How 2 KC Business Owners Became Agents of Social ChangeSarah Mote
Big ideas don’t always come from executives in conference rooms. Sometimes, they come from girlfriends hanging out in a basement. That’s how it worked for Christina Williams and Dr. Tamela Ross.
Last summer, the long-time friends were discussing the lack of a safe environment for men of color to have an open forum. George Floyd’s murder was taking a mental toll on the community, and a place for men of color to gather and be empowered was needed more than ever. So Christina and Tamela thought: Why not? And so, The Blakk Co. was born.
The Blakk Co. is a social enterprise and gentlemen’s club that’s part coworking space, part clubhouse, part educational community. Christina and Tamela are using the things they’ve learned in their other business ventures to shape Blakk Co. and help it prosper. Here’s how.
The passion behind the pursuit
Entrepreneurs identify problems and find solutions. And they often create these solutions in the midst of their “real” jobs. That’s how it worked for Tamela, a behavioral counselor, and Christina, who owns Posh Restoration Facilities.
“Posh is my baby. That’s what I do when I’m not working with the guys,” Christina says. “We offer healthier solutions for hair and skin. With the pandemic, almost everything was closed down, and we had to navigate through that. But I’m so grateful that with PRF, I had the opportunity to offer products, and that supported me. But it also gave me time to think about other things – like how men of color don’t have a safe space where they could just come, be uplifted, empowered and encouraged.”
It was only natural Christina would talk about this with her friend. Tamela’s practice, The Healing Corner KC, provides counseling to individuals, couples and families. She focuses on helping people who wouldn’t usually be open to therapy. So serving the community and empowering its members was right up her alley.
“Tamela has worked in the medical field for 20 years, and her core is helping others heal through whatever they need to heal through,” Christina says. “At my core, I love to empower others to be their best. The Blakk Co. was a natural way to fulfill our passions.”
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A solid business foundation
Since Tamela and Christina were already entrepreneurs, they weren’t starting from scratch. They were able to use what they’d learned through personal experience and via entrepreneurial education programs to get The Blakk Co. started.
Getting an EIN number isn’t as exciting as shopping for real estate or planning a grand opening. But the women knew these basics needed to happen first. Christina had participated in ScaleUP! Kansas City in support of her other business, but the lessons she learned applied to this venture as well.
“With ScaleUP!, you learn the checks and balances,” she says. “One of the best things ScaleUP! did for me was teach me the systems of entrepreneurship – the things you don’t know or haven’t learned from experience yet. It challenged me to think through things I wasn’t necessarily thinking about and helped me avoid pitfalls.
“I was able to adopt the behaviors of entrepreneurship. Understanding launching, scaling, all those different tools became part of my makeup as an entrepreneur and helped me be able to share those with other entrepreneurs and business owners in the community.”
Christina also participated in The Black MasterMind Group. That program helped Christina crunch numbers in a whole new way.
“Most entrepreneurs don’t enjoy combing through the numbers,” she says. “But [founder] Donnetta Watson was a statistician, so numbers were her thing. The way she talked through it – daily goals, weekly goals, quarterly goals – was extremely helpful.”
Christina is quick to focus on the educational opportunities available to entrepreneurs today.
“You need to seek out these resources,” she says. “The culture of entrepreneurship is so different than what it was three, five or seven years ago. Today, if you want to become an entrepreneur, you have a pathway of tools that you can access.”
These resources have helped The Blakk Co. launch with intention. Christina and Tamela started their social media and websites in November. They launched a clothing line to help get the word out. And by February, they had identified a location at 36th and Main in Kansas City, Missouri. Now that that space is open, they’re doing a membership drive, encouraging outstanding men of color to take part in the six-week onboarding process.
Membership isn’t necessary to take advantage of some of the club’s offerings. But it does open up members-only opportunities, like mentorship – both as a mentor and mentee. Tamela and Christina’s focus on education isn’t just for their fellow entrepreneurs. It’s also a vital part of The Blakk Co. experience as men are uplifted, empowered and encouraged.
Advice for KC business owners
Christina also encourages her fellow entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship is about solving a problem,” she says. “Entrepreneurs are thought-provoking people who identify a need and identify what they can do to help that need. I encourage individuals that whatever your idea is, is there a need? Do market research. Is there something like this that already exists?”
Tamela and Christina did this research themselves. They identified that there are coworking spaces and lounge experiences, but not a place that offered both.
“We’re not a cigar club and we’re not a coworking space, but we offer those things,” Christina says. “We narrowed down how we provide support tools and encouragement. We researched and found only three to five different clubs in the country that are also doing the things we’re doing. It gives you a clear understanding of what you want to do when you see how other organizations have set up their models.”
In addition, she recommends taking the pulse of people around you – and taking stock of your own enthusiasm.
“Get feedback about your product or service from the people in your life,” Christina says. “If you get a bunch of ‘nos,’ maybe think about that a bit more. But I would say go for it if it’s your passion and you’ve done your research. Entrepreneurs see opportunity and go for it. If we fail, we pick up and keep going.”
Support for Kansas City entrepreneurs
Organizations like ScaleUP! KC and The Black MasterMind Group are just a click away. Check out KCSourceLink’s The Resource Navigator. It lists more than 200 KC-area programs that provide entrepreneurial education and support for no or low cost.
Need to be pointed in the right direction? Our Network Navigators can prepare a free Personal Action Plan just for you. Tell us about your business and your objectives. Then, we’ll create a roadmap of programs and steps to help you reach your goals. KCSourceLink is your one-stop resource hub.