Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Amna Khalique | Owner + Baker
In order to be authentic and true to myself, I have realized I need to follow my gut instinct – whether professionally or personally. It’s always easier to get caught up with what the other person is doing. And given how ubiquitous social media is in our lives, we slip into that mindset of how everyone else has it better.
I recently signed up for a creative mentoring session (something I would highly recommend to everyone!), and one of the discussions really resonated with me: the reason why I started my business could be very different from someone else’s reason. This could fall into many different categories such as being the sole income provider, a hobby baker or even having a professionally-trained background. When you think of it from that perspective, everything just falls into place and you realize there is no need to grow your business exponentially without the adequate experience. Rushing to compete with others who have been in the field for years is plain silly. I have come to the realization that it’s okay to go at my own pace – the only competition I’m in, is with myself.
Summer Strong | Postpartum & Labour Doula
The Most Important Thing That I’ve Learned In My Journey So Far Is; To Be A Woman And Be Pregnant Is By Far A Scary Situation And It Shouldn’t Be, But To Be A Black Woman And Be Pregnant Is A Life-threatening And Dangerous Situation. The Statistics Show More WOC end up in predicaments other woman don’t end up in when giving birth at a hospital.
Kavachi U | International Food Ambassador & Fufu educator
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. So I trusting the Lord while I’m on my journey.
Erika Hayes | Owner of Fro Fruit Hair Products
You need to have confidence in your ability to make a decision.
Some things are to be pondered and studied, but some things are to be executed on. Make the decision and do it. I would tell anyone starting out that experience is the best teacher. You can mitigate your risks and minimize your losses, but you can’t eliminate them. The losses are where the lessons are.
Ronda Williams, LPC | Intern | Creator of MelaninMom Blog
There are so many lessons that I have learned in my life that I could not narrow it down to one. Here are some of the most important lessons that I have learned on my journey thus far is:
1. You have to meet your own expectations before you can set them for others. In life, in relationships, in friendships, you cannot expect things from people that you are not yet willing to live up to. Keeping that close forces me to be the light in the room instead of searching for someone else to light the way for me. It also forces me to take more responsibility in how I treat people and in my emotional reactions to any situation.
2. Question everything! It is completely healthy to take a moment for yourself to reevaluate what you were taught and what you learned about yourself and others as you were growing up. As children, we were raised and programmed to understand and believe certain things by people that were programmed themselves. At some point, you have to question if this is something that you actually believe in because it fits who you are and what you stand for. Or, do you live by those principles because they were passed down through the generations and it’s just something that you naturally did or thought? Evaluate the core values that were instilled in you and determine if you actually agree with them and if they are in line with who you are now.
3. Lastly, I learned, and the “motto” for my blog is, “it’s okay to not be okay.” I struggled for a long time with not asking for help when I know I should have. That essentially pushed me to a very dark place because I felt like I was supposed to have it figured out. Especially being a mom, we always feel like we can never take our cape off because, let’s be honest, who is going to take care of everything? At least that’s how it feels. But I had to realize that asking for help and taking the time I need for myself is just as important as, if not more than, taking care of others.
James Grayer | DJ & Entertainment Guru
The most important thing that I have learned in my journey thus far is to create a culture of making better decisions. No matter how you frame it, the picture will still be the same. The outcome of your decisions will be based solely upon the ability to understand situations and making the right choice. We don’t always know what is best because we are human but as long as we don’t make the same mistakes consistently then the outcome of our journeys will be positive.
WyKisha McKinney | Social Entrepreneur and owner of The TwenTea Company
Push passed your fears. Fear prevents us from doing the things we love and becoming who we are meant to be. It’s okay to be scared. In fact, being scared means you’re moving passed your comfort zone and doing something different. It is, however, not an indication to stop what you’re doing. Acknowledge your fear, push through it, and keep going.
Bri’Ann Stephens | Women Activist
This most important thing I’ve learned on my journey so far is that things are destined to succeed and things are also destined to fail. I have learned to use my success as fuel and my failures as a resource in order to grow as an entrepreneur. I have failed right before huge events, I have failed for weeks at a time, I have failed in areas where I thought I was the expert. If I would have stopped after one fail, I would not have accomplished all that I have or inspired as many people as I have. The greatest thing we can do as leaders is learn and grow, in order to help those around us.
Karla House | Portrait Photographer
Patience and practice is everything. Nothing comes rushed in this business. You can’t give up when things get hard or not going the way you would like them to. Everything takes time.
Macy Marimon-Woodward | Pinup Model | Realtor & Boymom
My journey amidst the artistic community of Houston has taught me to be awesome everyday and be kind to everyone. Be awesome because we are all different in our own way, which should be celebrated daily. Be kind and pay it forward, because you never know whose creativity you may have inspired…..we’re all artists!
Patrick Sepe | Photographer
I have always been a creative person. Being creative and able to express myself through something like art and photography has always made sense and been my escape. Over the years I have learned that seeking out advice and finding people who can teach me more about photography are vital. Knowing what I want to shoot and how I want to shoot it is also a very important lesson I’ve come to learn. When I am able to separate myself from everything else and focus on what I want to capture I personally see my favorite results. Trusting in myself and being confident in my photography has been the biggest lesson and reward. Staying focused and motivated by doing research and seeking inspiration through movies, other photographers, and art keeps me wanting to learn more and grow on my journey.
Melanie Keown & Karli Himarios | Owners of Whimsical Events
The most important lesson we have learned thus far as entrepreneurs is to treat everyone with kindness and respect and approach everyday with a heart for service. We believe this extends not only to our clients but also our industry as a whole as we strive to promote community over competition and encourage other entrepreneurs and event professionals.
Xavier and Jervacia Horn | family oriented | entrepreneurs
We have learned slow and steady wins the race. In any of our business endeavors first thing that has to be understood is that some businesses don’t blowup in a matter of months it takes patience and work ethic. There is joy in the process and in small victories, as long as u make small progress regularly your on the right track stay on pace .
Zoi Platsas | Chef
To be in the restaurant business you have to really love what you do. It is really hard work, but when you see the fruits of your labor at the end, it’s all worth it. Make sure to treat your employees with kindness. A happy staff is the key to your success.
Dr. Frank Morello | Owner of Radunare
I am constantly learning about everything – medicine, life, relationships, and the restaurant, too. I think the lessons that I am learning in this process are more verification’s of things I either knew, were told to me by experts, or my intuition dictated. Namely, that this business is like everything else – if you pay attention to the details, in everything, you have a much greater chance of success than if you do not. When you let your guard down, that is when you go sideways.
Clisha Turnipseed | self taught pastry artist
The best advice I have ever received is “The key to success is to start before you are ready”.
Michele Lauryn | Owner | Baker, and decorator of All Things Sweet
The best advice I received was to be as creative as your mind allows you to be. Cake is art. It’s art you get to eat.
Visualegend (Paigen Gilford) | Renaissance Artist | content developer | model | Music & production manager/producer
John Guerrero | Screen Printer | Graphic Designer and Cook
The most important lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is to believe in yourself, no one else can give you that fuel you need to keep chasing your dreams but you. I’ve learned how important it is to be patient, present and punctual. It’s constantly a “how can I be better today” mindset when you’re building you’re own business. You will fall, and very often. That “how can I be better today” mindset will keep you from making those same mistakes and will keep you moving forward!
Whitney Branigan | YouTuber and creator of “Humbly Dope Cooking
My journey has taught me that before anything else, you must be confident in your talents and believe in your brand. Being successful in this industry can be difficult and defeating at times. You tend to become extremely critical of every picture you post or video you upload. Confidence must be the base of your foundation or ultimately, you’ll quit. I’m finally at a point now that I have self-assurance in myself, in my talents, and the content that I put out. Whether I have 100 subscribers or 500 followers, I will continue this journey in growing my brand because my confidence exceeds any obstacle or naysayer that may come my way.
Ifeoma Meremikwu | Ombre Microblading Tech and owner of InStyle Blading
There’s no such thing as wasted time during failures. Every failed venture I’ve had in the past has contributed to my success. Because from each of those ventures I’ve picked up on new skills. That knowledge has been beneficial in what I do now. From going to cosmetology school but never doing hair, taking makeup courses but never actually becoming a makeup artist, to all the classes I took to aide me in some business that I never fully dived into due to this excuse or that one. I use so much of that education now. Every past disappointment has taught me to continue to push past the feeling that comes with failure during those low times in business. Past each missed opportunity is a greater reward waiting for me if I continue to be consistent and persistent.
Dian Ginsberg MD | Functional and Anti-Aging Medicine Physician
The most important lesson I have learned is resilience. Life brings amazing joy and sometimes some difficult lessons. Never quit and always learn from something that did not go your way. As a physician who is trying to improve the way medical care is approached and delivered, change can be at times an uphill climb. Knowing that what I do is for a greater good and creating a better tomorrow for my boys and my patients enables me to adapt and try to be a visionary every day.
Hannah Swiggard | Founder and Digital Strategist | Swiggard Creative
It’s not the load that breaks you down it’s the way you carry it. Time management is everything!
Karra Darlise | The Sweetie
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is simply to “”Trust The Process””. As far as I could remember, my goals were to attend college, join a Greek organization and become successful in the education field. Well, it didn’t happen that way. Starting college in the fall of 2009, having a child over winter break, returning to school in spring 2010, transferring to be closer to home, all while working in between was never how I imagined my college experience. Those circumstances alone taught me to persevere, endure, stay committed and be self-motivated at all times. Although the college process had many bumps in the road, I was determined to trust it played an integral part in my end goal. As of today, I have received my AA in business from Lone Star- North Harris, my BBA in Management from Texas Southern University, and currently pursuing my MBA in Supply Chain Management. Songbirdz Sweetz name came to fruition by my Nannie Kassandra after hosting an event. Truth is, even with degrees in business & management, I never saw myself in an entrepreneurship light. Although everyone else saw great things for Songbirdz Sweetz, I questioned if people would even be interested, or care to support a start-up venture, when there’s many others that have mastered the art. In that alone, I was reminded to just trust the process, that what Songbirdz Sweetz was destined to be, it would become just that. Trusting the process has not been easy, but it has been purposeful. It helps me to understand that in every situation and circumstance that I encounter, there is something I should learn from being in that space. I truly believe that you take the chance of repeating uncomfortable spaces when you don’t seize the opportunity to learn from them. Every hurt, every joy, every rejection, every disappointment, every high & every low. It’s apart of your process, purpose, and destiny. It may not always happen the way we’ve planned, but it works out the way it’s supposed to.
Jessa Rica Arevalo | Personal Trainer | 1x NQ NPC Figure Competitor & Ronnie Coleman | Signature Series Demo Rep
God gave everyone a gift. Your gift is something that you can do with the least amount of effort. A lot of people tend to try to do what someone else is doing because they are successful at it…and wonder why they don’t get the same result.. but, it isn’t their gift. If you discover your gift.. you’ll live a happy and fulfilling life.. find out what your gift is and use it. It will lead you to a life that you’ve been dreaming of.
Dr. Glee-Ann Llemit | Optometrist at Monocle Premier Eye Care | Committed to health | Inspired by beauty
There is great value in connecting with your community and with other local business owners. Being a small business owner has given me the opportunity to develop personalized relationships with my patients. I’m proud to play an active role in my community.
Kendal Norfleet and Kelby Norfleet | Owners of Kendal & Kelby’s Cheesecakes
Building a small business can be difficult. There are times when it doesn’t seem like things are moving along very well or things don’t go how we expect . That is why it is important for us to always continue learning, reflecting and staying positive. When things don’t go well, some might call that failure. We take it as an opportunity to think about how we can improve and do better in the future. We are small right now but our vision is big. We have to keep learning about our market, our business and about ourselves to achieve our goals. That is our foundation for improvement and growth. Our journey has been amazing, and we know that if we continue to learn from every experience that we will be able to make our vision a reality.
Erica Castro | Realtor & Podcaster
There has been so many things I have learned and still learning but if I had to choose one I would say, don’t compare yourself to others. So much of the time we get caught up on what success or happiness should look like. It’s easy to see someone via Instagram and think they have a great life but we don’t know what’s truly happening, as social media is a perception of ones life. Stay in your line and be thankful for the life you have and if you want more, work harder for yourself not for the validation of others.
Jermaine & Sherie Williams | owners of Just Enough Scents
Being that we have just started on this journey, we’re sure there will be many lessons and things of importance to cross our path. However, at this particular time, we would have to say that making sure we listen to and learn from our customers tops the list. We want to provide the best quality product, and great customer service to each and every customer, so their feedback and response to our company is of the upmost importance.