4 Reasons Why Early-stage Black Startups Fail

I have a fantastic job where I get to coach people wanting to kick start and build their side hustles and businesses and let me start by saying I love my job. I am one of the lucky ones who has found their passion so early on in their career. What I love even more is over the past two months, we (Ark Digital Agency) have been contacted more frequently by my fellow black entrepreneurs during the BLM movement. I feel honoured supporting so many people in building their empire from scratch. There are common themes, however, that I hear more and more frequently with each client meeting. These are four things I often hear that later down the line have stunted their growth, or even pushing back the start date.

  1. My target market is everyone/black people. A target market is a group of individuals that you think are the best suited for your startup. It is for a group of people that you have discovered an essential need for, and have been building accordingly. Your startup is going to change the lives of that particular type of person. Therefore, your target market can’t be everyone. My dad’s needs are different from my mothers, which are different from mine, which again is different from my sisters. Your target market is what the title suggests, your target. So when you have started your new clothing startup, what is the age group you would like wearing your clothes. Choosing to aim for students or people in work will determine your pricing strategy. You should be considering where they live, their financial income, are they single, dating or married? Do they have children? What are their hobbies? You should understand that perfect customer; name them if you want too. But make sure you know who that target group of people are. It’s also worth remembering people outside of your target market will also come to your startup. You would not ignore people who want to give you money because they aren’t in your target group. But your product, marketing, branding and more, are all built around that specific group of people.
  2. I need to start with my logo. Branding is crucial and sometimes overlooked by a startup. Your brand should shape how your potential customer feels when they interact with your startup. First impressions count even on a digital field. But one thing matters even more than your logo or any other branding element: Your actual product. Whatever the reason is your building your business, whatever product you have to positively impact peoples lives, whatever it is that you are offering, is the most important thing. A great product speaks far louder than incredible branding. You will probably change your brand down the line as you evolve, but to have a later, you need the product first.
  3. I can’t start without money. Let me stress this. You can start without money. Of the many startups, I have worked with over my tenure; only three of them have needed funding. One of which required any serious investment. Not needing investment ties in with my previous point, to focus on the product first. If you have a great product that meets your target markets needs and you reach them in their highest density, you are most likely to generate money from your product that you can re-invest into your business. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Take a moment and assess what equipment, products and resources you have around you and build accordingly. Even if you are one of the few that need some startup money, start with asking for investment from friends and family. Consider hosting a gathering (most probably on Zoom no doubt) and tell them what you are doing and how they can support you. Gaining feedback from this group of people that you trust will also help you build a better startup. But the idea that you can’t do anything without money is wrong. Start humble. Start now.
  4. I am waiting on this one client/supplier/contract. The most passionate person about your startup is you (and your co-founder if you have one) seconded only by your mother. But she usually backs you on anything. After that, the passion slowly drops, and you become just another business. So, that client or supplier who is vital to you, you recognise their number when they call, you know their pets name, and explained every benefit your business could provide. To that person, you are probably just another business. You are putting all your hope and focus around an individual who could be talking to three other startups providing a similar service. When the money is in the bank, or the signature is on the paper, then you can consider and discuss exclusivity. But never sit and wait for anyone, always keep looking for new clients and suppliers.

For early-stage startups, following, or in this case, not following these common pitfalls will help you start with your best foot forward. There are many other common mistakes I often encounter, but these are by far the most common. Keep building and keep growing.

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