Last year was a challenging year of growth for both me and my business. Although I was by no means new to the entrepreneurial world, the events of 2020 would take my business to new heights because of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Heading into 2020 I was excited to renew focus on my coaching and course offerings. I was feeling good about my revenue and I wanted to pour my efforts into producing more automated programs. But in March, when the pandemic really started to get attention in the U.S. and Canada, my team and I realized that we needed to pivot and service offerings were the fastest way to revenue growth at the time.
Over those first few months of 2020, like many others, we did lose some clients, particularly our clients in the event space who essentially lost their businesses during the pandemic. We also had a few clients who decided to take social media in-house as a way to cut costs. We experienced a lot of major changes within our business as I’m sure other business owners did as well.
But even though it was a challenging time, my team rose to the occasion and quickly turned things around. Within a month we had compensated for the abrupt slowdown and reached the March goals that we had previously been behind on. I’m incredibly proud to say my team really weathered the COVID-19 storm with tremendous grace and success. We headed into May feeling really great about our perseverance and growth as a company.
This would later become crucial to helping me stand with confidence about how my company serves its clients and brings value. Because once again, 2020 threw us another curveball and we found ourselves in the midst of worldwide demonstrations for Black lives following the death of George Floyd. Suddenly my company was put front and center because it was Black-owned and I really wrestled with if that was a positive thing or not.
When the Black Lives Matter movement started to pick up widespread media attention, a lot of businesses in the online space began tagging Black entrepreneurs or business owners they worked with as an effort to uplift Black voices. From there, many business owners began examining their network of contractors, or the agencies they hired from a diversity standpoint, realizing they should make a more conscious effort to diversify the people they work with. That’s when I really started to notice a shift in my own business leads. I checked almost all of the marks for someone looking for a diverse team. I am a Black woman, I have team members who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I have team members based all over the world as an internationally based agency. A lot of companies found this quality of our company attractive and hired us.
When the light was shone on me as a Black business owner, I felt very uncomfortable at first and dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome, especially since I do not consider myself to be a Black rights activist. An avid follower and supporter, yes. But an activist? Hardly. The Black Lives Matter movement also put a lot of emphasis on me as a Black woman, but before last year, I had honestly not thought of myself as a Black woman business owner, simply a business owner.
I never foresaw the color of my skin being the reason people noticed me and wanted to work with me. It felt like a lot of the reason people were deciding to hire me and my company was only because I was Black. There was a lot of work that I had to do around that to shift my mindset.
What helped me work through this imposter syndrome I was feeling were two things, really. The first was reminding myself that these prospective clients may have been seeking me out because I was Black, but they certainly weren’t hiring me or retaining my services because I was Black.
My team does incredible work, as we had proved several times, including during the pandemic. We were able to sustain the rapid growth we were experiencing because we had designed a great service that was set up on the back end and we were getting results for our clients. So, whenever I had feelings of doubt, I reflected on how awesome my team was, and then I reminded myself that I had built that team.
The second thing that really helped me through this imposter syndrome I was wrestling with was something my dad told me. (What’s really funny is his wisdom actually came in the form of a sports metaphor and I am the least sporty person out there.) I told him about the unease I was feeling over all the attention I was receiving and asked him how he was dealing with the Black Lives Matter movement as a Black business owner himself. I absolutely loved his response, which was: “Think of it as your ‘at bat.’” He went on to say, I should think of this time as my turn at the plate. Just because I step up to the plate does not always mean I am going to hit a home run. It doesn’t even mean I’ll necessarily hit the ball. But I do get my chance at the plate, so why not take it? It was that mindset shift that helped me be okay with the attention I was getting and lean into it.
By learning to embrace the attention I was receiving because of the Black Lives Matter movement, I overcame the imposter syndrome and my business was able to grow both monetary and team-wise. In fact, over the course of 2020, my business tripled in revenue and we added over six new members to our team. Because of that growth, we’re able to reach and help more people. We’re able to show up in a different way, offer more services, and expand our reach.
And the movement didn’t just impact my clientele, but also my personal professional circle. A surprising realization I had was that my own professional circle was not diverse enough. It’s no secret that the digital marketing industry is chock-full of white men, but I fell right into the trap of just going along with what was right in front of me versus making a conscious effort to create change. After critically looking at the group of people I had connected with initially, I started spending concerted time and effort diversifying my network.
One of the resources I went to is the We Should All Be Millionaires Club by Rachel Rodgers. Her fantastic and diverse group of business owners helped me realize just how much I needed to be around people who were going through the same things that I was. They were business owners like me who were also getting a giant spotlight shone onto their businesses because they were Black and we got to share how everyone was dealing with it.
Some were celebrating finally being able to show up and be seen and seeing these business owners’ positive energy around the attention they were receiving helped me really accept the spotlight on my business as well.
I remember how personally invested I became in the movement, and as I reflect on this, I think one of the reasons is because the Black Lives Matter movement really shone a light on the things I had been doing and striving for already in my business. Essentially, the rest of the world was catching up to where I had always been, and I was finally reaping the rewards from that work. Instead of hiding from it, they encouraged me to embrace it.
This whole year taught me lessons that I will carry with me as an individual and as a CEO and business owner for the rest of my life. It’s reinforced the importance of diversity and allowed me to embrace my experience as a Black business owner. I vow to always employ a diverse staff and foster a diverse social and professional group of people around me to influence and guide my thinking and decisions.
If I can leave you with my biggest lesson from the Black Lives Matter movement it is this: everyone should examine their professional and social circles and make a concerted effort to diversify those circles. The experiences and lessons we gather from having a diverse circle can do amazing things, and I think we can all use that as a guiding compass as we continue into this new year.
About the Author: Andréa Jones is fiercely committed to helping businesses and podcasters build profitable online communities through simple social media solutions. She’s the host of the Savvy Social Podcast, which was nominated for “Best Business Series” at the 2020 Canadian Podcast Awards.
Andréa is also the creator of the Savvy Social School, a digital platform designed to teach its 100+ members (predominantly small business owners) how to implement organic social media strategies. For those businesses seeking a curated, done-for-you approach to growing an engaged online audience, Andréa and her team of seven serve nearly two dozen notable brands across the globe.