Cultivating courage is essential for entrepreneurs

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Carlo White focused his keynote message on the courage entrepreneurship demands. Photo by Latoya Dixon Photography

By Dr. Nika White, president and CEO of Nika White Consulting LLC

What: Honoring African-Americans in Commerce, an empowerment event and award ceremony
Where: Commerce Club of Greenville
Who Was There: 180 entrepreneurs, notable community leaders, and professionals
Feature Presentation: Carlo White, president and CEO of White Holdings

The Commerce Club, which is both a symbol of and active site for Greenville’s business community, was the perfect setting for a luncheon that celebrated the accomplishments of four African-American-owned companies, as well as entrepreneurial achievement in the African-American community at large. The companies recognized were Antioch Group, Cornerstone Salon and Spa, Memoirs Fine Catering and Event Planning, and HD Auston Moving Systems.

Before that, Carlo White focused a rousing keynote message on the courage entrepreneurship demands. White, a serial entrepreneur, owns a holding company whose portfolio has included insurance and trucking companies, as well as Nika White Consulting, a diversity and inclusion consultancy. Whatever the nature of the business, White said, the challenges that shake a business owner’s courage remain the same.

With a turn of phrase and animated manner that frequently had the audience laughing, White talked about the creative ways African-Americans tend to deal with the enormous amount of risk involved in starting a business.

“While regrouping during the recession, I would retreat to the Commerce Club. I stood right here and said to myself, ‘This is where you belong, right here at the top of the city, 17 floors up. … Now go on and get back down to where you are so you can get up here.’”

White stressed that entrepreneurs must remain courageous not only for themselves, but for the family and community members who are watching their journey. Especially within the African-American community, facing challenges inspires others, while giving up can discourage them.

“It’s mentally taxing, but every day you get up and you do it. And that takes courage,” White said. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said we need to build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear. So, it takes one, two, three, this room of all of us to build a dike of courage in our community to help us meet the challenge of the day.”

He added, “If you want to put them on a scale of contagion, fear is way more contagious than courage.”

The talk laid out three practices that help entrepreneurs refuel their courage, enabling them to meet any new challenge.

  1. Appreciate your start through commemoration.

To commemorate means to recall and show respect. When the work becomes difficult, it presents an opportunity to go back to your beginnings and appreciate how you got to the place you are today. Coming from a family that was supported through his father’s entrepreneurship, White looks to his own youth spent watching his father persevere through tough business times. Whatever the spark that ignited the journey, recalling it can keep the fire burning in trying times.

  1. Embrace struggles through collaboration.

Most organizations experience constant tension between cash flow and personnel needs. Owners can get stuck thinking such struggles are unique, when in fact they’re just a part of doing business. Yet, there exist numerous resources designed to help, and entrepreneurs need to seek out those partnerships. Resources from the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to the minority-empowering Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council expand networks, offering free or affordable help overcoming common business obstacles.

  1. Recognize success through celebration.

White encouraged the audience to see success in every accomplished goal, rather than view it as an endpoint. Celebration can be as simple as recognizing what you’ve accomplished by the end of the day, taking time to fully enjoy that moment. Even if you’re inclined toward big, audacious goals, it’s important to find opportunities to celebrate along the tumultuous path to achievement. Celebratory moments, alone or with others, keep courage closer to the surface, where it will be needed again sooner or later.

The event closed with an announcement of the $5,000 James E. White Sr. African American Business Accelerator Grant, sponsored by Carlo and Nika White of White Holdings and named after Carlo’s father. Applications are now open at http://www.nikawhite.com/events/african-american-business-accelerator-grant/.

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