Last week, Reconciled joined over 1200 other entrepreneurs and business owners at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur’s Summit. Two members of our team—our CEO and founder Michael Ly and the head of our new Charlotte, NC office Dannie McLaughlin—manned a booth at the conference in Charlotte.

Besides living it up at the conference, they came away with some valuable lessons about how to succeed as an entrepreneur. Especially as a person of color.

1. Own your smart

You are your biggest asset. Don’t hide your gifts in a corner.

Dannie McLaughlin: “I was so impressed watching Janice Bryant Howroyd, one of the first black women to run a billion-dollar company. She said her biggest regret was that she was afraid to be a smart black woman. She wished that she’d caught on sooner that she didn’t need to be. That really stuck with me.”

Michael Ly: “And don’t be afraid to tell everybody what you’re doing. Minority entrepreneurs are especially afraid to share because we feel like it’s arrogant or something, but it’s what everyone else is doing. We provide value—why should we be afraid to tell people about it?”

2. Check your expectations

You think you know who’s doing what, but you may be wrong. 

ML: “I was surprised to see people from a lot of industries that I didn’t realize had a strong POC presence—cannabis and medical marijuana dispensaries, tech startups, app creators. It’s a stereotype that black entrepreneurs aren’t as involved in things like tech. But if you don’t see them at the conferences you go to, it’s not because they’re not in it. It’s because they may not feel welcome there.” 

3. Focus on the mission 

Revenue is a metric, but it’s not the only one.

DM: “Howroyd also said that her billion-dollar business isn’t what defines her success, that it’s not about the numbers. It’s about serving the greater good. She’s in 22 countries, and she helps people make their own money. She’s part of those employers changing their patterns and diversifying their staff. It’s not always just the endgame. You have to believe in what you’re doing.”

4. Crawl before you ball

Growth happens step by step.

ML: “That was one of Mark Cuban’s things. You have to play at a realistic level and work your business where you are before you can go hit with the big players. Don’t try to get your product into Walmart or Costco right away because you only have one shot at that, and you don’t want to blow it. Test it out and then scale scale scale.”

5. Get out there

Nothing beats the inspiration that comes from connecting with real people.

ML: “They had this amazing MC at the conference, and they facilitated networking because they knew not everyone was outgoing. They created sessions with time for people to get out of their shells. I know conferences can be overwhelming, but at this one, you weren’t on your own to figure out how to meet people. They really created a family atmosphere even though there were 1200 people there.”

DM: “I would go back every year. It was so well-run and really welcoming—so many people doing awesome things, people coming out of their comfort zones and absorbing information from everyone. The vendors were all really interactive. It was just a really positive experience.”

ML: “We are committed to diversifying our staff and our client base, and I would recommend that any vendor (even if you’re not a person of color) consider having a booth at the Black Enterprise Summit because it provides a great opportunity to serve a population that many vendors don’t focus on enough.”

If you attended the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit, give us a shout—and even if you didn’t, but you’d love to know how we can help your business grow.