September 21, 2022
Every month we come together at Linking Indy Women to be inspired by an amazing woman in our city doing great things. This month, we had the pleasure of hearing from not one, not two, but rather THREE amazing women.
Each shared their unique journey into entrepreneurship. And while they are all minority business owners here in Indianapolis, they each had different experiences to get to where they are as well as why they chose to enter entrepreneurship in the first place.
Get ready to be inspired by the following:
- Faith Blackwell- Owner of Faith Blackwell Photography and mixed media artist with locations at the Historic Stutz Building and Studio C Arts in Broad Ripple.
- Shana Tate- Owner of Brown Skin Coffee with one brick and mortar location operating out of Brownsburg and serving the Indianapolis community with mobile coffee, tea, and wine units.
- Dr. Ina Wilson- Owner and Executive Director of Wilson Services LLC, a local mental health and social services company serving the Indianapolis community.
ENTRY INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Faith and her husband moved to Indianapolis from northwest Indiana while her husband attended medical school. Working full-time, Faith realized there was more for her purpose than just working for a paycheck.
She picked up a camera and never looked back. The road to entrepreneurship though took a plan and time. She created an exit strategy for herself and over a few years’ time, saw out the financial plan as well as the business plan to make her dream of a photography business a reality. A year after launching into photography full time, she moved into the historic Stutz building downtown and has been there for 11 years.
Having a plan was key for her to make this leap of faith as well as leaning into and learning from others.
Shana spent 22 years as an HR Generalist for several companies. Her launch into entrepreneurship was more abrupt than Faith’s. At the time, Shana decided with determination “I will only take one more call of my boss telling me what I’m going to do.”
She shared through laughter the moment this happened.
“My boss came in and said – I’m tired of this. Well, I told him I felt the exact same way and I quit on the spot. I went home and told my husband I quit, and he said, are you crazy?!”
Shana already had a coffee and cigar business started, but she took this opportunity to lean into entrepreneurship full-time. She purchased two smart cars and turned them into coffee cars. Eventually, she expanded from coffee and tea to also include wine. And recently, she expanded into a brick-and-mortar space in Brownsburg. The intent of the coffee shop being to bring all of our cultures together.
“My journey into entrepreneurship was much different than theirs! (said through laughter) I got into this kicking and screaming!!”
She went on to share that Wilson Services LLC was started by her late husband Dr. James Wilson in 2011. Dr. Ina, on the other hand, had been a student nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, and eventually a director with a company and role she loved. In other words, she had no intent of working in the family business other than to support her husband on a part-time basis.
He had other plans.
She shared their family journey and her husband’s heart condition which eventually led to a heart transplant in 2018. In 2019, Dr. James met with her boss (yes, you read that correctly) and Dr. Ina’s boss offered her 18 months of working from home so she could also support Wilson Services LLC and their mental health and social services calling.
Then, Dr. James passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack.
“Being an entrepreneur was not my passion or dream, but when God says so, He says so. We had 25 therapists and a lot of other front office and supporting staff who were counting on our company. I couldn’t let his dream die, nor could I let them down. So, I went in front of the board and became the Executive Director in February of 2020.”
CHALLENGES FACED IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
“Nothing can stop you better than you can stop yourself.”
She talked about imposter syndrome and getting in her own head about things along the way.
Additionally, she pointed out everything in entrepreneurship takes time. Getting the word out. Making a profit. It’s a good 3-5 years for these things to really fall into place. It takes patience and will power.
“I had to find my support system.”
First, it’s about understanding how to receive help. It’s easy and even natural to keep things to yourself thinking you must figure everything out on your own, so you aren’t embarrassed. However, it’s quite the opposite if you want to be successful.
“When you have a dream, share it. You never know who knows a little more that will make your steps less hard.”
She shared her experience of getting a bank loan for the brick-and-mortar space and how, in the benefit of hindsight, having reached out to others and asked more of others she may have not endured as many hardships in the process.
Both Faith and Shana shared the skepticism and/or protection of family funds their husbands had in the process of them starting a business. Dr. Ina shared that she sided with their husbands when it came to the financials of launching Wilson Services LLC.
“I didn’t want to use the house as collateral once he started the business. Instead, my husband got his real estate license and saved for a while so our family funds were protected. We eventually did refinance the house and took money out from the equity to start the business. However, it’s not always about making money. The business has given back so much and it’s not always financial. It’s impact. Seeing people out in the community who we have supported and hearing their stories. The ripple effect. This is when I knew we made impact.”
Another challenge for Dr. Ina was going from being a partner and in a marriage to being an individual. With the abrupt passing of her husband, she was suddenly expected to run a business, run a family, and responsible for people in the business. It was pressure she had to adjust to as an individual versus being a part of a team with her late husband.
And finally, figuring out a balance when entrepreneurship never shuts off.
WOMAN TO WOMAN ADVICE
“Start where you are. Do it afraid. Don’t be afraid to network.”
She was able to find something that spoke to her heart through Dress for Success volunteering. Ironically, she began photographing the event even before she launched her business. She suggests finding those things that speak to your heart and it will make you feel fulfilled.
“There is a lot of hate in the world. We can’t necessarily correct each other, but we can do our part. We owe this to each other.”
Connect with others. She stands on a solid ground of faith and believes love conquers all.
Dr. Ina’s advice:
“It’s okay to say ‘no’ as a complete sentence.”
As women, we learn to put on a lot of hats. However, it’s important to check in periodically and make sure we are taking care of ourselves.
Looking for ways to support these amazing women?
Make sure to check out Shana’s brick-and-mortar, Brown Skin Coffee at 5724 N. Green St. Suite 130 in Brownsburg. Find out about the various events she’s hosting including jazz nights and poetry readings on Instagram @brownskincoffee. And just reach out to connect with Shana! She would love to hear from this group, “I’m thinking about you today.”
Dr. Ina’s request for support included everyone doing their own mental health check. “You come first. If you aren’t okay, no one will be.” Additionally, Wilson Services LLC is always looking for social workers and case managers. She encouraged spreading the word about what they are doing in the community.
In summary, these inspiring women left us with amazing nuggets of wisdom about not only venturing into entrepreneurship, but also overall wellbeing. Each endured their own versions of hardships but utilized those moments as opportunities to learn something about themselves and others. Adapting, adjusting course, and making their next strategic move.
Thank you, Faith, Shana, and Dr. Ina, for sharing your stories with Linking Indy Women!