Before the pandemic, startups had a hard time surviving the first year of business. According to National Business Capital and Services, as of 2019, startup failure rates are around 90%. In the first year, 21.5% of startups fail, 30% in the second year, 50% in the fifth year and 70% in their 10th year. Now, not only are startups failing at a quicker rate but established small businesses are closing due to the current state of the economy. A recent Yelp.com Local Economic Report indicates that roughly 98,000 businesses have permanently shut down. However, even with closures, some entrepreneurs are finding ways to strategically scale their businesses through offering additional services.
Sierra Gates, beauty entrepreneur and Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta star, is an example of how entrepreneurs can remain resilient in turmoil even after losing $1 million.
“The end of 2017, beginning of 2018, I was making all of this money,” Gates humbly shares. “I was traveling all around the world. I used to be broke. I didn’t have a lot. When I first got all of that money, I thought I was rich. Everything my daughter missed out on, I bought it. I traveled the world. I bought cars. By the end of the year, I built myself up a $20,000 overhead with all this stuff. I had about $50,000 to my name…I looked myself in the mirror thinking, ‘what have I done?'”
Before Gates became famous for starring in the VH1 reality series, she was a homeless teenage mother seeking opportunities to provide for her daughter. A mall makeup kiosk hired her to conduct makeovers for customers. That was the start of her professional makeup career.
At 17 years old, she was introduced to a dancer who worked at a club and needed a makeup stylist. From that one introduction, Gates worked nights doing makeup for the dancers at the club. She earned enough money for a small house and car.
“Nobody knew my age,” she states. “I had to grow up. I had to act like an adult, like a real grown person. Those girls in the back of the club are very tough.”
At the age of 18, sensing she could do more with her skill, she opened a little shop at the flea market. She eventually was able to open a small hole-in-the-wall shop with plans of moving to Peters Street in Atlanta, where Kandi Burruss, star of Real Housewives of Atlanta, has her restaurant.
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“In my younger years,” Gates explains, “it was a hustle to me. As I began to grow my business and my clientele, I started to see that little girls from my neighborhood looked up to me and followed in my footsteps. I was like, ‘okay, I’m an entrepreneur; I am somebody that is coming into this game and changing it.’ It’s not a hustle anymore. I got to become a business. That’s when I started getting my LLC. That’s when I started working on my websites and things like that to make myself a certified business.”
A couple of years later, she opened the Glam Shop, a full-service beauty bar, on Peters Street. The production office for Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta was stationed there as well. The producers heard about Gate’s story and interviewed her. That moment catapulted her into reality stardom.
“I never came on Love & Hip Hop to be an actual reality star,” Gates shares. “In the mix, I became that. But, I came in with a mind frame of, ‘I’m going to get on T.V. I’m going to use this platform to push my business…I use my platform to talk about all of my businesses and help girls like me, that came from situations like me or just any girl across the world to be a businesswoman. I feel like if I could do it, a high school dropout and teen mom, then anybody can do it.”
As her role on the series took form, Gates expanded her makeup business to include microblading, a technique in which a small handheld tool made of several tiny needles is used to add semi-permanent pigment to the skin, typically on the eyebrows. Through this service, Gates began touring the country, teaching other makeup artists how to effectively perform the process. After launching, Gates realized how quickly she could spend $1 million. She changed her business habits by starting to save and reinvest her money.
Now, through her classes, Gates provides women a platform to reach their financial goals and teaches them how to manage their money. She shares the following essential steps to becoming a resilient entrepreneur:
- Reinvest the money instead of spending it. Think of the big picture. Reinvesting ensures a steady cash flow. Just because you had one good month or year doesn’t mean that that trend will continue; having a diverse portfolio to fall back on is key.
- Make sure you are doing what you really want to do, not something you saw someone else doing. Your passion is going to drive your hustle; without the passion, it’s going to take longer to reach your goal.
- Use your platform to your benefit. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. The only way people know what you’re doing is if you tell them. Marketing yourself is the key to success.
“I have a little girl that looks up to me,” Gates concludes. “We’re literally 15 years apart. I have a lot of other little Black girls and other girls that look up to me as well. They look at me like a sister or mother or aunt on Instagram. I always try to be a role model not just for my daughter but for the other little girls.”