Businesswoman Advises UTC Students on Being a Black Entrepreneur

By Seth Carpenter, Staff Writer-

Candace Mitchell Harris, co-founder and CEO of Myavana, spoke with students about her journey of being a black women in the field of entrepreneurship.

The Gary W. Rollins College of Business and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, directed by Libby Santin, organized the online event.

Dean of the college, Robert Dooley, started off by expressing the importance of diversity.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship and diversity and inclusion go hand in hand,” Dooley said. “Study after study shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces foster expanding creativity and problem-solving, better decision-making, enhanced employment engagement and retention and increased profitability and productivity.”

Harris’ journey to become an entrepreneur started when she began thinking about the problems she had finding the right products for her hair.

“I actually asked my roommates, my mother, my sisters my friends, and everyone gave me a different answer,” Harris said.

This focus on solving a problem was a major aspect of entrepreneurship that Harris returned to throughout the event.

“Your head always needs to be at the point of ‘Am I solving this problem for my customers in the best way? If you stay focused on that, the opportunities will come.”

She also advised students interested in creating a startup company to start early, use the knowledge and expertise of their professors and to be resourceful.

According to Harris, she grew up in a paycheck-to-paycheck household, but she was able to find the money to pursue to her idea through angel investors, crowdfunding and reaching out to friends and family.

Harris later corrected an apprehension many may have about obtaining investors.

“Some people think that you have to have the whole shebang, you have to have the whole business plan you have to have everything to even get the financial resources, and that’s just not true.”

Harris also reflected on how being a minority can negatively affect a person’s chances of success as an entrepreneur.

“As you drill down and you look at women, the statistics are generally lower. And then when you look at black people, it’s even lower. When you look at black women, it’s pretty much nonexistent. If you can keep the right perspective, then you won’t be so defeated when you’re battling against all these odds.”

However, Harris herself stands as an example of the rule’s exception for other aspiring minority entrepreneurs. And for her, it is all about perspective.

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