Thursday, September 21, 2017

Started From The Bottom, Now We're....Still Kinda At The Bottom

I started selling Fancy Free Pomade for Hair & Skin in March 2015, it was on a whim. No business plan. No real plan for it at all. My goodt goodt girlfriend knows her stuff, after using it once, she said "Sell this." So I started selling it. That first year was a world wind of packaging, designing labels, solidifying vendors....or at least trying to solidify vendors, but that's another story. You know, just trying to figure it all out without having the slightest clue of what I was doing. What I did know was that I had something good. I had a great product with a great concept and as soon as people tried it, they were hooked.

When I saw what I looked at my profits from 2015, I thought "We might be on to something." If I had the right guidance, if I had the right influence, if I had someone to show me, step by step, how to run my business, this could really be big. But I had none of that. I didn't even have a real website. LOL! I talked to a few people but no one who could commit to really mentoring me the way I needed. I am a scientist, not a business woman. I was floating by in the first half of 2016. Taking my sweet time to get my website together. I mean, I was selling on Etsy and eBay, good enough. I had this HUGE project that I was working on at work. I had a baby in my belly. I had a lot on my plate. Then I got a call to for Shark Tank casting. Whaaaaaatttt??????? OMG! I was so nervous. I had to record a video. I didn't know what to say. My website wasn't finished. I didn't have a business plan. My numbers were pretty puny compared to the type of numbers I had seen from other businesses pitching on the show. But I went for it. Kicked in to high gear. Rushed to have a special box designed to send samples to California. I was not polished. I was all over the place. I had no experience shipping in warm temperatures, so I'm sure the product was melted when it was delivered. Fancy Free was not selected for the second phase of testing. But I did not get discouraged. I used that experience as a lesson. I took that lesson and got to work.

Fast forward to June 2016, a second Shark Tank casting. No call back. Then in August 2017, an application to pitch to Betamore at Beta City. Yes! Finally, I think this is going to be the one. I go to the workshop they have on creating a pitch. The presenter offered some great insight, maybe you don't need an investor, if you're profitable and small, your efforts can probably be "bootstrapped". No. It's not as secure as having a millionaire back your efforts. Yes. It will take longer. But why give away equity in your company when it's very possible that you can achieve your goals without having to. Needless to say, I did not get selected to pitch my business to an investor at Beta City but I was selected to become a member of iFundWomen's Maryland cohort.

iFundWomen is a platform for women entrepreneurs to encourage and support each other through raising capital to start or grow their businesses. Founded by Karen Cahn during the 2016 Presidential Election, iFundWomen has since raised $700,000 for 120 entrepreneurs. The mission of iFundWomen is to close the funding and confidence gap for female entrepreneurs by working with early stage companies on coaching, brand positioning, and sales strategies, to get them off the ground, and onto "Main Street". 

Living in the city, I see all of the disparities of Baltimore. My husband and I chose to purchase a house in the city because we know the solid community is the only thing that can reverse the effects of school to prison pipeline, drug addiction, absentee parents and other challenges our people are experiencing. We decided that we wanted to set an example and be the change in our city that we want to see. Our goal is to play a major role in rebuilding our city and the sense of community that we once held so near and dear to our hearts. With help for iFundWomen supporters, I will be able to do just that. 

I have a really hard time asking for help publicly, especially monetary help, but I realized that my project was bigger than me so I got over myself. I am offering rewards for every giving level. This is where building community begins. If you offer a helping hand, I am in a better position to help someone else because you helped me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Greene Girls Do Egypt

I've always found the "*insert porn star's name* Does *insert location*" titles hilarious. So I use this format to describe my vacations. HarDeeHarHar! Ok. So, my sisters and I have started a tradition where we go on a sister's trip every August, our birthday month. They are in to fashion and designer trinkets but my Dora The Explorer lessons have encouraged them to add traveling to their budget too. I was an only child for 13 years, so I traveled a lot as a child before they came along. I have the travel bug. My closest friends and I have been traveling way before Travel Noire became a thing. My yearly travel schedule is usually filled with standing trips before we even start receiving invites to destination weddings and things like that. Fancy's yearly travels look like this:
  • Family Trip
  • Girl's Trip to Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard
  • Sister's Trip
  • Romantic Trip with hubby
In that order!

I've done almost multiple Caribbean vacations multiple times. To me, it's all the same. Blue water, cocktails and naps on the beach, fresh seafood, an excursion to zip line or ATV riding, blah blah blah. I do it once a year but I feel like I can do that in my backyard too, so I'm not enthused about spending $1500-$2000 pp to fly somewhere to do it. Plus, my wifi at home is popping. LOL! So, when it came time to plan our 2017 Sister's Trip we wanted to do something different. My sister's have never been overseas, so the first place they wanted to do is Italy, for the shopping, of course. But with all the Black Lives Matter and resurfacing of racism in America, we decided to start exploring the history of our mother land, Africa, instead of Europe.

Now Africa is a whole continent, so I did my research and talked to my Nigerian friends to ask them where we should start. I did the research, we established a budget, talked to a travel agent and eventually found a deal on Living Social. $1599 for an all-inclusive, 10 day tour of Egypt. Yes. That is correct $1600 for round trip flight, hotel accommodations in 4 different Egyptian cities, most meals, all transportation in and through each city, an expert tour guide, armed security, and a tourism police escort through Egypt. I say all this to say, traveling does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Shit. It costs more than $1600 for a nice weekend in Miami, FL for the weekend. This was half of our budget of $3000.

We booked it in January. August came really quickly. I was having anxiety the day before because it had just hit me that I would be leaving my son alone with my husband for 10 days. EEK! My stylist sister, Thee Fashioneer™, had custom sweats made for traveling. Our bags were less than 23 kgs. We hit the road. Well, the plane, but whatever. LOL! 

Two flights, 16 hours later, we arrived in Cairo, Egypt. It was dark when we arrived but we knew we were not in Kansas anymore. If you followed my Instastory on @IyonnaWoods you saw the day to day adventures of our Egyptian experience. I'm not going to get into the minute details of our trip. I'm just going to list the highlights of our trip.

Egyptian Experience Lessons
  • Those LivingSocial and Groupon travel deals are legit. Take the risk.
  • The Revolution was in 2011. Egypt is safe to visit.
  • Physical evidence of the revolution is very prevalent. The people were awesome.
  • Egyptians do not look like Western Africans. They look Middle Eastern and speak Arabic.
  • Traveling to historic destination with an educated tour guide is the way to go. You're forced to go to the sites and not sleep in, they will guide you in interact ing with the locals, you are supporting the local economy.
  • Nuba means keeper of gold. The Nubian people lived in southern Egypt and northern Sudan where the largest quarry of gold was. They were subject to attack because of the gold. 
  • Ancient Egyptian royalty loved gold.
  • Nubian people are noticeably darker than other Egyptians.
  • I will be going back to referring to myself as a Nubian sister.
  • Tourism is a real industry. Natives go to college and earn degrees in Egyptology to become a tour guide. The arts schools train students to become proficient in hieroglyphics, papyrus making, flower essence making, etc.
  • Americans don't travel to Northeastern Africa often.
  • African-Americans don't travel to Africa often.
  • Russia has callous influence on more countries than we realize. Convincing the Egyptian president to move the Nubian people from the native land in order to build a dam in the Nile river that would flood them instead of building a series of locks along the river. The locks would be cheaper to build and the people could stay. Russia said "just move the people".😢
  • Pack protein shakes and snacks when traveling to a different culture. I am on a low carb diet. Egyptians serve about 6 servings of bread for breakfast. I got hunger sick for the first 3 days of our trip because I wasn't eating breakfast. Lesson learned.
  • Ancient Egyptians were ultra engineers.
  • Ancient Egyptians were SUPER elaborate.
  • Ancient Egyptians were very thorough.
  • When it's super hot and sunny, cover your skin. You'll be cooler.
We bought a LivingSocial sold by Encounters Travel. It was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had. They thought of everything that we would experience and had a solution. They added all kinds of updates and surprises to our itinerary. Our tour guide, Big Mo, was extremely personable and knowledgeable. I would not hesitate to book travel directly through Encounters for any future travel needs.

Check out my full vacation album if you're bored at work or your son's football practice. Just click here.

Shameless Plug Alert:
We spent the majority of days and nights traipsing about in the African desert heat and sun. I'm talking 107℉ by 9:30a sun and heat. I only used Fancy Free Aluminum Free Deodorant and Fancy Free Milk for Hair & Skin as sunscreen. I did have pit sweat, I don't think the kind of deodorant matters in that kind of heat, but I did not smell bad at the end of the day. I did get slightly darker but I did not burn. Just so you know. These products are available at😊