Despite what you may see on social media, starting a business is not easy as it looks. It takes a certain (and very specific) level of dedication, perseverance and the ability to work hard.

The reality is that Black entrepreneurs tend to face a different set of obstacles than their counterparts and it’s a reality that must be addressed. There’s  no amount of “advice” that will work for you if you’re not executing and applying what you’ve learned.

Luckily for the finalists in our EBONY The Upload and Urban Creatives Rapid Accelerator and $10,000 Pitch Competition at SXSW this weekend, we’ve enlisted professionals who can relate to where they are and where they’re headed.

#TheUpload Event is a new initiative that will be held during South by Southwest (SXSW) for minority entrepreneurs disrupting the television, film, music, arts and/or creative economy by harnessing the power of technology. Produced by Urban Co-Lab, a social venture transforming under-served neighborhoods, this event is an incredible opportunity to support our own.

Since Monday, selected finalists have participated in a rapid accelerator which included featured mentors such as Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, Founders of Feel Rich; Bryan-Michael Cox, Grammy award winning R&B producer, among others. Entrepreneur, music producer, actor, business mogul and co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Dame Dash recently met with the finalists to share invaluable insight on navigating the business world.

“Number one in business, no one is going to give you anything,” the mogul began. “I’m cut from a cloth where you have to have honor in order to survive. I just continued to be aggressive – I didn’t listen to anyone tell me what I should be doing.”

Known for always keeping it real and direct, Dame shared these gems that are useful for an business owner, regardless of what stage they are in.

On making your own rules:

“The person that works the hardest, eventually will become the best. If you want to do something at a professional level, you gotta work harder than everybody.”

“If you’re doing something that no one’s done before, who can really give you advice on what you’re doing? If you have a point of view and you believe in what you’re doing 100% confident, no one can tell you that ‘you can’t do it this way’ or ‘you can’t it that way’. There’s different ways to do things. You have to be honest, play the game fair but be prepared to defend yourself when people don’t play the game fair and not take it personal.”

On the smart way to build your team:

“If you get with someone that believes in your vision just as much as you do, they’re not gonna work for a check,  they’re gonna work for equity. It’s not gonna be about the money, it’s gonna be about how you inspire people to follow you and inspire people to believe in what you believe, and they get a piece of it. With Jay-Z, I made him a partner because I believed in him just as much as he believed in me.”

When hiring, Dame advised the startup founders to make sure to have a Chief Financial Officer in place to help structure the company.

On how to find out if your work is worth investing in:

“Proof of concept. Everyone can say they got something and it don’t really matter. I don’t listen to a business plan. I’ll invest in an artist if I see that he’s already invested in himself. I stopped investing other people and had to start investing in myself. I won’t sell something that I won’t buy.”

On looking at the bigger picture:

“It’s really about something I’m gonna enjoy. Wealth to me is about the quality of living, it’s never about the money. All money is not good money. It’s about how much I enjoy it and figuring out how to monetize it without compromising anything like my soul or my credibility.”

Attending #SXSW this year? Join us for our event!


Melissa Kimble is the Senior Social Media Manager for the EBONY brand. An advocate for Black Creatives via #blkcreatives, you can connect with her on Twitter at @Melissa_Kimble.