As mentioned in the first blog post of the month, October is National Women’s Small Business Month. In honor of this, we want to provide our readers and young mentees with insights from a personal woman entrepreneur. This week, Kelly Fair was able to lend her time and answer questions from staff about her development as an African-American woman entrepreneur. As many of you know, Kelly developed and runs Polished Pebbles, a mentoring program for young girls, and has started to market her Kelly Fair the Mentor brand of consulting services. Her key message:
“You can be a mentor AND a woman entrepreneur; they work perfectly together!”
When did you first think of yourself as a businesswoman?
I first thought of myself as a businesswoman just a couple of years ago after we won successful bids for business among other much older and established agencies. When I started getting feedback from schoolgirls and parents about the high quality of our services, I thought more like a businesswoman. My passion for the work pushed me to seek ways to improve what I do, innovate, and seek more efficient ways to deliver services with love and compassion. From then on I knew I was on to something. And I felt strong; I felt like a real leader!
Where did you find the confidence to start your business and turn your name into a brand?
I had left my corporate job and had been working part-time and consulting. I was developing Polished Pebbles along the way, but really was too scared to move it beyond the concept on paper. It was not until I was having dinner with another fellow mentoring and community services practitioner, Monika Black, that things changed. I was telling her how I was unsuccessful in getting some park districts and schools to demonstrate interest in Polished Pebbles and she said, “Why don’t you just start it on your own?” And I really needed that push! Shortly after that I started the second Saturday program at a local library. Everything developed from there to where I am now.
Who have been your mentors throughout this process?
My mom was a very important mentor to me. From her, I learned how to run a business and be an entrepreneur. When I was younger, my mother was running her own business out of our home! I also had great women supervisors pushing me along the way at school. One woman specifically, Linda Shepherd, encouraged me to improve my social impression on the world. She made me think about the social impact I have and how to develop that as a businesswoman in the business world. From her, I learned how to present myself as an African-American businesswoman to the world.
What advice would you give young African-American girls with similar dreams?
I want to advise young African-American girls on the practical fundamentals to becoming an entrepreneur. Take advantage of as many learning and work experiences as you can! This could be a part-time job, summer job, internship, anything! Experience is experience. It is important to remember that you may have to start by working for someone else until you can own your own businesses. This experience is essential because when it comes down to it, being an entrepreneur is still about providing quality customer service.