Cameka Smith, the founder of The BOSS Network, is a speaker, trainer, and award-winning entrepreneur. She promotes a community of professional and entrepreneurial women who support one another while utilizing coaching, online engagement, technology, and event-based networking. Working towards one simple goal, the BOSS Motto is “Bringing Out Successful Sisters” to promote and encourage women’s small business spirit and professional development. After being displaced from her job in 2009 as a professional educator, Cameka Smith established The BOSS Network to mentor and assist black female businesswomen on their journey to become independent and successful utilizing the power of networking and technology. This new endeavor-The Minority Merchant Event takes place virtually on December 4th and December 5th, 2020.
1.How did the Minority Merchant Event get started?
Cameka Smith: The BOSS Network just celebrated our 10th anniversary. Our platform is to encourage and provide resources for black female entrepreneurs and find mentorship. We work with women who have pitched and looking for resources for their businesses. We launched the minority project to bring together stakeholders to invest and to walk along with these women on their journey. We sought partnerships like JP Morgan Chase to directly get the information to the Minority Merchant Event women.
2.What are some personal success stories?
Cameka Smith: Right now, we are in a partnership working with a company helping 15 black female founders. Over the past three months, we have provided them with mentorship, helping them gain new clientele, bringing them resources if they want to pitch ideas or products or go directly to their consumers. Organizations like the Chicago Minority Development Council and the YWCA also partner with the program to help these women on their journey.
3. Why the BOSS Network Minority Merchandise Event is essential for black business during the holidays? What do you wish to accomplish for this event?
Cameka Smith: Less than 1% of Black female founders get funding for their business. The Minority Merchant Event will give women entrepreneurs the tools and resources to seek other options for funding. We are offering 200 women free business coaching to help them reclaim their future and prepare for the New Year.
4. How have you seen black businesses impacted this year?
Cameka Smith: Black entrepreneurs are resilient, and we have always had to face challenges when it comes to starting and growing our businesses. I have seen more success than anything as we take advantage of the available loans through PPP and EIDL loans. With the current pandemic, many entrepreneurs had to pivot, and we have taken advantage of the digital space to promote our businesses. Having direct access to customers who are online all day is a win/win.
5. What have you learned about your business this year or about the importance of overcoming obstacles/giving back?
Cameka Smith: I have learned that there is nothing we cannot do when we come together as a community and support each other. I also learned that communities like The BOSS Network, a digital network for women of color, are vital for entrepreneurs to grow and expand their network.
6. How can we better support black businesses? What advice would you offer to people trying to maintain during this challenging economic time?
Cameka Smith: I think we need to shop Black 365. We do not need to wait for a specific month to spend our money within our communities. We have the power to create successful businesses and support those brands that we love. Having partners like Beverly Johnson and JPMorgan Chase has been vital to the success of The BOSS Network this year. I encourage Black female entrepreneurs to support each other and see how far we can GROW/GO.
7. What does the future hold for black women in business for 2021 in your predictions?
Cameka Smith: Because of COVID-19, there was some anxiety. For black female businesswomen, we have always had challenges. For us, it became how we could make an opportunity work for us. I am looking at the 15 women I am working with, the 2500 members, and the 200,000 subscribers of the BOSS Network. Our social media posts have shown success stories of women working through this time well because they now have access to grant funding and business loans that they would not have normally gotten. I am looking forward to 2021 and seeing more people invest in black businesses. The recent statistics and ratios have shed light on the disparity and deficits of black women getting funding. Brands are stepping up and saying, “how can we support these women”? This is our time. WE can be successful and make things happen!
For registration and more info, go to www.thebossnetwork.org.