Black business owners under 20 on early success lessons

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According to certified financial planner and CNBC contributor Lazzeta Braxton, now is a great time for African Americans to start their own businesses. Braxton, co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, says aspiring young black entrepreneurs should get out of their comfort zone, expand their network, participate in pitch competitions to win funding, hire people who understand the numbers, and most importantly: always be passionate about their business.

Gabby Goodwin, Rachel Holmes, and Christon Jones are good examples, and they all have several things in common: they’re young, they’re black, and they were all entrepreneurs before they were 20.

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Find a problem you want to solve and keep finding new ones

Gabby Goodwin, creator of GaBBY Bows

Design Sensory

From the age of seven, Gabby Goodwin wanted to solve the age-old problem of constantly losing hair clips. She invented the first and patented double ended double snap hair clip and quickly morphed into a company in 2014: GaBBY Bows. Now at the age of 15, Goodwin has transitioned from just selling GaBBY Bows to CEO of Confidence, which sells natural hair care products.

“We have found that many of our customers have had issues not only with losing hair clips, but also with tangling and using a product that helps their child’s scalp or that helps retain moisture in their child’s hair,” said Goodwin. “With businesses, you want to make sure you’re solving a problem and continue to solve needs. So we made sure to listen to our customers, and that’s how the business grew from just bows to trust.”

The parameters of their business have also grown. In 2021, after seven years of working from home, Gabby and her family opened a retail store and hair salon in Columbia, South Carolina, selling all of their company’s products.

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“We wanted to make sure the girls that come in have a 360 degree experience and not only get their hair done and feel confident, but they can see behind the scenes and the inventory of the business that we have.” said Gabby.

The road to success was not easy.

“We have a double whammy because we are two different minorities. We are African Americans and we are women. When I tried to get funds for my business they didn’t really listen to me because one was my age but also because of my skin color and gender. I would speak in a room to white, bald men about my hair products for black girls with curly hair. It’s so hard to explain to them what exactly makes my business, how it works and how they can help my business grow,” she said.

Gabby, who founded Mommy and Me Entrepreneurship Academy with her mother to help young girls and their mothers start their own businesses under the Gabby’s brand, says finding a support network early on is crucial.

“Find a village near you… I had great support from my mayor and everyone else who was in such a government area, or even people living in my town. Find a village near you family, your friends. You never know how you’re going to get someone involved in your business,” she said.

Don’t be afraid of setbacks

Rachel Holmes, Founder and Director of Black Girls Mean Business

Briana Holmes

Rachel Holmes, 18, not only leads school, a social life and competes as an artistic swimmer. She is CEO of Black Girls Mean Business, a free national summer virtual business program for black high school girls. The program offers six Zoom workshops to improve business and career skills, expand a network, and prepare girls for life after high school.

“As an aspiring businesswoman, I understood the barriers Black women face when entering business and wanted to ensure Black girls in my community have the support and resources needed to reach their full potential” said Holmes.

“Black women face incredible discrimination in the business world, based on both racism and sexism. They are generally underestimated and denied the respect, positions and funding they deserve. I wanted to create justice to help girls overcome these obstacles. By giving them the tools they need to succeed early on and empowering them, I hope for greater representation in leadership and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Holmes says that being a black entrepreneur at a young age brings success not only to her, but to others as well. “It can be daunting at times knowing that you’re going to encounter barriers and that people are watching what you’re doing. But it’s amazing to know that I can make a difference and set an example. Representation matters!” she said.

Her advice to aspiring young black entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid of setbacks.

“Use them as an opportunity to improve next time. Ask for help even when you think you don’t need it. You got it! People will support what you do, you just have to have the courage to start,” she said.

Patience is critical to business success

Christon Jones

Antoinne Duane Jones Media

CEO, day trader, investor, and author are just a few of the titles Christon “The Truth” Jones held by the age of 15. Jones started his company, Return On Investment, when he was just 10 years old. Through the company’s three programs, $tocks 101, Black Wealth Matters and The Truth Success Series, black entrepreneurs can learn how to start investing and trading, learn about the stock market and how to create short- and long-term passive income.

More recently, Jones discovered an interest in real estate investing. He currently owns two properties and hopes to own 10 or more in the next five years.

“I was always looking for a new way to make money,” Jones said. “I’ve only just started to get interested in the subject. I started asking my mentors and people around me who could really teach me something and explain how the business works,” he added.

According to Jones, overcoming age and racial discrimination are among the most difficult challenges he has faced.

“Going to networking events, being discriminated against, not really being able to meet the people I wanted to meet because they don’t want to talk to me because they’re like, ‘You’re a little black kid. Yes. OK. Step aside,” Jones said.

Some of the key ingredients to being successful and overcoming obstacles include consistency, creativity, self-discipline, action, and most importantly, patience.

“Patience is probably one of the greatest things I know,” Jones said. “When you start entrepreneurship you want to rush everything, you want to get your money, you want to be famous. You want to get all those connections, but your journey is really a lot slower,” he added.

By Jaala Brown, CNBC Talent Development Intern

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