Authenticity As An Entrepreneur

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about black professionals finding balance with work and being black. One of the other interviewees said that being black was her OTHER job. I have to admit this disturbed me. I understand all to well where they are coming from which is why I choose self-employment and entrepreneurship.

After closing down our restaurants and moving to a new state, my family and I took a few months to catch our breath while I began to build my business as a business coach and speaker. I knew I didn't want to deplete our savings while doing this so I decided to get a job. I didn't want anything that required too much of a commitment because I still had speaking engagements that required me to travel to Los Angeles at least once per month.

I decided to take a job as a receptionist with H&R Block during tax season. Looking back, I'm surprised at the almost imperceptible second nature of how quickly I fell into a persona of not showing my authentic self. I was back to not wanting to be seen as the loud black woman. It meant using my inside laugh, not being as "friendly" as I usually am and not calling everyone sweetheart.

I immediately fell in line with the okie doke and I didn't like it. As badly as I wanted to quit, I am not that person. I try to the best of my ability to finish what I start, even bad books and movies. Besides, it was only four months. I promise you, I should have quit. It wasn't that my co-workers weren't nice or anything of that nature. I just no longer fit the mold of an employee. I wore it as if it was something my mother picked out from the polyester collection. Taking a high paying job with more responsibility would have made it worse.

That same inauthenticity is also what stagnated my business growth. I was trying to be like every other business coach, which is a mostly white dominated field. I was not allowing myself the space to be myself as in our previous business. I had worked out in my mind that people wouldn't want a business coach with a loud voice who cursed on occasion and called them sweetheart.

It wasn't until I changed my thinking that I realized it wasn't about them wanting me but about me not wanting them. I want clients who give me the space to be comfortable in my own skin. I want clients who ask what I mean when I say I'm 'ghetto country' instead of taking offense to the self proclamation. For me it's about acceptance, not inclusion. Inclusion means I have to go along to get along. It means I have to be cookie cutter and I'm passed that a while ago.


Being an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to bring your true self to your brand and learning how to make it work for you. I have a client where one of his super powers is arrogance. Should he try to be less arrogant because it would offend his clients? No! Should he figure out the best way to use his arrogance and attract the right client? Yes!

As part of brand coaching I often show examples of vision and mission statements of huge corporations. The statements are hollow words with no meaning. This happens because as the focus becomes more about profits and shareholders, the people who work for them are just filling vacancies and collecting checks. They don't even care that the company has a mission or a vision because at the end of the day EVERYBODY KNOWS it's about the bottom line.

To clarify, I'm not too saying you should be a broke entrepreneur or shouldn't take pride in your financial success. I'm saying grow and develop an authentic brand that people believe in enough to help you grow it more. If they think you are fakin' and shakin' then you may find yourself blasted on social media without enough revenue to buy a box of tissue to dry your tears. You will end up building a business with people who are just there for the paycheck and can give two shits about your mission if you have why. It's why ghosting is a relevant term in today's employment conversations, even when contracting entrepreneurs.

If you're an entrepreneur or have a side hustle bask in the fact that you can create a brand on being your authentic self. Build on that authenticity and use it to your advantage.



Phyllis Williams-Strawder is a Certified Business Coach, published author, and 20+ year veteran entrepreneur. In addition to CKO Creator, she is the hybrid publisher for Espresso Mischief, the creator of Spresso Mischief Designs, and co-host of the Chasing Dollars Making Sense podcast. Phyllis' published works include That Damn Girl Stuff: A Mother's Truth and Far From the Tree. Some of the books she published for others are, SPICE: The Variety of Life, written by her husband, Morgan Mischief, written by her daughter, Song of Solo, written by Cybill Aros-Pearson, and Book of John, written by John Pye. Phyllis has a degree in business with an emphasis in personal finance. She is an alum of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Executive Program as well as the Leadership Long Beach Institute. She is a former member of the Long Beach City College Culinary Advisory Board and a certified bbq judge.

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