Navigating the Tech Industry as a Minority-Owned Business

By
Anne Woappi –  CTO
Elise Woappi – CEO


 

There are many hurdles to overcome as a startup founder. Hurdles such as financing your business, acquiring users/customers, marketing your company for the world to know of, expanding your resources to sustain operations all while balancing your mental and emotional health. These challenges are proven to be difficult regardless of who the founder is; yet the degree of difficulty varies based on who the founder is. A men-led startup will face different obstacles than a women-led one. A minority-owned startup will face different obstacles than a white-owned one. The challenges are can be subtle and sometimes outright dominant.

Being black women in tech means knowing that when we walk into a room, the bias may be apparent in how we’re treated, criticized, examined, and sometimes rated. The opportunities for business growth that are presented to us are sometimes limited in comparison to our male counterparts. It certainly means that we often have to and are expected to work twice as hard to get the same outcome as our white counterparts. It is important to differentiate between being a woman in tech vs. a man, and a black woman in tech vs. a woman because in order for the tech industry to truly be innovative and inclusive, we must first acknowledge that there is a racial and gender disparity that cannot be overlooked. This racial and gender disparity masks itself in many ways, often making it challenging for those fighting for an equal world to make a lot of progress.

How racial and gender disparity are present in the tech industry – our observations as black women:

  • A funding source is open for minorities. Of the applicants: the majority are black-identifying, some are brown-identifying, and a select few are of East Asian descent. Of those selected to receive the funds, less than 1% are black. As black women, this is troubling as we struggle to understand why the funds were disproportionately allocated.
  • An event is created as a means to form an opportunity for diverse conversations and networking for entrepreneurs. The event hosts and organizers put more effort targeting non-marginalized groups and/or specific genders or career paths. This form of advertising and marketing limits the selection pool for the attendees and sponsors of the event.
  • A co-working/networking community is developed to bring networking and diverse resources to gender-specific or racial-specific founders. The cost of entry is abnormally high, the selected applicants are not diverse in experience, race, socioeconomic status, and/or physical stability.

How we navigate the industry:

  1. We lean on each other. The struggles and challenges that we face, we face together. We pull from our own experiences, knowledge, and guidance to lead our business as a cohesive team.
  2. We apply, apply, apply. No matter what our fears or setbacks may be, we always make sure to submit applications for opportunities that target our demographic as founders. We apply to accelerators, incubators, conferences, summits, panels, retreats, and other funding or networking sources whenever we fit their target applicant demographic.
  3. When we’re able to, we attend and participate in all startup discussions regardless of the target demographic. The resources shared in the world are meant to be consumed by all! We refuse to limit ourselves when our vision is so grand.
  4. We maintain a positive, self-reliant, and hardworking attitude. For every application we submit, every event we attend, every grant we apply to, 100% effort is always given or executed. Our best may not be the best out of all applicants combined, but it is our best and we’re content with that.

A few resources/communities we utilize:

Never let the obstacles and naysayers change your course of action. Remain secure and confident in your approach to lead your company. You are not the first to have faced discrimination, bigotry, sexism, etc…and you most likely won’t be the last, but it’s important to always be THE person who rises above the hate and carries on.

My Choice to Become a Black Female Immigrant Entrepreneur

WHY I STARTED MY COMPANY
By Elise Woappi

I was 10 when I got on a plane two weeks after 9/11, with two suitcases, to immigrate to America from Cameroon, Africa. My parents had won the United States Green Card Lottery, which meant that we were one very lucky family that was permitted to move to the United States with the support of the government. All we had to do was obey the law, respect the country, and commit 6 to 7 years as green card citizens and we would become U.S. citizens.

Our immigration to the states was one of the toughest moments of my life. I remember feeling so helpless and vulnerable as I navigated racism, puberty, and the aftermath of 9/11 as a young immigrant. We moved to a small town in Pennsylvania called Hanover. I have very fond memories of my experience growing up there, the church community that embraced us when we arrived, the African community in surrounding towns that took us under their wings, classmates that were both intrigued and fearful of my culture and background. I also have negative memories of my experience dealing with racism. An experience I first encountered once we moved to the states. Being black in Cameroon isn’t an issue, but being black in America is – at least that’s what I was conditioned to believe. I recall my first time being called the N-word by two white young adult men driving by as I stood outside the Hanover Public Library in 2004, my mother’s first employer in the states. I recall being in history class in middle school as the teacher and students debated my African culture. I recall feeling less than as I tried to make friends and talk to boys in a 99.9% predominantly white town. At that age, I didn’t quite understand just how much my parents had sacrificed to give us the American quality of life. I didn’t understand it until I was 22. Not until I graduated Penn State with a Bachelor of Arts degree and stepped out into the real world with student loans, a poor job market, and a death in the immediate family.

My father passed away when I was 19. To this day, his death has been the biggest emotional trauma I’ve undergone. I think the guilt and frustration of knowing just how much he scarified to provide for his family only to be met by cancer as his death verdict, has been too much to bear at times. If I had to summarize in one sentence what motivated me to build my business, I would simply say, “because I get to live a great life at the sacrifice of my parents’.” Uprooting their lives to a new country, moving to a new location with no financial backing and exposure to racism, all while having to start over completely as immigrants with children, was one of the greatest sacrifices my parents made. I simply want to pay them back, and to do so in a way that not only commemorates my father, but spreads the legacy of my parents’ sacrifice.

My childhood goal wasn’t to become an entrepreneur. I grew up wanting to volunteer, spread joy to the world, and help people. I was never set on one passion; rather, I just wanted to help in any way I could. My first year out of college, I decided to become an AmeriCorps VISTA in San Antonio, Texas. I committed to the program for a year and learned as much as I could about the nonprofit world. After that, I realized that volunteering barely paid the bills and I needed to find a well-paying job. I embarked on a 4-year journey of working at various nonprofits, institutions, and businesses. At each one, I made sure to specialize my skills in development, fundraising, marketing, research, and technology to stay ahead of the curve. Four years into my professional career, I decided that I was seeking something greater.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a hard worker and always exceed expectations. Matter of fact, I was always viewed as an amazing employee and my former bosses and colleagues were devastated to see me go. Truth is, I wanted to build something on my own due to years of watching my parents struggle and work tirelessly to provide for my family. I had this chip on my shoulder to create for myself. To work for myself. To build for myself. For months, I wondered why that chip was so big on my shoulders. Then a year into my last employer, I realized that I wanted to create something tangible to implant in the United States. My family moved to the states with nothing but suitcases and each other. We grew up in this country whose history did not include the Woappi family. My amazing father lived an empowering life but died at 53 and the majority of the American public never got to know him. My wonderful mother has lived and executed such a powerful life, and for the remainder of her time on this earth, I want the world to get to know her.

I launched my business in August 2017 not only to provide value to millions of individuals and businesses around the world, but to create a legacy that embodies the struggle, sacrifices, and hard work of what it means to be a black, female immigrant trying to make it in the United States. This is my story to share, a story that I hope serves as inspiration for underrepresented groups, individuals struggling with sexism, racism, and homophobia. Let my journey empower you and find the strength within to push through.

Thank you to:
Christ Woappi (dad)
Annie-Laure Woappi (mom)
Loic Woappi (brother)
Yvon Woappi (brother)
Anne-Elise Woappi (twin sister)

Pay Less Than $10 for a Logo Design on Fiverr

You read it right. Designing a logo doesn’t need to be an expensive purchase. You can have well-made logos for less than $10 on Fiverr. This post is not endorsed by Fiverr in any way. We want to cut down your expenses as a business and if you are looking for an inexpensive way to revamp your brand, create a new logo, or revise a current logo, you can do so very inexpensively. We live in a world of endless resources, and we think you can reap the benefits of creative design without spending a crap ton of money.

 fiverr-logo-green-42ceb28536932bff125c8d478bec1c56First: what is Fiverr?

Fiverr is a global online marketplace that houses a variety of freelancers in different career fields. Fiverr’s freelancers range in skill set and experience. Pricing for Fiverr services can start as low as $5 to as high as a few hundred dollars.

Second: what services are provided on Fiverr?

Fiverr’s services can be broken down into 8 categories:
Fiverr Services

Third: how do I pay for a logo under $10 on Fiverr?

There are several steps that need to happen in order for you to receive a logo design on Fiverr for less than $10.

  1. Create a Fiverr account
    Log-in or create an account at Fiverr.com
    You will be prompted to enter log-in information, follow the instructions
    If new account
    Once you have an account created, set up your Fiverr profile
    While setting up your profile, you can either set one up for yourself or a business
    Fiverr prefers profiles that are “anonymous”, as in the website won’t allow you to get too personal/detailed about who you are (this is for safety reasons)
  2. Search for your desired service. In our case, logo design
    Under the main page, you can either click on “find services” and type in logo design
    or hover over “Graphic & Design” right below the search bar and select logo designFiverr - Find Services.png
  3. Find a good designer/freelancer for your logo
    Now that you’ve searched for logo designs, scroll down the page until you get to the filters
    Fiverr - Filter Results.png
    Update your filters to:
    _Price Range: $0 to $10 and click on the right arrow to update results
    _Delivery Time: choose which option you’d like. Any is usually preferable
    _Style: choose whichever style you want depending on your type of business
    _Online Status: leave blank. Sellers will still complete orders regardless
    _File Format: always select JPG, PNG, PDF, AI, EPS
    _Service Includes: always select high resolution and source file
    _
    Seller Level: depends what you’re comfortable with. new sellers can be good too. Leave all fields blank if not sure
    _Seller Language: it’s best to choose your primary language
  4. Select your designer/freelancer
    Choose a designer with 4.0+ ratings. DO NOT choose any designer below 4 stars
    Go through each designer above 4.0+ ratings and search through their portfolio
    Narrow down options to 2-5 designers and read comments/reviews on each one
    Select a final designer based on:
    ____a portfolio that resonates with your desired logo
    ____positive feedback and/or reviews from customers
  5. Select designer package
    Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a final designer, choose design package
    Each Fiverr designer lists service pricing based on packages
    $5 or $10 packages are usually considered Basic
    Read the description of each package to verify exactly what you’re getting
    Make sure the $5 or $10 package includes all of your desired filters:
    EXAMPLE
    ___does the package include logo design in your targeted file formats (i.e. png, jpg)?
    ___does the package include high resolution or source file once delivered?
    You can read all about the package/gig description near the bottom of the page
    Once you’ve confirmed everything, click on “select”
    Fiverr - Compare Packages.png
  6. Pay & Complete Order
    Once you’ve selected a designer package, you will be asked to complete payment
    Payment will be required BEFORE you specify your order
    ___meaning, you will pay first before detailing how you want your logo to look
    You have the option of adding any extra features, but that will increase total cost
  7. Specify Order
    Once you’ve made a payment, you will complete a questionnaire/form to explain how you want your logo to be
    Each designer will ask different questions, but most will ask you to:
    __describe business
    __provide other logos you like so that they can get a feel of your style preference
    __detail style preference for logo (i.e. color scheme, pattern, etc…)
  8. Track Order & Wait For Order Completion
    You’ve done your part
    Once your logo is ready, the designer will provide you with a final draft
    Most designers offer free revisions (varies from 1 to unlimited)
    DO NOT approve final design until you are completely satisfied
    When you’ve gone through revisions, if any, the designer will submit logo file
    The logo, its design, files, and concept are now fully yours

The majority of designers will maintain open communication with you should you need to reach them in the future.

What Does Success Look Like to You?

Success in business is defined in many ways. We want all motivated, driven, and ambitious individuals to be successful in everything they do. We want you to really think through what success means and looks like to you – but most importantly, how you plan on achieving it.

Regardless of the type of entrepreneur or “wantrepreneur” you are, it’s important to narrow down what success means to you prior to launching an idea, product, or company.

Here’s how to do so:

  • Write down exactly what you envision to happen professionally
  • Describe specific achievements you hope to accomplish
  • Imagine, in the near and far future, how your accomplishments will be met
  • Identify deal-breakers in the way you operate life so that your accomplishments can be met
  • Envision an “end” goal and create a mental map to reach that goal

Having a personal and business vision plan will help you center and focus your creative and professional energy so that the decisions you make, the opportunities you accept, and the work that you perform are all targeted towards your success.

There are 5 key ways to help you come up with a long-term vision for your success:

  1. Identify the purpose of your business and your target audience
  2. Identify the goals, vision, and values for your business
  3. Create short and long term strategic steps to achieve each goal
  4. Measure, periodically, specific metrics to confirm progress of each goal
  5. Compare your strengths and weaknesses and work to improve your strengths while fixing your weaknesses

As you work towards your success, remember to celebrate every milestone and accomplishment you meet. Build momentum around the positive energy you infuse from your accomplishments.

 

Being Good at Marketing When Lacking Creativity

Creativity is overrated
– said no one ever –

The truth is, most people want to be creative but are not sure how to be if they’re not naturally creative. Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. Not only will we tell you how to improve your creativity, but we’ll also give you some advice on how to get better at marketing.

If you’re not a naturally creative person, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re less than, it just means that you’ll have to practice a little harder to exercise your creative juices. You’ll have to try a little harder to even come up with unique and interesting ideas. We’ll help you get started with these 4 efficient ways to build your creativity.

5 Methods to Work on Your Creativity When You’re Not Naturally Creative


√What you don’t know, learn

We know that the best way to learn something you know nothing about is by reading books written by experts in that topic. It’s important to educate yourself on various creative ideologies and familiarize yourself with such ideologies. You’re probably wondering where to start, which books to select. Well just look below, because we’ve named a few for you.

These selected books are just a start. We trust that you’ll continue to check out more and keep on learning.  

√√Surround yourself with creative people

It’s true what they say. You are as smart and as capable as those you surround yourself with. When you surround yourself with people you admire, you start to learn and develop different set of skills you may not have developed prior to meeting and hanging out with your new peers.

√√√Periodically jot down interesting or unique ideas you think of

There are no bad ideas, only bad execution. Make a habit to write down any silly, goofy, amazing, or even basic idea you have. Throughout the day, jot down ideas you think of that you find interesting, unique, exciting. At the end of the day, review those thoughts and ideas and think about why you were drawn to them. Analyze them and figure out if those ideas are worth pursuing. Compare the ideas, the skills and tools required to execute them to the skills and knowledge you currently have. Evaluate the skills you’re currently lacking and come up with a strategic plan to learn them. 

√√√√Step outside of your comfort zone

Stepping outside of your comfort zone, in a safe and conscious way, not only opens you to different opportunities, but teaches you valuable lessons about your capabilities and endurance. When you do something that you normally wouldn’t do, it allows you to expand your comfortability and adapt to new environments. Creativity exposes itself best when an individual is willing to accept experiences with pure uninterrupted imagination.

√√√√√Engage in stimulating activities

One way to get your creative juices flowing is by engaging in activities or classes that are different than what you’re used to. Trying out a new sport, taking up a different dance studio, joining a comedy improv group are all methods that will help you stimulate different brain functions. 

Yeah, But How Can I Be Good at Marketing If I’m Not Even Creative?


THE TRUTH IS – YOU CAN BE GOOD AT JUST ABOUT ANYTHING.

No, but seriously. It’s true that individuals or businesses with the best profitable marketing initiatives are those that have strong creativity or innovative talent. But just like everything else in life, one must learn and adapt to be better. There are numerous tools, softwares, companies that spend a lot of money to generate marketing analytics in order to educate their staff. Our point is, good marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice, hard work, committed learning, and mistakes. Just because you aren’t as creative as you would like to be today, doesn’t mean that a year from now (with a strategic plan for learning) you won’t be where you want to be. 

Creativity is subjective. Your version of a creative mindset or an innovative idea is most likely different from others. The beauty about our world is that each one of us has a set of unique viewpoints, personality traits, and methods of expression. Find your best ability to express how you feel or what you think in an elaborate and confident way. 

And just because we know you REALLY want suggestions on how to specifically be good at marketing, look below because we’ve added a few for you.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz
Gary Vaynerchuk
Content Marketing Reference Library

When we refer to marketing, here’s what we mean

  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Digital engagement

 

5 Meaningful Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

What It Means to Have a Strong Online Presence

We are asked this all the time,
“how can I increase my online social engagement if I have no idea where to start?”

Here are 5 tips for your business to increase its social media engagement


♦Post Regularly

Social media followers choose to follow your business account(s). The easiest way to show them that you actually care about their follow is to update them with new posts; periodically enough that they don’t wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth but not too frequently that they wonder if you’ve been hacked.

Suggestions on what to post about:

  • Discuss your branding, what it stands for
  • Highlight specific customers (ex: customers with strong brand loyalty)
  • Discuss upcoming events
  • Share promotional materials or access codes
  • Highlight current staff (ex: employees with strong work ethics or achievements)
  • Does your business have any success stories to share?
  • Has your business recently gone through a happy, unexpected moment?

Frequency of post:

  • Post at least once a day in all of your social media accounts
  • A post doesn’t have to be original content
    It can be a re-share of another relevant post
    It can be from another similar company
    Should be relevant to your business
  • Visual posts with good written content are far more appealing

♦♦Engage With Similar Businesses

Competition is a good thing, but too much competition isn’t. One of the most meaningful ways to improve your online presence is by engaging with businesses similar to yours. Partnering or working with similar businesses will give your business an opportunity to see how your competition operates, analyze their customer base, and develop stronger community ties.

Suggestions on how to engage with similar businesses:

  • Collaborate with similar businesses to host or sponsor a community event
  • Help share and advertise a similar business’ upcoming charity or community event
    Event should not directly compete with an event you will have in the near future
    Event should not be held at the same time as an event you plan to have
  • Participate in challenges
    Set up friendly competitions to see which business will raise the most money for a given cause
    Host a sports or health tournament with local businesses

♦♦♦Appreciate Your Customers

Your customers or clients are one of the reasons your business can sustain itself. Don’t take them for granted. Often times, businesses don’t pay enough attention to their customers’ demands and wants. Not every demand or want should be met, but they should at least be heard. Take the time to survey your customers and to receive constructive feedback on products, services, and features on your website or social media accounts that your customers think should be improved.

Spend time greeting, celebrating, and highlighting your customers. Do you track your customers’ birthdays and send them a greeting at the time of month? Do you wish happy holidays to your subscription list in December or January? Do you offer discount codes or referral codes to repeat customers? Those are simple, inexpensive, methods in which you can really make an impact.

♦♦♦♦Update Your Content

Any well updated account is an account that posts frequently enough and shares accurate information. Posting every day to your accounts isn’t enough. You also have to make sure that the content posted is not only relevant to your current status as a business, but also relevant to your customers’ interests.

For example, if you’re planning to host a marathon to raise funds for a charity in December, you most likely don’t only want to speak about the marathon in the coming months. You want to update your followers with marathon information as well as upcoming holidays, projects, and/or events your business will partake in. The key is to focus on the present while advertising for the future. You want your followers to stay interested in what you’re presently working on, but also engaged for what’s to come with your business.

♦♦♦♦♦Keep Up With The Times

We understand that businesses can sometimes be fearful of quick change. We understand that we live in an instantaneous society where the world around us is rapidly evolving. We understand that it can be hard to keep up when you’re just trying to survive. But we also understand that the businesses that sustain themselves long-term are those who constantly innovate with the times.

Keeping up with society as it expands is extremely crucial for your business to grow. Think of your customers, your employees, your founders as individuals of a population that is growing wiser, learning new tools and technologies as the years pass. Now think of your business as the entity that houses all those individuals to provide a product or service to a target population. It’s important to understand that as society advances, so should your business.

Methods to keep up with the times:

  • Stay updated on current online trends via social media or networking platforms
  • Update technology equipment in your offices
  • Update online profiles so that each page is fresh, modernized, and relevant
  • Follow and stay informed with news that pertains to your business operations
  • Re-brand or re-launch a product, idea, or service to better fit your long-term vision