By Te-Erika Patterson
It’s no secret that owning a business takes preparation, sacrifice and patience in order to achieve long-term success. Preparing entrepreneurial-minded young professionals for the realities of business ownership was the central message of a recent day-long Power Summit, which was organized by Urban Influence Magazine and the Houston Area Urban League of Young Professionals (HAULYP).
Oscar Joyner, President of Reach Media Inc, a media conglomerate based in Dallas, Texas was the featured speaker. The 31-year-old executive challenged the crowd of young professionals by raising a soul-stirring question, “Are you prepared for all of your dreams to come true?”
“Young, determined, professional African-Americans often have lofty dreams but are ill equipped to handle their own success. Many young Black men want to ‘own their own label’ without understanding basic tax, royalty, and copyright laws. They say they want to own their own company but have never taken a basic business law course to understand some of the simple in and outs of a lease agreement,” said Joyner, son of Radio Fly Jock Tom Joyner.
“So how can you want to own your own company or a record label, but not be prepared if someone should give you the seed capital?” Joyner inquired. “You find yourself with the money to lease a studio but you forgot to take basic accounting or business management and get taken by thelandlord. You have the funds to acquire artists and an office manager but realize you don’t know the first thing about payroll taxes, healthcare benefits, or writing your own operations manual.”
A working knowledge of business is important but according to some young business owners there are other hurdles to overcome.
Julie Griffith, the public relations officer for HAULYP, left the corporate world to start her own public relations firm a year and a half ago. Facing the stumbling blocks she believes African Americans confront early in building a business, Griffith said earning a paycheck every two weeks while starting your own business is actually a hindrance.
“The two-week paycheck is a hindrance because it doesn’t make you work as hard as you would if you didn’t have it. You really don’t have your own business. What you have is a back-up plan for your day job,” commented Griffith, who is now the President and CEO of JGriffith Public Relations.
“The biggest misconception that entrepreneurs have is that they need a whole bunch of start-up money to do it. All you really need is a laptop, a good cell phone and a few months worth of paychecks saved up, depending on the business you are starting.”
Participating in the CEO roundtable panel, President & CEO of the Houston Area Urban League Sylvia Brooks offered her life lessons for business success.
“It takes a commitment to be successful in business, not only to your business, but you have to be committed to your family. You have to work out a balance,” Brooks said.
Brooks shared with the audience how her husband Errol enjoyed a challenging career as the director of human resources for a chemical company until their two older children became toddlers. He was concerned that his wife’s demanding career would take away from quality time with his children so he stepped down from his high visibility position and took a less demanding job as anemployment counselor.
“Everyone has to figure out a way to meet their personal and spiritual needs,” added Brooks. “Otherwise you will go crazy and start making a lot of mistakes.”
According to Joyner one of the biggest mistakes a prospective entrepreneur can make is believing that he is alone in pursuing his goal.
“In business [we are often] looking at what other leaders have achieved on their own and thinking we have to do it the same way on our own,” Joyner stated. “Many would-be publishers want to start their own magazine and grow it like John Johnson grew Ebony & Jet, or like Earl Graves grew BlackEnterprise. They grew their publications on their own out of necessity because they didn’t have an Internet, they didn’t have graduate degrees, and they didn't have the open society to foster their ideas. This generation can have all of the above, and most importantly, we have each other.”