We’re shining the spotlight on our Sis Terrand Smith. As a matter of fact she’s showing us a thing or two about how to prepare a strategy and execute a plan for getting more online sales this season as she brings her expertise to the Sistahbiz Retail Holiday Mastermind.
Before we get into her advice, successes, and challenges, you gotta know that Terrand oversaw close to $1 Billion in revenue during her decade long career in corporate retail (whoa). Working at the headquarters of CVS, Sears/Kmart, 7-Eleven, and Steelcase, she managed, grew, and restored categories with thousands of products and hundreds of vendor partners in over 15,000 retail outlets.
Terrand is Founder of 37 Oaks Consulting, a Chicago-based commerce consulting firm that strengthens and revitalizes communities through local commerce. They do this by educating and preparing growing women and minority owned businesses for diverse growth in ecommerce, wholesale, storefront & mobile retail.
Let’s see how she’s made a success for herself and 37 Oaks Consulting.
What is your morning routine?
I tend to wake up very early as I appreciate the quiet time between 2:00AM and 5:00AM. There is not much noise, activity, or emails coming in. I pray/meditate and use that time to think and prepare for the day. This time may also include light catch up work.
What area of your business did you have the least experience in when you started? How did you handle the learning curve and ensure the business succeeded in that area?
I did not have the most experience in selling my business. I had “sold” myself as a professional working in corporate , but I never had my own business that I created from that ground up, that needed to be sold to customers. How did I handle it? Two ways: 1) I realized that when you are walking in your purpose and you have a dedicated passion, you aren’t selling. You are sharing. So that took some of the pressure off of being a “sales person”. My heart was in what I was doing, I knew there was a need in the market. So my learning curve was more around crafting my “sales” story to be cohesive and strong versus selling it and 2) Entrepreneurship has a way of pushing you through learning curves, especially when you have NO PLAN B!
What’s the #1 piece of advice you have for black women starting new businesses?
Tap into your purpose and your gift. I feel that all of us are put on this earth for a reason and there is no mistake that you are here, at this very moment, with your unique combination of experiences, networks, skills, interests, resources, history, etc. Your gift is not only for you, but mostly for others. To help, support, encourage, heal… the list goes on. Doesn’t matter what type of product or service you have—it is designed for others. Once I understood that, it helped me push through the ups, downs, and craziness that entrepreneurship throws—because it will throw it. Tapping into the purpose that is bigger than you pulls motivation during tough times.
Can you tell us about a great failure or disappointment that you learned or benefited greatly from in your business?
Partnerships. Everyone needs someone 🙂 No matter how much of a superwoman we are! I do believe that partnerships are a great way to grow a business. But you have to strategize and make sure you do your due diligence. Especially in the early stages, when your brand can be most vulnerable and it’s harder to absorb incompatible partnerships.
What advice do you have for women trying to cross cultural lines to grow their business? Can you speak to this from both a race and class perspective?
You really have to think about 1) what you want from your business—what you want it to be and 2) who your customer is. If you are focused on optimizing your reach and sales and you can get this from other races and classes then go for it. If you want to specifically focus on a certain market due to the foundational principles of you and your business then go with that too. It is a deliberate decision you have to make in positioning your business. As a business owner, you just have to really understand and accept the trade-offs of each option.
Has your product/service gone through iterations and changes? What was your strategy for learning from customers and improving the product?
Absolutely! I am not doing now what I did in the beginning. As I learned and saw what the market needed, I adjusted… quickly. It is important to always be in tuned to what is needed and to take much of the emotion out of this process. Sometimes we think or assume what customers want, because of our history and experiences, and fail to see what they want or when their wants change. My strategy is simply watching and listening, then making really quick adjustments to my business.
How have relationships impacted your business? What advice would you give entrepreneurs about how to manage business relationships? What relationship skills are most important for business success?
Relationships are critical! I would not be where I am without them. It is good to first tap in the trusted people you know, especially when you are first starting out. But, you may not have all the skill sets needed within your tight-knit circle. This is where it’s critical to find mentors that are aligned with your vision. But, this does take time and finding that right fit does not happen overnight.
Tell us about your first big deal and how you achieved it?
Relationships, relationships, relationships! I did not even know an opportunity existed. We have been nurturing a good working relationship with a large organization—and building that credibility. I actually proposed one program to them and they mentioned an even bigger one that was brewing.
How did you acquire the necessary capital required to scale your business and get to this level?
I boot strapped my entire business. For me, the sales and some personal savings grew my business.
If you can share one message to inspire black women in business, what would it be?
“Vision Without Execution is Hallucination” Thomas Edison. Have a vision and strategy, but the power of success is in doing.
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