Image features a Black woman standing before a sign that reads "Black in Business Your Time is Now"

Leveraging Business Accelerator Programs For Entrepreneurial Success

Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is akin to setting sail on uncharted waters. It's exhilarating, filled with promise, but also fraught with challenges and uncertainties. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and have successfully run an IP law firm for the last 17 years, so creating and launching my own publishing company seemed like a no-brainer when I first started with Aya & Pete.

Little did I know that I was setting sail on that journey with a tattered map, a faulty compass, and a crew of one (me) that was determined, but terribly inexperienced!

But what I lack in experience, I make up for in my love of learning. And over the last five years of creating and building Ashima, one invaluable resource stands out: the guidance and support I've received through business accelerators. They are like master's degrees that pay you (in most cases)! 

Having had the privilege of participating in several esteemed accelerator programs, including the Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship, McKinsey 1B Founders, the Workshop at Macy's, the Black Ambition Prize, and most recently, the Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women Business Accelerator, I've gleaned some invaluable lessons that have shaped my path and helped our business to grow and steadily find its footing.

  1. Know Your Audience:
    This is almost always the first lesson in every program. Understanding and connecting with your audience is the cornerstone of any successful business. Accelerator programs emphasize the importance of market research, customer feedback, and empathy (understanding the needs, desires and pain points of your target demographic) in order to tailor your products and/or services to meet those needs.

  2. Set SMART Goals:
    Goal setting is a fundamental aspect of business success. Utilizing the SMART criteria - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound - ensures that your goals are well-defined, actionable, and aligned with your overall vision and strategy.

  3.  Master Your Finances:
    Numbers don't lie. But I've learned that numbers are often an area of business that a lot of entrepreneurs don't want to look into too deeply. Whether it's tracking revenue, managing expenses, or forecasting cash flow, a firm grasp of your financial metrics is essential for making informed decisions and sustaining long-term growth. Accelerators provide valuable insights and tools for financial management, giving us the language and in-depth understanding we need to navigate the complexities of business finance with confidence. I also recommend this book by my friend and TBF colleague. 

  4. Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
    Identifying and tracking key performance indicators is crucial for gauging the health and progress of your business. From customer acquisition costs to conversion rates, KPIs offer actionable insights that inform strategic decision-making and drive performance improvement. I'm personally guilty of this, so I've set a goal of identifying and monitoring three specific KPIs to track our business health and progress towards our goals.  

  5. Streamline Organizational Processes:
    Efficiency is the lifeblood of any organization. Accelerators stress the importance of streamlining workflows, creating detailed written operational processes, and implementing scalable systems to maximize productivity and minimize waste.

  6. Hire Strategically:
    Building a high-performing team is paramount to success. Accelerators underscore the significance of hiring the right people for the right roles at the right time, fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation, and excellence. It's difficult to manage all aspects of your business alone, so knowing when to hire so you can focus on growth and revenue building activities is essential, but ensure that you're bringing on the right talent and that the cost justifies the anticipated ROI.  

  7. Pay Attention to How You Spend Your Time: 
    Time management is key to success. It's essential to evaluate whether you're operating primarily as a founder/worker or as a CEO. Allocating time strategically between tasks that drive growth and those that maintain day-to-day operations is crucial for scaling your business effectively. Prioritize activities that align with your long-term vision and delegate tasks that can be handled by others, empowering you to focus on high-impact initiatives as the CEO of your company.

  8. Embrace Long-Term Strategic Vision: 
    Given the frenetic pace of business, especially if you're a one-woman shop, it's easy to get caught up in the tide of day-to-day operations. As it was described to us during the Goldman Sachs orientation, we set out to create businesses, but instead we've given ourselves "jobs." Accelerators encourage entrepreneurs to craft a long-term strategic vision, set clearly defined goals and action steps, and chart a course to accomplishing that vision with sustainable growth and impact.

  9. Build Relationships:
    One of the most important things I've gotten from these accelerators are relationships! Entire communities of other women and minority business owners who are navigating similar paths and challenges. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road but participating in these programs brings me together with like-minded people who serve as a sounding board and who are willing to share information, resources, and connections if you're willing to ask and share alike. That has probably been my single greatest takeaway from all of these experiences.

As I reflect on my journey and the invaluable lessons learned from these accelerator programs, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities, mentorship, and camaraderie they have provided. The knowledge, insights, and connections I've made through these programs have helped to buoy me during difficult times, and offered beacons of light and guidance at times when I need them most. Even with all these lessons, I'm STILL learning, and tinkering, and growing as an entrepreneur, and making my best effort to chart a course towards success, one strategic decision at a time.

To follow along on our entrepreneurial journey and see how we put some of our learnings into action, follow us on social

photo shows clockwise from left: Portia Obeng, RoShawnda Buchanan, me, and Danielle Cherry, Goldman Sachs OMBW Cohort 5 scholars. 

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