According to the most recent available Census data, 852,000 Black Americans working in the U.S. are self-employed. With 2021 being dubbed the “Great Resignation,” employees are looking inward, shifting priorities, and pursuing their passions. Looking ahead, entrepreneurship is likely to be the hottest career move. However, running your own company can be a daunting process; you need a proper support system in place to prosper and thrive .
EO OneWorld, a NYC-based membership platform of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, works to recruit, retain, empower, and advance entrepreneurs of color, women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Recently, EBONY caught up with Lauren Messiah, the president of the entrepreneurial platform, to discuss her own journey, tips for entrepreneurial success, as well as the lowdown on EO Soul, EO OneWorld's newly launched initiative that focuses on equitable access to financing, strengthening connections within the community, and scaling Black businesses for long-term success.
EBONY: How did your journey as an entrepreneur begin?
Lauren Messiah: I didn't go to business school. I didn't even set out to start my own business, it just kind of happened. I quickly realized I didn’t like working for other people and I had an idea for a business. It was always my dream to work in fashion. The reality is that earning a degree does not guarantee a job in your industry. When I set out on my entrepreneurial journey, I had no savings and no plan. I was determined to make real money without abandoning my dream of working in fashion and helping women find confidence in themselves. I made the jump and exited my full-time job. I lived off of unemployment when I started my business. I had $475 every two weeks from unemployment and, somehow, I used that money to live and build a website. I used social media to market my services. It was not easy and I had no idea about funding, scaling, or networking.
How did you become involved with EO OneWorld?
My first business was a fashion school for aspiring stylists. I muscled my way to the $350,000 in annual revenue mark, and then I discovered EO Accelerator. Within eighteen months, I reached the one million dollar mark and joined EO. I started a second company which enabled me to live out my dream. Today, I help women find confidence, style, and success through online courses, coaching, and my latest book, Style Therapy: 30 Days to Your Signature Style. This success is all thanks to EO—having a community of people who “get it” changed the game for me.
What are the membership requirements to join EO?
To become an EO member, you need to be the founder or owner of a company with more than $1 million in revenue. We have an affiliate program, EO Accelerator, for founders or owners of companies with under $1 million in revenue and revenue of more than $250,000.
What are your plans for EO OneWorld to support Black entrepreneurs?
The first initiative will be EO Soul, an affinity group of Black EO members and their allies. We will focus on attracting Black entrepreneurs to EO OneWorld. Shortly after that, initiatives will be launched to focus on the Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQIA+ communities. One of the overarching goals of EO Soul is to bring intellectual capital, a global network, intimate gatherings, a structured support system, and monthly learning and social events to the Black entrepreneurial community.
We want to give access to experiences with members that look like us. We have unique events and learnings that will address the challenges that minority entrepreneurs face and help us accelerate faster than going on your own. Honestly, you don't want to come to a party if your homies aren't there. One of the first objectives is to have events and create content that speaks to us. We want to see more of us in the room.
How do you get to a milestone like making $1 million in sales?
It’s all mindset. You can put out a very niche product that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and make millions of dollars. Whenever I work with my own clients, before we do anything, we address mindset. If you have a loser mindset and you think making money is hard or you're super negative and not interested in growing or learning, you're never going to make it. There's no strategy that you can buy that will make you a million dollars. Have a reason beyond money. Know your purpose behind your business and find the deeper meaning. You need both purpose and fashion to get things done and become successful.
What is one of the most valuable tools you can have as you grow your business?
Find a community because you can’t do it alone. Think about it—you can't confide in your employees or talk to one of your employees about another. This is not your old 9-5; you are the boss now. You need to connect with other bosses and other people that truly get your struggles and can share from experience. You need other like-minded professionals to talk about business challenges and to share your wins. One of our priorities for EO OneWorld is to create that forum where you can connect with your fellow forum members about everything, including the uncomfortable things that happen in the news cycle.
What are some books that you recommend for entrepreneurs?
I love reading and I have lots of recommendations. The titles cover mindset, understanding business, and personal development; they are a great place to start.
- Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success by Napoleon Hill
- The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
- Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Dr. Joe Dispenza
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime by MJ DeMarco
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
What is one piece of advice that you’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
You have to just jump—there is no job security. We learned over the pandemic that nobody's job is safe. You're safest being an entrepreneur, as crazy as that sounds. I'm not a risk-taker but I was compelled to do it. It was the best decision I ever made because now I make millions of dollars. What I made annually in my last job, I now make more than that in a month. It's up to you, you have to take the darn risk.