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Black business owners under the age of 20 on critical early success lessons

Jaala Brown, CNBC Talent Development Intern

According to certified financial planner and CNBC Contributor, Lazetta Braxton, now is a great time for African Americans to create their own business. Braxton, co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, says aspiring young Black entrepreneurs should get out of their comfort zone, expand their network, participate in pitch competitions to win funding, hire people that understand the numbers, and most importantly, always be passionate about their business.

Gabby Goodwin, Rachel Holmes, and Christon Jones are good examples, and all have several things in common: they’re young, they’re Black, and they were all business owners before the age of 20.

To acknowledge Juneteenth, CNBC + Acorns Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is highlighting Black entrepreneurship as a path to financial freedom. Here is advice from these three young Black entrepreneurs on keys to early success and overcoming challenges.

Find a problem to solve, keep finding new ones

At just the age of seven, Gabby Goodwin, was set on solving the age-old problem of constantly losing barrettes. She invented the first, and patented, double-face double-snap barrette, and quickly turned into a business in 2014: GaBBY Bows. Now at the age of 15, Goodwin went from just selling GaBBY Bows to becoming the CEO of Confidence, which sells natural hair-care products.

“We noticed that a lot of our customers were not only having issues with losing barrettes but also with the tangling and having a product that helps their children’s scalp or that helps maintain moisture in their child’s hair,” said Goodwin. “With businesses, you want to make sure that you solve a problem and continue to solve need. So, we made sure that we were listening to our customers, and that’s how the business grew from just bows to Confidence.”

The parameters of her business have grown, too. In 2021, after seven years of conducting business out of her home, Gabby and her family opened a retail store and hair salon in Columbia, South Carolina, that sells all her business’s products.

“We wanted to make sure that there was a full 360 experience for the girls coming in and not only getting their hair done and feeling confident in themselves, but they’re also able to see the behind the scenes, and the businesses inventory that we have,” said Gabby.

The road to success wasn’t easy.

“We have a double whammy because we’re two different minorities. We’re African American, and we’re females. When I was trying to get funding for my business, they wouldn’t really listen to me because one, my age, but also because of my race and my gender. I would be in a room talking about my hair products for curly haired black girls, in front of white, bald men. It’s so hard to explain to them what exactly my business does, how it works, and how they can help my business grow,” she said.

Gabby, who with her mother created the Mommy and Me Entrepreneurship Academy to help young girls and their moms start their own business under Gabby’s brand, says finding a support network early is key.

“Find a village around you. ... I’ve had great support from my city mayor and everybody else who’s been around in that kind of government area or just people that live in my city as well. Find a village around you, your family, your friends. You never know how you can involve somebody into your business,” she said.

Don’t be afraid of setbacks

In addition to managing school, a social life, and competing as an artistic swimmer, Rachel Holmes, 18, is the CEO of Black Girls Mean Business, a free nationwide virtual summer business program for Black high school girls. The program offers six Zoom workshops to help improve business and career skills, expand a network, and prepare girls for life after high school.

“As an aspiring businesswoman myself, I understood the barriers Black women face going into business and wanted to ensure black girls in my community had the support and resources necessary to reach their full potential,” said Holmes.

“Black women face an incredible amount of discrimination in business coming from both racism and sexism. They are generally underestimated, denying them the respect, positions, and funding they deserve. I wanted to provide equity to help girls overcome these obstacles. By giving them the tools, they need to be successful early on and empowering them, I hope to see more representation in executive positions and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Holmes says being a Black entrepreneur at a young age is not only setting her up for success, but others as well. “It can be daunting at times knowing that you will face barriers and knowing that people are watching what you do. But it’s amazing knowing I can make a difference and set an example. Representation matters!” she said.

Her advice for aspiring young Black entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid of setbacks.

“Use them as opportunities to improve next time. Ask for help, even if you think you don’t need it. You got this! People will support what you are doing, you just have to have the courage to get started,” she said.

Patience is critical for business success

A CEO, day trader, investor and author are just some the titles held by Christon “The Truth” Jones at the age of 15. When he was just 10, Jones launched his business, Return On Investment. Through the company’s three programs, $tocks 101, Black Wealth Matters, and The Truth Success Series, Black entrepreneurs can learn how to begin investing and trading, about the stock market, and how to create both short- and long-term passive income.

More recently, Jones discovered interest in real estate investing. He currently owns two properties and hopes to own 10 or more in the next five years.

“I was always looking for a new avenue to make money,” Jones said. “I really just became interested in the topic. I began asking my mentors and people around me that could really teach me and explain to me how the business works,” he added.

Jones says overcoming age and race discrimination are among the hardest challenges he has faced.

“Going to networking events, being discriminated against, not really being able to meet the people I wanted to meet because they don’t want to talk to me because, you know, they’re like ‘you’re a little black kid. Yeah. Okay. Move on to the side,’” Jones said.

Key ingredients in his success and overcoming obstacles include being consistent, being creative, having self-discipline, taking action and, most importantly, having patience.

“Patience is probably one of the biggest things I know” Jones said. “When you first start entrepreneurship, you kind of want to rush everything, you want to get your money, you want to be famous. You want to get all these connections, but really your journey is a lot slower,” he added.

By Jaala Brown, CNBC Talent Development Intern

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