In the business world, the term “hustle” has become synonymous with that relentless work ethic entrepreneurs need to achieve their goals.
When Amoye Henry and her colleagues at Pitch Better decided to create Modern Hustle Collective, a private membership network connecting Black women founders with mentors and strategic business planning, the idea was to support Black women in their hustle.
“There weren’t any real tangible workshops that were helping women of colour scale their businesses,” says Ms. Henry, co-founder of market research firm Pitch Better.
Data confirms that need. A 2021 report from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub found that 30 per cent of self-employed Black Canadians are women and that Black entrepreneurs are less likely to have access to financing and support. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs. Also, the 2021 FoundHers Report from Pitch Better found that 90 per cent of Canadian Black women rarely participate in professional development programs due to lack of information.
Ms. Henry says Modern Hustle Collective started as a touring event, visiting cities like Vancouver and Halifax. Once the pandemic hit, the program moved online, like many of the businesses the network would come to serve.
“Our business model changed significantly as we began to show women how critical it was to have a presence in the digital space,” Ms. Henry says. “That’s kind of how we started, grew, [and now] Modern Hustle Collective [is] one of our flagship capacity-building programs.”
The current eight-week online program covers essential information and strategies for business owners, says Peta-Ann Leon, director of memberships and partnerships at Pitch Better.
There are weekly meetings that Ms. Leon refers to as “power hours,” each led by a subject matter expert who can give participants real-life examples and advice that apply to their business. Participants learn about adding value and return on investment, branding, building a business model, buyer personas, network mapping, go-to-market planning and garnering investment.
Around week five, participants are paired with mentors in their industry and begin meeting with them for 30-minute sessions, often virtually. There is also ‘homework’ each week, so participants have something to work on between each session. The program ends with a pitch event.
Ms. Leon says she was an entrepreneur herself when she joined the team, and understood that there was a need for a program like Modern Hustle Collective.
“We’ve definitely created a safe space for women in business to share their triumphs and get access to practical and tactical strategies, especially when it comes to what to do next; for instance, creating a business model or starting to think more as an enterprise,” she says.
A key part of the program is helping women build a business that does more than just support their lifestyle, she notes. They begin to look at their businesses as global entities that could cross borders and reach new markets by discovering their ideal customers.
“They can pay themselves, but also they can grow their business and hire more people in our community and start to think globally,” she says.
Ms. Leon says one of the highlights is seeing women evolve during the program.
“I like to see their thinking change from the start when they’re introducing themselves to their peers and talking about their business, [to] really starting to see that vision widen,” she says.
Meghan Symonds is the owner of Halifax Charcuterie and a participant in the Modern Hustle Collective program.
“I am the first in my family and friend group to have a business and go into entrepreneurship,” says Ms. Symonds, who launched her business in 2021.
Ms. Symonds thought it would take years to see her business take off, but it was more like months. “This is happening now, already,” she says.
She has built up a strong network of corporate clients who order her gourmet platters of meat, cheese, crackers, fruit and other nibbles, handling large orders and deliveries on her own.
Since joining the Modern Hustle Collective program, Ms. Symonds says one of her biggest learnings was that “zooming out” is important to efficiently run her business.
“Don’t overcomplicate what you need to do and you can market [your business] better,” she says. “I also apply that to the rest of my life.”
Gaining a group of Black women entrepreneurs to turn to has also been invaluable, she adds.
“Creating that community and having a good network of women who you can reach out to, even if they’re not next door in your city, is helpful,” she says.
Fiyin Obayan, who runs Saskatoon-based video services and coaching company Okiki Consulting, was also a participant in the program. She turned to Modern Hustle Collective during the pandemic when she was narrowing her business niche.
“I had the time to actually step back and say, ‘Okay, if I want to be known for something, what should it be?’ " she says.
Ms. Obayan was matched with a mentor during the program, and through some of their one-on-one discussions, she got a better idea of strategies she could employ to make her business thrive.
“We talked about the amount of outreach [my mentor] had to do to really get things going,” she says. “Learning how to do that, and what it looks like tangibly, was really helpful as well.”
A program in evolution
While Ms. Henry and Ms. Leon say the program is still in its infancy, it has already made a positive impact on Black women entrepreneurs. It will continue to evolve, says Ms. Henry.
“My hope is that it continues to grow and that we could potentially be part of a program at a community college or university,” she says.
As women entrepreneurs continue to drive business ownership in Canada, the need for such programs will doubtless grow as well.
As Ms. Leon says: “Give a woman one dollar and she’ll multiply it.”
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