… Money, fear of not being taken seriously, wondering why we’re not able to access opportunities and hit milestones at the same rate as our counterparts. And as a Black Woman, I think a lot of us just don’t see enough examples of people like us doing it, so sometimes we aren’t sure that we can even do these things. Which goes back to what I was saying about not thinking we’re courageous enough and not believing in ourselves because this country systematically holds Black Women and Black people down, while feeding us that false narrative.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Porcher.
Nikki Porcher is an advocate for Black Women and the founder of Buy From A Black Woman. She has a long list of accomplishments, including helping Black Women founders drive more than $2.7 Million in revenue in the last year alone. But the one that matters most is the fact that she shows up for Black Women Business Owners every day and in every way.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I shattered my kneecap while sumo wrestling and ended up having to get surgery on it. Afterwards my doctors said I’d probably always walk with a limp and never be able to run for long periods again. I’m the type of person who if you tell me something isn’t possible, I work as hard as I can to see just how impossible it is. So of course I started running half marathons, then half marathons in different states. I’ve run 16 half marathons across the country and the New York City Marathon since! And I plan to run in all 50 states!
But, back in 2015 I was traveling for a half marathon and I missed my flight. So I decided to do some retail therapy instead and I found this marketplace with women-owned brands that I decided to check out. It was here that I discovered what my real purpose is. Somehow I was the only Black Woman in the room, which prompted me to research how to actually buy from Black Women. Then I started blogging about how to support and buy from Black Women.
And the more I learned about the deep-seated systemic discrimination Black Women Business Owners face, the more I realized that something greater had to be done to address it. So I started a nonprofit, Buy From A Black Woman, which has grown into a community and so much more.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think the most interesting story is how all of this started at that market because this was in Atlanta. Atlanta is known as the “Black Mecca,” it’s a Black entrepreneur hub. And in 2015 I was in this room where I was the only Black Woman, and I wasn’t even a vendor. This of course led to me becoming an entrepreneur who advocates for Black Women, but what makes it even more interesting is the fact that last year I got to run the TCS New York City Marathon as a charity runner for Buy From A Black Woman.
So, not only did I run a marathon when I was told it was impossible, but I ran as a charity runner for a nonprofit I created because I missed my flight heading to run a marathon. That was a full circle moment and really it was proof that the only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is more of a cautionary tale than a funny story, but a couple years back I agreed to this meeting. I just glazed over the email and agreed to take the call, without really looking at what it was about or researching the organization. This was during the height of social justice, by the way. The topic was around white women and it turned out they were looking for some kind of a plan. My go-to for white women is I need them to do more, which is what I said. They wanted step-by-step guidance though!
I ended up going on a rant because I was upset that these white women were demanding labor of me and wanting me to hold their hand even though they knew better. But even more so, I was upset with myself because of my lack of preparation. And sitting in a meeting that I never would have agreed to if I’d read the email, made me feel angry at myself and the situation. At the same time I was very conscious of the angry Black Woman stereotype and not wanting to perpetuate it. It was uncomfortable and one of my most embarrassing moments to be honest.
Which is why I stress to my community and always say check your emails. I’m a stickler for this now because that was a learning moment for me. So don’t gloss over the details and read your emails!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, Shanae Jones of the Hip-Hop inspired tea company Flyest. She’s my poster child for how Buy From A Black Woman can really be successful, how the Buy From A Black Woman business grants really work, and even how you can cultivate friendships on what’s supposed to be a lonely journey according to most.
I didn’t know Shanae when we first started in 2016, and I can’t really remember how we went from strangers to helping each other. She was our first grant recipient and I think one day she called me asking my opinion about something, and then we just never stopped talking after that.
There’s something to be said about this because when you’re an adult, you don’t think you’re going to make friends or you’re not looking for friendship. But she has shown me that the idea I had to start this organization wasn’t such a wild idea, that it actually worked and it can still work. And it’s working. The work is working!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I first started the organization, You Are A Badass and Because Some of Us Are Brave had a significant impact on me and they went hand in hand. You Are A Badass really reaffirmed a lot of things for me and showed me that things I didn’t think were possible for me, I could actually do. I saw them happening for other people, I just didn’t think they were possible for me. It helped me find the courage to do them.
And when I look back on certain things I’d done prior to that — like running half marathons, being a mother, serving in the military, graduating college, moving to a city and state where I had no family or friends — I didn’t see those things as courageous at the time.
But when I really sat down and looked, I saw that I hadn’t been scared of things that I actually should have been scared of. I should’ve been scared to go into the military, should’ve been terrified to be part of a war, should have been out of my mind insane to move to a place where I knew nobody. To run half marathons in different cities, in different states. But I did those things. Insane things that I hadn’t realized was me being courageous.
And then with Because Some of Us Are Brave, it really showed me the impact that Black women have in this country, even though we aren’t even able to see the fruits sometimes. The bravery of the people who are stepping out in front to make space for everyone else really stood out to me. And learning that as a Black woman, we have to be brave but I had already been doing so many courageous things was eye-opening to me. So both books played into each other and helped me keep going.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me,” by Maya Angelou. This is literally my life quote that I live by. I make sure that I show up every day to do my best because I want people to be able to count on me. And I’m counting on them counting on me, so I make sure I’m doing my best so they never stop. Because you have to have people that you can count on. We all have people that we can count on, so if I’m doing my best and the people I’m counting on are doing their best, then there’s no way that we can fail.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I open doors for Black Women. In just the last year alone, Buy From A Black Woman has helped 612 founders boost their online visibility; put 52 Black Women-Owned brands on H&M shelves across the country and featured them in national media campaigns alongside brand ambassadors Brandy, Cleo Wade and Tracee Ellis Ross; driven $2.7 Million+ in revenue; hosted 32 workshops; collaborated with five brands to produce limited edition products; grown our online community by 25%; directed and produced a documentary; and we celebrated the hard work and dedication of 18 Black Women at our annual Business Awards.
And our founders are then turning around and sowing back into their communities. They’re creating jobs, investing in infrastructure, supporting their local charities and just making the world a better place in general too. So we know the impact of our work is beyond what we can measure and that’s exactly what we want.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Money, fear of not being taken seriously, wondering why we’re not able to access opportunities and hit milestones at the same rate as our counterparts. And as a Black Woman, I think a lot of us just don’t see enough examples of people like us doing it, so sometimes we aren’t sure that we can even do these things. Which goes back to what I was saying about not thinking we’re courageous enough and not believing in ourselves because this country systematically holds Black Women and Black people down, while feeding us that false narrative.
But primarily it’s a lot of questions around money. For example, if I borrow from my 401K and my idea doesn’t work, then what am I left with? Removing this uncertainty will open up the pipeline for more women founders.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
I make sure Black Women Business Owners have the tools, resources, and educational and financial support they need to be successful. I’m doing my best to make sure that Black Women know that Buy From A Black Woman and Nikki Porcher will be their champion, their cheerleader and will make sure that the doors are open for them to walk through. So they can grow from startups into sustainable businesses, and then into mature enterprises that make the marketplace even more equitable.
And I also advocate for them B2C. I do a lot of work to educate consumers on the fact that they can buy from Black Women. We have an online directory that makes Black Women’s businesses easier for consumers to find, and we’re also educating them on what it means to shop consciously and sustainably long term, rather than being slacktivists who just show up for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women are behind a lot of the big ideas that make our lives better, so let’s just cut out the middleman. Literally. Cut out the middleman, just go ahead and do it ourselves. One of my favorite stories is about the founder of Bumble. She worked for Tinder and then decided to create Bumble so women had a space where they felt safe and protected.
And not only did she create Bumble, but it was successful. She’s a great example of what a woman founder can do when she’s courageous, when she has money, when she has resources, and when she puts her integrity, thoughts and morals first.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
Please find my video response here:
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Buy From A Black Woman is a movement. We’re supporting and inspiring Black Women Business Owners who are in turn enriching their communities. We’re shaping the way big corporations engage and support Black Women, helping them do so ethically and productively, in a way that sustains rather than cripples these growing businesses. We’re helping consumers who want to be a part of the solution and a new way of being properly show up for Black Women. We’re calling everybody in because we want an equitable future with everybody in it. But the movement is happening regardless, so whoever gets left behind because they aren’t willing to do the work will just get left behind.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Phil Knight. I’d like to have a lunch with him that leads to happy hour. I’ve read his book and have so many questions around being a founder, having crazy ideas that no one else believes in and making them come true. And also, how did he not allow fear to take him out?
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find me at ABlackWomansWebsite.com or follow me on Instagram at @a.black.woman, Twitter at @BFABWInfo and TikTok at @buyfromablackwoman.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Nikki Porcher: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That Happen was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.