The Nudge Series #20: The Journey of Female Entrepreneurship- 8 Questions With Undertones Co-Founder
In the last 20 years, female entrepreneurship has increased by 114% but even with this growth, a lot remains to be done. Decades later, women still face many of the barriers to entry and obstacles that excluded them from entrepreneurship. These challenges include access to funding, social expectations, building a powerful network, and much more. The best way for women in business to succeed is to be aware of the specific challenges they may face and to learn from other female entrepreneurs that are pushing the envelope and working to overcome them. That is why we took this opportunity to speak to the co-founder of Undertones, Yohanna Andom, to discuss her business venture and her experience as a female entrepreneur:Tell us a little bit about your company and what inspired you to start it?
- Undertones is a company I co-founded with a team BIPOC women that aims to make the world a more equitable place for people of color – we put an emphasis on the Black community. We do that in 3 ways. First, we focus on elevating BIPOC-owned businesses so that more money is entering and staying in communities of color. Our second focus is amplifying the voices of BIPOCs who are doing big things in different industries so they can get the visibility and resources they need. Finally, we also work to uncover the economic, social, and community impacts of the brands you know and love so that consumers can make educated decisions about which brands to support.
- As far as our reason for starting the brand, it was a direct result of the events of 2020. After the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we were extremely frustrated. We saw a lot of pandering, performative donations, and some of the companies who profit off of our culture being completely silent. In some cases, we even saw brands posting a statement on social media, and using the spike in traffic to retarget people with ads! It all felt like such a violation, so we took it upon ourselves to use our purchasing power to make a statement.
- What gap did you see in the industry that inspired you and your team to launch Undertones? What are you most proud of to date?
- Even after hours of research, it was super difficult to find a single source for information about companies who posted a statement, made donations, and genuinely represented BIPOCs across their platforms before it was trendy. We decided to channel that energy into filling the gap we saw in hopes that it would help anyone who was in a similar position.
- I’m super proud of our growth and our dedication. From day 1 we got really clear on a plan, built the right team to make it happen without outside investment, and have been going non-stop ever since. We’re 1 year in now, and we’ve built a platform of over 3,100 followers, launched our website, and started working behind the scenes on some really exciting projects - all of this while working full-time jobs and managing super busy lives.
- What leadership traits and characteristics or indeed strengths and weaknesses do you feel are required or hinder a woman in entrepreneurship?
- Strong communication is huge – especially when it comes to building a manage a team. You can overcome most challenges with that strength alone. Time management is super important, too. As an entrepreneur there are a million different priorities to that need your attention at any given moment, so it’s important to get organized and be really intentional about how you’re spending your time. I think the biggest thing is avoiding the temptation to do everything yourself. So many of our experiences as women reinforce the message that we have to be superhuman, but the best leaders know when to lean in and when to trust a team member to handle it.
- What are some of the notable things you and your co-founders have experienced as female founders? Have you faced additional challenges as a female entrepreneur?
- We’ve gotten a lot of support from BIPOC-owned brands, which has been great. There have been founders who offered mentorship, advice for growing our audience, reposted our content - all because they fully support our mission.
- I’ve also loved how many of the men in our lives have offered to test BIPOC-owned products for us. We test everything before we recommend it, but that can get tricky (ex. can’t test beard oil if you don’t have a beard). If you scroll back through our feed, you’ll see things like a spotlight on Scotch Porter, which my cousin tested for me for weeks.
- I will say, we have yet to face additional challenges specifically because we are a team of all women in entrepreneurship. Hopefully it stays that way!
- What are the three most important lessons you have learned while building your company?
- Organization is key - It’s so important to set yourself up with a tracker for all of your key milestones. If it doesn’t get tracked, it won’t get done.
- Prioritization is a must - There will always be new ideas, and sometimes they’re more exciting than the things you’re already working on. So I’ve found it was super helpful for us to list everything down that we want to do, and then get them on that tracker. It keeps us focused on the bigger picture rather.
- You have to be flexible - You’ve probably experienced this too but, no matter how much you plan, there will always a curveball every once in a while. Learning to pivot is a super important skill that keeps the business growing, and keeps you from getting frustrated or second guessing yourself.
- How can women-owned businesses differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
- I think it’s all about knowing exactly who you are/what your business does, getting clear on your audiences, and being really authentic in your storytelling.
- With Undertones, I led us through a branding exercise really early on to help us flesh out our brand. We covered everything from our target personas to voice and tone, and it really helped us keep things consistent across our platforms. And as far as storytelling goes, we got really clear on our “why” and made sure to build our narratives around it.
- Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood about entrepreneurship before you ever got started?
- You have to learn to find balance in order for growth to be sustainable. It’s so important to set realistic goals, and to make sure you’re scheduling in time to recharge. Burnout is real and, when you’re trying to grow a business, it can set you back.
- Lastly, what is the future of Undertones?
- We have so much planned! I won’t spill the beans just yet, but you can expect more brand ratings, new business lines, and much much more! Just make sure you’re following us on social media (@undertonesapp everywhere), bookmark our website (www.undertones.app) and subscribe to our newsletter!
Thank you Yohanna for taking the time to share your knowledge with our readers at Sanacrown.com for our Nudge Series.
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