by Nicole Young

In April, EdLoC hosted its first Women Entrepreneurs of Color convening, and if I had to sum up the entire event in one word, it would be gratitude. I walked away from the convening extremely grateful for the two days of laughter, learning, and fellowship. As a woman who recently launched a consulting business, at first I wasn’t sure if I “counted” as a real entrepreneur; after all, I didn’t have to raise millions of dollars in start up funds for my business, and I am years away from hiring additional staff. I was worried that I wouldn’t exactly fit into the experience, but within the first couple of hours, the powerhouse women of EdLoC wiped that worry away.

When the other New Orleans ladies and I walked into the gorgeous Mountain Shadows resort in Phoenix, we were immediately greeted by a warm group of women who were excited to learn from each other and eager to maximize the time we had together. Our first speaker, Arlan Hamilton, set the tone by boldly declaring “I don’t want to get to where I’m going with a costume on…I want to get there as me,” and reminding us, “Be yourself so that the people who are looking for you can find you.” And we did find each other – over two days of deep reflection, real-time strategizing, honest and open dialogue, and debates over the meaning of Beyoncé’s “Homecoming.”

So often, as women of color in professional spaces, we are tricked into believing that resources are scarce and that we are better served looking out for ourselves and our own little pocket of the world. But our strength, as Black women, as Latina women, as Filipina women, as Indian women, as women of color, has always been realized most fully in the collective. The only way we can smash through pay ceilings is by sharing openly and honestly about the real cost and value of our work and how to avoid underselling our gifts. The only way we can build lives that honor the fullness of who we want to be as women is by having frank discussions about prioritizing healing and giving ourselves permission to let some balls drop. The only way we can look ahead with clarity and reflect on where we’ve come collectively is by digging deep and with humility into intergenerational knowledge sharing. And EdLoC’s Women Entrepreneurs of Color convening provided a powerful, safe place for just that type of openness, learning, and growth.

I am so very grateful to the women entrepreneurs I met for their time, energy, and reflections. I look forward to seeing how this new collective grows over time, builds on this momentum, and pushes each of us to level up in our businesses, personal lives, and communities.

Nicole Young is the founder of The Well Community Consulting, LLC. She is an EdLoC member, an entrepreneur, writer, and education policy wonk.

About EdLoC

Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) is a community of more than 300 leaders of color working to elevate the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education. EdLoC aims to advance a third way that breaks through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education and to forge the alliances needed to realize and sustain EdLoC’s vision of providing low-income children of color expansive and substantive opportunities for the highest levels of academic and economic attainment.