Three Black CEOs turn obstacles into opportunities

In honor of Black History Month, we talked with Black women business owners who overcame challenges due to the pandemic and in the process, enhanced their business skills through free courses and coaching from Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.

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Although Black business owners were disproportionately affected by the impact of Covid-19, a year into the pandemic, the number of Black CEOs had increased by 38%. And remarkably, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running a new business. business. We spoke with some of these entrepreneurs to share their inspiring journeys.

Eben Rey, CEO of NEIO Systems in Los Angeles, CA demo-ing her LED display system.  Credit: Eben Rey.

Eben Rey is revolutionizing how we receive emergency communications. At the height of the pandemic, she invented The Array, an LED-powered dynamic messaging system that can be deployed throughout cities and military installations to improve public safety, site navigation, and emergency response.

Q. What does it mean to you to be a Black woman entrepreneur in this space?

We, as Black women, have always lived at the edges—and from the edges comes those revolutionary ideas. That is why I want to build a company culture that broadens the impact of every contractor and partner, and one that respects what everyone brings.

Q. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Don’t get too high when things go well or get too low when things get bad. Stay on that ebb to navigate the ocean as you bring your product to shore. Most importantly, love what you do and believe in yourself, your product and contribution.

Q. How has Verizon Small Business Digital Ready helped your business?

The content strategy session was just absolutely boom! Eye-opening. It was the perfect igniter to think about how I communicate and gain traction in my target market.

Tamara Hood, CEO of Lovgistics events and travel, in Los Angeles, CA, inspires people to “Return to your roots.” Credit: Tamara Hood

Tamara Hood’s passion is connecting people to their roots, which inspired her business of leading group travel experiences in Ghana and other countries—that is, until the pandemic hit. Putting that business model on pause temporarily, Hood pivoted creatively and developed what she calls the “plant pot pocket,” an African-inspired fabric sleeve to adorn potted plants. To push her business to the next level and prepare for the future, she also took courses from Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, and has resumed plans to host international travel experiences.

Q. What does it mean to you to be a Black woman entrepreneur in this space?

There is no better feeling than returning to our ancestral lands and I’m proud to be someone helping people do that. My plant pot pocket is also my way of bringing that pop of culture and color to homes.

Q. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Find a local resource center that has relationships with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and in-house counsel. Work with a business coach when you can. Get on Verizon Small Business Digital Ready today. It’s free, but priceless.

Q. How has Verizon Small Business Digital Ready improved your business?

My favorite course paired me with an expert who helped me create a full three-year budget outline in our 1:1 session. I’ve also taken marketing courses and been introduced to concepts I had never considered.

V’Esther “Boomer” Goode, owner of Boomer’s Kitchen & Catering food truck in Philadelphia, PA., credits her community with helping make her business a success. Credit: Qinling Li

V’Esther Goode turned her passion for cooking into a full-time food truck business. When the pandemic hit, the food truck sector ground to a halt. Instead of closing shop, Goode expanded into private catering and enhanced her business skills by taking free courses at Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Black woman entrepreneur in this space?

I learned that I don’t have to be intimidated even though I see mainly non-Black owned food trucks. I started with $200. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars. The goal is to service the needs of my people.

Q: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

It’s going to be a rough road. You’re going to cry and want to quit—this is really the process of being a boss. So I say, pray for patience. Everything is on God’s time, not on our time.

Q: How has Verizon Small Business Digital Ready helped your business?

I thought I had social media down pat, since I built my business online. After taking the classes, I realized how I should reach out to influencers, how to get contracts to get bigger businesses, what times I should post, what times I should not post, and words I should use. One class also referenced the fact that you can’t do it all. So I have an assistant now. I also hired an accountant so I don’t have to worry about figuring this all out myself.

Watch and see how Verizon Small Business Digital Ready helped Goode take her business to the next level.

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is a part of the Citizen Verizon plan to move the world forward for all. The free learning portal provides on-demand courses, personalized coaching, networking, planning aids, and grant opportunities for eligible learners. To sign up for Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, visit verizon.com/smallbusinessdigitalready

Tamara Hood and V'Esther Goode are members of the Verizon Small Business Advisory Panel and were compensated by Verizon.

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