Three Lessons from Women of Color CEOs in Conversation
As an independent media company founded by Latinas, Luz Collective proudly served as a media sponsor of CHROMA 2020 – a virtual conference featuring over 50 U.S. and international Black and Latinx tech entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders. One of the many powerful conversations from CHROMA was moderated by Luz Collective CEO and co-founder, Lucy Flores.
In the session Beauty + Tech = Opportunity, Flores spoke to entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid about her journey from fashion stylist to leader in tech, exploring the steps she took to revolutionize the word of styling with her app Beautystack.Through a discussion of both their shared and unique experiences as founders and CEOs, Reid and Flores dropped valuable lessons during their candid conversation.
Learn the Language and Do the Work.
Reid was attracted to the field of fashion because it was much more accessible for women and women of color than other fields. She got her start making a mark in the fashion world as early as university where she created a Hip Hop zine for girls borne out of an interest she had for learning graphic design. Reid credits her curiosity for many of the successes she’s had from stylist, to nail salon owner, to now the founder of a cutting-edge app that connects clients to the styles they want with just a few clicks. Beautystack’s model is simple: See it, Like it, Book it.
“I chose an industry that was very open, with tech I thought the same thing, but then I found it’s not that democratic,” Reid said while discussing her career trajectory. Like all entrepreneurs, one of the challenges Reid faced was access to capital especially considering how much the world of venture capital (VC) is dominated by white men. Reid stressed the importance of learning the language investors use as a strategy to get their attention.
“What helped me raise money is that I researched the investors. In short, VC is like any other industry with its own jargon. You gotta do the work. I wouldn’t say it’s closed to people like us. It’s a language like any other language. I spent all of my energy trying to learn the language. I spent all my time learning the rules of this game and I am still figuring it out,” Reid said.
Say No to Limiting Beliefs
According to Black and Brown Founders, less than 2% of venture capital goes to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. And Latinas get an even smaller sliver of funds. There is no question that raising funds, big or small, is a daunting feat. Flores and Reid’s conversation reminded listeners that focusing on the statistics can be paralyzing.
“Only .2% of Latinas get access to venture capital and I would have to get [this number] out of my head,” Flores said about her experience raising capital.
Instead of letting the fear of fundraising take over, Reid and Flores recommend shifting energy on what makes you stand out.
“When you become a VC backed business, it’s really easy to get swayed and distracted by what everyone else is doing, but you have to remember, they have a different path than you,” Reid said.
Both Reid and Flores are powered by knowing that their point of view adds value precisely because it is so different from the views of the typical face of the tech world.
“We need more women and more women of color in technology because only we know the problems that are for us…I feel really strongly about diversity in technology because it is so obvious,” said Reid commenting on the ways Black and Brown entrepreneurs bring a fresh perspective.
Another way that Reid propelled her career is by not letting perfection get in the way of her ideas. Reid shared many examples where she leveraged the tools and resources available to her to nourish her concepts without waiting for a perfect moment that might never come.
“Think about what you can do right now…What can I do today towards this idea,” Reid repeated as examples of questions she would ask herself as a sort of mantra that’s helped her take ideas to implementation.
Flores agreed. “You just start with your hustle and from there is where it begins to grow,” Flores said.
Reid ascribes her entrepreneurial energy to her Jamaican roots and the loving home that her mother provided for her growing up in the United Kingdom.
“I think Jamaica is the number one place in the world where you are likely to have a female boss because all the women, they just hustle,” Reid said.
You’re Gonna Make Mistakes, So Cut Yourself a Break
Flores and Reid shared many common experiences, particularly about the challenging aspects of being CEOs where there is no road map to follow or a supervisor who can provide guidance. The challenges are magnified for women of color who are often entering a field where they are not widely represented.
“Women don’t give themselves enough of a break…As Black women, if we are not around [White Collar business language] we are going into this blind and there is no manual. I one hundred percent messed it up early on,” Reid said.
Both women underscored that no matter what, mistakes are going to happen, but what is important is the experience and growth that comes from the mistakes. “When women get publicly harangued you are not giving them space for the learning,” Read said. “You go through this and you learn, and there is no handbook, there is no space to fail when you’re building a fast growing startup.”
Flores asked Reid how she strikes a balance between being confident and also knowing what she’s up against.
“I am going to do what I can for me and for my business, for generational wealth for my future family. The challenge is to not lose yourself,” Reid said leaving participants with a reminder about the importance of staying true to yourself.
If you missed out on the live conversations like this one, you can still experience the CHROMA conference replay right now. Check out passes and prices here: https://chroma.bbfounders.co/checkout/select-tickets/