thing, right? And then, like I said earlier, we went viral, right? Our business grew last year because of a lot of the things that happened. And then when the Black Lives Matter movement really got up in Compton when George Floyd died, so many people didn’t have to die but they did it, because everybody was at home and everybody was relaxing, right? And everybody was on everybody else’s wave length because everybody was doing the same thing, right?
Beatrice: I mean, we’re still having the conversation around diversity, inclusion, equity, all those things, right? So even though those terrible things happened what was beautiful that came out of it with my company was that we had to get our stuff together, right? What was beautiful that came out of it with humanity is it will never be the same, right? It will never be how it was. And while there is a lot of crazy things happening around racial injustices that’s always going to be a thing that’s never going to go away, but at least zillions of these conversations are happening, right? So it was just a beautiful experience, a beautiful year, it was hard but pressure burst pipes sometimes.
Michelle: And it depends, to whom much is given, much is required. Go ahead Yolanda.
Yolanda: Yeah. I was about to say, I mean, I love the story Beatrice and I love your brand, you know this, but I think social consciousness has risen so much and I think the consumers are getting much more focused on how and where they want to spend their dollars. And so the elevation of Black businesses where now we’re seeing from even retailers supporting Black owned brands but we also see consumers searching and looking and finding those brands that really do have the type of leaders and owners and really support the causes that matter to them the most which I think is one commonality among all of us in terms of what our brands represent.
Yolanda: So I will say, your growth was phenomenal but Dayo also experienced a year growth just given the fact that not only were Black women all about the loungewear lifestyle and they wanted the loungewear, it was like, I really want to go support this sister because I love what she’s doing and the fact that she’s redefining what that means and I just feel like Honey Pot has been there. And for restaurants the movement has been definitely the same, it’s like, that’s the first place to go when you want to get out of the house, who are you spending your dollar to go patronize? So.
Michelle: Yeah. There’s this level of conscious buying that is happening now and people are putting in the effort into, like you said, where they’re spending their dollars and cents. And so since we’re on the topic of 2020, it was clearly a heightened year of visibility into the Black community, as Beatrice mentioned, Black Lives Matter, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, all of these things. And so in the wake of injustice and inequalities we find that big brand companies start to make their conscious decision of wanting to support the cause. And so how do we navigate between genuine connections and contacts versus things that just might not be a good fit? And I’m going to kick this one to Dr. Tucker because, I’m coming back to you, but I’m going to give this one to Dr. Tucker to just give us some insight, when something doesn’t fit in the synergy, because that was the word that she was giving me last week, is not there how do you navigate that?
Dr. Tucker: Yeah, absolutely. No great, great question. When it comes down to barriers, for example, I mean 2018 wasn’t that long ago and our barrier was the justification of why we needed Black Restaurant Week, and that was kind of this whole sort of element which was so interesting in 2020. I mean all the way down people said, you need to just take black out of it, no, and so we kept it moving and then 2020 hitting all of a sudden everybody has got a directory, everyone has got a partnership. And so what happened with us was when we started, when we came into this space, we knew that we had to look at partnerships. We didn’t have money but I knew I wanted to be profitable because it’s exceptionally important as business owners, you have to think about profitability, how are you going to not just gain money but how are you going to spend it? And so that was very important.
Dr. Tucker: So the first place that we went to when we decided we have the people in place, I had these two co-founders, is that one of them said, “We got to go to the Black media,” I said, “We got to go to Washington Informer because we need to understand the lens to make sure that our story and the culture is making sure that it’s embraced.” And I remember we put together a one sheet, Washington Informer said, put together one sheet or tell us what you’re doing, and so they said, okay, do this, don’t do that, do this, okay cool, call this person, bam, done. And something about that element because people would say, well, wasn’t it a restaurant? It was like, no. I mean, they’ve been in business over 60 years, I mean, this is the culture, right? So we partnered with them.
Dr. Tucker: So when the media released the announcement our partners such as Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, who’s been a partner since the beginning, they’re the ones that actually produced Restaurant Week, they said, we know exactly what you’re doing, we’re very clear, we want to partner with you, Dreaming Out Loud nonprofit organization is in urban farming, they got it, we want to partner with you, and so it really came together in that element. We partner with organizations that they understand our mission, we understand theirs and it works together, if it’s too hard to figure out then that generally, one, is an indication. Two, in 2020 we had all these companies, I mean, from West Coast, overseas, that came and said, oh, we want to partner, and what I realized really quickly was the fact that we had to change our strategy. And we went back to one of our partners that says, it’s not important that you have more partners, take the partners that you have and go deeper.
Dr. Tucker: So that is actually our strategy kind of really for the next sort of two years is that we want to go deeper because the ecosystem is so very much important. So we’ve maintained a relationship since 2019 with Destination DC, most people wouldn’t think about that as a partner but you’re convention and tourism bureau in this space of being a small business that needs a platform. So when people come into town and they want authentic dining, doesn’t matter to us who the customer is, we want to make sure the businesses are supported, you need to be on this platform because people are going to go and check out Destination DC for that. So to have that, to have, of course, Yelp DC that’s been on board with us since year one, those partnerships is what ultimately ended up creating pretty much success and continued success and that’s who we’re working with and going deeper with.
Dr. Tucker: And I think kind of lastly, when it comes down I think also to the other business side, right? 2020 our restaurants were hit hard, no question, March, April hit exceptionally hard but our partners found in around April, May, and especially there was the movement towards, in this area, buying local. Most of our restaurants they’re not next to convention centers so people were like, I just want to go and order and get it delivered or I want to go pick it up. So we found out that we needed to partner our restaurants with a restaurant blueprint which is another Black female owned company to get them on a mobile platform, it was about access to technology and access to information, so they kept moving, they kept rolling. And so we did that element and then on the Black Restaurant Week side as a business we went from 35 partners to 90 partners by the end of the year. People started to really get what it was that we were trying to do or what made us unique and kind of went from there as well as with our government partnerships as well.
Michelle: I hear you saying that it’s really about quality and not quantity and when you dig in on the quality of the partnerships that you have the quantity will come because now everybody is going to want a piece of you as you are growing and blooming and flourishing, is that fair?
Dr. Tucker: That’s fair.
Michelle: Okay. Yolanda, I saw you writing, I didn’t know if you wanted to jump in on this.
Yolanda: I was writing because there were a couple of questions I thought we could answer really quick that came through on the chat. So I saw Nina Joiner had a question about just transitioning from industry to industry, she just asked how did I transition, and I wasn’t in hospitality but I was in food and beverage to fashion. I will say learning, researching, but also leveraging mentors and leveraging just coaches to help you gain knowledge. They do not have to look like you, they just have to be people who are willing to share their knowledge with you in order to help you really begin to avoid some of the pitfalls that happen when you’re changing industries.
Yolanda: But I will say mistakes are made, just be ready to make a few mistakes, you know what I mean? So I don’t know, maybe Beatrice or Erinn can speak to it later, but it’s like, at the end of the day there is a learning curve that comes with the process and so I just think it’s about being fearless about that learning curve, being able to pick yourself up. So a little bit of it is just mindset and ready to say, something doesn’t feel right, and using your intuition in addition to your knowledge and resources in order to help you overcome. Did anyone want to jump in on that question? Yeah.
Michelle: I’m going to hold the last question piece though because I want to throw something into what you were saying as far as the importance of access, the importance of trusting yourself when you’re in the entrepreneurship world because you are your own CEO. I love looking at the panelist list and seeing right next to the names CEO, co-founder, to me it’s like, I can’t wait, I’ll have a dream, I’m going to write something down and come out and tap you all and be like, these are my resources, these are my connects, where do I start? Right? But in all of this, as people are taking notes and writing this down, some of the key factors it’s like access, resource, tapping into your mentors, trusting your gut with when something doesn’t feel right because at the end of the day you are your own CEO.
Michelle: With that I do have one big question I want to ask and then I want to pivot back and I’m going to kick this one to Beatrice. How important is it for you to tell your entrepreneurship story versus allowing big business brands to share their version of it? Because what tends to happen sometimes is I feel these big businesses they to get a hold of your company and your company skyrockets, right? Because that’s what you’re talking about. You had this situation that happened with the Target commercial, things took off a lot quicker than you were probably even expecting it to, and so how important was it for you to be able to control your narrative and tell that story?
Beatrice: Well, I think that it’s always important for you to control your narrative and tell your own story because it’s yours, right? Otherwise, it’s like, what are you doing? You have to know what your business is, you have to know what the problem is that you’re solving for, you have to know what your market looks like that you’re solving for, right? And so that’s just the first and foremost. When you work with partners like Target who are very wonderful partners they’re not interested in telling you what they think your story should be, they’re interested in you knowing what your story is, what your business is, what your model is, and they literally just want to be the platform that helps you to amplify that. So it’s of extreme importance that you own your own story, that you own your own narrative, that you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, because if you don’t know why you’re doing it, how do you do that? Right?
Beatrice: And that’s not even to say that you have all of the answers because nobody does, right? But you at least have to know the address that you’re going to type into the fucking GPS system to get you to where you’re going, right? You at least have to know that, right? And then you get on that path and you’re going to figure out. And it’s going to be bumpy roads, some roads are going to have pothole in them, some roads are going to be smooth, right? But when you decide to take on this lifestyle, because that’s what it is, you have to understand and know that it’s not comfortable and there is so much that you don’t know. And you have to be okay with it that there is so much that you don’t know because nobody knows what they don’t know, right? But knowing what you know is important, you know what I mean?
Beatrice: Knowing what you know is important, knowing what you want to solve for is important, knowing whatever your product or service is backward, forward, sideways, left, right, diagonal, that is important because business is commerce and if you don’t know what it is that you’re doing or what your product is or what your service is through and through, how could you ask somebody to pay for it? It’s just not responsible.
Michelle: Absolutely. I like that GPS analogy and I’m probably going to use it like six times this week, I’m going to be like, I don’t know where you’re going but I know where I’m going and if it’s not in my GPS I am not going. But I love that, I absolutely love that. I know we have some questions coming in from the audience and thank you Yolanda for pivoting towards that also to give us the option to have the conversation, so I’m going to take one from there.
Michelle: We had Tohari Ed, we have men in the room, this is exciting, and supporting us in this conversation, and so he says, as a Black executive what can I do in the workplace to support and protect and give a voice to Black women around me who may be facing struggles of the workplace that plague most companies? I’m hearing a lot of constant walls and hurdles that each of these women have faced to get to where they are now, I know women of color face it daily and I want to make sure that I’m doing my part. So Yolanda do you want to take that one?
Yolanda: Yeah. I mean, I feel like it’s a great question. And the first thing that came out is at least you’re listening to your employees. That is by far the number one thing is to listen to the people you’re working with, the people who are around you, but the second piece is that you have to be fearless in your ability to share what you’re hearing and you have to be able to share very objectively.
Yolanda: And so race is not a comfortable conversation for everyone, it’s something that can feel a little bit uncomfortable, but if you set it up like, it’s time for us to have a conversation about culture, about people, about experiences, and you’re able to share someone else’s point of view in a very objective way, you’re able to elevate your company’s ability to address the needs, to address the feelings of the people who are working there. So I say for all executives, all leaders, there is no time to be quiet, to be fearful, it’s just time to stand up and make sure that you can be someone who breaks down the barriers for people who are within your company and speak for them.
Michelle: I love that. We have another one coming from, and I hope I’m saying all these names correctly, forgive me if I’m not, Tamara Wiseman, how do you know when it was time to do mass production and get your products in big stores like Walmart and Target? And how did you get investors to help make mass production a reality? I think that one is coming to Beatrice.
Beatrice: Yeah. We knew that it was time because Target came to us to let us know that it was time. But most of the time you prepare for that, in our instance we didn’t necessarily prepare because Target came, right? So when something like that shows up in my mind I’m not the person that’s going to say, I’m not ready, I’m just going to figure out how to get ready. And it was hard because we had to find manufacturers, we had to raise money so we could buy the products, we had to redo our website, we had to redo our branding, I mean, it was crazy but we did it, we’re here.
Michelle: You’re in my bathroom and its sounds like you’re in everybody else’s bathroom too so you clearly know what you’re doing.
Yolanda: Exactly. Hey, I would like to add onto what you’re saying Beatrice and maybe you can springboard. As an entrepreneur when I started Dayo I started with the development of a business plan and a business model and in that distribution is definitely on the list. And so I began to build the infrastructure of Dayo with the mindset of this is something that will scale and go to distribution. Am I executing on every pillar of that? No, because I’m not at that scale in order to produce in some of those ways but every day I’m still working with line of sight to get to mass distribution so I work with part partners who are bigger in scale. So one of the things I would tell any entrepreneur is, while you do have to develop, test, optimize your product proposition, you still should be doing that with a mindset of, if this were to move from this to this, where would I go produce? And when is the right time for me to get to that level in order to go do that?
Yolanda: And so you still will go through the growth pains that Beatrice has laid out in terms of what she had to do to get ready for a massive store like Target but you still have some line of sight of what that looks like. If you start with your business model thinking about that very early it does drive different decisions around where you produce, how you produce, what that looks like. So I was very comfortable doing global production and we produce in Italy from the beginning of my business. I mean, we’ve only been in business two years but it’s been a part of our business model since the beginning, so just something for our entrepreneurs to be thinking about.
Michelle: I think there have been some… Go ahead Beatrice.
Beatrice: The chair that I was sitting in was uncomfortable, I’m sorry, I’ll have to stand up. I’m in an Airbnb right now so. But this goes back to what I was just talking about a second ago, you really have to understand what your end in mind is when you’re doing what you’re doing, just like you just said, right? You have to understand what your end in mind is. If you want to make a product or a product line you have to understand, do you want it to be a direct to consumer product or do you want your product to be sold in retail? Direct to consumer costs a lot of money, lots and lots and lots, millions and millions of dollars, right? Don’t be fooled.
Beatrice: One of my main competitors has probably raised nearly $76 million, right? I mean, they have raised a lot of money. When you want to scale in retail you need money but you don’t necessarily need money like that, you know what I mean? You need bread but you don’t need that kind of money. But if you want to scale direct to consume you need that kind of money because you have to really buy your customer and the more money you spend, the more money you have to keep spending, so you have to understand what your business model is. For us our business model had to be volume retail because we didn’t have that kind of money, we’ve raised money, right?
Beatrice: And so to go back to answering the human’s question that asked, you just have to figure out what you want to do and you have to go after it. And then to end it off what you want to do when you’re ready to go into retail, first of, make sure your business has made over 250 or more online, right? If it hasn’t don’t go after retail because you don’t understand how to manage that much supply chain, and that’s not even a lot but that’s a good amount, right? Once you’ve figured out how to make that kind of money then you can go to a retailer because when you go to the retailer you can put in front of them, look, I’ve already figured out how to make a quarter of a million on my own, I want to make that quarter a million with you-
Michelle: Because you’re the mass producer.
Beatrice: … right?
Dr. Tucker: Yeah.
Beatrice: Exactly. I want to make my millions with you, with your partnership. When you go into that meeting you have to have a presentation, you want to have real prototypes, you don’t want to go into that meeting with it’s a digital render, you need to have real product. I’m not trying hurt but I just want to answer her question properly. Seriously, you have to have a real product and you want to go in and you want to pitch them, what’s the problem? What’s the solution? What are you solving for? How much money have you made? How much money do you plan to make? Right?
Beatrice: And the last thing is, what is your innovation for the next at least one to two years after? Because once you get into retail you got to fucking stay there, right? And on top of that, every year you’re going to meet with your retailer, every time you go down to that retailer you need to have new products, you do not walk into that meeting without a new product, right? So when it’s time for you to build and get into volume retail it’s because you’re ready to create a brand and a brand is many products.
Michelle: Write that down, a brand is many products, people, it is not just one that you are pushing over and over, but it sounds like it’s something that does take time and entrepreneurship is an ever developing process. Now, we have two minutes left. Dr. Tucker, I just want to close out with you with this question, right? And again, one minute warning. Do you have any advice for businesses that make mistakes during their learning process in the area of race and gender and how can they recover? Because many local businesses are now being boycotted for these mistakes rightfully so others debatably not. So if you can close this out, got one minute on the clock.
Dr. Tucker: Absolutely. The answer to this question is touching base to the lasts few areas you just about. One, the ability of storytelling. Our first year when we released our restaurants they saw matchbox pizza, American Taproom, and immediately we were hit with, these aren’t Black owned restaurants. Yes it is, it’s owned by Thompson Hospitality which is the largest African-American family owned food service company in the country who’s right in West Virginia, I mean, come on, I mean, let’s talk here. So we realized that we had to make sure that the entrepreneurs understood that intergenerational wealth is exceptionally important, it is a topic that stays on our education conference, because if you’re not thinking about your business in 100 years, and I know that sounds really funny, are you passing it on? You have to sort of think and start making the decisions about that because that then dictates everything else. So what do we do? We put multi-generational owners in front of our smart small business owners to do that. So the storytelling was really important for us to be able to do that, to pivot, because we got hit really, really hard.
Dr. Tucker: The second thing, I love Yolanda’s point on listening, the question that came down with, okay, I’m in an organization, what can I do to support? Which so many of us are. I love the listening but you got to be deliberate and you have to have measurable outcomes, all right? So when it was, why do you need a Black Restaurant Week? According to Washington DC economic development partners there are 2000 restaurants, RAMW represents 15% of that, that’s 300 restaurants, therefore 85% of restaurants not being even on a platform, now can we talk? If you’re able to do that you got to have the measures, you got to have the research. Because I’ve sat on the other side, I’ve worked in industry so I’ve sat on the other side so I get what they’re thinking right now and I get what their product is, second.
Dr. Tucker: Third, I don’t know what Honey Pot is doing but they found me, I’ll tell you this, I don’t know what algorithm that they’re using so all that deliberate and goal oriented and all that stuff, dang, gone straight, so all about that. We work with small businesses such as Wilma’s Batter that’s trying to get their product in, right? They’re trying to get their product in and they’re thinking about that element. We partner them with United States Postal Service, look, we’re not necessarily the ones that can talk about mass production but we can talk about, from a distribution perspective, from a supply chain perspective, what do you need to start taking into consideration as you continue to build up? Because they’ve got all the relationships with all of the other avenues. So really kind of understanding, anytime that you have anything that’s a setback use that as a tool to pivot, not so much to pivot but to use it as a tool of opportunity to be able to constantly teach and educate your stakeholders.
Michelle: Tools of opportunity. I can take this conversation and keep it going. Ladies, Yolanda, Erinn, Beatrice, thank you so, so much for your transparency, your honesty, peeling back some layers of onions for us. I hope that everybody was able to walk away with something because I know I did. This was an amazing time, thank you for allowing me to host. And I am going to go ahead and kick it back to my colleague Emily Washcovick to take us into our next segment. Again ladies, thank you so much.