The Feeling of Blackness is Greater Than Ever
Something is happening out there. Blackness is expanding. Not just through Hip Hop, music, sport, food and the other things we are used to seeing. It’s also now happening through other forms of personality, creativity, culture and enterprise too. I have been alive for 31 years, and from what I can see being Black is at an all time high!
Let me explain what I mean…over the last 2-3 years I’ve been seeing the pride that people have been taking in being Black; from fashion, beauty, political rallies, cuisine, history and more. Black people are more commonly referring to their fellow Black people as Kings & Queens, and regularly referring to themselves as ‘royalty’. Black film and music has been soaring in the UK, with more attention on it now than ever before. Great Britain seems to be truly buying into the Black or ‘urban’ scene now; ‘Black’ and ‘urban’ is almost certainly now mainstream!
Black business owners are stepping forward and actually showing themselves as being Black; with more people putting their faces to their names, and putting themselves in front of the camera. There are many proud cultural national independence events, there has been the birth of a Nigerian bob sleigh team that is competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and now, but nowhere near least the new 2018 Black Panther movement. Blackness is indeed what is on the tip of everyone’s lips. I say the ‘new’ Black Panther movement because there was one before in the past, in the 60s and 70s that I wasn’t alive for, but I’ve heard much about.
It was political, it was empowering, it was powerful, it was unifying, it was ground breaking, and yes sometimes violent. I feel like this new Black Panther movement being led by the release of the first blockbuster Black superhero movie in 20 years (since Blade 1, 1998) called Black Panther has pushed ‘Blackness’ to another level. There is a strong feeling of unity and community in 2018. Many Black people that I’ve spoken to are saying that they prefer to buy Black…they want to keep their pound within the Black community, and want to give to their own.
What does this mean for you and I? It means that if you haven’t already, it is now time to put your best foot forward and own the business or career space that you’re in, being yourself and being proud of who you are and where you come from. Act with urgency, vigor and enthusiasm; not with aggression like they often like to say about us, but with hunger, talent, drive, business acumen, class and excellence. The time for success is now, but one thing you, my people, need to stop doing is expecting things to be given to you.
Even in this time of the highest level of being Black in the 21st century; life still won’t be fair and no one is going to give you anything for free. We all need to remove ourselves from some of the old mindsets that have held us back for years. We are in the time of Black people believing in Black people once again, wanting to spend on Black products and Black businesses. On top of that the Black pound is stronger than ever, as we have more money in the UK now than ever; but as more and more people go into business, it also means that there are more options to choose from for those customers that want to spend Black.
Instead of depending on the ‘support’ of the Black community we must learn how to create customers. It is only the responsibility of your friends and family to support you, no one else should be forced to support you, but they should instead be compelled to buy from you. Creating and keeping customers is the key to creating sustainable Black businesses, creating financial freedom and creating wealth that can be passed down to future generations. I saw a post on Instagram the other day that said something along the lines of “I will support something once, but once I have been made a customer I will buy repeatedly or for life”.
That means the rules are still the same. Getting more money into your business from Black, or any other, clientele might now be slightly easier, but it won’t be simple. We still have to act like we are competing with the best in the country to win the business we really want. This means emulating what the best do; having a website that works, having a business email address that is hosted or served by your domain name and not by Google or Hotmail. If you’re a company, you should have a landline that someone answers; and pick up the phone within 3-4 rings max, and if you can’t pick up have a professional sounding answering phone system. Then get back to people within a good time, respond to emails within 48 hours if you have to leave it that long; and then ultimately deliver a quality service with a smile, with a good attitude, going above and beyond or simply doing what you said you were going to do. Putting the customer first, making them feel valued.
We all have the same 24 hours that our predecessors had, but today we have more distractions than ever before, from Whatsapp to Youtube to Instagram to emails, texts, phone calls and more so it really means that you have to find a way to stand out or you will not get more than 2 seconds from the people that you might most need the attention from. People have shorter attention spans than ever; some will not even make it to the end of this piece. We have been conditioned to give most things between 1-3mins of our full concentration only. To hold onto someone for longer you must be creative, consistent and persistent. Even people who have thousands of followers on social media are not making any money because they are not getting the right followers, or don’t know how to sell to those followers. You need to have another strategy apart from instagram. Instagram alone cannot take your business to where it needs to go, although it can help greatly.
I am very passionate about the African Caribbean events industry, and in Black business in general, but I’m tired of seeing nonsense amongst my people in terms of business operation and attitude, and to be honest nonsense sometimes in the way my own business operates. No one is perfect and I too am guilty of slow responses, over committing myself, missing deadlines, over promising and under delivering; and having many ideas and not executing enough of them.
I have found myself in a very unique position of running one of the most known and successful events companies in the African Caribbean market, but also running what is quickly becoming one of the largest African Caribbean events networks and directories in the UK. All this from a man, who was not too long ago a ‘small boy’, an up and coming, but talented Jamaican DJ who knew how to play Afrobeats as well as Reggae, and started to understand West African culture then became familiar with East African culture through music and food. That boy would always have a passion to deliver and to exceed expectations that would also lead him to do South African & North African events; plus he would start to focus on making the events he worked on visually pleasing for his audience as well as always keeping his audience entertained by playing great music, and ‘hyping’ them up on the mic.
I say this message now because I feel immense pressure to deliver for both VNV Live LTD, to make the most of what I have already built, plus also grow the seeds that have already been planted with the Elite Vendors Network. Last week was 6 months since the Elite Vendors Network second anniversary and I spoke about many ideas and things that I want The EVN to do. 6 months down the line, there has been progress, but it hasn’t been significant enough, the website is still in the making and we are yet to do another event.
I want to draw a line under all shortfalls and broken promises so far. As a humble man, I am not saying that there won’t be more in the future, but as a leader I am generally determined not to be another person of the Black Community, and the world in general, that leaves a trail of broken promises and has the inability to deliver on the things he says he is going to do. I understand now, more than ever, the power of strategy, careful planning and precise execution on important projects, and not just hitting and hoping for the best, which I have been sometimes guilty of doing in the past.
I believe in myself, I believe in my team, I believe in my support system and I believe in God enough to know that I am able to do it all, to steer the EVN organization towards it’s destination; and to see it’s vision through to fruition. And it shall get there.
However, while many of you within the Elite Vendors Network are waiting on us to sort ourselves out, and take things to the next level you also need to sort yourselves out too. If there is ever a time to come out of your shell, and step out of your comfort zones it is now. You need to be brave and bold enough to take things to the next level yourself, so that there is a reciprocation of efforts and energy that will help all of us to climb and take things to the next level. “Lift as we climb”, as my friends at Fresh Connections Whatsapp group says…
While being Black is on an all time high, I want put this message out as a reference point to some of those who get discouraged quickly when they take an ‘L’ or things don’t go their way. Make sure you keep the energy and efforts up, make sure you keep working on yourselves as well as your business. Keep chipping away at your dream.
I would hate for the release of the Black Panther movie to be the peak in people stepping out and showing who they really are, the peak in people showing their creativity and culture, and the peak of Black people in the UK truly coming together. We are great, and can achieve great things, but it cannot be done with lame and tame efforts. There has to be a 110% effort of business excellence, accountability and ownership that carries through to the next generation, and it has to be done everyday.
I think it is important to communicate this message now while everyone is feeling great about Black Panther, Wakanda & about themselves, and not wait for morale to drop low again. The outfits, costumes, dancing, smashing box office records and feeling of power, glory and inspiration is great, but what next?
I hope I don’t come across as me putting myself on a pedestal during this piece of writing. I am really just a regular guy that loves events, business, music and people. My main goals for 2018 are to take VNV Live LTD to the next level, build upon the current foundation for The Elite Vendors Network, help to educate and inspire the next generation of young people and business leaders through the VNV Academy, and also to realise more of my personal dreams and ideas. Not forgetting to be a man and a provider for my friends and family and a special young lady. I have big challenges ahead, big dreams to reach and big goals to achieve.
However, I have been told that I have been put in this position for a reason, and I shall never forget that all of my goals and dreams have the same common thread of serving people.
I seriously urge you to become focused on what it is that you want to do, and seriously make the most of this new wave of ‘Blackness’ or ‘Black Power’ in 2018 because that is the only way it can continue. It will continue if everyone gets fully involved and jumps on board without second thoughts or looking back. This means not just being the best in our communities, but by being the best in the world. British Blacks need to be open for business to the UK and the whole world; and must be able to serve the world in the way it wants to be served, not the way we think we should serve it. We need to innovate, and we need to collaborate, but also realise that sometimes there is as much value in thinking inside the box, as there is thinking outside the box.
I completely believe in the Elite Vendors Network and it’s members, and I believe that we can all achieve what we want out of our businesses and out of our lives. I am confident that everyone reading this can achieve their goals for 2018 & beyond. I encourage you to keep telling your story to whoever will listen, but especially your followers, so people will remember it like they remember Richard Branson’s or Jay-Z’s stories, because your story is is your truest USP.
With the Elite Vendors Network having some of the most successful, talented, skilled and influential people in the industry in one group all under one roof there is no way we can fail. And with the feeling of ‘Blackness’ being truly higher than ever, our time is now.
Thank you to everyone on my instagram that has displayed Black Panther pride who inspired this piece, thank you to Charles Emeka MC who has been delivering powerful messages recently who inspired this piece, and thank you to my friends Amaka Edomobi & Ayobami Femi-Olatunji for inspiring this piece with conversations that we had recently. That is not all though, many of you inspire me daily. Peace, love and prosperity to everyone reading this.
Founder of The Elite Vendors Network