45% of small business owners in the United States are owned by minority ethnic groups, with most being owned by Black Americans – 19%.
Between 2007 to 2018, the number of businesses owned by Black women grew 164%. There are currently 2.4 million businesses owned by Black women according to a Forbes.com article.
Today, I want to introduce to you to my sorority sister and friend, Talei (Ta-lay) – I need to make sure you are pronouncing my girls name right as you read this amazing interview.
Talei is a Brand Strategist from Phoenix, Arizona, and she is bringing The Black Box to your front door NOW.
Jemia Young: Hey Talei! Very excited that you are sharing your new business venture with the DV community. But before we get there, introduce yourself to everyone.
Talei Hornback: Hello, Hello. Thanks so much for having me. Let’s see, I was born and raised in Phoenix. Went to Arizona State University and studied Sociology and Communications. On most days, you’ll find me multitasking at home, with candles lit and music on, most likely singing along to some old school R&B.
JY: Oh wait. Old School R&B.You are speaking my language. Who is your favorite?
TH: Jemia! That is a hard question. Sheesh. I guess I have to say my favorite song is Mary J. Blige, You’re All I Need. But I love me some, SWV, Aaliyah, Soul For Real and of course Lauryn Hill.
JY: Great picks! I love anything Sade, Anita Baker, Donell Jones and I LOVE me some old Mary. So your pick is right up my alley!
OK, back to business….How did you get into branding?
TH: Honestly, I was really blessed and lucked out. I interned at a local ad agency and I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right skill-set. The agency had just landed a new client, targeting Black men and women, ages 18-34, in Arizona.
I was given the opportunity to support market research needs and sit in on senior-level conversations regarding campaign strategy and creative development work. I busted my butt to impress management and demonstrate my value, and it paid off.
JY: Sometimes timing is all you need in life. What has been one of your career highlights?
TH: Early in my career, I was asked to present a major report to C-Level members from a top public health organization. I remember being very nervous, and prepping like I’ve never prepped before.
The presentation went off without a hitch! When I got back to my desk, I had a handwritten note from our CEO that simply stated, “Talei, you were great today!” He signed and dated it.
That recognition as a junior team member was everything to me. I still have that note.
JY: Yaaasss Queen. You got a handwritten note. That definitely means you killed it. #GirlBoss!
Marketing & Branding is an industry that is attractive to a lot of people in our generation – Millennials! Any advice on how to break into this industry?
TH: Thanks! On the corporate or agency side of things, a background in marketing, communications or social sciences, is a good foundation to have. I think folks underestimate the ‘science’ behind branding and strategy work, so that’s important.
But you know what, so much has changed since I started. And I feel so old saying that, but it’s true.
With the rise of digital media and social networking, anybody really has the opportunity to make their mark. If you’re looking to take a non-traditional route, I would encourage you to pursue a project in an industry or category that you have knowledge or experience in.
Begin with a project that will let you tell a ‘before’ and ‘after’ story, to demonstrate your talent. Use those examples to build your personal portfolio and clientele.
JY: You hear that DV. Your opportunity is what you make it! Great advice.
So let’s transition into talking about The Black Box. I will say, when I saw an Instagram request I was intrigued. Then I discovered it was you and I was elated. Tell us about your company.
TH: I appreciate that, girl. I’m just as elated to be here and share it with you.
Simply put, The Black Box is the easiest way to support Black-owned businesses. It’s a subscription box that allows subscribers to discover new companies and creations from Black-owned businesses across the U.S.
JY: Love! What inspired you to come up with this idea?
TH: It started as an idea over a year ago. We’re living in a time where we are connected more than ever before. Which has sparked plenty of dialogue about areas of need and concern throughout our communities.
I remember, there was a celebrity tweet that had gone viral. The tweet asked the Black community something like, “What can we do to help?”
I remember seeing this and thinking to myself how do I answer that in a applicable way for the everyday person to truly feel like they can impact change?
That sat with me for some time. I then found myself brainstorming ideas with a good friend and really, at that time, we just wanted to be our own bosses.
Suddenly, I thought of how a subscription format could serve as a both a platform to Black-owned businesses AND help anyone like me who was seeking a simple solution to immediately impact change.
JY: What kind of items can people expect to arrive in their Black Box? Can it be customized?
TH: I’m seriously so excited about the items that will be featured in The Black Box. I have hand-picked unique finds, that are elevated and high-quality.
They range from home-goods to health and hygiene and everything in between. There are very successful boxes featuring beauty and hair care products, so those are the only types of things that will not be included.
I’m not here to duplicate what’s already out. My intent is for the products to make subscribers feel like they’ve hit the jackpot because they’re not only taking part in something meaningful, but are truly discovering one-of-a-kind items.
JY: I love how you are showing up different and not remixing something else that is already out there.
TH: Yes that was very important to me. At the moment, The Black Box is not available for customization but I do intend to get there. That said, I’ve made a conscious effort for every item to be ‘gender neutral’ and feel like a great addition to any household, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The Black Box is for everyone. You don’t have to be Black to support Black-owned businesses, so I want everyone to feel welcome to subscribe.
JY: Talei, you are giving me everything right now. Gender neutral and great for everyone. Tell me how often will subscribers receive The Black Box?
TH: Once a quarter – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter – and it will contain products from 4 to 6 different Black-owned businesses, each quarter.
JY: What was your favorite part in developing this vision and business?
TH: I’ve spent so much of my career conducting and assessing research and guiding strategies for my clients, my favorite part has been running with my vision as I see it, for myself.
From picking the product, to designing the box and the website, and even creating the social media posts….it’s been a lot of hands-on work, but I love it. There was a creative bug in me that hadn’t been fed for a long time. And now its eating.
JY: I will say, once I knew you created a business, we have been sharing ideas and tips to make sure our ventures are successful. For that I thank you sista.
TH: Of course girl. We got each other. Thank you for introducing me to Trello. I can see myself using that to help me stay organized.
JY: You know I love me some Trello!
OK, so where do you see The Black Box in 5 years?
TH: I love this question. I think it’s important to have a long-term goal in mind. In 5 years, I pray The Black Box is a catalyst for greater opportunities ahead.
I hope to see this business flourishing, with The Black Box having disrupted how we approach our thinking when it comes to opportunities for subscription box services and more importantly, that it’s recognized as the easiest way to support Black-owned businesses.
JY: You still work full-time correct?
TH: Yes, I took a break to get the business started but I am back to it now.
JY: Full time job & started a new business. Sounds like you have your hands full. How do you keep everything afloat?
TH: I think being a single-mom forced me to learn how to balance my life and prioritize needs earlier on than most people have to. My 7-year-old daughter is my main motivation.
The drive I have probably looks crazy from the outside looking in, but I want to show her that anything is possible when you work hard, have a vision, and are kind to people.
Keeping everything afloat has really come down to setting daily to-do lists for everything in life. Allocating time slots accordingly. Showing up and giving my full attention in moments that need it.
And if it’s time for dinner, my phone and computer are away. If it’s time to connect with my friends, I’m all ears, typically catching up on my drive home.
Her bedtime, means it’s my work time. And, so on.
JY: Corporate business woman, Entrepreneur and Mom! It seems like you have figured out how to make everything work. What advice can you give readers who want to discover their side hustle?
TH: There will be late nights. There will be long hours. You will take work home. That comes with the territory, and not everyone is cut out for it.
However, if you’re truly passionate about what you do and/or what you’re pursuing, the work is fulfilling.
My advice…and I did this for myself last year – write down what you love and what makes you happy. Then write down what you’re great at.
Spend as much time as needed finding intersections between the two, and use that as your starting point to discover that hustle!
JY: Last question, how can readers get signed up for The Black Box?
JY: Talei, thank you for sharing The Black Box with us. We are excited to receive our first Black Box and share it with the DV community!
TH: Thank you, girl. The support is much appreciated.
And to your readers, let’s make this happen! Purchases have power and every bit counts. I appreciate you all, too.
Readers! Go sign up now! There are quarterly & annually subscription options. I just signed up! Who is next?!