By Nicole Blackson
Black women are the fastest, largest growing group of entrepreneurs. Not only are Black women dominating entrepreneurship, but according to the 2018 State of Women Owned Business Report, in the age range of 35-54 we are also the only group of women with a larger number of entrepreneurs than our male counterparts. So, if Black women are thriving, doing the damn thing, what would it take for one of us, or many of us, to return to a traditional job?
Born in 1983, I am considered a millennial by many, and for others I am an xennial. Even writing this I am not even sure if an “a” or “an” goes before “xennial.” Quite frankly, I don’t feel like a millennial. I grew up watching sitcoms based on families, education was a big deal and being an “adult” still looked like a house, a car and a steady paycheck. And even when elders insist that I call them by their first names, I still call them “Mr.” or “Ms.”
However, I did get the side eye from my mother when I was entering college and announced that I could never work at a job for 20 or 30 years and “retire.” As an adult, I have learned that retirement is an illusion. Many of those who retire still work, mostly because they must. My mother is still working at the same job now that she was then, but I was determined to go a different route.
At the age of 23, I did it! I had gotten the car and the house, and not just any house but a multi-family unit. I had dreams of adding real estate to my income portfolio. Let’s just say…God laughed at some of my plans.
After having all the things that I initially thought made me an adult, I realized it sucked! I worked in a residential program that was open 24 hours. Double time, holiday pay, benefits, free food, all the perks. However, I was not satisfied with my quality of life. There was no balance. I left that job after about four years and ended up taking a seven-month break. I was at risk of losing everything I had thought I needed, as it now only created a burden. I knew that the house and car were the first up on the chopping block. Long story short, they came and got the car. I also made a choice to no longer use any of my credit cards, even my American Express. I began the process of living within my means.
Yes, my mother thought I had lost my mind. For me, it was the best time of my life! I picked up tie-dying as a side hustle, I began painting and was able to sell my work. I was still a landlord, and another steady gig I did for a minute was to deliver food for the neighborhood pizza shop I grew up eating. I can remember how shocked customers would be to see me because I was a young woman. I would get the extra tips sometimes and even the heartfelt “be safe.” All of this was happening with a college degree in hand that I did not wish to utilize at the time.
Once I returned to my career, I was different. I knew what I needed on a personal level to be fulfilled in working for someone else. Flexibility was a big thing. Being locked into a set schedule was a no-go for me. I also had to be in an environment that felt good. Fewer egos and more equity. That was the first time I left my social work career.
The last time was in June 2016. Again, I had no other job to go to, but by then I knew I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to facilitate groups, speak and teach others. This time, I had a clearer perception of what I needed for my quality of life. So, my $100+ T-Mobile bill became a $55 Cricket bill. The world became a gym and I got rid of my monthly membership. If I wanted to go out to eat, I frequented what I would consider award-worthy happy hours, instead of traditional dinners. I did not have a personal vehicle, nor cable. I learned what it really meant to live within my means and not add normalized debt. The American dream meant learning how to use the power of my Black dollar in a way that’s beneficial to me and for generations after me.
So, for the past few years, I have been able to hold my own as a contractor for a few organizations. I became a minister during this time, for the sole purpose of being a wedding officiant—one of those opportunities that had just been offered to me because people saw me standing authentically in my truth as a free bird, whether an employee or a contractor. Becoming a corporate trainer for a business founded and operated by a Black woman has been another opportunity that has come to me. The CEO and I shared a media project for Love Now Media, another Black-woman-founded and -operated business.
Fast forward to a year or so later of me contracting with this unicorn of my professional career, and I am hearing how much an asset I am to the company and how my skills are unique and appreciated. This eventually led to a job offer that I turned down because I was underwhelmed by the salary and the paper-pushing work the job seemed to entail. But after talking the position through, and articulating what I wanted—including my salary requirements—the CEO retooled the position and made me a pleasing offer.
I had gotten what I wanted! I did not have to fight or compete for a position that I knew was meant for me! I was in alignment with what I felt I deserved because—even though some weeks I lived below the poverty line as a creative—I was not going to accept a full-time position that did not meet my standards. I was able to negotiate in my authenticity and not feel any sense of shame or judgment. I was respected before, during and after negotiation.
Partnership—whether romantic, platonic, or in business—should feel good! It should promote your growth and be a path to where you want to be. I was now getting a paid mentorship to be an employee of a business founded and operated by a Black woman in consulting and counseling: my very own developing lane! The wealth of information, the stable income I could use to fund my own passions, the consistent, complementary and healthy work culture was my win-win-win!