August 25, 2020No Comments

You’re on your own

Running Almost Studios or any small business venture is no small feat. It takes planning, marketing, and most importantly, it takes money. Historically black and brown people are left out of the funding part of this equation. We always have to make do with what we have.

Before I started Almost Studios, I was working in tech. I thought about going out on my own, finding clients, and exchanging a six-figure salary for a bit more creative freedom. I never really thought about myself as a black small business owner. All I wanted to do, and still do, is make dope things that people like. Growing up my parents were small business owners, who owned an art gallery. I had an idea of how difficult owning a small business can be, especially being black. Still, I never knew the history and the systematic rejection of all things black in business.

It wasn't until it came time to find financing for new equipment to help start my venture into ownership that left me questioning, “Why I am getting rejected from major banks when I have good credit?” Getting a small business loan as a minority seemed impossible. I was determined to get the equipment I needed, so when they shut the door in my face, I worked with what I had to bypass the gatekeepers.

I'm fortunate that things worked out for me, but it got me thinking about a lot of black business owners for whom it doesn't work out. And how many are forced to close or take high-interest loans that no matter how successful they are will eat into their profits. So you won't ever break even. It felt like the whole mental effect of being turned down from these resources is meant for you to give up.

Coronavirus has only made this plight for access to resources even more significant. Corona has affected us in many ways, 40% of black-owned small businesses in the US were shut in April, compared to 17% of those with white owners and 22% overall. With banks not lending money to these businesses, many of them will go under, or worse fall into debt to stay afloat.

Here's is how you can help.

So what can we do for those who started their business despite the odds against them?

Hype up black business

I thoroughly encourage people to try new things and new products. When you try these new things, please share them with people. Use social media to spread the word, as much as I loathe Yelp write reviews on goods and services. Talking about black-owned products gives access that a lot of small minority-owned places won't be able to have.

Donate your time to black business.

If you own a marketing firm and know of small businesses locally that are good and just need some help with marketing, donate your services. If you're a designer or writer, donate services or work out an exchange of goods. 

Give black products shelf space.

I mean, really give black products shelf space, do not lock them behind the cashier. Growing up in Ohio, I would never go to Walmart to buy anything for my hair because they never catered to black people.

Buy black Products

It's that simple. Support business with your money.

Here a few businesses that I use and recommend.

Hair & Skincare

Bevel | getbevel.com

Scotch Porter | scotchporter.com

BLK+GRN | blkgrn.com

Powells |powellsbeautypro.com

Clothing

10deep |10deep.com

BLK MKT | blkmktvintage.com

CBAAF come back as a flower |cbaaf.org

Diop | weardiop.com

Food & Drink

Brooklyn Tea | brooklyntea.com

Harlem Hops | harlemhops.com

Omnipollo | omnipollo.com

January 21, 2020No Comments

Imposter Syndrome

If you’re a close friend of mine you know I am far from humble. When I win, I win loud. And I want you to know that I won because I never expected to succeed in the first place, so let me revel in it. Most people believe you should be humble in all things and that it’s unbecoming to brag or to be proud of your accomplishments. I’m here to call bullshit on that because being meek as a person of color, let alone a black creative is humbling enough. Most people, including myself, suffer from imposter syndrome. Being a person of color that imposter syndrome gets amplified times 10. Not only are you telling yourself you don’t belong, but others are giving you the same feeling, sometimes flat out telling you to blend in.

Honestly, the lack of diversity in design is mentally exhausting and I’m just now starting to heal from it. I’ve been working in design for 12 years and I’ve only worked with 1 designer who looks like me. When there’s no diversity in the workplace, you start to get the feeling that your story and your perspective don’t matter. That you’re the outsider, or like many other managers and directors told me, “you just need to drink the kool-aid and blend in.” I believe being creative is about new voices and opinions that question how things are done. How do you grow when everything is homogenous?

I thought myself an imposter up until last year when my studio won an award for design. I thought maybe this was a mistake. I thought perhaps they didn’t have a lot of applicants and I was the defacto choice. It couldn’t be my years and years of hard work; others who work harder than me deserve this, right? I was legitimately having nightmares about people finding out that I’m a fraud and I would never get work again after this. My mind was racing for days up until I got on stage to give my acceptance speech.

During my acceptance speech, I threw away what I wrote because what I wrote was based on the fear of getting found out as an imposter. When I looked around the room, seeing other people of color who work in the same field as me, who deserved their award, accolades, and more. I thought to myself, “I do deserve this.” What I wrote is disrespectful to everyone here, they don’t need another person to add on to their imposter syndrome and put those bad vibes in the air. I instead spoke about being a voice in a room when everyone is telling you to sit down and stay in your lane and to drink the kool-aid. Always remember you bring a unique perspective and your voice is necessary. If you don’t speak up, who will? Never miss an opportunity to have your voice heard. I got off stage nervous as hell, I went over my time limit. Fuck it, I said what I said even if I just said it off the top of my head. I meant every word that I said. I’m glad I got it out. It made me feel much better about what I do and why I love designing, and it made me feel worthy of the praise and the award I earned.

Imposter syndrome is an everyday struggle for me and a lot of other people. The first step to recovery is knowing that you are worthy, you belong, and you’re not alone.

January 24, 2019No Comments

Casual Brenda Social Club

A while back, I wrote about an event that my friends and I throw called Casual Brenda Social Club. But I’m sure it got lost in the endless void of content that people promote and throw up on a daily basis. So here’s a quick rundown of what Casual Brenda Social Club does, and what it is.

It’s a party where I invite friends and encourage friends to tell their friends so we can all be friends. And yes I took that line from Puff Daddy in the Big Poppa video.

I hate the idea of networking events because they are pretty boring and kind of fake. Everyone tries their best to be a perfect hireable person and make friends with people who have no real investment in their lives. You’re just a face, a body to fill an open job position.

Fuck all of that, let’s cut the bullshit and let’s all have fun!

I figured since all of my friends are amazing human beings maybe they know other amazing people that I haven’t met yet. Instead of hosting a stuffy event where we’d spend the whole night just talking about our great lives and about how creative our jobs are, let’s have a party! Dance, drink, talk shit all night long, and actually become friends in a natural environment that feels safe and inclusive to everybody. Hopefully your friends are like mine, and we look after each other like family.

To make it feel more like a club, I create pins that are for sale at these parties and then donate part of the money to a social cause. When you buy and wear a Casual Brenda pin you get deals on drinks, and you get to know that we’re are all giving back to the community that we live in. Plus, you’ll become part of a community of people who care about you.

The goal is to have fun while remembering to help people and give people a platform to express their creativity. Which is also why the event will always try to showcase women of color in the DJ scene.

This Saturday will be the first Casual Brenda Social Club event of the year and it’s also the first one in Brooklyn. I’m extremely proud to work with talented friends, and friends of friends who have made these events a success. This new year I wanna take it to another level.

I hope y’all join us.

Let's stay connected

Promise not to be annoying and email you nonsense.

wordamarkalm

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