Black Women’s Business Collective founder Zanade Mann on advocating for your peers

In celebration of this year’s International Women's Day, we’re challenging ourselves to support, give visibility to, and praise women’s achievements.

Our IWD theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. Challenge drives change, so we must choose to challenge ourselves. And the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Women, and especially black women, have been hit disproportionately hard during this pandemic. It’s going to take exceptionally bold and driven people to rise to the challenge. And no one knows this better than Zanade Mann, founder and Managing Director of the Black Women’s Business Collective.

She created this collective in 2020 out of a growing need to provide access and resources to Black and Afro-Latina women business owners who started experiencing difficulties in the wake of COVID-19. What began as a crowdsourcing initiative quickly evolved into an ecosystem where women can access funding, business training, and community building to help their businesses scale.

In this special episode, we sat down with Zanade to talk about allyship, empowering Black-owned businesses, and what it takes to change deeply seated systemic issues and affect policy at a national level.

If you’re short on time, here are a few quick takeaways:

If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, on Spotify, or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.

Lifelong teacher

Dee Reddy: Zanade, you are so very welcome along to Inside Intercom today. We’re delighted to chat with you about your work at Black Women’s Business Collective, Indefinite Breakthrough, and the Phoenix Fund. But to kick us off, do you want to give us a little bit of background on yourself for any of our audience that might not be familiar with your work to date?

Zanade Mann: Absolutely, and thank you for having me today. Hello everyone! My name is Zanade and I am a communications professional with over 15 years of experience in marketing, and a strong skill set in social media marketing. I have had many businesses, multiple streams of income, and I’m just finding my way through this life. My favorite thing to say is I’ve lived many lives within this one life. So, I’m very excited to talk about all of the projects that you mentioned.

Dee: Super. And as you alluded there, you have had quite a mixed bag of careers, having worked in communications and education. Do you want to deep dive into that a little bit for us?

“I said, ‘But I want to be a teacher.” She goes, “No, you don’t. They don’t get paid anything, they treat you like crap, and it’s a waste of time.'”

Zanade: So, education. I’ve always been a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher, I’ve always had this idea that I wanted to be a teacher. That’s the important part – in many ways, you cannot be swayed by what people say to you. And I say all of that because when I was in seventh grade, my homeroom teacher had said to me, “You should go into communications,” or, “You should be on TV.” And I said, “But I want to be a teacher.” So, she goes, “No, you don’t.” And I had no idea, remember, I’m in seventh grade. And she goes, “They don’t get paid anything.” She was like, “They treat you like crap, and it’s a waste of time. Go get money somewhere else.” And I’m like, “Okay.” So, I did escape that whole idea of teaching in a classroom until I was about, I’m going to say about 29.

I was a contractor for the New York City Department of Education, and I was actually teaching business and coding programs. I’m self-taught with coding, and I have a great connection with youth, so I was lucky enough to get a contract in the New York City public schools on an afterschool basis. I loved it. I fell in love with the bright young minds in front of me. At that time, I had my own full-time business in contracting. And I said, “You know what? I want to do this full-time. I just want to experience it.”

I looked at the qualification and I got in a training program called The New York City Teaching Fellows, which allows people who have bachelor’s degrees, or even master’s degrees, to go back and get their masters in education, which is a requirement for New York City. And the program was amazing, I loved it. I got into the classroom, and it wasn’t what I thought. I expected the excitement of afterschool and all the kids, we were just talking, there weren’t really these lesson plans. But when I got into the classroom full-time it was, not culture shock, but it was like, whoa, this is deep. So, I had that experience for about five years. I met so many different people and educators. I absolutely loved it.

Elevating Black-owned businesses

Dee: Those core strengths around education, or coaching, or mentoring, I imagine you utilize those in your work now as an advocate for women of color in professional services. Did that play into how you came up with the idea for the Black Women’s Business Collective?

Zanade: I call it BWBC for short. So, the Black Women’s Business Collective came up from a moment of stress for a lot of my business friends who happen to be Black and Afro-Latina women. Some managed to live off of their businesses, and some of them had a nine to five and they’re bootstrapping these other businesses. Around April of 2020, we were having these conversations and they were like, “I lost this contract. I lost that contract.” If you’re in marketing or communications in the business world, you know that we’re usually the first to go, because when you think of the different buckets of what a business entails – finance and sales and all this stuff –, people believe that those are the things that hold it all together, and you can throw the marketing and comms side away.

So, what happens when you’re dealing with small businesses, which many of my sister-friends, I like to call them, were involved in, that’s the first to go. So, they started losing dozens of contracts. One of my very good friends and business advisors, she has sustained herself for 10 plus years with dozens of clients. And in this period, everyone’s afraid they’re going to lose their money, and they just started cutting all of her contracts. I think she lost about six or seven of them. I said, “There’s something that we need to do.” And because of my background in business solutions, business development, marketing, communications, education, I’m used to planning.

“When all the hype goes away, who is going to save Black-owned businesses?”

Something that I got from being an educator is planning backward, which set me in a different direction because I would just say, “Okay. I have to do this, this, this, this, and that, and it leads up to a goal.” Teaching taught me to develop what I want to do from the goal and go backward. If the goal is for them to learn multiplication or something like that, then I need to know the steps below that they have to achieve to get to the ultimate goal.

So, putting all of that together and just putting my thinking cap on in the hot summertime, around the summer in 2020, I was very hot in New York City. And something was going on with the AC system and I didn’t want to be bothered with it. So, I dealt with it, and I feel like it gave me some grit because I was just pouring sweat, sitting at the window, and just typing away and brainstorming, which is something I do often. And that idea came up. I said, we need something where we can collectively gather, we can amplify our own voices. That’s something that happens with Black-owned businesses.

When you think of Black-owned businesses, a lot of us are underfunded, and I’m sure you’re well aware of that. We’re really underfunded, so a lot of times we have to sit there and deeply strategize. So, Harvard Business School is by the window with no AC in 98-degree weather with a laptop, trying to figure out how she is going to uplift the 30 or 40 women that she knows who are either bootstrapping or have been doing great. They have been thriving, and now they’re trying to survive.

With that idea, I said, “You know what? Maybe we do a directory.” And I called it the database. And the reason that came about is that I noticed there was a lot of press. Media is good and bad, and we know that. But one thing about the media when it comes to Black-owned businesses is what I call the hype. One of my email newsletters to my group was called When The Hype Goes Away. I said, when all the hype goes away, who is going to save Black-owned businesses? And I got a lot of attention off of that. And people were like, “Yeah, you’re right.”

“We can’t do this alone. A lot of Black-owned businesses, we’re all doing it alone. We’re looking at stuff on Google. How can we get this all together? How can we pool our resources?”

Because the news was talking about it, everyone’s talking about Black-owned businesses and shop Black and all that stuff. And that’s great, but there’s a deeper challenge. And we’ll get more into that about the CASH acronym, but essentially, how do we collectively gather? Because we can’t do this alone. A lot of Black-owned businesses, we’re all doing it alone, either from our phones where we may have a very small network, we may or may not have a mentor. We’re looking at stuff on Google. How can we get this all together? How can we pool our resources? How can we bring in some allies who are open to not just saying, “Hey, here’s all the money, and now we’re going to walk away,” but rather “I have access, so let me bring you some of that access. Let me start these conversations for you in the spaces that you may not be in that could help scale your business.”

And that became Black Women Business Collective. Off of a $30 Instagram ad – I was really bootstrapping this –, I put out this post that I was looking for Black women-owned businesses, and you get to add your business to the directory for free. And the pitch was, all you have to do was answer six questions in under two minutes, and your business would be amplified for free.

Now, of course, there are a lot of databases and a lot of directories for businesses out there, and a few popped up for Black-owned businesses. But the thing they didn’t offer was the marketing and the publicity push that I have in my background. So, yes. Tons of directories, but this one directory, I’m going to put in front of media. In this one directory, I’m going to have Black Enterprise talking about me. I’m going to keep on pushing and amplifying the voices of women I’ve never heard of or spoke to. So, within, I think it was about 35 days, we wound up getting close to 3000 women to fill out this form. The purpose of the form was to find out some information about them. And I mean, that’s essentially what started that idea – a lot of us were just losing money.

Gender equality in the wake of COVID

Dee: And I love, as you mentioned, the hype earlier in your answer there. And I think it strikes me that what you’re doing is you’re putting weight behind and longevity to that hype and making sure that businesses can actually get something out of them that helped them build and help them survive. You mentioned the timing of when it came about because this is born out of COVID-19. There’s a lot of reports that suggest that women have been and will be disproportionately affected by what’s happened in the last year in professional terms. On top of the racial side of things that you’re talking about, is this more generally a problem for women that you’ve observed? And why do you think that is?

“The job loss, the uncertainty, not knowing if you’re going to be able to pay rent and if your employer is going to let you go”

Zanade: Oh, absolutely. And I mean, as you mentioned, we’ve seen it in news. The disparities are horrible. And not only for Black women and women of color. All women right now, in this moment and all of 2020, we were suffering. I mean, a lot of us, I have children. I’m very fortunate, and I’m only going to say this for this moment in my life because I have not always been this fortunate. I am fortunate at this moment in my life because I have a husband, so we have two incomes. But 10 years ago, I wasn’t.

So, if I was in this space without an extra income or housing live in New York City so it really hit New York hard. It hit other places hard as well, but for New York, the job loss, the uncertainty, not knowing if you’re going to be able to pay your rent and if your employer is going to let you go because you work for a small restaurant and the restaurant closes. And although they may or may not have had access to the PPP loans, a lot of people were still losing their jobs. Now, I do want to add, many of the women that I have been speaking to who have later on found out about BWBC said, “You know what? They turned me from full-time to part-time. I’m collecting unemployment. And I just started a nail polish business. Or I just started a shea butter business.”

So, birthed out of necessity, they started these businesses, and they’re bootstrapping. They don’t have the tools. They don’t know the business solutions, the know-how, the practical things that you should do to market or pre-launch your products, but they’re out there making sales. And I often talk about the American Express commission report from 2019, where they talk about the disparities of revenue of which I’m a champion of right now – revenue equality for women of color. And specifically, Black women who have businesses. But we are still challenged.

“You’ve got to find your tribe, find your circle”

And my idea, I’ve always been pushing it before pre-COVID. I’m always about women’s empowerment. I’ve always told women you should have multiple strings of income. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur. You don’t have to leave your nine to five, but you should have some type of security outside of your employer. So, I’m still on that.

And now, I think the message is clearer to a lot of the women that I interact with because now they’re just like, “Yeah, you’re right. COVID has slowed me down, whether it was positive or negative, but it slowed us down. And now I’m thinking about starting my own business. Now I’m thinking about going back to school.” This is such an interesting time for all of us where lots of negatives, but so many positives are available if you take hold of it and start reading business books and joining a collective like the Black Women’s Business Collective. You’ve got to find your tribe, find your circle. And we have to live through this moment. We are struggling, all of us, in our own little way. But if you are fortunate enough to have your health and your mental state, set up your mind to go forward.


Dee: To bring it back to the BWBC. Because we can talk about women in general, but ultimately with intersectionality, the problems faced by the members of the BWBC, with that extra layer of race, there are further obstacles that are being faced. And a lot of them are systemic. They’re around raising capital. There are issues around networking and the business world.

It’s something we were lucky enough to chat to Lynnise Pantin about last year. She’d written that amazing piece for Colorlines, From Fyre Fest to Theranos, the Invisible Racial Subtext of Raising Capital. I highly recommend anyone going back to either listen to that episode or read her piece. She makes a compelling and stark argument for the actual realities faced by women of color in business. But you’ve come up with a way of combating that. So do you want to tell us about your concept of CASH? And tell us how you’re going about breaking down these barriers?

Zanade: So CASH. A little backstory: I mentioned earlier, I used to live in Staten Island. I am a born and raised, third-generation Staten Island person. And for anyone who is maybe a hip-hop head, the Wu-Tang Clan was birthed out of the area where I used to live when I was a child. And they had a song, a very popular song called Cash Rules Everything Around Me. And it was called C.R.E.A.M., I believe. And it was just something that we loved. So as I was thinking about all of the challenges and barriers that Black women business owners and Afro-Latina business owners face, that song just popped in my head. So I said, “Okay, CASH. I’m going to make this work.” And it worked out perfectly.

So we will start with C. As you mentioned earlier, Capital. Access to capital was the first one. And it’s perfect within this C-A-S-H, that C comes first because capital is the first thing. We are completely under-funded. We need capital. Capital investment, capital to buy machinery. This basic stuff, a lot of Black women-owned businesses do not have, or they have so many other personal responsibilities that that money needs to go to.

“People will often say, “Oh, try to get VC funding.” That’s not an option for many of us until that atmosphere opens up. And that leads me to A, which is allyship. We need buy-in”

And I know this personally because my oldest is 21 years old. And when I had my oldest, I didn’t have any money. I was completely broke. I was struggling. I sat in school full-time and I used to spend $1 a day on pretzels to eat. And that’s how I survived. And I passed through it to get where I wanted to go in life. So, I have that personal connection, and I know what it feels like to want to do something for your business or a business idea that you have and not have the capital.

And I know people will often say, “Oh, try to get VC funding or angel investment funding.” That is not an option for many of us until that atmosphere opens up for us. And that leads me to A, which is allyship. We need buy-in. We need people who have access. We can’t create it ourselves. You may have the opportunity to be around the access, but we don’t have the access, which would be the systemic barriers that you mentioned earlier. Because it’s systemic, that already 100% excludes us.

And there’s a little controversy behind that, but we do need those champions in certain spaces. We can say, “Oh, you know what? Let’s pool our own money. We could do it ourselves.” And I get it. I’ve seen it done in certain communities. But for most of us who want to scale, we need capital investment. We need someone to make warm introductions for us because that’s just the world we live in right now, unfortunately, with the amount of racism and other systemic challenges out there. We need someone to open that door for us or even give us information.

A lot of times, we are bootstrapping unnecessarily because we don’t know better. You only know what you know. So if you don’t know it, you’re liable to make a mistake or put yourself in a situation where you don’t have to do that, you can outsource. I remember the first time someone said to me, “Why are you doing that yourself? Why don’t you outsource?” And they told me about this website: “Go get some people who can create that graphic for you.”

Because I was learning CS4. That’s how old I am. We’re talking about Creative Suite 4 from Adobe. And I was over here learning Illustrator because I said, “I need some cool graphics so people can like my business.” This was my mindset. And then someone said, “No, just pay somebody, if you have it, pay in $50 and get them to make the logo for you. You don’t have to put all your brainpower into that. And I’m just like, “Oh, okay.”

“If you know about a program or a grant that just opened up, go apply. And then share that with 10 of your sister-friends who you know are in business”

But a lot of us at this moment, they don’t know that. They want to make some sales: they’re making some shea butter, they’re making soap, they’re making candles. And they’re not thinking about these processes that will help them scale your business. So that you don’t have to work in it, you’re working on it. And that comes from access. Give me access to information. You don’t have to give me access to your whole network. I mean, that would be nice too. But you can give me access to information, share what you know. Your glass can only be filled to a certain point.

Dee: You made the point about opening the door for someone. But in some cases, it’s really a just case of holding the door open as you’re going through it so that somebody else can get in too.

Zanade: There you go. Right. And that’s it. Just share. I’ve been very fortunate in the past, I’ve had male business mentors, white men. I wanted to learn wealth. I wanted to learn a business. And when I look at who is the top at business and wealth, you get what you get. So I’m just like, “Okay, well, while I’m doing these internships, I’m going to learn from these people.”

I’ve done an internship at UBS, Paine Webber, financial companies. And I would sit there and learn and just let them talk, whether it was bragging, whatever they were doing. I’m just listening to them, talk about the systems, talk about the stock markets, talk about how businesses work.

And one thing that one of my bosses said to me, and I don’t know if this is 100%, “The thing about women and men when it comes to network, men don’t mind sharing resources.” And he was like, “I’ve noticed that women in business, they just want to hold things.” And again, this is not exclusive to all women, but I have throughout my life noticed that. If you know about a program or a grant that just opened up, go apply. And then share that with 10 of your sister-friends who you know are in business. Don’t hold all of those resources to yourself.

“Let’s say you get the money. Someone gives you access. They make warm introductions. They hold the door open. Now, what do you do?”

And I don’t know where that comes from, but definitely share and hold that door open, give access. And we can move to S, one of my favorite parts, something me and my team can actually help in, which would be the strategy. Let’s say you get the money. Someone gives you access. They make warm introductions. They hold the door open. Now, what do you do?

And I’ve been there. I have had, at certain points, not a lot of capital, but people have made small investments in me, and have given me access. And then I found myself with no game plan. I was so hungry for capital and access that when I finally got it, I didn’t know what to do. My favorite example is when I got an invitation to be interviewed by one of the editorial reporters for Ink Magazine, I think he’s at Vox now, but he had invited me, he learned about my business somehow. The internet had just started booming, so it’s like Clubhouse now – if you got out there a couple of months ago, you could be a rockstar. You try to get in now, you’re going to get saturated.

So I happened to get in at the very beginning of all of that and the man asked me to come to his office. Now, mind you, I had never been in Manhattan in a publisher’s office or anything like that. And he’s like, “I love this idea.” And back then, it was called Designing Women Worldwide, which was pretty much a collective of all businesswomen and networking, all the stuff. And I get to the office. I come in, I look good, and I’m speaking well. And then he asked me something about what was the plan for next year. What was my strategy? “How are you going to make money? What’s the revenue model?” I knew what he was talking about, but I didn’t have an answer for that. I could not articulate it. I’m really good at coming up with things, but I said, “Yeah… I’m just going to push it out to some of my friends…” They did not feature my interview in Ink Magazine.

“They need to be thinking about strategy before the capital comes in”

And I was crying, I was upset, And I’m, “I failed. I failed.” But now in my life, I go “No, that makes perfect sense.” I didn’t speak about the blueprint, I didn’t speak about the revenue model. I didn’t have that strategy set in place, which is what Black women and Afro-Latina women business owners need. They need a strategy. They need to be thinking about strategy before the capital comes in. So some people call it your viable product, or your most viable concept, or something. I keep on saying shea butter because I have a lot of data behind some of these shea butter businesses, which is brilliant. Someone was just in my DMs on Instagram, a woman that I granted money to, and she’s just like, “I have all these spa boxes, and I’m just ready to give it out, but no one’s biting.” She’s not getting the effect that she wants.

So I said, “Well, what’s your marketing plan? What are you thinking? In your business plan, what was going to be your revenue model? What was your idea of making a sale? Do you have a benchmark? Is there something you’re aiming to?” And she’s just like, “Yeah, I sent some boxes out to some people and I’m not getting the traction.” So I told her about user-generated content and I said, “Well, did you give them a clear call to action?” She said she did. I said, “Well, I think the one thing is that you put the product out there and you didn’t really think about your sales funnel, you didn’t think about these things.” And she’s like, “Yeah, you’re right.” And I said, “Well, no big deal. Now’s the time. Let’s take the rest of the weekend.”

I sent her some resources, and I said, “Come up with a plan. Set up your projections so you can have this. Maybe you want to sell ten boxes by June,” because they’re high-end boxes. I know it’s lowball, but it’s a start. Don’t just say I’m going to put it out there and hope that 50 boxes get sold. They hope it, but there are no plans to do that. If you want ten boxes sold, and I’m making this up, but you might want to call some places, maybe a nursing home or something, and say, “We have these very high-end spa boxes. It’s like a happiness box.” Again, I’m just making this up on the top of my head.

“There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs that I have seen within the collective, a lot of them don’t believe they can do it”

You do something like that, and one of them has to bite. Send them a box and maybe they’ll fall in love with it. There are a lot of different options, but you didn’t think about that yet. So it’s the strategy that we need. And again, that’s taking the classes, that’s reading the books, that’s joining the collectives, listening to ideas. And going from there.

And then the last one would be hope. Because in the middle of all of this, you’re going to need to have the hope inside of you that you can do it. There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs that I have seen within the collective, and a lot of them don’t believe that they can do it. Because one, the systemic issues. That’s a big thing to get around, and you’re just like, “But the white people don’t want to give me access.” And I get it. You’re feeling that. The news makes you feel like it, elections make you feel like it. But you don’t really know.

You’re hearing all this stuff, and you’re thinking that you’re only going to be able to sell to your local community, and that’s it, that you’re not going to get the support or the capital. That venture capitalists would never talk to you. Getting rid of self-limiting beliefs, and the hope and the understanding that you can do it, that belief is important. So just to summarize that, because I know I went deep within each one, it’s Capital, it’s Access, it’s Strategy and Hope.

Partnering up

Dee:  In terms of practical applications, what sort of services do you offer?

Zanade: The reason why I have this ecosystem, I call it, is that if you have a problem and you somewhat solve it, you usually cast your net and look for another challenge. When you think about business, you’re solving problems. The one challenge I had was how do I get Black and Afro-Latina business owners to collectively gather in a certain number – my target number was 3,000 –, put their information in, and get into a conversation with them? And my answer was the database. It happened, I got everyone on my email list, and now most of us are in constant communication.

That’s when other problems started to arise. Some I knew about, and some just came out of nowhere, which is the Phoenix Fund. I don’t have the wealth that these millionaire and billionaire investors could give these businesses, but my own little micro capital start is to give out money through the Phoenix Fund. And this is particularly for new business owners and new business concepts. We go through a vetting process – if we believe it’s a viable business and you get your head straight, and you’re ready to attack it, we will grant you micro-grants for LLCs, websites, domains, and for any type of machinery if it’s within our budgets. And we do that as a little start. So that is the capital part. We offer that through the Phoenix Fund.

“Is a business plan necessary to have a great business? No. But it’s necessary to get your thoughts out on paper and see if your idea is valuable”

Then, through Indefinite Breakthrough, the second part of BWBC, we offer business solutions and marketing services. So in practice, what that looks like is giving classes. A lot of it is membership base and the other part is classes. Right now, it’s all virtual, and we’ll see where that goes. But the classes will consist of the business strategies that we were talking about. Surprisingly, many of the businesses that are in this collective or are interested in the collective don’t have things like business plans. Is a business plan necessary to have a great business? No, but I think it’s necessary to at least get your thoughts out on paper and see if your idea is valuable and if you could actually sell what you’re talking about. So these are classes on business development.

I am working with city and state officials, and that is the big goal because that’s that hype we were talking about. There’s this big hype going around. My goal is to work with them because they can say, “Hey, we partner with,” I don’t know, let’s say Pricewater, “And they’re going to teach a finance or accounting course, or something just to get your books in order on a lower scale if you can’t afford an accountant.” So we’re going to partner with them. We’ll bring these women on grants or through paid memberships, and they will learn the business solutions that they need to scale. So that’s one aspect.

The other aspect is the marketing courses that we are offering, mainly in social media marketing, given that a majority of the businesses within the database have some type of e-commerce side. And because of COVID-19, everyone’s virtual. So we’re teaching them how to get their website together – here are some automation tools, here are some hacks, here are some ways to outsource that within your own budget. A lot of it is just taking it back to my passion as a young girl, just educating. So we are offering that, and we’ll see from there where it expands.

But just in case anyone was wondering, my huge goal is to open, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, but like an Omega center, just a huge acreage place where it can be a wellness and business side where women can actually leave their spaces. If you’re at home, you’ve got all these responsibilities going on. It’s almost like an incubator but a boarding school for businesswomen. And then, having that side where if you have kids, we have a babysitting center on-site. So you and your family, y’all come up for three weeks. That is a huge goal for me, I’m really excited about that.

12 tenets of sistership

Dee: That’s redesigning business or office space to suit the needs of women in 2021. I love that. As a follow-on thought, I was reading about your 12 Tenets of Sistership and I thought it was lovely how you’d laid it out. Could you run through what the 12 are and then, for the audience, maybe pick your favorite one or the one you think is the most important.

Zanade: I will actually turn it back on you: which one called out to you the most? And I’ll dive in deep. Because you should know me by now, we go through the 12, we’ll be here for another hour.

Dee: I think, for me, the one that jumped out first, knowing that I was researching this in terms of interviewing you and hearing about the Black Women’s Business Collective, it was number 11, openness to allyship. Because while I’m a woman, I don’t have the experience as a woman of color. So to me, obviously reading number 11, openness to allyship, it’s wrapped up in sistership. There’s something that I can offer and I can do.

“Nowhere in these organizations or corporations, nowhere in the other 11 months have you ever amplified the voices of Black artists or Black businesses”

Zanade: That’s right. I would also say that, and that’s a big one, that is a tough one as well because there’s a lot. What I mean by openness to allyship is: for the Black woman and for the woman of color looking to scale, because the goal is to scale your business and achieve revenue parity, we have to be open to that allyship. Now, there is a lot of discourse going around, “You can’t trust this group. They’ll steal your ideas,” or “They’re just being performative,” that went around in the media for a while.

And we know that to be true. Here in the States, right now, we’re deep in Black History Month, and there are a lot of performative actors on social media. And you see it. Nowhere in these organizations or corporations, nowhere in the other 11 months have you ever amplified the voices of Black artists or Black businesses. You sat down in your campaigns and said, “Oh, let’s make sure that we highlight all these amazing Black women, all these Black people for Black History Month,” but then after that, when that hype goes away, then what? Where’s the capital? Where’s the access? Where’s helping out with strategy? Where is helping them believe?

And it’s also what you see that influences you. If you’re not seeing too many Black women, women that look like you make it, or people helping them, you’re going to start believing that it can’t be done.

Dee: There’s much in your 12 tenets of sistership that can be broadly applied outside of the business.

  1. Upward Mobility Action
  2. Financial Security Initiatives
  3. Willingness to Learn
  4. Accountability Partners
  5. Peer Support & Engagement Groups
  6. Mentorship
  7. Assertive Action
  8. Constructive Feedback
  9. Heart’s Intention
  10. Extending Grace
  11. Openness to Allyship
  12. Abundance of Resources

Zanade: I was going to say my favorite. I mean, I love them all, but one of my favorites is four, which is accountability partners. Instead of staying in your own bubble, it’s important to have your circle and keep each other accountable. And it doesn’t even have to be sistership. This is anything. You need someone who’s going to keep you accountable. Your professor’s going to keep you accountable. Your kids will keep you accountable. Your employer will keep you accountable.

So when you’re going in business, get someone who can keep you accountable. And maybe they don’t have the capacity to check in every single day. A few of my sister-friends, we do 30-minute check-ins throughout the month, where we’re just like, “Okay, so what’s up? What have you done? I know you said you were going to try to pitch this magazine. What happened? Do you need some help? Oh, I know someone. I can make a warm introduction.” You need that. It keeps you going because being in your own space, if you’re not meditating, if it’s just you and your own thoughts, man, that may not be the best thing. So you need some accountability partners.

Affecting change on a national level

Dee: I love that. We don’t have much time left, but I’d just love to hear what has the response been like so far for the BWBC and your favorite results that you’ve seen with one of your partners?

Zanade: So, since July of 2020, we’ve received a good amount of press, which is great. And then, I secured an interview with Cheddar TV, which is major. That was wonderful, and I think that’s one of my greatest accomplishments to date. The fact that people who are inquiring, even if they’re not in the media, they’re just like, “Okay, Zanade, I want to help you out. So look through…” I’ve had people tell me this, and it’s one of my strategies, they were like, “Look through your LinkedIn, look at your second-degree people who you follow, and ask for a warm introduction.” I usually tell people that, but I’ve had people saying to me, “I’m connected to a venture capitalist who would probably be interested in speaking to a handful of the women in your, in your database.”

The opportunities are just multiplying, which is wonderful. And I’m just really excited about working with local officials and in different states where we have high business ownership by Black women, and that’s going to be the most exciting. So it’s very cold-warm right now, and I’m working on it, but that partnership in these states would be exciting because the main goal and what I’m striving for is to have some type of policy change in the US, right?

If we have these economic development hubs, as I mentioned, I would love to have a huge one, a retreat-type base, if we have it in different states… And they do have them, but I think they need to do more for minority business owners to get us set up. So if I can partner with some of the programs that we have for business solutions and marketing with different cities and states, that would just be phenomenal. We’re in the very beginning of that – that is the goal. You affect policy. You pretty much have the leverage to do things that can change systemic issues.

“I can give everyone these micro-grants, and that’s fun, but that’s not going to change the revenue inequality that is going on right now”

Dee: Well, that’s what I was going to say, that it’s only really through that sort of partnership that you can start to remove those systemic obstacles.

Zanade: That’s right. That’s what I’ve been strategizing on. I can give everyone these micro-grants, and that’s fun, but that’s not going to change the revenue inequality that is going on right now, specifically in the US. There’s a hundred thousand dollar difference on average than other people of color and white-owned businesses compared to Black-owned businesses. On average, we’re making $30-40,000 a year and others are making 140… So there’s something there, and a lot of it is systemic. I have a degree in political science, and I already know, if you really, really want to enact change, you have to get to politicians, you have to get into policy and discretionary funding and all this stuff. Because clearly, I can’t solve this on my own. Right? I’m a Black woman. I can’t solve that.

Dee: There’s only so many grants that you can give out. So before we let you go, we often ask guests, if there’s a person in their discipline who they aspire to or who inspires them. And I’d really love to hear yours.

Zanade: Absolutely. I have three, actually, but I’ll talk more about the last one I’ll mention. Oprah Winfrey, of course. I mean, I think a lot of us may mention Oprah Winfrey. Mostly at the beginning and the mid part of her career because of her hustle and her drive-in communications and keeping herself relevant even with personal challenges. That really does inspire me. It keeps me going that, on top of all of this, she stayed consistent and she stayed relevant. That is important because I want longevity in all of this. And then she also helps so many people. That part inspires me.

The other person I’ll mention is Toni Morrison. I write a lot, and what inspires me about her is that in her last documentary, she mentioned that she rises around four or five o’clock in the morning to work on her books, because she has kids, and she’s like, “That’s the only way I can think and have quiet time.” And that inspires me because I also have children and my husband, and after eight o’clock it’s a wrap. So for me to really, really invest in the deep thinking and writing and stuff that I want to do for the business, I rise at between four and five o’clock, and I just work.

“I can look at someone who looks like me and believe that I can one day become a VC or an angel investor”

And then lastly, someone more current would be Kathryn Finney. She is the founder of digitalundivided, and I believe she’s a venture capitalist as well. I have had an opportunity to connect with her on LinkedIn, and she donated money to the Phoenix Fund, she’s from Yale, she’s a Black woman, and she’s just a source of inspiration. And the fact that I can look at someone who looks like me and believe that I can one day become a VC or an angel investor where I have the funds to do so. She’s brilliant. And that’s it.

Dee: We actually had Kathryn on as a guest last year. Kathryn’s an incredible woman. So lastly, before I let you go, where can our listeners go to keep up with you and your work? And what’s your next big project or launch that you’re thinking of.

Zanade: Yes. I love to connect with everyone on social media. I am probably on all the big social media sites at just Zanade. So if you just @Zanade, you will find me. I love to connect. I love to look at other people’s stories and all that other stuff. So connect with me there. And if you want to keep up with the Black Women’s Business Collective, you can sign up for updates at our website at, and you’ll see everything that I’m working on.

But the big project is this state and local project, which is actually called State And Local Project for Revenue Parity. And my goal is to go hard. And when I tell you, I mean, those 4:00 AM mornings, I have a nice team, a little small team. And we do a lot of research and appoint people, we go through my LinkedIn and see who I’m connected to and ask for warm introductions. That big project is to make sure that I have the influence of the Black Women’s Business Collective and indefinite breakthrough throughout the United States that we put action to all of this hype, and that’s all going be through indefinite breakthrough. So I’m very excited about that.

Dee: Well, fantastic. I’m really looking forward to hearing where things go for you this year and beyond. It’s been a genuine pleasure chatting to you today, Zanade.

Zanade: Thank you so much for having me, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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