It has been well documented that women start and run businesses in rate increase. However, the maturity and long-term sustainability of these growing businesses is highly dependent on an entrepreneur’s ability to access sufficient capital for growth. Financial support enables women-owned businesses to maximize opportunities, hire a team, and purchase resources to meet consumer demands. However, finding funding is difficult and black women are the ones who face the most difficulties. Since the pandemic hit, 31% of black women business owners cited raising capital as their biggest barrier. Without outside investment, many businesses run by black women rely on self-financing or crowdfunding.
Jessica Chinyelu is a sponsorship strategist who is very familiar with the barriers that stand in the way of black women’s business progress. After organizing her faith-based women’s empowerment conference using student loan money, Chinyelu went into debt to fund her dreams. It was a conversation with conference attendee Constance Cash, founder of I Am Team Natural, that opened her eyes to the possibilities of earning sponsorship money. Over dinner, Cash reviewed Chinyelu’s pitch deck and shared resources that could help transform his cash-strapped business. Armed with this invaluable experience, Chinyelu was determined not to conduct her lectures with money from her own pocket. Her goal was to learn all she could about the best sales strategies for interacting with sponsors. So she took on the role of Senior Director of Partnerships for a multimillion-dollar non-profit organization to gain first-hand knowledge of what it takes to position your business for brand deals. Before she knew it, Chinyelu had raised several six-figures in her conference sponsorships. When she quit her job at the company, she began helping other notables land similar lucrative deals, including helping Motown gospel recording artist Jonathan Traylor and later frontman opinion and CEO of Resilia, Sevetri Wilson.
Today, Chinyelu shares these techniques with black women business owners. Determined to be as generous with her knowledge as Cash was with her, Chinyelu’s mission is clear: to ensure that black women land lucrative sponsorships while emphasizing to brands the power of the black dollar and the value of cultural capital. when they associate with black women. Providing large-scale mentorship, Chinyelu has launched various initiatives including a #SponsHer campaign and its sponsored and secure program to educate women on the techniques needed to earn capital. To date, she has helped Black women-owned businesses collectively win nearly $850,000 in sponsorships.
Here, she shares her strategic approach to moving Black women out of the introduction phase of sponsorship to open doors to money-making opportunities.
Let go of limiting beliefs that keep you from earning more
The comparison game is hard to avoid when we have the opportunity to witness each other’s victories and success through social media every day. “I think the biggest, and it’s even for me, the limiting belief that I used to have is that social media plays such a big game in this,” Chinyelu shared. . “There are people who really strongly believe that nobody is going to pay five, six or seven figures to associate because they see the big brands sponsoring those who have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. One may be led to believe that high-digit referral offers are only for those with a large following. Chinyelu points out that this thinking is what will prevent owners from reaching the funds that can make a difference to their business.
Recognize the value you bring to the table
Apart from worrying that they don’t have a large enough audience, Chinyelu shares that the other pitfall that prevents women from getting the most out of brand partnerships is not having enough clarity on the value they bring to the table. “I always say to people before you introduce a brand or even want a brand to come to you, recognize that you don’t have to say yes right away. Don’t say yes out of desperation or that I have really need that money or even that it’s my biggest dream,” warns Chinyelu. “Take the time to really assess everything you bring to the table. If that means you need to talk to a lawyer or other insiders who are currently in the industry who are well paid, pay them to pick their brains or pay a professional to help you negotiate everything I think too many people jump at opportunities too quickly out of desperation .
Decision makers don’t want to be treated like simple checks
Viewing a “no” as an opportunity to build rather than a stop sign is an essential strategy for keeping lines of communication open with key brand decision makers. There are many reasons why a brand might say “no”, but it often means “not at this time” due to budget constraints of a service. The important move at this point is to keep the conversation going. Chinyelu advises business owners to learn to ask more questions about the brand, such as when does their fiscal year start and end? But don’t be afraid to ask to set a date on the calendar to meet the mark either. “A ‘no’ can be daunting but keep in touch with the people who say no to you because you never know what other brand they are going to introduce you to, which happens all the time. You never know which department is going to receive a budget, and they will connect you with that department within the brand that has a budget,” Chinyelu advised. “Plus, you never know what that person behind the screen might be thinking. They’re real human beings and they want to know that you really want to build a relationship with them outside of just collecting the check. Relationships are everything in this industry. To maintain engagement with them, she advises using Linkedin and their social media pages to track what these brand contacts are up to. Other ideas include, finding opportunities to email email, ask for feedback, provide advice or ask how you can serve them.
Audience data is the key to earning more
Many business owners seeking sponsorship lack the level of data and insight into their audience that sponsors need to make an informed buying decision. Without this data, owners are leaving money on the table. “Data is everything now more than ever,” Chinyelu said. “I have students who come into my sponsored secure program and they have never surveyed their audience. They don’t even know how to survey their audience. Collecting relevant data and sharing it with your sponsors is the way to capture the attention of any brand, helping you keep existing sponsors happy while attracting new offers.