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Running the Numbers: How to Fund Your Business

With Daryn Dodson, Mignon Francois, Wale Ogunleye, and Michelle Billingy

41 minutes

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Systemic bias and inequality have caused substantial barriers to funding for Black entrepreneurs. The pandemic has only widened the gap, and in times of increased economic pressure, finding financing could become that much more difficult. Hear from business owners and financial experts on how they funded their businesses in the earliest days—from bootstrapping to securing funds—as well as how to build your business credit, drive efficiencies in your business, and find financing in times of turbulence.

Daryn Dodson Founder and Managing Director of Illumen Capital
Mignon Francois Founder, CEO, and Director of Joy at The Cupcake Collection
Wale Ogunleye Head of Sports and Entertainment of UBS
Michelle Billingy Sales Manager at Yelp

Nana: Running the numbers, how to fund your business. Hear from business owners and financial experts on how they can fund their businesses in the earliest days from boot shopping to securing funds, as well as how to build your business credit. Yes, you can do that. You can build your business credit, drive efficiencies into your business and find ways to finance your business, even in times of turbulence. Right? So I want to invite our moderator Michelle, on this stage to introduce our amazing panelist. Like I said, I’m so ready for this session. Michelle, look at this notebook. I’m so ready right now.

Michelle: I love it.

Nana: And I’m sure everyone else is too, especially like I said Michelle, when it comes to finance, we really do shy away from that as small business.

Michelle: Okay.

Nana: Yeah. I think it’s a scary topic to kind of go over. So I’m really excited for the panelists to come on stage today and really talk and shine on the benefits of having your finance together and having your finance in order.

Michelle: I agree. Thanks so much, Nana, for that intro. I hope that whatever we share, you can jot in that notebook too, but don’t run out of pages.

Nana: Listen, it’s all empty for y’all. I’ll leave you guys to it. Bye.

Michelle: All right, bye. Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to the next segment of the Yelp black in business summit. After listening to all of these conversations, I hope that you are feeling passionate, inspired, inquisitive, energized, especially as we gear up for this segment, running the numbers, how to fund your business. My name is Michelle Billingy and I’m a sales manager here at Yelp, and I’m super excited to be leading this discussion centered around funding and financing specifically within black and brown communities as business owners and entrepreneurs. There’s like not a sense. This unspoken understanding that funding and finance can be one of the most difficult subjects to tackle at any stage of your business. Add color to that conversation. And you’re already facing several disadvantages that your non-black counterparts are not. And so in today’s conversation while we are talking about funding and financing, we are also leaning in on the common challenges and barriers, black entrepreneurs face as well as how to build support systems and networks for your business.

Michelle: Now, clearly I am not having this conversation by myself. So let’s introduce our panel of experts that are going to help us navigate the discussion. And Daryn, I am coming to you. I want to start with you, tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do.

Daryn: Thanks, Michelle. My name’s Daryn Dodson. I grew up in Washington, DC. I have had the pleasure of working as the leader of looming capital. We’re a private equity venture capital and growth investment fund of funds. So we invest in about 400 companies globally in about 12 different countries, but the majority of our investments are here in the United States. I study in collaboration with our partnership with multiple Stanford professors and organization called Stanford Spark, a think in Duke’s tank, implicit bias within fundraising for black entrepreneurs and black fund managers. So I hope to share more about that during our time together. And one of the research studies that we published in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences, it sort of drills down into some of the biases that we as a community face, as we’re raising capital.

Michelle: I love that you are here to just give that deeper insight on what investing into those disadvantaged and marginalized groups can look like. So thank you so much for all that you’re going to offer. Wale, I see that you have joined us. And so I was going to give you a minute, but I am excited to talk to you too. So I’d love for you to just go ahead and tell us who you are, what it is that you do.

Wale: All right, thank you for being there. Sorry. I had a little bit of technical difficulty there. My name is Wale Ogunkeye. I’m head of sports entertainment at UBS. And my goal really is to one, bring financial literacy to the forefront of the entertainment space. Knowing for my own personal experience, being a former NFL player, that it felt like the industry when it comes to finances used us for those 15 minutes of fame and how much money we had. But as soon as the limelight was gone, it was like so long. So what we want to do here at UBS is get our clients to realize that legacy is just not what you do on the stage or on the field or the basketball court, but really long term generational wealth. How do we get past the day to day spending, how we get past it the two or three years and start thinking about the kids down the road, our communities, and I’m excited to be in this journey. So I’m excited to be with you guys, also.

Michelle: You are the gem in this conversation because you are forcing us to have that conversation about having healthy relationships with our finances. And I feel like I’m talking to myself here and putting myself out there, but there are a whole bunch of other people in this room that are feeling the same and so great to have you here. And now Mignon, kept you for last, tell us who you are, what it is that you do.

Mignon: Hi, Mignon Francois. And I started a business in the middle of what was a recession and with no money, no credit, no experience, no knowledge of my industry and have been able to create a legacy for my family. What I think we do now is show people that all you have is all you need. I think there’s a passion and a hunger and a desire that will get you up every morning to be the best version of yourself and in doing so you can win. And that’s what I find a lot of people who look like me find themselves in the similar situations, you don’t have 400 years of my grandfather did it like this. I couldn’t even bake, not even out of a box, but now I’m running a business where all the recipes are mine. And I use my background in science to be able to create it.

Mignon: And so it’s exciting. Even for me to watch these other successful black men be able to share with other black and brown people, how they too can invest and be a part of what makes your money healthy. But I would say that there’s still something about having had that money in the mattress experience that you don’t have to feel like you’re less than just because you don’t have what everybody else has. You can win to.

Michelle: Y’all see why I kept her for last. I knew about that. You are the cherry on top because having you on this panel really allows our viewers to see this conversation through an entrepreneurial lens and in real time. And so with that, let’s just jump right into the challenges. We know that black business owners still face greater obstacles when seeking financing in comparison to their peers. And so Daryn I’m coming to you. What are the common barriers black entrepreneurs see when trying to gain access to capital?

Daryn: Many of us have heard maybe our parents or grandparents say you have to be twice as good. And in our research was Stanford. We found something surprising in the research. We secretly tested 180 people managing 4 trillion in capital, and we found systematically the higher black fund managers and probably also the higher black entrepreneurs perform, the more biased they face.

Michelle: Wow.

Daryn: So that means even if we’re twice as good, there’s something that may be showing up in the conversations we’re having with customers. It could be with clients, with investors, with banks, et cetera. That is the elephant in the room that even though we’re performing extraordinarily well, the people that are evaluating us, miss the value that we bring to the marketplace and overlook and consistently underestimate us. So, as we’re thinking about tactics and strategies to overcome, not only the barriers to credit, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at subprime lending business lending, but also the people and the judgements that people are making.

Daryn: We have to think very carefully about how to vouch for each other as a community, find others in other communities that can vouch and step up and push down some of these barriers and not only look at performance, but also look at the ability to build networks so that we can overcome a lot of these challenges. I know others have lots of experiences when I was in new Orleans, after Katrina, I worked with 500 businesses helping them to rebuild and get back on their feet after the storm. And we know that a lot of the federal funding that came down to support entrepreneurs was spent in ways that reinforced these biases and barriers rather than overcome them. So I think that… And you is a terrific example of overcoming that kind of stigma and bias to thrive and sort make a difference in that community and other communities around the country.

Daryn: So I’m inspired to be here partially because the lessons from New Orleans taught me that entrepreneurs are the growth and power drivers of our communities. Particularly black businesses are created at rapid rates throughout the country, and really by honoring them, investing in them and helping us overcome these barriers, we’re able to do something really special to add to the overall GDP of the country.

Michelle: I love that. I’m going to give you a quick follow up question. Do you think that there are any shortcuts that we can take to avoid these barriers? Or what steps would you say that you recommend someone take maybe three steps that they can take to avoid or overcome some of these challenges in the very beginning?

Daryn: Well, here’s the good news. The good news is that the problem is not with black entrepreneurs. The problem is with those that are evaluating. So part of what we do as a firm at illumining capital is we spend a lot of our time working with those that evaluate black entrepreneurs and black fund managers to reduce their systematic bias so that they can see the beauty, the power, the brilliance that already exists within that, the black community. So I think that… Always remember that it’s not you it’s them, that has the work to do. And we already work twice as hard, three times as hard in order to help them understand and see us, but really to hold a collective mirror as a community, to the system that is systematically overlooking and underestimating us challenging policy avenues. I know that we passed laws as a part of some of the work that I did in 18 states to stop the overcharging of black and Latino entrepreneurs across the country, to the tune. And 9.1 billion that were being pushed by the largest banks in the world.

Daryn: So I think that we, as a community, when we organize to hold a mirror to this system to say, do your work to reduce the biases that we experience every day is really important. So that would be one thing is that don’t ever internalize the idea that these types of stories and narratives that we aren’t good enough is true. That’s one of the important tactics

Michelle: I will take that. I’m definitely going to use that statement. It’s you, not me, sometime this week. I promise you now. Wale, I am coming your way within the challenge, there is that other challenge, which is sometimes taboo and people don’t even want to talk about, but it’s centered around not understanding the best ways to manage, invest, or grow your capital. And so what common missteps have you encountered can be personally or through working with other entrepreneurs and how can someone resolve them through financial literacy?

Wale: Yeah. Great question. And then again, I’m excited to be here. I think first from what I have experienced myself, there is sometimes becomes a time where people are afraid to push back on things. They don’t know. You might have the capital. In my instance, I’m an NFL player with a decent amount of money in my pocket, and I want to create businesses. I’m a yes, man, in the sense that I hear something, I don’t know, but I don’t want to look like I’m in unintelligent. So I just shake my head and say, yes, I think the biggest thing for we have to do is educate ourselves a little bit better on the fundamentals around finances, just the basic skills. And understanding also that the financial institutions speak in such jargon, that it tends to confuse a lot of people in our communities. And instead of saying, yes, open up a book or with all information we have on Google right now, just find a place where you can be comfortable in saying, “I didn’t understand what you just said. I need to go back and do some research.”

Wale: Also surround people within your ecosystem that can help you. And I think when you start with businesses, I think the biggest problem, everyone has it. They start with passion, which is great. It’s great to have passion, but a lot of times, passion, without knowledge leads to disaster. When it comes to our communities, these is a small amounts of money that we have. And it’s only really one shot that a lot of athletes and entertainers have at making this work. And everybody in the community wants to open up a business with the capital that they have, what I say and what we say is listen, do to research just because you’re a football player doesn’t mean you should open up a gym, right? You don’t know about accounts receivables. You don’t know about all the different things that come into owning a business.

Wale: And that’s where we lack a lot of our knowledge. We might have the capital. We might have the passion, but we’re not having the education behind what it really means to manage our businesses. So the things that I’m seeing one understand exactly what your finances are, find a system or an ecosystem of people that are willing to hold your hand through the process. A lot of our entrepreneurs have resources that their local banks that they don’t utilize. When PPP after this, these, when 911 came around, people were scrambling to realize where can I find a solid relationship with a bank, but it was too late.

Wale: So a lot of times when it comes to entrepreneurs and businesses, and it comes to the banking system, there you walk through those doors. You think you’re just going to hand a check and I’m going to leave, actually ask to speak to the person that’s in charge of the businesses at that bank. Get to know who that person is. So they can now trust you when it’s time to come in for a loan and those things too. Also, they’re there to help teach you and understand exactly some of the programs that they have that can help benefit you and your business.

Michelle: I love that two major takeaways. That first statement, passion, without knowledge leads to… What was the phrase?

Wale: Destruction.

Michelle: Thank you. Pass without knowledge leads-

Wale: Or disaster.

Michelle: Or disaster, could be either. All right. And then the other statement of just like, if someone gives you a piece of information and you don’t understand, take a pause, don’t just nod. Say, “I’ll get back to you.” It’s perfectly okay to go do your research, especially because it’s your money and it’s your business. Now segue to you, Mignon. You did not take the traditional loan brow, as you said, you called it money in the mattress. I think my mom has used that phrase before too. And so I want to hear about your road less travel. Can you share what you and your team did to map out what funds you needed to set aside to grow and scale at each stage?

Mignon: First? I want to just say that everything that Wale offered was true. I did have a really good relationship with the bank. They knew me by my name, but that still didn’t get me any loans. I still had to back everything that I had with money that every loan I got with money I had in the bank. So they would require that I take the money and secure it in a CD or something else that I couldn’t touch in order to get loans. This is after I’m already successful. This is after I’ve already been voted as the best cake in my state, the number one bakery in my neighborhood and in my city, I still had to back all of my funding with my own money. I think it was also, it wasn’t until I had begun to… I think we’re about making about $250,000 a year at that point, that someone saw me and said, “This is really good. I want to bring you to get a seat at the table where I sit.”

Mignon: And that’s where relationships began to really work for me, is when I walked into rooms that I wouldn’t have otherwise been invited to. And that I stepped into those rooms with a sense of knowing that I belong. Not because I had the information that I needed, but that I was invited. And I think the key that I just wanted to scream when Wale was speaking, that I want you guys to get to know, you have to raise your hand and say, hold on a second. I didn’t know what that meant. Don’t let anybody leave you behind. When you get invited to the table, make sure you eat and make sure that you leave that table full and that you might have to stick some stuff in your cheeks, like these puppy cheeks and start spitting some of that stuff out for your children when you get back home. Because if you don’t get the knowledge and the information while you’re there, that’s not anybody’s fault, but yours. So you don’t get to say, oh, it’s you not me when somebody’s invited you to the table.

Mignon: And so I got an opportunity to walk into a program at the entrepreneur center here in Nashville. When someone told me I needed to be in the room, I went to find out what the room was about. I went to find out what they were offering when I didn’t understand something. I asked a question and I didn’t leave being the only one that wanted the answer to that question. I think that’s the lie that we tell ourselves is that, “Oh, everybody’s going to look at me and I don’t even know how to say it. And I better keep my mouth shut because I’m not even supposed to be here in the first place.” Listen, I take God everywhere I go. And anything that he allows me to be in, he’s going to keep me through it. And that’s the thing that has propelled me in my business is that I have been unashamedly and unafraid to say, “Hey, can you explain that to me? Because I’m just a mom who happened to start this business at the right time. And I was hungry to feed my children. Can you help me?”

Mignon: And people can appreciate helping someone who’s willing to help themselves. And that for me was worth more than gold. It took me into a 365 movement where I then was able to go back and say, thank you to the people who opened doors for me in a very tangible way. And I think that is better than having money in the bank to start with.

Michelle: Go ahead.

Wale: Fine. On that. I think also, I mean, I love hearing the story of the heartache, even after you’ve made it to… And the bank’s still saying no, I think we also have to realize one when we’re in a real relationship or it’s a transactional relationship, right? Too many times, they see us as numbers and the numbers don’t fit. They don’t want to do business with us. So what I would say also too, is once you realize that you’re being treated as a transaction, don’t be afraid to pick your stuff up and go somewhere else. Eventually you’re going to find where people value your worth and understand exactly why it’s important for them to have relationship with you. So again, everything that I’m saying, and we’re saying, it’s not going to be the magic pot to get you going right away. But once you know your worth, you’re not going to take people telling you no, that you’re not valuable that your business is valuable. That I’m not a superhero, right?

Wale: Once we have that true, we’ll still have the bumps and roads, and we’ll still have the note we get to say, you know what? I’m packing up my stuff and I’m leaving. And that’s where we want to make sure that we have real relationships with our bankers, with the banking system and also the industry. We’ve got to take responsibility. The reason why these algorithms are not are biased against us is because the people putting the data into algorithms are biased themselves. So we need to have more black and brown bodies on this side of the aisle, where I’m sitting to make sure that we get around these biases. So again, I’m super happy to have this conversation knowing that does like-minded people trying to make sure that we as community do better.

Michelle: I love it. I love that you each are triggering each other. And it’s just so intangible. What, see there was skill in putting in this panel together and I hope y’all, they picking up what they putting down, because this is some passion. When we talk about passion, that is not leading to destruction because folks know what they’re talking about. And I love it. Mignon, I’m going to stay with you for two seconds because I want to talk about the pandemic. I don’t want to live in the pandemic, but I want to talk about it for a second, right? It wasn’t light years away. It we’re still living in it. We’re still feeling the repercussions of it. And yet you are finding success to the point where you two locations now. You’re on magazine street in New Orleans and just doing all these powerhouse moves.

Michelle: When we met last week, you were telling a story specifically about the way in which you handled payroll. And it was so triggering to me because the way in which you made that decision essentially kept not only your doors open, but kept you a made it so that you could keep a lot of your employees still with you. So can you share a little bit about that?

Mignon: I definitely think that what makes me make it is I’m not a victim. I want to be the hero in my own story. And that’s something that Donald Miller talks about in his new book, Hero on a Mission. And what I wanted to do is I wanted to save us. I didn’t want the PPP to have to come through [inaudible 00:24:07]. So our team had gone through two storms. We had gone through a tornado in which we were at the eye of the storm. So while everything around us was decimated, we began to learn that my neighbor’s business is my problem. And so when I started seeing my team members be concerned over, well, what am what’s supposed to happen to me? What I said to them, if I eat you’re eating. So you never have to worry about that. One of the things that I decided to do from the beginning was I didn’t want to be in debt to anyone.

Mignon: And so we’ve operated this company. Not only did we bootstrap it, we continued to make sure that we stay out of debt because I don’t want to be enslaved to my lender. So as we’ve gone through the pandemic, we have lived on what we make. And the great thing about having a cash business is we’re making money. Money’s coming in every single day. The other thing about that is I don’t even want to be indebted to my team members. So I want to pay them every Friday where that costs me more money as a business. Because every time I run those payroll checks, there is a fee associated with that. But I understand that my situation is not so far from theirs, that I don’t remember what it was like to have to try to figure out money for two weeks. You can figure out anything for five days because you’re like, look, I can go to sleep on an empty stomach tonight.

Mignon: I can make whatever I have stretched right here for breakfast the next day, whatever you need to do, you can see your way through to five days from now. And so the way that I’ve even taught my team from the beginning has been, I’m not even going to hold your money that long. And when they’ve needed it I’ve been a source for that as well. In addition, I’m making sure that they are having opportunity to share in the profits with me. So when I win, they also win. So not only when I eat will they eat, they will get to eat in the future and I want to be making deposits into their legacy in the future. I also make them responsible though for their own oil.

Mignon: There’s a story that I like to tell about a widow. You could find it in a biblical reference in second Kings and her husband has died and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do. He’s the one that has managed the money and he has been working with the profits. And so he tells her, what do you have in your house? And she says, all I have is a little bit of oil. And so she was told to go inside, shut the door and start pouring out the oil. And then a miracle happened. That’s the thing that I’m teaching my team. What do you already have in your house? What have you done with what you have and what I gave you? And that has also helped them as they’ve gone into life. They’re our first, my youngest child is closing on his house today. He’s 21. He turned 21 on Monday. He’s closing on his house today. All right, because I’m not just talking about it. I’m going to live it in front of you. And that has been serving my team as well. I hope I answered that succinctly enough.

Michelle: I know you absolutely did. I love it. And congratulations to him and you’re here with us.

Mignon: Thank you.

Michelle: I love that through all the learnings and avenues that each of you have shared, there seems to be one common thread regardless of your path. And it’s the importance of networking and support systems. And so if you were listening to the Wayne Brady segment earlier, he talked about the fact that in the beginning of his career, he hated networking. He was like, it wasn’t something that he wanted to do. Anytime he was in a room, he stood in the back away from everyone. But now 14 years in, I hope the number’s right. He’s like I need to network it. It’s a part of what I have to do to continue to grow and expand. And so the question I have on the floor is how do you go about building the right network and support systems for your business? And Wale I actually want to start with you.

Wale: Great. When I go to these universities and I tell these college students, you’re in the prime place for networking people around you are going to be future leaders, CEOs, politicians, maybe athletes, and inter teams, whatever it is. And it doesn’t stop as we get older the network… I think I even heard someone say that one time, show me your network and then I’ll show you your net worth. That actually does hold true in some form of fashion. For me, I really believe even if you take how I even got to head of sports entertainment at UBS, I just went to a dinner. I expressed to one of the CEOs at the company that, “Hey, you guys should be doing a better job in our community of working with athletes and entertainers. Here’s some of the things I see that UBS does really well. Here’s some of the things you guys should do better.

Wale: And three years later of back and forth, they were like, “Wale, we want you to come run this business for us.” And with community, I think too many times born in New York city. There’s people that have not gotten off Brooklyn or left Manhattan. And we tend to stay in our silos of being comfort. And I don’t want to say anything to this person, because I don’t want to be seen a certain way. And with social media, we even get a little bit more guarded by appearances and not wanting to stand out. But when it comes to business and trying to change into this legacy, the only way we can is if we understand from other people how they’ve done it and the communities that they’re in, the conversations they’re having. I love being in rooms where I’m the only black person there. I do love it. You know why? Because I’m trying to figure out how do I keep the door open for the next person? How do I make sure someone else follows me? I’m not afraid or intimidated by those rooms.

Wale: I’m actually happy that I’m like, “Here’s some place where we can make a difference, bring more voices in. And that can only happen if we do step out on a limb, increasing our network by saying yes to those power luncheons, going to those brunches and just handing out a business card or just being there and listening at the end of the day, it’s going to change how you view life, going to change, how you view business. And obviously we’re going to take some of the positive things that we’re seeing from people. And it’s okay to be around people that you might not agree with all the way, take some and say, “I’m going to do something differently.” But what we have to do is get out of our silos and it doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or you’re almost in retirement, your network should never stop and growing.

Wale: Another thing too. I want to tell people too, is be careful how you share your network now is how people start to use you. I want to get used for your network. So be guarded with the people within your inner circle. My mom always told me it’s great to gather information. Be careful how you give that information out. So again, I’ll leave you with my mom. She’s more wiser than me, but it comes to [inaudible 00:31:38].

Michelle: Write that down, Wale’s mom said. Daryn, I’m going to swing it to you. I want that same question from a different lens. How do you go about building the right network and support systems for your business?

Daryn: Well, I also, as well, I mentioned I was going to reference my mom. Who’s a CEO of a real estate business and has been for much of my life. And one of the things that she thinks a lot about is the farming kind of strategy. So you get the seeds out and building a broad network and then you slowly cultivate some of those seeds as well. While I said, and kind of pay attention to how you’re building and then you harvest, but you’re always adding value into the network. Two tactical things that she taught me about networks. Number one is thank you letters. They’re very easy to do, but they don’t get done very much. And it’s one of the fastest ways to increase the value and the relationship with another person after you meet with them. And you find somebody that maybe share similar values or that you want to build something with, or be a banking partner or be an investor over time, or be a client or customer and many of how valuable that can be.

Daryn: But when you get to the end of the day and you’re tired and you want to go to sleep, that’s the hard thing to do. But those little things add up over time. So I would say that’s one of the tactics that she would often use. And then it’s relentless and raising capital in our business. We eat nos for dinner. So it becomes a game of how to get many nos. But what I found in raising multiple funds throughout my career is those that said no in the first raise are often people that the way you take that, no in future years begins to evolve into a relationship where they see the validation of the things that you’re talking about. They see the growth, they see the response after a tornado hits Mignon’s business and the way she pulls together with her community, her staff, her team, and builds a resilient model over time. And they want to be a part of that.

Daryn: And there’s something really interesting as you continue the journey. If you stay in touch with people, a lot of times, some of them will come around. So just two offerings around specific tactics and building networks.

Michelle: All right. Mignon, I want to give you the same question because we’re getting these answers and everybody’s looking at it through a different lens, but the goal at the end is the same. So for you, how do you go about building the right network and support systems for your business?

Mignon: So I’m a really shy girl. Could you tell?

Michelle: No.

Mignon: No. You can’t. Because I’m going in afraid. That’s not going to stop me from getting what it is that I need to eat. And I hope that the people who are on here who are listening are understanding what I said about when you get to the table, make sure that you leave full. You’re taking notes on everything that you’re hearing us say, and you are going to go back and you’re going to study that stuff. The greatest thing for me that has helped me with relationships is transparency. Just like I said before, about saying now what exactly did that mean? I prayed to God and said, God, I want to be able to walk into any room and speak intelligently on everything. And then I started having some hurts happen in my life. And I realized I don’t want to speak intelligently on everything.

Mignon: I don’t want to know firsthand what it feels like to go through some stuff. So therefore I’m going to have to ask some questions when I get into the room. And I think being able to say to people, “Hey, I got here because of X, Y, and Z.” Will allow people to be more gracious to you in opening the door so that you can receive the kinds of things you need. Now it’s just like any kind. So I’ve had a lot of relational hurts. And so I’ve used a lot of that stuff to inform me in business. It’s the same principle, but I follow my gut into everything. When my gut tells me, this is not the place I’m supposed to be, I’m leaving. If my gut tells me, get up and go right now, I’m going. And the more you learn to exercise that gut, it is a muscle that gets stronger.

Mignon: And the more you begin to… Its kind of like a mind trick thing of saying, I belong here. I’m supposed to be here. Therefore, they want me here. And so they want to hear what I have to say. You hear things like there are no stupid questions and there are no stupid answers. And the greatest thing for me has been the ability to wrap my arms around people and thank them. Just like that. Thank you. Note, you talked about to wrap my arms around them and thank them and let them know that I’m still shocked that you’re standing in the line too. Just like you shocked about how long the line is. I’m shocked. You guys are all coming, because I didn’t know what I was doing before I even started this, but it was my customers. It was the ones who were saying, “Y’all I found this treasure. I want to share with you.” It’s about treating people well. People are hungry for real ingredients, real interactions, real authenticity. Everywhere we go, we’re looking for things to not be fake. We don’t even want to fake it till we make it anymore.

Mignon: And I think that has been what has served me. I didn’t know, better not to tell people what I was going through. So I just told them and it has meant the world of difference.

Michelle: I love it. I wish that this conversation could go on forever because y’all are just dropping knowledge and I’m just writing it down like Nana and I know Nana, your book is full. I know it’s full. We are literally at the one minute mark. And so I have 50 million more questions, but instead of leaving the people dangling one thing, each of you, two seconds, that one piece of advice that you would leave everybody with. Wale, what do you got?

Wale: I’m just old school. So I say, put your head down. You’re going to be an overnight success. You’re just not going to know what night it happened. Just keep your head down grind and it’s going to happen.

Michelle: These the Wale’s. That’s what I’m going to call it. Daryn, what do you got?

Daryn: I would say one of the powerful things is the young people who are coming up and facing implicit bias in school systems, black children get over expelled, disciplined and suspended at higher rates than white children. In fact, the black youth suicide rate is up 132% over the last 10 years. So one of the things that I would say is check out Dr. Eberhardt’s book, Biased. And let’s think about as a community, how we can hold up many of you as role models to children that are searching for a way to overcome these biases and systems and build autonomy to me and freedom and businesses like those that you’ve created.

Michelle: I love that. And then Mignon, take us home.

Mignon: You need a coach. I’m sure Wale, couldn’t go out into that football field and learn how to grow and become better if he didn’t have a coach. But when we are in business, we think that we’re supposed to know everything. Every stupid thing that you’ve ever had to do is taking you from where you are, to where it is that you want to be. So there are no mistakes. It was just like Tete said necessary. But if you don’t have a coach, you’ll never have someone to pat you on the back and say, “Hey, that was good. Now do something different next time.”

Michelle: I love it. And on that note, I have to end the segment. Thank you to each of you for all that you have shared with us, I feel fulfilled. I hope you all feel fulfilled again. This was the panel in the session, running the numbers, how to fund your business. Thank you for joining us today. And I am actually going to kick it back to our girl. Nana. I want to know what’s in the book, Nana.

Nana: Yes, listen, I’m on move, you all took me all the way to church. I was in a sermon and I was so blessed and I just feel so revived. So I just want to thank you so much for our panelists. Thank you so much, Michelle. That was phenomenal. And two takeaways, I think really stood out to me because my mother always says it. Write those thank you letters. It takes two seconds. I know it feels old school. The gen Zers that are on here or the millennials, write those thank you letters, make those phone calls and we all need a coach. So thank you guys so much. Thank you so much for your time.

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