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Angelina Darrisaw Cheeks | New York | Vision!!

Growing up, I had no idea what career I wanted to dedicate myself to once I became a “grown-up”. The one thing I was always sure of was that I wanted to dedicate my life to impacting my community in a positive way. I was really unsure of what that positive contribution would be, but I always gravitated towards racial/socioeconomic equality. It wasn’t until I myself worked with a career coach that I realized what I was passionate about, as it turns out, it was coaching. My coach gave me such clarity, insight and encouragement that I wasn’t able to recognize on my own. It was from that point that I realized I wanted to give back to the community by reciprocating the same confidence and reassurance he gave to me, onto others.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

The biggest initial hurdle I faced was misinformation about funding for business. There’s a very dominant narrative that if you are in the tech industry that you should be seeking VC funding. While that works for some businesses, not every business fits that model. I had to pivot that approach and recognize the best way of funding my business would be through paying customers and really focus on developing my products and services.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

My family surprised by being so mind-blowingly supportive. I definitely wish I had raised my expectations of them. Some friends didn’t always understand why I would leave a steady, good paying job to struggle. However, I recognized that even though I didn’t always agree with some of their comments, they always came from a place of caring and not contempt. As a leader and business owner, it’s up to me to decide what I do with that sort of feedback. I think it’s import to recognize that just because someone doesn’t agree with you, does not make them your enemy. Being a business owner can be isolating at times, which makes it so important to develop a really strong support group that does believe in you and your vision.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?

Strategic partnerships and really being decisive about what partnerships make sense and which were time wasters that might have given me a check or an opportunity, but wouldn’t have helped my vision to blossom.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

I wish I would have known how to manage my time more substantially Entrepreneurship seemed glamorous to so many of the people who knew the risk I was taking and they wanted to hear why and how I was able to do it. In the beginning I felt I had to make time for everyone asking me about my journey, but quickly I realized I taking so much time out of my day to try and help others that I wasn’t focusing on the priorities I set for myself. I realized I needed to focus primarily on sustaining my business if I wanted it to flourish to its full potential.

What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?

It's so critical to have vision. Future business owners need to have huge goals and an innovative approach to solving problems. Always exude confidence within any room you walk into, even if you have to fake it. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, you were gifted it for a reason. Most importantly, not every venture will turn out the way you hope it will, but it will always be a success so long as you are able to grow from it.


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