August 26, 2020
Ashley is the founder and CEO of RIZZARR, a tech-enabled content marketplace. Through RIZZARR, brands are able to find and work with Millennial and Gen Z content creators worldwide – particularly nano-influencers and micro-influencers. Ashley answered a few questions about how black entrepreneurship has been affected during this time and highlights the uniqueness that black-owned businesses bring to Detroit. Read more below:
1. Could you talk about the challenges that you may have had to overcome as a black woman starting a business? Any advice for anyone trying to do the same?
Starting a company is already a very challenging experience, but I found it to be even more challenging as an African-American woman. I have encountered racial issues and sexist issues in various aspects related to the company.
Then on top of encountering these problems, I encountered many of the other things that many entrepreneurs could face like not knowing what I don’t know, bringing on the wrong people, getting insights on the foundational aspects of building a company from those who have not actually built a *successful* company, being connected to people who were discouraging though meant to help me, and more, were all very challenging to overcome at times. However, I do think it is even more disheartening when you find that your race and your gender at times can impact the deals, connections, and exposure to items that could propel you and your business forward.
But thankfully in even amid all of these things and trust me, so much more, things have still worked out for me and the company. We have been blessed to have been able to connect with great mentors, resources, customers, prospective investors, and individuals who have helped me, believed in me, and encouraged me to never give up on my dream in creating RIZZARR and to never give up on myself. They helped me to see that everything that I needed to succeed was in me, in terms of my just believing in myself and trusting myself to be able to find the answers, the insights, and everything I needed to make my dream succeed.
My advice to anyone trying to build a company is to really analyze your belief system, especially what you believe about yourself. For me, my belief in God and His belief in me, pushes me forward to never lose my faith.
2. I’m always reading about the importance of a business plan. Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
I did write a business plan and found it to be helpful, although I probably spent more time on it than I should. I think it is better to put together a plan as best as you can and then just get to building the business because most of the things you thought would work, will not go the way that you planned. I think it is a good action to do for strategic planning and thinking as well as basically getting your mindset in place. However, just start building your business as soon as possible. The market always speaks for itself and then you can adjust based on that.
3. What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I listen to a lot of podcasts and YouTube videos from successful entrepreneurs or motivational speakers. I read a lot of books. I am a part of a few small masterminds. I also surround myself with business coaches, friends, and mentors who bring out the best in me. At this point in my life, I have no time for negativity and can’t stand it, so I distance myself from people with that kind of energy. Further, I have found that the more that I work on myself, like my belief system, my disciplines, my habits, my self-care, my visualization tools, and more, the more my business grows, and I grow as an individual.
4. How has your focus as a black entrepreneur shifted during this time?
My focus has centered on understanding more things related to my purpose, how I can use RIZZARR to better our world through content, and what I would like to do once RIZZARR exits. My eyes have opened to the atrocities facing my race and younger generations. I am deeply grasping how those of us who have been blessed and/or provided with opportunities have a huge responsibility to create positive change in our world and to help those who have not been given these items. We must be willing to help those who have not be able to receive the same opportunities that we have been able to receive.
I have begun to truly sink more deeply into understanding the many problems that are facing the Black community, particularly in economic advancement and education. For one, many of us are not even aware of what is possible in terms of being exposed to it. We have not encountered or connected with various Black entrepreneurs and/or just successful Black individuals and that from the start makes us not fully grasp certain possibilities for our lives and aligning with what truly could be possible.
Additionally, many of us from a young age are not exposed to the resources, ecosystems, communities, individuals, or networks that could help us with growing our companies. Again, this sets us back.
Then, in terms of raising capital, most of us have not known anyone who has done that before or even what the process, materials, and steps are to be able to secure it. That again, sets us back exponentially.
The problems really stem from our not being exposed to possibilities and seeing the possibilities in our everyday lives. If we did, we could have more hope, more dreams, and more aspirations of what could be possible for our lives.
My dream is to truly help positively change this and make more opportunities for aspiring Black and/or minority entrepreneurs to be able to get the knowledge, resources – especially capital – and the connections that they need to build successful companies.
Written by Let’s Detroit Ambassador Ashley Williams