Becoming an Entrepreneur: 3 Things I Would Change If I Could

nicole entrepreneurIt has been 20 months since I made the leap into entrepreneurship. I’ve decided to take some time to reflect on my decision and think about things I would change if I could go back. Making the decision to quit my job and become an entrepreneur, while scary, wasn’t a difficult decision. I’ve always known that I wasn’t the type of person to stay in a job until retirement age. I wasn’t really sure how that was all going to happen but I knew at some point it would.

I didn’t really know how early it all started until I tried to set up a sole proprietor EIN and the IRS told me I already had one. Just an FYI – you can only have one sole prop EIN in your life time. It doesn’t matter how many different businesses you start, you will always use the same one. So I had to call the IRS to get the number because I had no idea what it was. The lady on the phone told me I’d had the number since 1998 and the name of my company was ByLadybug. “Oh Yeah!”, I said. That was my graphic design/invitation company that I started while working at the Getty.  I used to design invitations and cards all the time for friends parties, baby showers and what not. So I decided to start a company. It was all good until I was asked to do a wedding invitation and I met Bridezilla. At that point I realized I only wanted to do the designs that I wanted to do without input from the client and that probably wasn’t going to work. The next big leap I took was when I was living in Phoenix and my brother called. “Hey. Would you consider quitting your job and moving to Atlanta with me to start a karaoke club?” Sure, why not! Although for reasons that are way to DEEP to get into right now, the club never got off the ground that experience left me with the desire to eventually, one day, become an entrepreneur.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect I’m pretty happy and content with the decisions that I made. Of course, there are some things that I would do differently. Let me start by saying I planned for about a year before I quit my job. I knew that I was going to become an Enrolled Agent. After nearly 10 years at the IRS, what else was I going to do? I felt I’d forced myself into a “specialty” that I couldn’t really do anything else with. But I also knew that I could be an asset to taxpayers who were in desperate need of qualified assistance.

  1. Trying to Pay Off Bills – I’ve never had much savings. But I did have some money in retirement. I also had a lot of credit card debt. I knew that it would be a few months before I’d have clients or bring in any income so I decided it was best to try to get my credit card debt down to reduce my monthly bills to buy myself some time until my income started coming in. In the November before I quit (I quit in January) I took out a $20k loan from my retirement and paid off a few credit cards. I also put $5000 in savings. I knew that I’d be cashing out my vacation and that would get me about another $3000 after I  left. Here’s the problem. It took us about 10 months before we really started making any money and that wasn’t really enough to live on – when you split it 3 ways. By that point I’d run the credit cards back up and taken more out of my retirement. What I should have done was taken the money out of the retirement and used that to live on. Paid the bills that I had every month and not used the credit cards. At the end of the year not only did I have the same credit card debt I also had a tax bill for the early withdrawal of the retirement funds. This might have been a good plan if I started it a few years earlier. My mistake was trying to do all of this 2 months before I quit.
  2. Having Partners – Okay. So I hope Norma and Melina aren’t reading this. Let me preface this by saying I LOVE my partners. It is great not being in this alone. And as partners go, they are GREAT. We pick up the slack for each other. Both Melina and Norma have bookkeeping clients. I do not. I only have tax clients. The bookkeeping clients bring in steady monthly income which means we have guaranteed income every month. So if the tax business is slow we at least know we are being paid on the bookkeeping side. All that being said it can be frustrating doing things by committee. For the  most part they are easy going. This whole “let’s quit our jobs and start a business” idea was pretty much mine and Norma’s but as far as the vision and the brand of SJC they let me run with it. But there are those times that I don’t want to consult and I don’t want to discuss. I just want to do what the hell I want to do. There are those times when, yes, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak. Melina is the accountant. She is the one who controls the money. The one who questions the financial decisions. Who, see item #1, I probably need. Norma is my sounding board. She is the one I talk to all day every day. The one who I talk things through with. We figure things out. We make things happen. If I didn’t have her I’d basically be talking to myself. So why don’t I want partners?
  3. Doing it Sooner – As far as the tax business goes I couldn’t have done it any sooner because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know enough to be an effective advocate for my clients. But in terms of my other entrepreneurial aspirations, like this blog for example, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Like I said earlier, I started my first business in 1998. I started the first rendition of this blog in 2007. I’ve had multiple opportunities but I never followed through. I laugh all the time and say I’m all ideas and no execution. My humor is self deprecating but true. By biggest flaw is follow through – getting shit done. My cousin tells me all the time I’m the smartest person he knows. I tell him he needs to meet some new people. But you can be too smart. So smart that you talk yourself out of things. Out of opportunities. Out of success.

I look at these Instagram accounts and various blogs with there 10k followers and ridiculous amounts of daily hits and think “why isn’t that me?” The truth is it could have been me. But I didn’t put for the effort to get there. And in many ways I still don’t. I may be spreading myself too thin trying to do too many things. Not focusing on what it is really important to me. But the bills need to get paid. Being an entrepreneur is about a lot more than posting pictures on IG and quoting Bill Gates. It is about hard work. It is about dedication. It is about making mistakes, owning those mistakes and learning from them. It is about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It is about doing shit you really don’t want to do corporate tax returns. So you can do what you really want to do travel. Yes, there are things that I wish I could go back and do differently but for the most part I’m really happy with this life I’ve designed and I’m excited to see where I go from here.

Follow Your Passion. Please!

Happiness is when what you think, what you do & what you say are all in harmony. – Ghandi

E31A2290This last year has been a journey for me. A journey to find me. A journey to find my passion. A journey to follow my passion to where ever it may lead me. A journey to find happiness. To live the most authentic life possible. To just BE. It sounds so simple. But in reality it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hard not because I didn’t know what I wanted or how to get it. But because I had to get other people out of my way. The hardest thing about following your passion is not letting other people talk you out of it or make you doubt yourself. The hardest part is saying “yes, dammit this is what I want!”

I love this picture of myself. It was taken on safari in South Africa in December by my cousin James. It is one of those rare pictures that was candid, where I was just goofing around. But I realize at that moment, even though it was 6am and freaking freezing and I was standing in a pile of giraffe shit, I was so apologetically happy. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was traveling the world with people that I loved. Seeing things that most people would never see. When I hear people say they are afraid to fly or the flight is too long it makes me sad. It took me 36 hours to get to Cape Town. 36 hours to get that smile on my face and I would do it 100 times more to be as happy as I was in that moment.

When I decided to quit my job at IRS I only told a few people. I told the people that mattered and the people I knew would support me. The other people I told AFTER I’d quit. I didn’t need their approval or their support. I simply informed them of the choice I made. There were a few people who I told beforehand who weren’t all that supportive. I knew they wouldn’t be. See, their lack of support had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with them. And their fear. Their fear that they couldn’t walk away. That they couldn’t do it on their own. But I knew I needed to tell them. I knew I needed that push back.  I needed to have that debate with them so that I could strengthen my position. Not for confirmation. I used them to solidify my business plan. The part of my plan that explains what differentiates me from my completion. The part that explains my purpose and my passion. I used their fear to make me stronger.

So why should you follow your passion? First of all, why not? It is an amazing feeling to do something that you actually want to do. It makes life so much easier. It makes the days go by faster. It makes conversations with people more pleasant. Next, once you follow your passion everything else falls in line. You’ll start to notice everything you come in contact with supports your goals. Articles you read, people you meet, businesses you come across will all become both financially and spiritually rewarding. And most importantly, you will live in truth and authenticity. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone who you aren’t. You will no longer have to spend 8 hours a day at a job that you don’t like. You won’t have to do things that you don’t want to do. You will feel as though a weight has been lifted. And you will find it so much easier to say “No. That doesn’t work for me.” Or “No. That doesn’t fit into my plan for the day.” Or “No. I won’t be in the country during that week.” That one is my favorite!

Finding your passion doesn’t mean you have to quit your job. Maybe you like your job. But maybe you spend too much time there. Maybe you devote all of your time to your husband and kids and have forgotten about yourself. Finding your passion means getting to the essence of what makes you YOU. Start simply by making a list of your interests. Which ones stand out to you more than others? Start researching groups, websites, blogs. Decide what you want to learn more about and go on from there. Not everyone needs to quit their job and start a business or travel the world. Some people love to paint or to cook or to dance or bowling. Who knows. I don’t know. But you do.

When I found my passion I found my voice. I stopped trying to please everyone else and made my happiness a priority. I do for those because I want to not because I feel a sense of obligation. I spend time with people that I LIKE doing things that I LOVE. And that makes me happy!

Entrepreneur Lifestyle

The entrepreneur lifestyle means so many things. It means working on Sundays or holidays. It means sitting in boring tax seminars in Las Vegas when you’d rather be at the pool. It means constant travel, meetings, funding, saying yes when you want to say no. It means deciding between your healthcare payment or your car note one month and paying off 3 credit cards the next. It means spending Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve in South Africa and taking your niece to an art museum on a Tuesday afternoon just because. The entrepreneur lifestyle is any and everything you want it to be because it gives you the one thing that you don’t get from a 9 to 5… Freedom.

One Sunday afternoon I was sitting in a board meeting for a real estate holding company that I started with my brother and my 4 first cousins on my dad’s side. The next day I was on a video conference call with my SJC Financial Solutions business partners, one of which is my first cousin on my mother’s side. After the call I asked myself, “how did I end up in business with both sides of my family?” I guess the answer is if you can’t trust family, who can you trust? Now here I am some  15 months later fully invested in 2 businesses with  2 people that are the definition of Ride or Die – Melina Johnson and the Urban Farmer, Terry Booty.

Terry and I have a special relationship. We have HUGE, what some would consider incredibly unrealistic dreams that NO ONE believes we will be able to fulfill but us. We see the vision, we have the plan. We are the entrepreneurs. One day I was talking with his mom and I told her I wanted to retire by the age of 45. She literally laughed in my face. My aunt, like my mother, spent over 35 years working for LAUSD. She was an elementary school teacher. Probably the hardest job ever. She put in her time and retired at the age of 62… like you’re supposed to. But Terry and I had other plans. In 2010 he left his job with Marriott. In 2015 I left my job at IRS. We were ready to put our plans into action. Although no plan is without pitfalls, for the most part we are both doing the things we set out to do. I probably won’t be able to retire at 45, considering that is in 3 months. But 50 seems quite doable. So this is a really long way around getting to my story.


Terry lives in Florida but often travels to LA. When he does he stays at my house. Not only is Terry a morning person, he is also operating on East Coast time. I am neither. So the other day he gets up and goes to work out around 7am. He comes in my room all happy and chipper and says “hey get dressed, let’s go work out!” So I tell him to get the hell out and leave me alone. He quickly retreats. I instead decide I’m going to go to a hot yoga class at noon. So later, as I’m getting ready to leave he says “it must be nice to be an entrepreneur and just get to go to a yoga class in the middle of the day.” And I said “you’re damn right!”


A few months ago I was visiting Melina in Kansas City and she tells me that I need to start answering my phone (which I never do) because I’m going to be getting a call from a game show. Huh? What? “Yeah, I signed us up for Celebrity Name Game.” Okay, I’ve never heard of Celebrity Name Game. “Then you better start watching it.” So low and behold about 6 months later I get a call. “Hi! This is Lauren from Celebrity Name Game!” A telephone Interview. An Audition. And BAM we are on a game show. We lost. But that’s not the point. The point is Melina wanted to be on a game show and we went on a game show. She flew from KC to LA for an audition with less than a week’s notice and then came back 2 weeks later to tape the show. She didn’t have to ask her boss for a day off or arrange her schedule with anyone. She wanted to do it and she did it. She’s got it like that! Why? Because she’s an entrepreneur.

I went to yoga at 12p in the afternoon because I wanted to and because I can. I’m not getting up at 5am to do a damn thing. Because I don’t want to. The crazy part was when I get there. It wasn’t like the class was empty. There were at least 20 people there. I went to a 12pm class. There was a 1:30 class after mine. They have class all throughout the day. We are no longer living in a 9-5 world people. Have you driven on the 405 at 2pm? It’s packed! People are out roaming the streets at all hours of the day. The entrepreneur lifestyle is a real thing. And take it from me, it’s fabulous!

You Look Pretty.... Smart

“You look pretty smart.” Said no one. Ever. Anyone who has read this blog over the years knows that I’ve had a life long battle with my weight. Thankfully over the last year I’ve had some success. Although the battle continues. One of the motivating factors for me was the fact that I started my own business. It became evident to me very quickly that when you are an entrepreneur you are on duty 24/7. You are constantly selling yourself and your business ALL the time. I’ve passed out business cards at the grocery store, at the dry cleaners and I’ve had full on tax consultations on the airplane on the way to London. You never know when or where you’ll find your next client or business opportunity so you always need to be prepared.  As a female entrepreneur there is an added level of pressure to also look your best. And whether fortunately or unfortunately in our society looks…. good looks, get you further in life and in business. I’m a Libra so being vain isn’t all that difficult for me. But I did have to take a hard look at myself and think about what my appearance says about my business and my brand.

I recently read an article about Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and how she wears corporate attire and high heeled shoes every day while Mark Zuckerberg wears the same grey t-shirt and jeans day after day. The article goes on to say that “Women can’t just roll out of bed, toss on yesterday’s jeans, brush their teeth and do well at work. If they do, they’ll struggle in the professional world.”  The author implies that this is a bad thing.

Is it fair? Maybe not. But I don’t want to just roll out of bed and wash my face. Do I want to wear a full face of make up just to run to the grocery store? Not really. But I don’t consider looking presentable to be a burden. For me, the same would go for a man in business. I would definitely pay closer attention to a well groomed man who is pitching his business to me than someone who didn’t take the time to shave or shower.

20160527_105931When I was at the PowerNetworking Conference last month, again this was a networking conference for entrepreneurs, I saw all kinds of different…. styles. There was a dress code for the conference, business attire. Now, I guess that is relative depending on your business. But let’s just assume we all know what that means. Or maybe we shouldn’t. Does business attire mean an Adidas sweatsuit? Not to me. But it also doesn’t mean a sequin floor length skirt and satin shoes at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. So who am I to say?

So what are we as female entrepreneurs to do? How do we walk this fine line between wanting to be accepted into the business world based on our expertise while living in a society where visual marketing is the primary source of engagement with customers and you are the most important marketing tool. Personal Brand that’s the buzz word these days. Getting yourself out there. Where ever out there is. Having an online presence. Social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Yada, Yada. Yada. It is all about how many friends and followers you have. It is about how many people are LOOKING at you.

It is easy to write this off and say pretty girls get all the attention. But I don’t think it is about being pretty. There are plenty of successful women who aren’t necessarily pretty. I think it is more about being attractive. Yes, physically. But more so about having an essence. A presence. That thing that draws people in. And once you have them, you have to have the brains, the experience and the expertise to keep them. You wouldn’t want a pretty brain surgeon who finished at the bottom of her class in med school would you?


Things Traveling Teaches You

20160704_173607I read an article the other day called 10 Things Traveling Teaches You That School Doesn’t and it made me think about my first trip to Europe in 2000. It was for a fine art class through Mount St. Mary’s College. I went “by myself” or rather with a group of perfect strangers. We went to Prague, Salzberg, Vienna and Munich for 12 days. We had the option of having a roommate (that I didn’t know) or paying an extra $400 for a single room. Needless to say I paid the extra money. I think it was a 1 or 2 unit class and our only homework assignment was to put together a scrapbook and share it in class when we returned from the trip. That was back when we took pictures with film and actually printed them out and glued them into photo albums.

One of my favorite memories from the trip happened in Prague. The city is divided up into these districts. 4 of us were on the street car going back to our hotel from being out and about. Which I think was in like district 2 or 3. Somehow we ended up in district 8. Waaaay outside of the tourist area. We got off the train near this stadium at a McDonald’s. I mean. It’s McDonald’s someone should be able to help. We walked in and I swear they had never seen real live Black people before. It was like the whole restaurant came to a complete and screeching halt. No one in the place spoke a bit of English or had any idea what we were trying to say. So we went back outside and looked at the map and just tried to figure it out for ourselves. People on the street walked by and stared at us. Awed by the sight. Black people in Prague! The funniest part of the whole ordeal was there was a huge Michael Jordan Nike billboard above the stadium. Those same people probably passed that billboard every day and never gave it a second thought but 2 Black people standing under it, now that was a sight to see!

I don’t even remember the names of all of the women in this picture. They may not even remember me. But they are tied to one my most memorable life lessons. One that I only had because I was in a foreign country interacting with people a little over 10 years after the end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall had fallen. The borders had opened up and my Black ass was walking the streets of Prague. Maybe a little kid went home that day and said “hey dad, I saw a Black lady today!” And that Black lady was me! When you travel you open yourself up to other cultures and in turn you open them up to you. You take a little piece of them home with you. You leave a little piece of you where ever you go.

As I was preparing to write this post I looked back through my scrapbook. I wanted to include some of the pictures. But ummm. They are in a SCRAPBOOK! So I did what we modern people do and I took pictures of the pages with my phone.

And that made me realize how much the digital age sucks! I never keep things like this any more – room keys and receipts and ticket stubs. How do you keep those things in your Google Photos? And even though I printed up a photo book when I got back from Cape Town it still isn’t the same. It is just so… perfect and digital.


The Girl in the Coffee Bean

Have you read the book The Girl on the Train? It is about this alcoholic that doesn’t want her roommate to know she’s been fired from her job so she continues to take the train into London every morning like she’s going to work. While she’s on the train she looks at her old neighborhood where she used to live with her now ex-husband who is married to his mistress and fantasizes about the life of her neighbor. A lot of other stuff happens and it is a really good book. Anyhow. I realized the other day that I’m the Girl in the Coffee Bean. Without the alcoholic and murder part. About a month ago SJC Financial Solutions moved into its new office space. My partners and I were so excited. This was a huge step. After a little more than a year in business we were actually at a point where we needed office space! Yes! The first week after we got the keys I was talking to my partner Norma online and she asked where I was. I told her I was at Coffee Bean. “What!? Why aren’t you at the office?” “Ummmm. I love it here!” I realized at that point having an office meant I was going to have to give up MY OFFICE. My sanctuary. The place where I wrote all my papers. Did my homework. Got my MBA. Created 2 businesses. Drank my favorite Iced Americano with 2 scoops of Vanilla. Watched countless first dates and job interviews. No! I’m not ready! 20151013_135229

I love my Coffee Bean. I sit in the same seat. And get a major attitude if someone is in it. I sit there for hours. Sometimes 5 or 6 at a time. I’m more focused. More creative. More… everything there. I can’t give it up. Are you crazy! I know. I’ll just go to the office a few times a week and still come here a few times a week. Who will that hurt? Who’s gonna know. My partners are in Kansas City and Utah. They’ll never know!

So a few days later I decided I was completely insane and started moving furniture into our new office. To be honest. At first, I hated it. The white boring walls. It was so dull and boring. And so dang quiet! So I started decorating. That helped.

But it is still really quiet. I hate being closed up in that office by myself. So I decided to start leaving the door open. Well, with being the new girl on the block and having a bunch of nosey neighbors I’ve got more visitors than I know what to do with! I think I’m one of the few female-owned businesses in the building and one of only 2 on the floor. There are lots of men in the building (take note single ladies). So I get lots of guys stopping by saying “hey I heard you were up here” Oh yeah? Heard from who?

I still miss my Coffee Bean. I’m not ready to give it up 100% but I think I can get used to this office life.


PowerNetworking Conference

20160528_202051Last week my cousin/business partner Melina and I went to the PowerNetworking Conference in Prince George’s County, Maryland. For those of you who don’t know, Prince George’s County is one of the wealthiest Black communities in the country. The location of the conference was important because one of the major objectives of the conference was “To help Black people build wealth that can be transferred intergenerationally.” This wasn’t some get rich quick scheme. There was no Pre-Paid Legal booth. These were real business owners committed to the empowerment and economic development of the African American community.

Now I’m a skeptic by nature. When Melina and I first heard about this conference last year from a friend we both looked at each other and said, “what got into Rainy?” She was so excited and energized and ready to start a business and get to work. She couldn’t stop talking about the conference and the people she met. Her eyes sparkled as we listened. So this year when the opportunity came up Melina and I decided we needed to be there.  Still not fully convinced we would drink the Kool-Aid, but we were willing to attend with an open mind.

Let me start by saying I’m easily overwhelmed. I can be a bit of a drama queen. So I tend to stay away from crowds of say 1,500 people for that very reason. Also, the amount of information you are given and the number of speakers, presentations, workshops and exhibits was A LOT. Again, being easily annoyed, I was uncomfortable with the daily schedule and the way the sessions were set up. I like things nice and neat and I like my schedules to have lots of white space on the page. Let me tell you, there was no white space. This conference is jam packed with information. JAM PACKED. So as we were looking over the material the night before day 1 and I was complaining, Melina told me I was thinking way too hard. So I decided to wake up in the morning and go with the flow. Where ever that may lead.

20160526_094354The days are structured like this. The morning sessions start with PowerTalks. These are 17 minute “mini” presentations from various speakers.  Those last for about 2 hours. In the afternoon they have what are called Workshop Intensives”. These are 1.5 hours sessions, some of which were longer versions of the 17 minute presentation. These talks go until 10pm on the first 2 days. There are approximately 7 of these workshops going on at the same time. So as Dr. George Fraser said “you have to make a choice”.  It is impossible to go to all of them. Some of them were held again over the 3 days. But some were a 1 shot deal. So Dr. Fraser suggested that we decide the first morning what our goal was. Why are you here? What do you want to get out of this? Once that was determined you chose the workshops that were in line with that goal. I had 2 goals. The first was branding and marketing, how to a position SJC and myself as a brand to set both businesses a part from the competition. The second was to find additional streams of income, what other business ventures could I get into. So we looked through the program with those goals in mind and chose the PowerTalks and Workshops that suited our needs. We had a plan!

Here’s the thing about a plan….. Sometimes jet lag sets in. Sometimes you can be a little overwhelmed by 3 hours of PowerTalks. So when we decided to take an afternoon break for an hour or so before the Intensive Workshops we really didn’t know it would turn into a 2 hour nap – causing us to sleep through the afternoon workshops. Oops! So we decided to make the best of our time in DC and we wanted to see the Dr. King Memorial so we took an Uber over to the Nation’s Capital, met my friend Jeunesse for dinner and did some sightseeing.

20160527_085856We were much more focused on Day 2. Still not quite ready to drink the Kool-Aid but again, starting the day with an open mind. The PowerTalks were informative. Trevor Otts‘ presentation “The Solopreneur vs the Entrpreneur” was the standout for me. After lunch we split up and I went to a workshop called “Make Them Buy: Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business, Brand and Attitude.” This was the moment where I started looking around for that glass and wondering what flavor Kool-Aid they were offering. The workshop was led by Sherrod Shackelford and LaVon Lewis of PDG Branding & Marketing. Let me just say that 1.5 hours was not enough. There was not an empty seat in the room and there were people standing up along the back and side walls. Sherrod and LaVon are two young, energetic, handsome (and yes, articulate) young men who have found their place and built a business based on experience and hard work. I was willing to buy whatever they were selling! The skeptic in me was starting to fade away. They never stopped talking! After the workshop they had a table set up where there was a constant revolving door or activity, accolades and admirers (yes ladies I saw you).  Melina went to a workshop led by Simon T. Bailey called “Shift Your Brillance – 5 Steps to Thrive in Business and Life.” She came out of this standing room only workshop with a homework assignment, a list of books to read and what is that? A glass of Kool-Aid??

Day 3 we attended a workshop “Learn How to Generate One Million Dollars Cash Investing in Real Estate” given by Dr. David Anderson. This is where shit got deep. I don’t even know how to properly summarize this talk. But let me just say that by the end you would have thought we were at a midnight church revival. There was lots of head nodding, and hand waving and “Mmm Hmmm” going on in the room. And the phrase “they don’t want you to know” was said more than once. Deep Y’all.

In the end it was a very positive experience. I love being Black. I love being around positive people. I love being around people who want to do something. Anything! But don’t come at me with some bullshit. I don’t want to hear it from you unless you’ve done it, lived it, traveled to it, read it. Something! I have a Master’s Degree in Religion so I know a cult when I see one. Don’t try to convince me of something that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Don’t tell me that you make $100k/week when I’m not really convinced you even have $100. I know an Instagram millionaire when I see one. Anyone can call themselves and expert, an author, a world-renowned speaker. But what do you really do?

There is often talk in the community that we don’t support each other. That we tear each other down. This conference was proof to the contrary. You had over 1,000 business-minded and entrepreneurial African Americans who came together with a singular purpose – to build wealth. Notice I said build wealth, not get rich. Getting rich is easy. But who benefits from you being rich? You, your spouse and kids? But true wealth, that lasts for generations after you’ve passed. True wealth ensures that not only is your family taken care of but the fruits your business ventures take care of families you don’t even know exist. We have to stop thinking so small. Stop being so self-absorbed. And realize that none of us can do this alone. We need each other. That is what networking is all about. You support my business I support your business. If I don’t need your service I will recommend you to those that do. Is it that difficult?

So did I drink the Kool-Aid? Maybe a shot glass full. We’ll see how it goes next year.


The 10 Most Important Things to Prioritize if You Want to Be Successful

Business cares about enterprise.

Leadership cares about people.

Entrepreneurship cares about flexibility.

Creativity cares about innovation.

What you care about defines who you are.

When you care, you want to do your very best–and that commitment and energy are a powerful force.

If you want to be successful in your confidence, business, leadership, entrepreneurship, and creativity, be thoughtful about what you’re giving your care to.

Here are 10 areas that are well worth caring about if you want to truly succeed.

1. Care about how you treat others.
The ones you’re waving goodbye to on your way up just might be the ones you wave hello to on your way back down.

2. Care about your personal growth.
If you want to move confidently in the directions of your dreams and goals, invest your time and energy in your own personal growth. Learn to work harder on yourself than you do at any other job.

3. Care about your goals.
As the old saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. When you care about your goals, you commit to seeing them through. People who care have clear, written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than those people who wing it.

4. Care about scaring yourself.
Most of us avoid going to places–physical and emotional–that frighten us. But when you step into the space of fear, when you befriend fear and don’t allow it to shame you, you may begin to realize that it’s not as frightening as you’d thought.

5. Care about how you spend your time.
Time is free but it’s a nonrenewable resource; once it’s lost, you can never get it back. Care for time as you would any valuable asset.

Read More – Inc.

12 Destructive Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

We all have self-destructive tendencies. There are so many reason we can come up with to talk ourselves out of doing something. We are often our own biggest enemy or critic. Before we can expect others to believe in us we must believe in ourselves. This article spoke to me in so many ways. Especially #4… reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend just today. I suggest you start with that one. I picked out a few that stood out to me. Read the article for the full list.

12 Destructive Habits You Need to Stop Right Now by Lolly Daskal

Most of us routinely underestimate our talents and skills–not deliberately, but because of self-deprecating habits. At the extreme, you can become your own worst enemy. But even a little bit of negativity toward yourself can slow you down and cause you to miss out on great opportunities. Ask yourself if you need to change any of these destructive habits:

1. You don’t believe in yourself. Self-talk is a strong force, whether it’s positive or negative. If you tell yourself “I’m not ready for that promotion” or “I could never be that disciplined” or “I don’t have the aptitude to be a boss”–if you routinely talk yourself out of your aspirations–you will not reach your potential.

2. You don’t own your unique self. It’s great to learn from those around you, but never think that what you have to offer is insignificant or that you need to copy someone else’s style or way of doing things. The things that make you uniquely you are what will make you stand out, so honor those things and own them. Mom was right: Just be yourself.

3. You care too much what other people think. Wanting to be liked and respected is basic human nature. But when you value other people’s thinking and opinions above your own, and change your behavior to reflect what you think others want to see, you’re doing harm to yourself. Nobody else is living your life, so don’t give away the power to guide it.

4. You surround yourself with negativity. You don’t have to look very hard to find people with issues–there’s always someone ready to cut down someone else’s success or dwell on the unfairness of a situation or workplace. Often what these people are masking is their own fear of failure, but allowing yourself to be exposed to their negativity will have a bad influence on you. Recognize the positive people in your life and choose your relationships carefully.


5. You don’t trust yourself. Whether your intuition comes from innate talent or years of experience (or both), it can work only if you have faith in it. That doesn’t mean that you don’t question or challenge your instincts–holding your gut feeling up to reality is an important part of discernment. But if you’re constantly second-guessing your own judgment, that’s a problem.

6. You don’t let yourself speak up. When you quiet your own voice, when you stop yourself from saying what you want to do or asking for what you need, your silence can be mistaken for ignorance or apathy–by others and even by yourself. Even if you feel overpowered, it’s important to say what’s on your mind.

7. You dismiss compliments. When you deflect compliments with a self-deprecating remark, you not only sell yourself short but challenge the judgment of the person complimenting you. Accepting compliments graciously doesn’t make you an egomaniac.



So You Want To Be A Travel Writer

When I originally conceived the idea of TheTripFile I had that romantic notion of getting paid to travel the world and write about it. I’d fly first class, stay in 5-star hotels and write about my explorations from luxurious balconies overlooking crystal blue waters while making my readers green with envy. I’d buy a one way ticket to Europe, kiss my daddy goodbye, spend a year travelling, writing, living and being free and happy and getting all of you wonderful people to foot the bill. Yes, I really did believe I could do it. For about 5 minutes. But then I quickly realized that I’d also have to spend a lot of time planning trips, making reservations, going places I probably didn’t want to go and writing about things I probably didn’t want to write about just to earn a paycheck. The reality of travel writing isn’t really all that glamorous.  I thought I’d take trips that I wanted to take, write about them and figure out a way to make money doing that. Simple enough. In reality, travel blog posts (that make money) are usually sponsored. Companies – hotels, restaurants, tourism boards – pay bloggers to come visit their places of business and write about them. The only other way to make money off of blogs are from the ads. And no one ever clicks the ads. So writers work for the sponsors. In these instances you travel on their terms, not yours. You go where they want you to go. Now if you have a luxury blog like World of Wanderlust, then you get to paid to go to some pretty fabulous places. But again, you’re being paid to be there and for the post. So if you have a bad day or get sick or don’t feel like writing that day, um, yeah that’s not gonna work.  Brooke Saward started her blog in 2012 and has pretty much turned into an empire with contributing bloggers worldwide. But again, she’s an exception to the norm. 

You are more likely to find stories like Jo Fraser I Quit My Job To Be A Travel Writer, And Now I’m Broke And Unemployed. Jo, like me, romanticized the notion of being a travel writer and in 2014 she quit her job and went for it.  Good for her. Travel writers, like David Duran, who write and travel full time don’t really live a plush life. In his article, The Struggle Is Real — The Reality of Travel Writing, he details the reality of what it’s like to travel 90% of the month. He gave up his apartment so when he comes “home” from a trip he sleeps on someone’s couch. David is a freelance writer, not a blogger. He acknowledges that while the travel part of his job is great, it is still a job.

But the part people always forget about, or just don’t know about, is the actual work. Travel writing comes in mostly two parts, traveling and writing. Now I know everyone gets the traveling part but I constantly have to remind friends that I’m also held accountable for the second part of my job title. As easy as you may believe writing may be, it’s actually quite the contrary…and I know this from simply scrolling my Facebook feed and gasping at the ridiculousness of word vomit I see on a daily basis. As a freelancer, I write for many different audiences, and editors. I have to constantly change my style, my voice and write in a manner that won’t have my editors hating me.

I think like anything else it all boils down to passion. For me, the passion is in the travel not in the writing. I enjoy writing and telling my stories but I don’t want it to be my full-time job. And I wasn’t really willing to put in the effort that it would take to get there. What I need is a travel benefactor! But I am thankful for travel writers because I do a ton of research before I head off on a trip and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have the information available to me. But the idea that this life is some how glamorous at all times is not necessarily true. So if you have a passion for travel and you have a passion for writing then maybe this is the job for you. And I’m available if you need a travel companion!