At the recent Jacksonville Business Journal African American Small Business Forum, local business owners shared insights from their own journeys plus a lot of advice for others looking to start their own companies.
Comcast Business was the presenting sponsor for the event, which was held at the WJCT Studio in downtown Jacksonville.
Comcast Business Sales Manager Melvin White explained to the audience that diversity, equity and inclusion are core values for Comcast. One major way the company shows its commitment to diversity is through its Supplier Diversity Program, which is designed to increase the participation of diverse businesses within its corporate supply chain.
Five local small business owners shared their stories and answered questions in a panel discussion led by Carlton Robinson, Chief Innovation Officer at the JAX Chamber.
Viv Helwig, Founder & Owner of Vested Metals, explained that he actually didn’t plan to create a start-up, but that ended up being the right path after previous plans feel through and he faced rejections and set-backs. He advised other small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to remember that when they first start seeking capital from investors, they must show their passion and commitment to convince those investors to use their money to back them as people, since their businesses aren’t yet successful. He also told them to be prepared to talk to 100 people to have just one call them back.
Natasha Burton, owner of Mixed Fillings Pie Shop, spoke about how, so far, she had not sought out money from investors to start her bakery. Instead, she used money from her family and continually invests what she makes to put back into the business. She reminded everyone at the event to help each other out and pay it forward within the small business community when possible and to not be afraid to ask for help or advice.
Dawn Curling, Founder of We Make the Shirt and Organizer for the Melanin Market, shared that she originally started her t-shirt business as a hobby. But after her “side hustle” started taking off, she decided to take a chance, leave her regular job and devote 100% to her own business. She found not only that she was re-energized, but that committing herself to her dream made her even more passionate and that’s when her business really started growing.
Nichole Mobley, Owner of T & N Express, got into the trucking industry after getting laid off from another job. Losing her job made her realize that she didn’t want to just be a number or worker to another company, but that she wanted to be in control of her career.
Michele Godfrey-Watson, Vice President of Commercial Services and Treasury Services at Community First Credit Union, shared that she also owns a small business herself, so she always strives to treat clients as she would want to be treated. She encouraged the audience members to follow their passions, but to remember that you must have a plan for how you can turn that passion in to a revenue stream for it to become a viable business.
Following the panel discuss, Nicole Hamm, Executive Director of the Blue Zones Project Jacksonville, gave the event’s keynote address, urging everyone to not be afraid to pivot when things don’t go as planned. Instead of thinking that having to go back to the drawing board is a failure, she said to look at it as opportunity to do more and to do it better.
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