Black History Month was created and is observed annually for remembrance and appreciation of notable people and events in the history of descendants of the African diaspora or people of African ancestry. This month gives us a chance to highlight what these notable people and events not only mean to Black history but to general history at large. Within the startup and entrepreneurial community, black men and women are increasing their contributions but are still behind other racial groups in owning their own business or creating a product. Less than 1 percent of Black Americans receive the venture capital necessary to get their business or product off the ground. Despite those setbacks, there are Black men and women, especially in North Texas, who have been successful. Here are some of their stories.
Could you give a summary of what your product is and the idea or inspiration behind it?
Goodieboxx is a retail automation startup. We’ve been successful in placing what we call self-service retail machines in mixed-use locations. Our first flagship store, one of the machines placed in the lower level of a luxury apartment complex in the Victory Park neighborhood.
I moved to Dallas from southern California and moved into this neighborhood in an adjacent apartment complex. I just noticed that although it was convenient and there was a resurgence of people moving into the downtown area, there was a lack of retail amenities available for someone who wanted to grab a pack of toilet paper or any type of medicine. So I got to brainstorming and looking at the aesthetics of my apartment building and said ‘what if I could save a person in a similar circumstance the trip [of running out to the store]?’
I had a newborn child and I would have to physically ready him to go to the store that was over a mile and a half away, just to buy toilet paper. So I went to the drawing board and came up with the Goodieboxx, a secure, self-service retail store that sits in the common area of an apartment complex with tailored amenities for residents.
What got you into entrepreneurship?
My background is in commercial real estate and finance and it got to the point where I reached that ‘glass ceiling’ that we hear about. During my career path, I was an assistant vice president of an independent bank but I didn’t see where I would go, as far as the career ladder from that point. It got really political and I just saw that I wanted to be more in control of my family’s future and destiny.
As an entrepreneur, I feel that you empower others by giving them a job, particularly our community, where African-Americans are disproportionally underemployed or unemployed. I felt empowered just to have a desire or drive to step into entrepreneurship and of course, help give back to the community but also be able to create jobs. So, there was the combination of my work experience and to do something I’m passionate about: filling a need.
As an entrepreneur who is Black and a man, how have those intersections affected how you do business or how you approach your market?
I feel that it has affected me some, in two ways: for one, I believe that I’m kind of an anomaly. I’m Black, I’m a male, I have a clean background and good credit, so to speak, and those are difficult things to come by statistically. That was one of the positive things, but one of the things I feel as a Black entrepreneur is that we for one don’t have a lot of education as it relates to the startup culture.
Writing a pitch, venture capital, angel investors; that is a learning curve for some that don’t have the fortitude to get that down. We also don’t have that infrastructure around us to have those conversations to get us ready for that. So I feel as a Black entrepreneur, if you can keep your nose clean, get a bank loan and do what you have to do in certain instances, that’s a blessing in itself. One our obstacles is that we don’t have a lot of access to venture capital as it relates to all of our businesses. The angel investments and venture capital doesn’t trickle down that far and it puts the Black entrepreneur in a difficult space.
Do you feel that it’s important to have people of color, especially Black people, in the entrepreneurial/startup field?
I do, I feel that we’re as equal as anyone else in the startup field and being an entrepreneur. I also feel that it’s essential for us to be in the entrepreneurial community because of our current situation. We have the highest percentage of unemployment and if a lot of Black entrepreneurs had the resources, the infrastructure and the setup to step into this role of entrepreneurship, we can solve a lot of our own problems by creating our own businesses and creating jobs to help those that don’t have jobs.
What advice would you give anyone about becoming an entrepreneur?
I would tell them to throw the 9-to-5 mindset out the window. Don’t ever think of it [entrepreneurship] as a clock in and clock out thing, it’s an ongoing process. Be prepared to deal with a lot of no’s, a lot of rejection and a lot of adversity. But the beauty and the rising of the phoenix, so to speak, coming into entrepreneur ecosystem is having the fortitude and the faith to see things to fruition. If you have the heart and the guts to see things through, you can get a product into the market and reap the rewards.