It's Black History Month, and we couldn't think of a better way to spend it than introducing you to entrepreneurs who are grinding today to make history tomorrow.
Today we're honored to expose you to the start-up savvy go-getter that is Helena-Kelleese Smith, of Serve Community & Furr Baby Boo.
Share your journey! How did you become the entrepreneur you are today? I knew I wanted to do something bigger than myself. After working for companies year after year, and feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere with those companies, I quit. I went through a period of self-discovery and exploring what I really wanted to do. I went through a series of businesses to finally open a consulting company that was feasible for me and able to still help others in a capacity I could handle. I also had to learn the difference between grassroots and corporate business - it is ok to be a small business where it's just you moving horizontally. It's also ok to want more where people are investing in you while you're moving into a different financial bracket. I also knew I had to build a business where there is a need, which led me to open up my pet sitting business to keep cash flow.
Serve Community provides branding/marketing and funding resources for start-up nonprofits or small businesses. Furr Baby Boo provides pet care and pet sitting (Merchandise coming soon!).
What do you do? Are you a full-time entrepreneur, or are you balancing a job and a business? How do you feel about that? I am balancing two jobs and two businesses. It is not easy and sometimes overwhelming but a bih ain't broke (in true Atlanta voice LOL) I am a full-time entrepreneur because I work when I am working. Which is why I like the jobs I do have because of the flexibility. I need flexibility in our to be an entrepreneur doing what I do. I employ one employee and contract others out for other work.
The first year of business can be the hardest, but the most fun and educational. How was your first year of business? My first year of business was actually the best! I received $26,000 in grant funding. I was able to push past the "entrepreneurship blues" that so many have experienced. I learned so much from colleagues and clients, including what type of clients I wanted and how much my services were really worth. I learned to not take people so seriously and to do what's best for me.
As the old saying goes, "Never forget where you come from." Where are you from? Has your hometown had an impact on your entrepreneurship journey? Be sure to give a shout out to anyone who has helped/supported you during your entrepreneurship journey. (106&Park style shout-outs are acceptable as well. This is a safe space!) I'm from Charleston, SC where entrepreneurship is very grassroots. No one expects to start their business and take off to new heights. Very few have been able to do it. But with that, I honestly learned more about entrepreneurship just being amongst people in Atlanta. The vibes of black wealth can be contagious, so I went with it. So far so good! There are so many people who support me on this journey and too many to name. They definitely know who they are because I tell them every chance I get.
Making history requires making change. How will your business benefit future generations in your family?
The goal is for my son and play-daughter to know what it means to work for yourself and to value the grind. It is not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding. I want to leave a legacy of what wealth really means: having good health, family, great friends, and financial stability.
Black culture is often idolized for portraying an image of trend-setting fearlessness. How has being Black impacted your entrepreneurship journey? As a Black entrepreneur, you want to work with everyone, but everyone does not want to work with us. Meaning we'll work with predominantly white-run organizations and sing their praises, but we scrutinize the small Black business doing the same thing (or better). We pinch every dollar and watch every move. It's sad. I pride myself on diversifying, but it is not always that easy to get in those other spaces. It impacts my journey daily -- not in a bad way, but I do feel we have to do more to prove that we are just as good, if not better.
What advice do you have for Black entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a business? Know the difference between services or products that people want, and the ones people need. Do your research about your industry. Have a marketing/branding strategy and a budget. Research how much it takes to run your business. Use a bookkeeping system to keep track of your finances. Have a solid business plan and more importantly, do the work!
The year is still new! What can we expect to see from your business this year? This year I am committed to hosting a four-part series with Serve Community called Business Therapy. It will help current entrepreneurs gauge what they need help with, and we will provide resources to push them forward. My goal with Furr Baby Boo is to spread the word about what we are doing, for more sitters to join our team, and expanding to other areas.
Right now, anyone that books services for Furr Baby Boo receives a free service. Serve Community is offering Implementation Planning Sessions for small businesses and nonprofits for $150.00 now through March 1st.
Keep Up with Serve Community & Furr Baby Boo: