Special to the AmNews
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. There are moments when we feel we’ve made it to the finish line, only to find out the journey is not yet over. Dr. Venus Opal Reese was up for tenure at the University of Texas when her fellow faculty members voted against her.
“I had the same physical reaction as when my mom put me out in high school,” she recalled. After years of devoting her time and energy to this institution, she was still unable to garner job security.
Within a week, she attended a free roundtable discussion with a group of successful white male CEOs. Reese gave a presentation detailing her new business venture, a coaching business for entrepreneurs. By the closing of her speech, CEOs were pulling out their checkbooks. “I made more money in that one day than I made in my yearly salary as a professor,” Reese said.
Getting funding is one of the many challenges Black women entrepreneurs face. Digital Undivided, an organization devoted to investing in African-American and Latinx women tech founders released a report in 2016 that found Black women receive $36,000 in venture capital funding, in comparison to the $1.3 million received by Caucasian males with failed startups.
The challenge of finding investment funding is undoubtedly related to race and the nationwide agenda to ensure that people of color remain financially challenged. Reese is well aware of the disparities.
“Black women specifically haven’t been able to reach that 2 percent mark because we don’t know how to make ourselves rich. We suffer from historical wounds,” Reese stated.
Despite this obstacle, Black women are the majority owners of more than 1.5 million businesses, with more than $42 billion in sales.
Reese, founder of Defy Impossible, is a self-made millionaire who has made it her mission to lead her fellow Black sisters to the million-dollar mark. She has written an Amazon bestselling book and conducts speaking tours throughout the nation.
“I got committed to Black women when they chose me,” Reese remarked. “When I first put my book out, they were the only group that supported me.”
Her use of plain language made her book easy to follow. She details how to get out of a “plantation job” and make money using one’s unique gifts and talents.
The Black Woman Millionaire tour aims to reach women from the beginning stage to six figure businesses. She travels to cities with high concentrations of Black woman entrepreneurship, such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. A 2015 Fortune article reported, “The highest concentrations of Black woman-owned businesses are in Georgia, Maryland and Illinois.”
Women such as Madame C.J. Walker represent the long history of Black women who saw an opportunity to meet the needs of their fellow sisters and turn it into a business. Reese pointed out that the Black community has to abandon the slave mentality of working for others. “You can’t make money working for anybody else,” she said. “Don’t negotiate, that’s all sharecropping. You have to become your own boss.”
The Women in the Workplace 2017 report analyzed the HR data of more than 222 companies and found that women of color represent only 3 percent of C-suite level leadership in corporate America. The study revealed patterns that suggest Black women lack the support they need to reach leadership roles.
In response, Reese says now is the best time in human history to become a Black woman millionaire. “Not only is it our time, but it is our turn,” she said.