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.

Imagine: iOS 14 + Seventh-day Adventist Church

I am a nerd (sorry, not sorry), and I enjoy learning and understanding new technologies how they impact us. At least once a year, leading companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, share their plans on how they can improve their on-device software. This excites me based both on my personal and business benefits but also makes me imagine: What would happen if my church, the Seventh-day Adventist church, were to utilise some of the newly announced features. How would that impact other members at a local church and conference level? So here we go, starting with Apple and iOS 14, how would this new operating system benefit my church and me.

  • Widgets. With iOS14, you can now have widgets or mini-apps that load on your home screen rather than its current place being available with a swipe to the right. Imagine if the Sabbath School app team were to add a key message from the lesson that day. While prayer is so easy to do consistently, maintaining a consistent study life has its challenges. Every small step can help create a better habit, and a widget reminding you to study your lesson would help with that mission. There would also be a line or encouraging message that even at a glance, gives you insight into that days study.
  • Siri. Siri is your digital assistant who once again has come with a myriad of updates, including its UI. But Siri is something that as a church we have seldom utilised. Imagine we created responses for Siri such as “When does my local Seventh-day Adventist church service start?” or “Who is the Pastor at Holloway SDA church?”. Those questions and so many others could be answered by Siri. Imagine during visitations, outreach or other evangelism where we interact with anyone unfamiliar with our faith. We can help them to do their own research by saying, Just ask Siri!
Asikara by Laura Jane as part of an App Clip
  • App Clips. Brace yourself, we have something extraordinary here. App Clips allow individuals to have quick interactions with a product or service only by tapping your iPhone on a stand or device. Using NFC, that will launch a little window almost immediately that allows you to purchase or find out more about what you just tap or scanning a QR code. My challenge to you is, where can you not use this. Imagine you have a booth at Camp Meeting. With all the will in the world, you cannot get to everyone. But instead, you had this device connected to your booth. A visitor can be taking a look, and while they are waiting for help, encourage them to visit your App Clip. They could browse your products and even make a purchase that you can confirm and provide their merchandise. There are so many other applications that App Clips could open up for us.

New software gives us new opportunities to share God’s eternal love in so many different ways. What opportunities are we taking even now, with what we have, to be witnesses to others?

Your Phone is Holding You Back

As you may have seen, I don’t like myself. What I mean by that is as I write this, I have a full-time job, run a Digital Agency, volunteer at the Hyve International startup, and a Youth Leader at my local church. With everything and sometimes everyone pulling me in every direction except towards a go-kart track, I have needed to take multiple steps to stay as productive as humanly possible. I have shared several videos on staying productive which I will link below, but I wanted to share a couple of useful steps you can do on your phone (hopefully an iPhone) to stay productive right now. Let’s get to it:

  1. Multiple app screens. Assuming you are not the type of person who has ordered your icons based on the colour of the app icons or, worse still, alphabetically, you have probably organised them by the web browser, Instagram, settings, music…and everything else is somewhere on there, sometimes in folders. Although it is a popular method, it isn’t the most efficient. Instead, separate your home screens and keep the apps you need in one place. This is my current home screen. The first page is my most frequent personal apps, the second page are my business apps, then my apps I use for church, followed by everything else. This does more for me than adding an extra scroll, it allows for better separation between modes when I am working. Am I doing Ark stuff, or Youth Leader stuff? And whichever it is, I can swipe accordingly. (If you want to know any more about my apps, please message me. I will happily create an in-depth keynote presentation on why you should also use that app.
  1. Actionable Notifications. I have excellent news for you. 35 people just liked your last Instagram post. But I am going to tell you individually at random times, 35 times. That’s what you want, right? Well usually it’s a no, but you never really got round to changing it, and I don’t blame you. But on the path to productivity central, you should. Consider which apps actually need your attention. I am an avid Reddit user, but there is no real reason why Reddit should ever need to notify me of anything. Turn of all notifications on apps that, don’t really need your attention. On all the other apps that you actually use more regularly, only turn on notifications that you can, or should do something about. I am not entirely fussed when one of my friends is going live on Instagram. Maybe I should be, but I am really not. I am more fussed when they send me a direct message. So I have set up my notifications accordingly. I only receive notifications on things that I want to and can do something about.
  1. Widgets. I love this one because it is a combination of both efficiency and laziness, the best combination possible. Seeing your plan for the day, the weather, your tasks for the day, and others will allow you to see relevant at a glance, without opening up any apps. A gentle warning though: remember, these are purely short, relevant information for your day. There can be a desire to add additional information that isn’t crucial or more information on the widgets that you already have. My general rule is, due tomorrow, view tomorrow.
  1. Wallpaper. Consider changing your wallpaper to something that inspires you. It could be a goal you plan to achieve, a lifestyle you want to live, a place you want to live or even a single words of inspiration. Mine, for example, is a custom-built go-kart. Or a picture of my kids, depending on who’s reading this. Also, consider changing your wallpaper regularly, so it doesn’t become monotonous and continues to have a similar impact to when you first chose it.

So there you have it, Lyndon’s List on how you can be more productive on your phone right now. As always, there are many other steps you can take, but these are some of the important ones I would recommend.

Buying isn’t enough – Support Black Owned Business

Black Lives Matters. And with this emphasis has come a renewed focus on Black Owned Business (BOB). We are generating more orders and opened more dialogue with customers than any other organic method. But buying Black is only the tip of the iceberg. BOB for clothing or food will be continually in demand. But is the BOB makes wedding dresses or kitchen utensils, you will probably (or at least hopefully) not need these products for sometime. Purchasing is a great first step, but there is more we need from you to encourage others to purchase Black.

  • Leave Reviews. It is great that you have found a BOB because of your local network on social media. Even better, you have shared that business with your circle of influence. But what about the people outside of that network. How will they know about your purchase and the experience you have received. Luckily, that solution already exists, it’s called a review. You leaving a review allows other potential buyers to gain an inside look about their purchase and helps with making that final decision of purchasing from us. If you write a detailed review of the product or service, that will last much longer and build a bigger impact on future purchaser decisions. The best platforms to leave a review are their business profile on Google, their Facebook Page or on their TrustPilot account should they have one.
  • Leave feedback. Supporting Black Owned is incredible and we thank you for purchasing from us. Now allow us to understand, what did you like? What did you not like? What can we do to improve? What did you love? Tell us the impact our product or service has had on your life. You may have experienced purchasing from somewhere else before us and have valuable insight into the different type of experience you received. This feedback will allow us to improve our service, build a better business, or even provide that extra encouragement knowing that someone, somewhere’s life has been impacted for the better. Make the feedback clear and specific so we can take action and build an even better business.
  • Social Media Engagement. In order to stay relevant, we constantly creating social media content. Whether it be on Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn to even TikTok, we are always creating something. And these posts often go through writes and rewrites, design changes, proofreaders, scheduling apps and more; It takes a lot of work and effort to create all this content. A really simple method of recognition is simply to follow us and engage one of our posts. A comment that you loved the post or even as simple as an emoji demonstrates acknowledgement of our time and effort.

Let me go back and say thank you for buying from BOBs, and let these ideas in no way detract from that. But following these steps will support us that one step further and become the industry leaders in our respective fields.