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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Do you have One Too Many Business Ventures?

I just read this great post on the Black Business Women Online group: 'Are you spreading yourself too thin' by Cleo Anderson. Cleo wanted to know if having multiple businesses or websites was a good idea or if it was better to focus on growing one business and making it the best. As someone who is often asked why I have so many websites, I just had to respond to this post.

My response:

I truly believe that it depends on the person. Although many business people big and small have more than one business. You can look at a person like Beyonce Knowles (a singer, actress, owner of a clothing line). You can look at a company like google, more than just a search engine, every year they expand and purchase over companies and adding services like blogger, video, and checkout to their business, which makes them bigger and have more market value. Even amazon.com now has video downloading services to compete with sites like itunes and youtube.

On a smaller scale, in conversations with several entrepreneurs, I've had many of them tell me that - though it is hard work - they think it's important to invest in different business, so that you have multiple sources of income. I know one woman who owns a group home for the elderly, has a real estate company, and a music store.

I will say that there is a great deal to gain from putting all your focus and energy into one particular site and/or business. You can give it all your attention, and devote extra time to devising new strategies to either connect to new customers or develop better services for existing clients. But keep in mind that at some point, many businesses aspire to grow and expand. Whether their goal is to increase capital or compete with competition, sometimes change is a good thing.

I will say from personal experience as a Black Woman Entrepreneur, both myself and many other black women around me tend to gravitate towards multiple businesses not just to diversify/increase income, but in an effort to really actualize our personal calling and make a difference in the world. Seven years ago when I started my first site, msoyonline.com I wasn't interested in making a business. I wanted to create a website for young girls of color, because I was inspired by animated African American Cartoon, Hey Monie!, and thought to showcase a zine promoting positive Black Content for girls. As the years past msoy expanded into a Black Search Engine, and as my web skills improved I started Urban Dynamics Black Business Web Tools. Then I had my son and expanded to Black Moms Club. Before I knew it I was regularly selling ad space for those interested in marketing on msoy and creating my own publications until I had my present, modest network, still in the making.

For me, expansion was a natural learning progression. And though it may seem like a bit much, I've been able to maintain all these sites because ultimately they all fall under the umbrella of the msoy network, and each is really just a building block of the others. Rather than simultaneously starting 6 projects, I think its important to develop a strong foundation on which to build and grow. Though I must confess, one of the biggest drawbacks that I face, as do many black women entrepreneurs, is trying to do it on our own. Which admittedly comes from not seeking out outside funding as much as our white female couterparts. And this does inturn mean that many times I, like many of my sistas, stretch ourselves WAY too thing. But I have taken that to be just another piece of my puzzle.

Though I can't speak for other netpreneurs of color, my goal is to develop a strong, diverse network of quality Black Sites on which to promote Black Businesses and tap into an under served market of African American Online Viewers interested in products, Ads, and content in general with images relevant to us. Its great to have the BETs, Black Voices, and such, but I don't plan to limit myself to accepting the current market as it excludes me and mine to a large degree, which is why I intend on expanding and perfecting what I do.

So long story short, there are some who should definitely focus on one business and perfect it. There are others that should diversify, and expand it! Either way, make it your own, make it positive, and contribute something worth while to the Black Community at large.

Each One Teach One
lhenry

Black Business Women Online - The Network
http://sistapreneurs.ning.com

2 comments:

Michael said...

great article. building multiple streams of income in my opinion is one of the best paths to financial security and wealth.

i don't know how well i'd sleep at night having just one business.

Blk_in_Boston said...

I think if you're young and new to the business world, it helps to start and focus on just one business for a year or two and then diversify. Too many half-run, ill supervised businesses at once is like building a house of cards, it's gonna come crashing down hard.

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