Amber Williams created the branding consultancy Punkyflair to help startups, many of which are run by black female entrepreneurs.
Amber Williams of Washington, DC, branding consultant Punkyflair rejects the idea that black women business owners must choose between authenticity and profitability.
As a black female entrepreneur herself, she knows how easy it is to be “hard on yourself”. She adds, “There is a deep-rooted fear, as minority players in the great world of entrepreneurship,” that being yourself means sacrificing clients.
But by telling true stories that put customers first, Williams says that community members can be genuine and “build a multi-million dollar empire.”
Here are her two biggest branding tips for black women entrepreneurs:
1. Be yourself
“First of all, the most important thing is to be you,” she says.
Over the years, Williams has seen women literally walk away from their own business stories. Many remove their face or name from email signatures and websites for fear of alienating customers who are not black. One of her potential clients even claimed to be a white man, she says.
So she got into the habit of asking business owners, “Would you rather be you and make a decent amount of money, or not be yourself and make a lot of money?” What makes you more comfortable looking in the mirror? Few of those choose the latter.
Whatever story a black woman chooses to tell with her brand, finding honest common ground with customers is essential, Williams says. That real, shared bond – whether it’s based on being a woman, shared issues or mutual passions – can then become the focal point of a successful brand campaign.
And if your clients are mostly other black women, “celebrate this unity,” she advises. “Sell that competitive advantage.” You will tap into the driving force behind the black community $ 1.2 trillion in purchasing power, she said.
For those who fear alienating members of other communities by spreading their identity, she said that “just because you are targeting a group of people doesn’t mean that others won’t buy.” After all, the majority of high-end fashion ads feature white models – nearly 80%, according to a 2016 study– yet people of color still buy from luxury retailers.
2. Remember that you are more than a trend
“We’re seeing a lot of advertisements right now, especially in the beauty industry, celebrating black women,” and that’s a positive sign of societal progress, Williams says. But, she adds, change is more than a fad that must be capitalized on.
“Don’t think of yourself as a trend,” she advises other black women. Instead, she says, black female entrepreneurs should see themselves “as a force to be reckoned with that will make an impact in the business world.”
US census data, after all, indicates that America will be a “white minority” nation by 2045 – which means more market potential for businesses serving people of color, let alone more entrepreneurs of color. Thus, Williams urges, “Be proud of who you are – a vital part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in America and the world.”