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 theatrical trailblazer that is Renika Williams, a professional actor and teaching artist in New York City.
Share your journey! How did you become the entrepreneur you are today? I was a child with a very big imagination, and my parents wanted to put that to good use! I went to performing arts school for a bit and eventually started taking private coaching and masterclasses at the professional theatre company in my hometown. I was accepted into nursing programs at a few different universities but it wasn't where my heart was, so I started to audition for professional acting programs. I auditioned for and was accepted into, Wright State University's Professional Actor's Training Program where I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting. I didn't completely understand that I signed up to be a full-time entrepreneur when I graduated, but I learned soon enough!
Thankfully, I was chosen to spend a full theatre season as an Acting Apprentice at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park right after graduation -- that's when I learned how to hustle. I was then trained to teach theatre for grades K-12, I dipped into the casting department for a bit, ventured into community engagement facilitating, and more! (All while performing every night, by the way!) I learned that being a professional artist meant being an entrepreneur. I am my own brand. It is my job to market myself, prepare for auditions, and execute onstage, all while having a few side hustles. During my apprenticeship, I was exhausted (to say the least) but it prepared me for my move to New York City and I am forever grateful! I got off the bus ready to grind, and I haven't stopped since!
I am now a professional actor and teaching artist in New York City.
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? When I am away on contract, I am a full-time actor. Most of my contracts have been for 2-3 months at a time. But once that show ends, I am flown back to New York City and back to the audition and side hustle grind. When in the city, I teach theatre at the Brooklyn Children's Museum and I am a babysitter with a childcare agency called Curated Care all while going on all the audition appointments my agent gets me! I can officially say I've gotten used to the grind. It was most definitely harder when I was teaching and babysitting more than I was acting. But after being in the city for only two years, I can say that now my life has taken a complete turn. I may not be on TV just yet but I am definitely making more money as an actor than I am as a babysitter now and that was a big goal for me. Side hustles and day jobs are a part of any young entrepreneurs journey and it gets better once you accept that! You aren't any LESS of an entrepreneur or artist just because you have a day job.
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, I booked my first role in an Off-Broadway production after only four days of living in the city. Then it got dry. I was babysitting full time. But once I was signed by my agent, things got much better that first year.
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!) Dayton, Ohio definitely made me who I am!
Making history requires making change. How will your business benefit future generations in your family?
My goal is to take care of my parents. I owe them the world for seeing my gift before I saw it in myself and supporting me the entire way. They never told me that it would be best to go to college for something more practical. They just wanted me to be happy. So taking care of them is the goal!
Black culture is often idolized for portraying an image of trend-setting fearlessness. How has being Black impacted your entrepreneurship journey? I think being Black has set me apart! I love who I am! I don't look like all the other women in the waiting rooms before an audition. I don't speak like them. My point of view comes from a different place in my spirit. Thankfully, I'm coming up in a time when diversity and inclusion are FINALLY being demanded and required. Therefore, being a Black woman is one of my greatest attributes.
What advice do you have for Black entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a business? Do it! We need businesses to call our own, especially for our youth's sake. Representation matters in every line of work, and it is needed! Find your community and get it done!
The year is still new! What can we expect to see from your business this year? My goal for the year is to book my first co-star or guest star on TV! So, expect me to be heavily focused on Television!
Keep Up with Renika Williams: