I learned how to be an entrepreneur by trial and error and since I am celebrating my 25th year in business I’d like share the truth about Black Owned Businesses
I learned how to be an entrepreneur by trial and error and since I am celebrating my 25th year in business I’d like share the truth about Black Owned Businesses
So I’m celebrating my 25th year as an entrepreneur this year. I was prompted to write this after someone called me about someone who has just lost their corporate job and they asked me “Why doesn’t he last anywhere more than a few months?” I thought about that knowing that I’m blessed to be a successful entrepreneur and I believe this person has the same passion and potential from their past experiences. It’s not that they can’t keep a job, they may be better suited to work for themselves.
The longest job I have ever had in my life was at Urban Network, a now-defunct magazine in Los Angeles. It was one of the most educational music industry jobs I’ve had in my career but I lasted there under two years. I’m glad the late Jerry Boulding hired me because working there was like college for me and I learned SO much from Jerry.
A few months after I started, I was assigned as the rap editor and I HATED that job and I begged them to give it to someone else. I believe Harry Akaki wanted the gig and I would have given it to him on a silver platter but I didn’t have the power to do so.
I was not that guy that you would find hanging in the hip hop spot, or playing hip hop music in my car so I was not qualified to rank hip hop songs on a chart. Then again I have worked at many organizations in the industry where a LOT of MFs were far removed from their titles, but they were not the same color as me and they made/make a LOT more money so I was/AM not an anomaly.
I was not into hip hop music and it reminded me of how I grew up and I wanted no part of that again. But they made me do it and I’m glad they did. My job was not only to do the chart and ACT like I was interested in the genre. I knew that I looked like a damn fool ACTING like I was interested in hip hop. Wearing baseball caps backwards, speaking hood dialect and not smiling for pictures and trying to act pissed off and hard. I was a happy MF, but I was also an actor and that was the hardest role I EVA had to play and I didn’t do it well. So the Oscar DIDN’T go to … To make matters worse they wanted to fire me for a job I didn’t want in the first place, dirty MFs (lol).
I’m embarrassed to even admit it. You would have thought I would have caught a glimpse of my damn self even in a rearview mirror while thuggin’ my way down these LA streets wearing Tims. I should have just stopped and said “Um, hey Kev, yeah … this shit isn’t working! WTF are you doing?” But I needed the MF money, I had to do what I had to DO. I had just moved to LA. I wasn’t trying to be on deese damn streets.
The Hip Hop Songs Pay Off
I knew the management and owners at Urban had no interest in hip hop music either so it actually shielded me for a few months from the BS but it was also going to be my demise at Urban. Let me feign disappointment … DONE!
I had to sell the ads AND collect the money. The accountant, a short grouchy old white woman named Eyouna or Ulgar (I think) came down one day, cracking the whip and she told me, “You need to collect this amount from Priority Records!” The amount was about $10,000. I got something like 5% commission of what I sold so I would get a whopping $500.00 of the $10,000 for the ads I sold.
I called Priority Records and got the money a couple of days later. I looked at that check that was addressed to “The Network Group” or something like that for $10,000 and I thought to myself. I did the chart, I sold the ads but it’s not my magazine. This fkn check should have MY name on it.
Eclipse or Eyouna or Ulgar, whatever the F her name was, was there to snatch that check from my hand as soon as it came in and it took her about two months to give me my $500.00. She even complained to the Bird brothers that I kept asking her about it and Urban Network management told me to stop asking for MY commission. Really? Sht, I had rent to pay. So I had to wait another MONTH for $500.00?
It was at that moment that I decided to learn everything I could about a magazine while everybody in management at Urban Network was fighting each other for sh that didn’t belong to them … position and the damn magazine.
Me and Dusean Dawson used to have a field day laughing at them fighting while we told jokes and played music that I sang to drown out the slamming doors and arguing. And Scott Galloway would always have his headphones on bopping to the music in his ears while playing his wide-ranging plethora of music in his office den. He may not have even been aware of what was going on. They were, and still are, my two favorite people from Urban. Jerry Boulding was too.
I started staying later and coming in during the weekends too. I wanted to learn all that I could about doing a magazine and I did. Ironically, I had no plans to do my own magazine. I just wanted to learn as much as I could.
It was a natural progression for me to be an entrepreneur and perhaps it is for you too. Let me share with you the things that I know and what MANY of my entrepreneur friends have also agreed with. So, if you’re even thinking about taking the dive I want to give you a few suggestions and some insight on what you can expect … you’re welcome. And so it begins …
It Will Take Over Your Life
I can honestly say, it takes a LOT to excite me these days but talking about business always perks me up (as well as singing, dancing and telling dirty jokes). I LOVE everything about business, well ALMOST everything and I love to see black entrepreneurs prosper because I know the circumstances that many of us come from and face.
My first job was being my own booking manager at 14. I booked my own TV commercial with no experience. I just called advertising agencies in the phone book (remember those) and sent the only copies I had of my grade school pictures (I didn’t know where to get them copied) I booked a series of commercials with the now defunct Weil, Levy and King ad agency in Buffalo as the stock boy in the Tops supermarket commercials. My face was all over Western New York, I was on Billboards and TV. I was a neighborhood star and it got me into Performing Arts high school on the spot. I saw what success could do for a person at a very early age. I came a long way from the kid who had to use food stamps at the same Tops grocery store. I was hooked and didn’t quite know it yet.
You May Be Single for a Long Time or Have Problems in Your Relationships
Most of the entrepreneurs that I know are single or if they are in relationships they are almost always short term or headed towards divorce.
Being an entrepreneur is like being a firefighter when duty calls you have to go NOW and your job becomes your soulmate and those close to you get jealous of that.
I know entrepreneurs who WANT love in their lives but they have to schedule a time to use the bathroom, how can they be in a relationship? In other words, YOUR JOB is your man or woman or significant other FIRST or you won’t be successful. Welcome to sacrifice.
You Will Be Extremely Gratified
Every success will bring you joy and every failure will drive your ambition. I have been blessed to leap out of bed in the morning feeling like the world was an amazing place and it was my canvas to paint on. When I worked for other people I never had that feeling, I was always stressed. I have worked in my draws and washed clothes while I worked and ran errands for myself and others while making sales calls. I LOVE IT and this is the benefit of being an entrepreneur, you beat the world at everything and go against the grain instead of with it.
You are ahead of the curve, while everyone is at work you are at the cleaners, or putting together a campaign for a client or planning a vacation but taking your laptop to work while you are there. But you are ALSO working while everybody else is watching TV or having drinks with their friends. I will say that “working” is a strong word because I have not worked in 25 years. I have been “building” and there is a HUGE difference but an even greater sacrifice.
I RARELY hear other entrepreneurs complain about being an entrepreneur but they DO complain about certain aspects of it like hiring people.
Things Will Not be Fair for Black Entrepreneurs
… but if you are a great strategist they will be JUST. I see a lot of money for hip hop songs and R&B go to other trades that don’t spotlight the urban industry or have the audience that I have but I also see what they CAN’T do and how I can be better doing what I do too.
You have to know that success in business is a STRATEGY not a competition and successful entrepreneurs know strategy. Black Owned Businesses will meet face to face with racism as it has no boundaries but don’t take it personal … take it where it has never been before or fill a hole that only YOU can fill. Nobody can do what you can do.
You Will Be Have to Change The People You Deal With
You will Have to be a Jack of All Trades
There are three things that you BETTER know as an entrepreneur, how to sell, how to strategize and how to stay on top of trends and mostly BY YOURSELF. These are the tools that keep you relevant. Oh, there is a fourth thing and it’s THE most important … KNOW YOUR ACCOUNTING! Make sure you use services like Quickbooks Online and HIRE a bookkeeper and accountant. You will not have time to do this yourself. As you grow, consider sources like Intuit Payroll to help keep your taxes on point.
You Will Find it Difficult, if not Impossible, to Hire Good People
Sam Sylk is a DJ and Entrepreneur who works in radio. He owns his own restaurant in Cleveland. He told me “People don’t want a job, they want a paycheck.” Let the church say AMEN … He was SO right about that.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are SO dedicated to solving problems which is what makes us entrepreneurs and Black entrepreneurs are even more susceptible to this because we know about racism and people not getting a fair chance.
The problem is many black people don’t give a shit about black-owned businesses (lol) this is what I like to call unrequited support. It often seems that you can never do anything right with OUR people? You can pay them more than white companies can give them breaks that white companies won’t give them and you can pay their rent for a year and they will STILL talk about you.
It is VERY TRUE that we really do think white ice is colder and more refreshing. THEN when you hire white people as a black-owned business … YOU become the no good dirty MF who abandons the community. You can’t win so you better put the business FIRST and find other ways to help the community.
You have to make the decision, do you NEED the best assistance or sign up for Public Assistance? As Steve Harvey said (I cannot BELIEVE I am quoting Steve Harvey) “You don’t encourage poor people by becoming one of them” there was truth in that. HIRE THE BEST PEOPLE TO GET THE DAMN JOB DONE, Black, White, Green, Gay, Crippled, Drunk with a Dead Eye and Crazy. Be the priority NOT the Option for the people that you pay and don’t give a sht because they are going to talk about you no matter WHAT you do.
You have to keep all poison and negative sht at bay or it will destroy your business. Your first friend, Your Wife, Husband, Partner and Child is your BUSINESS. If you can’t commit to that, it’s better to find a job.
You Will Have to be Very Strategic
… especially if you are of the Negroid persuasion. We have to be incredibly crafty, creative and strategic to keep the ball rolling and we have the background to do it. The key is to pace yourself and take care of yourself and your needs FIRST so that you are able to run the business. People will come at you a mile a minute with THIER needs. You are not jehovah jireh. Always do what’s best for the business FIRST.
Most of Your Friends Will be Other Entrepreneurs
If you are a successful entrepreneur, there is absolute certainty in the fact that we attract who WE are good and bad. 90% of my closest friends, the people that I talk to every day are successful entrepreneurs. We are a very misunderstood group of people but we get each other.
No matter what our background is we somehow have that commonality and associate best amongst ourselves. Since I have always been misunderstood anyway, being an entrepreneur has been a true blessing for me.
You Will Find Most People Really DO have Agendas Except …
Ironically, the people who support you the most … want the LEAST!!! They see the value of your business and they don’t have time to play games with you. The biggest clients are ALWAYS the BEST clients. (well at least for ME)
I have celebrity contacts who have said over the years that they can’t trust anyone and I can honestly say this is true of most entrepreneurs too. Your job is to live your passion and the money comes after that but then it seems it’s everyone else’s job to separate you from your money.
People are EXCELLENT at selling themselves as the second coming of Jesus then delivering a truckload of Hippo shit after you take the time to train them and hire them. You are trying to build a business and they are trying to pay their Cricket cell phone bill.
I had one potential writer tell me, and I kid you not … “If you pay me now for the next two weeks, (this is before she did any work) I will give you an extra week of work on the house. I have to pay for my motel room and I have to do it by tomorrow.”
She sent me a link to writing credited to someone else online and told me she was a ghost writer for the story. I guess I needed to go up to a wall and bang my head against it to see if it hurt.
Another time, I posted a job in one my email blasts to the industry and someone wrote me back, “This would be a good job for my niece. She works at Walmart. She will be at work on Wed around 10 am, can you call the store and ask for her and tell her about the job?” Sure, after I take my head off and put it on the nightstand before I go to sleep.
Success Will Make You a Small Scale Celebrity
Yes, it’s true, success is the same across the board it’s just on different scales. I have people email me like they know me asking for meetings and sending people they know my way saying “I’m a friend of So and So and he or she told me to reach out to you. And I don’t know either of them.
“I need to start my own business can we meet?” or “I need the record labels to send me product” or “I need tickets to a concert for my cousin” … you name it. It’s no wonder that celebrities and business people have buffers, you really do need them.
I was asked by someone to post something that was completely against the grain of what I do in business. I told then no via text and why I could not do it and they posted the exchange in a screen shot on Facebook. I was very disappointed but realized I had to take responsibility for surrounding myself with the wrong people. I haven’t made that mistake since.
Your Competitors Will Hate You or Turn on You
Certain people who can’t do what you do will have a disdain for you when they are trying to drive in the same lane. Never take it personally just know when this happens you are on to something and they are alerting you to it.
Your Best Ideas Will Come at 3 am
Successful entrepreneurs know this. In the middle of the night in your REM sleep, you will get a great idea that you KNOW if you don’t get up and work on it THEN and there you will forget it. My idea to do RadioFacts came to me in the middle of the night in 1995.
You HAVE to Micro-Manage People
It NEVER fails. The people that I have hired work out great for a short time but they almost ALWAYS lose their focus after a few weeks and get lazy. YOU HAVE TO MICRO MANAGE. The minute you get comfortable and think that you can breathe you get caught up in the BS.
I had to erase writers from the site who wrote hundreds of stories for me because I found out they copied stories from other sites. This cost me thousands in revenue and profits because I was not watching them but it saved me from being sued too because I caught it in time.
You can never expect people to give anywhere near a sht as much as you do. You have to be on top of it all the time.
Mentors Can Help or Hurt You
I’ve never had a mentor and that was a HUGE blessing for me. Had I had a mentor in 1995 when I started RadioFacts, they would have told me NOT to do the magazine because it was encouraging people that they were taking advantage of.
It actually DID happen. There were people who were cool with me who cut me off when I started doing RadioFacts. And still don’t speak to me. Give me a minute to cry … done! Fk em
You Have to Keep Learning
keep being a student, keep working.Kevin Ross
If you keep being a student, you will keep working. I’ve seen enough of this from this perspective in the music industry and I have another saying “Radio is a Springboard NOT a Recliner” and that means that any opportunity that you have in the industry is an opportunity for something greater.
Take advantage of job opportunities when you are working because it will usually be something better than what you have. If you wait until you are NOT working to find something better it could be cleaning toilets.
Keep learning ALL the that you can while you can. That experience can come back later to serve you for the greater good. The more you know the better qualified you will be to run your own business.
If you rest on an opportunity you will lose greater opportunities and outgrow the first one. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen MANY times in the industry and few people recover from it.
Passion is the First step to success, Money is the last.
If you are in any business to make money ONLY. You will not be in business for long. Today’s industry is about passion and people are very sensitive to those who are knowledgeable about certain subjects and to those who are bullshitting. Passion will keep the ball rolling. Greed will slam the door shut. Feel free to share and comment.