Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dear Black Enterprising Women: When "No" Shouldn't Be "No"

There are two questions that I'll almost always say no to:
  1. Random barter requests
  2. An overly-generous amount of complementary products for an event
I will not say no for being paid for my work.

"Who would?!"  Many women in business are replying with that word often, and at one time, that woman was me.  By denying compensated opportunities, I missed out on the resource to sow back into my business, I neglected my purpose, and I risked not having relationships with other enterprising black women.  So why did I say no?  Ugh!  I don't know.  But I did, and had to face it, fight it, and go through to overcome it.  Fear.

Consistently saying no comes from a place of fear, and usually in a form of false objections.

At the core of the vast majority of the black community, lies some form of fear - planted, cultivated, flourished and flourishing.  It is the hinderance that tries to prevent overall growth.  How do we get it?  Oftentimes, it is generational and each individual transfers the haunting feeling through the home, and out the door fear goes to befriend those in the community, locally and remotely.  Be it through  a frightening artistic scene depicted by Dante, heavily spoon-fed into the consciousness of many, who pay or do good deeds to avoid that scene, a seed is planted. Through interpersonal interactions in adult-child relationships, a seed is planted. For example, the other night I was watching Blackish, and my husband and I took note of this scene: Diane, a very expressive, matter-of-fact child, intelligently explained to her grandmother the reasons she (grandmother) was more of a Republican and not a Democrat.  'I will slap the taste out of your mouth', was the retort.  It was laughable, and in many black viewers' homes it was laughable, because it was gravely familiar.  Likewise, through the societal situations many are put into/choose, and the "I'm doing this because I love you" preventive measures that are thrust upon others to comply with "You better not do it!", seeds are planted.  I like how brother Coates speaks on this matter,

     "The crews, the young men who'd transmuted their fear into rage, were the greatest danger.  The crews walked the blocks of their neighborhood, loud, and rude, because it was only through their loud rudeness that they might feel any sense of security and power."  "...And I knew mothers who belted their girls, but the belt could not save these girls from the drug dealers twice their age. ...cracked jokes on the boy whose mother wore him out with a beating in front of his entire fifth-grade class. ...some girl whose mother was known to reach for anything-- cable wires, extension cords, pots, pans. We were laughing, but I know that we were afraid of those who loved us most...." (Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the World and Me). 
Furthermore, let-downs and the insecurities from rejection generates fear. Fear-nurturing seeds have a way of springing up when least expected, and at times, many of us unknowingly nurtured those seeds, varing in degrees within each of us.  Wheather affected directly or indirectly, a part of the grim flower wants to choke out the growth that has a desire to bloom.


A woman entrepreneur who limits her reach by not building business relationships with other women producers, stunts the growth of her business.  When new in business, she has the attention of many consumers, so she might feel quite comfortable and confident in that merchant-customer relationship.  Enters the season of slow business (it comes, and quite often for ALL levels of business, but the micro-producer feels it to the bones), and as a creator, her idle hands causes a feeling of despondency.  She might have never considered that consumers cannot always be counted on.

When "Yes" Left My Mouth

Consider the rich, amber, ooey-gooey sweet treat called honey.  The flowers that call out to the bees are not directly located by the hives, they have to be sought.  The gathered pollen does not miraculously turn into honey, the bees have to put in the work.

During an interview, I was asked, "When did you begin seeing more and better growth in your business?" When I started saying yes. Sure, not every good decision yielded a lucrative outcome, because variances do exist.  But saying no certainly did not make room for my gifts/work either.  Yes made it possible for me to learn how to understand my work's value more, instead of flatly turning down opportunities out of fear, I learned how to negotiate, and I gained understanding of how to say no smartly.  I am gratefully aligned with women producers, and we make money together, to keep our creative endeavors and priorities (family, business, community) in motion.

You can't make it to the sweet-spot without the work.  Success is not found in the comfort-zone of fear.

Why This Post

I recently saw my past reflection in another sister entrepreneur.  I reached out to her proposing a collaboration - offering compensation for her work and a creator's fee.  The proposal was written in detail (questions, etc.), therefore, it required a detailed response.  Although she replied with, "Yes", the details were not filled in.  From my experience and observation of others, an "I changed my mind" was coming.  After asking her if more time was needed to reach a firm decision, and to reply to me by the afternoon to come to an agreement, she answered yes to both.  Well, I heard from her at eleven o'clock PM (LOL), and her answer wasn't a flat out no, it was (what did I mention up top?) a false objection.  I saw it.  I understood it.  So instead of closing the door (we really need to stop counting each other out, and cutting each other off so quickly), I gave her another option (giving her no immediate monetary gain) that would fit better in the comfort-zone.  We are moving forward.  I love you sista.

We are all at different stages, and we are ALL still learning, growing, and healing.

Circulation Of The Almighty BLACK Dollar

The Buy Black and Support Black Business, geared towards black consumers, are very good movements, overall.  However, many black women who are producers are depending solely on the dollar coming in from that direction.  "Well, can't we count on our people?!"  We absolutely can.  A black consumer is a consumer, and consumers consume from everyone - some are more loyal than others, and you can most certainly count on them, but not necessarily when you need them, and black merchants need them pretty much all the time (consider the season(s) of slow business).

"In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good." (King Solomon - Ecclesiastes 11:6)

Connecting with other black women producers, circulating money with other black women  producers, and nurturing other black women producers, will help you, us, and the community thrive.

Discipline the mind to see the big picture of growth within all your endeavors, without fear.

Let me hear you out
I would like to generate dialogue on these posts.  What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and/or, check Your Thought below.

Be Whole,


  1. I hear you loud and clear. That was beautifully written and deeply felt. I love that you infused the realities of what happens in our homes with what happens in our businesses. So many of us separate those things, but as you always teach, and as my own culture affirms--everyting is everything. It is all linked, and we are never not facing ourselves. Even when we are growing a new self, or shedding an old self, or pretending for the sake of that fear-filled self, we are still ourselves. I love that your words were filled with compassion but also a stiff set of truths, and firm nudges to look at our past and nature to see what can be, if we get free.

    Interestingly, my fears always manifested in an immediate Yes; fear caused me to be apprehensive about saying No. Feeling like I'd miss out on an opportunity or damage a growing relationship. Doing the work around this (finding the honey you spoke of) is part of what my sister-friend and fellow author, Katrina, and I shared in our book, How She Got Free. I learned—through relationship-building, experience, soul-searching, silent observation, etc—how to distinguish between opportunities and distractions.

    I appreciate you. You know this. Plenty love.

    1. ...we are never not facing ourselves.
      Yes, indeed, Akilah. Thank you.

  2. This is a very powerful lesson you have learned. I was deeply moved in my soul, because being a black woman who passionately enjoys produces products as well as direct selling, over the years I've learned that my streams of income and most unexpected connections came from saying YES beyond just my products alone. My desire to help others and promote what they do has allowed me to build a strong foundation that continues to distribute "seeds" of prosperity that never stop re-producing. You spoke of fears that stem from our upbringing and the things we've been taught as children, and I almost jumped out of my skin because this is very very true. I would also like to add that how we as "black women" in business treat one another, good and bad can propel or hinder us as well. We must not be jealous or intimidated by one another gifts of wealth and glory, but look at it as an opportunity to thrive and prosper together. Queen Itiel, my sista, you spoke so many profound things in this article, I could go on and on. Your journey of love, light and wisdom is what we need as Black women to bring us from ordinary to extraordinary in our lives. I love your articles...Wow they are like air beneath my wings...Thank you for that...Please keep writing and sharing, you have tremendously Blessed me today, and my husband as well, lol

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad this post inspired you. I was actually getting goosebumps when reading your reply. 💖

  3. Great post. I too have had to open myself up to saying Yes more when opportunities have come to me. During which I have learned what not to do again. I have also fostered relationships with other women entrepreneurs that I now call my Sista Friends in the Bizness. I was always the person that thought by saying Yes to a bartering situation it would help me, but it actually set me back a great deal and to this day, bartering is not an option in my business make up. Collaboration is as long as it is an opportunities for all parties to expose their talents and gain new audiences and possible customers to their circle.

    1. <>
      So many "Yes" to this, Diane! Thank you for sharing. 🌻

    2. Don't know what happened there, but I am referencing this: Collaboration is as long as it is an opportunities for all parties to expose their talents and gain new audiences and possible customers to their circle. 😉

  4. I'm so glad I read this this morning Itiel! Thank you.
    I do have a question though.... who is Dante? ��
    My thoughts:
    My God. The quote from Brother Coates book, really hits home for me. From my experience and observation. Oftentimes due to the imbalance of women lead single-parent homes (also considering the isolation factor you mentioned); an overprotectiveness of oneself AND the children can lead to a parenting style doused with fear that can easily parallel bullying. That transmuted "fear into rage" I've experienced and been the perpetrator of growing up and as a Mother of three boys. All in the name of this earthly (false)sense of safety..... *sigh*..... made several really wonderful points and gave me much to think about. You stated, "we really need to stop counting each other out, and cutting each other off so quickly" it's so very obvious to me that that is a core belief for you. It's one to be seriously considered and adopted by others. There a so many layers to this human experience and being a black women takes it to a whole 'nother level. This piece is laced with: Self-love, community love,courage,patience,compassion, steadfastness, personal and communal accountability. Lots of goodness, thank you for sharing your mind and heart.... your gifts.
    Peace Sis ❤️

    1. Peace, Peace. 💚 Dante is Dante Aligheri (14th century), creator of Dante's Inferno (hell). Yes re: overprotectiveness.....doused with fear....parallel bulling -- and somehow the vast majority of parents have underlined that as "good parenting". Which clearly has effected all of us to some degree. I appreciate your transparency, and adding your personal experience/truth into the mix. I hope that another woman of a single-parent home will read your comment, relate, and be inspired to be introspective.

      Yes, it is a belief of mine -- one that I also had to overcome. And not overcome in the sense of not cutting someone off, but implementing and acting on the behavior of communication and giving the person a chance to make things right. The majority of "black" women do not do that for each other. We do it for men, our children, and even women of other ethnicities, but real quick to drop each other. I sometimes think it is because we feel (and it's a perpetuated belief) that we only have each other, therefore, as soon as one "messes up".... oh boy! This belief is something that I shared here:

      Appreciated. Thank you for reading and adding to the dialogue.

  5. I read this once and it touched me but I HAD to read it again and let it seep in. After the second read, I realized that you are truly compelling Black Women Entrepreneurs to take the risk and trust ourselves. Like you mentioned in the post, a lot of that feels unfamiliar and even scary because in our cultures we are taught to listen to everyone BUT ourselves and to be SUPER cautious to avoid mistakes and losses. Although it is important to be calculated and intentional with our decisions, there is also a need to step outside of our norm, in order to experience growth. Sometimes we can be complacent with surviving, because we want to avoid the risk that it takes to experience THRIVING. Thank you for this Itiel. I will continue to reflect on this and sit with it. It is definitely a reminder to continue ascension personally and professionally.

    1. Ivy, that closing sentence sums up one of the duties of life, perfectly. I appreciate you taking the time to allow my post to marinate within you. It's so good to have constructive responses/dialogue.


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