Mashonda Tifrere, Aliya Janell, Sevyn Streeter & Brittney Escovedo Share Lessons Learned As Black Women Entrepreneurs Today

Being an entrepreneur in today’s climate can often come with the highest of highs, lowest of lows and plenty of trial and error in between. It’s also a career move that has ultimately helped millions around the world achieve their dreams of financial freedom and economic independence.

During the 2021 ESSENCE + GU Entrepreneur Summit, Art Curator Mashonda Tifrere, Queens & Lettos Founder Aliya Janell, Entertainer Sevyn Streeter and Beyond 8 Founder Brittney Escovedo spoke candidly about what it’s really like to be successful Black women business owners navigating today’s economy in a dynamic conversation presented by Coca-Cola®.

Photo Credit: Phylicia J Photography

Sevyn, who is an independent artist, elaborated on how people often incorrectly assume that being independent solely means getting to call all of the shots, make lots of money & move however you want. In reality, she pointed out that there’s much more to it than one might imagine.

“I was at a major [record label] for a number of years and now, being independent it’s like, ok, every single job, every single thing, I have to double check my homework,” she said. “A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of trial & error…and I think that people don’t really realize the work that goes into it.”

Photo Credit: Phylicia J Photography

Aliya noted that one of her biggest learning lessons was realizing that even as the head of her own choreography business, becoming a household name in the dance industry would be a marathon—not a sprint. She encouraged other entrepreneurs to stay the course.

“I really had to accept that it was going to take consistency and time for me to gain the trust of the dance community, and artists, and everything that comes along with that,” she said. “You have to stick with it. You have to stick with your business and know that, there’s so many moving parts and so many moving elements. You just have to keep going, even if you don’t see results right away.”

Photo Credit: Phylicia J Photography

Later on in the conversation, Mashonda weighed in with an important bit of advice about the power of humility, particularly for entrepreneurs who may be trying to do it all.

“A lot of that has to do with just letting your ego go,” she noted. “Just asking for what you need and hoping that you’ll get the right answer and the right advice. Because, it does take a village. We come up with the idea and we can execute but, we need our people to help us out.”

Photo Credit: Phylicia J Photography

Speaking on the timely topic of learning to prioritize self-care as entrepreneurs, Brittney detailed a turning point she experienced during the pandemic, which ultimately led to her being able to empower her team to prioritize their individual happiness as well.

“I realized that, yes, I was building a successful company and I was doing tons of dream projects and working with incredible clients, but I wasn’t really living the life I actually wanted,” she said. “So, I took the pandemic as an opportunity to work remote. I closed my office in New York; the team was working remote so, I chose to go to another country. I went to Costa Rica and I lived there for three months and, I learned how to surf, which I loved. So I started scheduling my week around what I wanted to do first and then I had my team schedule meetings behind that. It actually created an environment where [my team] also can now celebrate them wanting to do things they want to do and taking times for themselves.”

Photo Credit: Phylicia J Photography

Check out the video above to watch the conversation in full. For more of everything you missed at the ESSENCE Entrepreneur Summit, click HERE.

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