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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Black Entrepreneurs Month: Starting Small

Entrepreneurs usually begin small. Take Selina Thomas, for example.

She started her human resources consultancy in a Starbucks in Santa Clarita in 2014. And, as all business builders hope to see, she watched her enterprise take flight.

“(N)ow the company provides services to clients nationally and, as of last year, internationally,” she said of her firm, 6 Degrees HR Consulting Inc.

It’s not easy being your own boss, of course, because “you have to commit to the sweat equity that it takes to get things done,” she said.

And like entrepreneurs everywhere, she learned as she went along. One important lesson: hire help when needed.

“I ultimately built up enough of a book of business that I could hire administrative support. I also learned how important it was to re-invest back into my own company,” Thomas explained. “Learning to pay for support and experts to handle the things I was doing myself really changed the quality of my operations and delivery of my services.”

This annual special report – which coincides with Black History Month – is a way for the Business Journal to highlight Black entrepreneurs throughout the Valley area. Like Thomas, the business starters you may read about on the following pages started small but harbored deep aspirations to grow and thrive.

Will Conley, for example, launched Fishbone Seafood in 2016 and the Encino-based restaurant chain already has opened its 16th location. What’s his advice to other entrepreneurs? “Just keep moving and build it day to day,” Conley wrote. “Stay focused on the prize.”

Some entrepreneurs who start small keep their old job as they ramp up their business. Kimberley Wesley, for example, started her business selling tote and travel bags made in India just nine months ago but continues working full time in nursing.

She’s already thinking of her next business, which she plans to be in real estate. “The future includes starting a second business and phasing out of health care within the next 10 years,” Wesley said.

Her advice about becoming an entrepreneur: “Don’t be afraid. If you are afraid, do it anyway.”

Some not only start — but — restart their business. Justin Grooms, for example, launched Chariot Consulting, which provides human resources services, in Atlanta, but closed it down in 2018 to work for a Valley-based insurance company. He restarted Chariot in Woodland Hills as its managing partner in 2019.

“I did it primarily because there were businesses who needed my help,” Grooms explained.

Beside the four entrepreneurs mentioned above, you may read inspirational stories from other business starters, including La Ronda Jones-Gutierrez, who founded a cake business named Food by LJay after being challenged by her daughter, and Michelle Harris Collins, who became a literary coach and started M. Collins Enterprise to help others with their books.

Regardless of whether they’ve yet to hit the big time, all have succeeded in at least one aspect: they are living the American Dream of starting their own business and being their own boss.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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