Makisha Boothe, Sistahbiz Founder reflecting on Black women and trauma

The Silent Battles of Black Women Entrepreneurs: Healing and Empowerment

For some time, I’ve hesitated about the prospect of delivering a TED talk. As I get older, I feel the need to speak less and do more. I felt like I didn’t have anything compelling enough to say on a stage that big. I told myself I’d wait until I FELT the words and I asked God to show me what I needed to say. And I think I know now.
Navigating the realm of entrepreneurship has a unique way of exposing our underlying traumas. It sheds light on the persistent dysfunctions that extend beyond our personal lives and manifest within our businesses.

Consider the recurring patterns too often prevalent in the journey of the Black woman founder:

How Abandonment Shows Up In Employee Relations

The abandonment issues that surface when employees depart, triggering an emotional response. It makes hiring scary and so you stay stuck in solopreneurship where it’s safe not to manage people.

How Codependency Show Up in Workload
The tendencies of codependency that compel us to shoulder the responsibilities of capable adults, who aren’t carrying their load in the business. You put on the black woman’s cape and say “if I don’t do it, who will?”

How PTSD Impacts Delegation
For some of us, our childhood PTSD resurfaces, mirroring instances when we assumed the caregiver role for those who were meant to care for us. This translates to overfunctioning on our part, inadvertently enabling others to underfunction. Meanwhile you build up resentment for not having a high performing team.

How Imposter Syndrome Blocks Expansion and Scale
Then there’s the imposter syndrome, the feeling that stops us from pursuing 6-figure deals, expansion plans or high-paying clients. It’s that quiet belief that certain endeavors lie beyond our grasp, leading us to seek validation through excessive certifications instead of embracing that we ARE ready and divinely appointed. This is all exacerbated by workplace trauma where you were gaslit, overlooked, underpaid and overworked.

How Racial Trauma Impacts Cross-Cultural Business Opportunities
And let’s not overlook the impact of racial trauma. We say we’re narrowing our target market to the Black community but this “strategy” is really suppressing a defensive measure against micro-aggressions, micro-assaults and white privilege. In doing so, we might inadvertently forfeit substantial revenue while safeguarding ourselves from the exhaustion of racial battle fatigue.

How Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome Matters
And too often we don’t talk about Post traumatic slave syndrome (PTSS) – defined as “a condition that exists when a population has experienced multigenerational trauma resulting from centuries of slavery and continues to experience oppression and institutionalized racism today”. This can show up when we refuse to release the role of the laborer, consumer and tenant in order to access the generational wealth of the the employer, producer, investor and landlord roles – all because the former are the roles that this country has designed assimilation around for our people – it’s what we know.

Sure, there’s the practical matter of refining delegation skills, enhancing hiring practices, and establishing proper client onboarding boundaries. But on a deeper level, what’s truly imperative is healing ourselves. It’s about finding solace and safety within ourselves and reclaiming our personal power from broken, abusive, unjust systems. This is the work that brings the courage, intuition, skill and power to attract the right deals, partners, team and life.

This narrative is mine to tell, yet it’s also a collective tale shared by countless Black women founders whom I’ve had the privilege to coach and mentor. The magnitude of our experiences resonates, it matters and too often it goes unspoken. Some days it makes me wanna holler. On other days it makes me breathe deeply. The resonance with this message runs deep within my soul. So maybe I am ready for TED.

Makisha Boothe

Makisha is Head Business Coach and founder of Sistahbiz Global Network. She specializes in rapid improvement and innovation, and helps women with business startup and design.

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