Every now and again I see memes floating around, denoting how no one was with you shooting at the gym or how your friends will invest in all the name brands but not buy your products and I have had people explicitly ask me to the address thinking I would be on the side of friends needing to support their friends businesses. Sis, I am so very sorry but I am not with this rhetoric.
Within the bounds of a healthy relationship, friends and family support in various other ways that a customer can never provide. Many of us coming from low-income households trying to make it ahead in a capitalistic structure might let our eyes gloss over green when we see the picturesque surface narrative of the Black person with the big family, all the friends, just living the life of bountiful communal support. We see that our network matters. But when you lack access to a financially stable network of people in decision making and leadership roles it can be doubly frustrating as you start out and turn to your own family and friends who don’t support your events, watch your content or buy your products. The intent is not to dismiss your feelings but let’s take a moment to look at the expectations we put on our family and friends from a different lens.
Your friends and family are not your customers. Within that healthy context, family and friends nurture and provide emotional support. Who do you think of when you want someone to talk sh*t with over someone cocktails; customers are not your friends or your gal pals. There are friends who are part of your closest circle, friends who you give you a different perspective and inspiration, friends who you can talk about your goals without judgment. Family who knows you intimately and loves you. If any of them ceased to exist in your life outside of being a customer, would you be happy with just that?
Your family and friends are NOT your core audience. And when you rely on them as customers you’re doing yourself a major disservice because you’re not honing on who your audience actually is. Who are you trying to reach? What does the person you believe you speak to, look like, how do they live, what are their interests? What value are you bringing to them? How does your brand connect? This is how you strategically brand, market and grow your business. And when you focus on your business, you get the right product out…your friends and family will come around. My mother was not watching my videos when my audio was jacked up, lol. Now that she does watch me, and I did not have to ask, it means that she truly appreciates the product that I am putting out. Once I established myself and honed in on my craft, my friends and family have supported without asking, making it much more meaningful then if they flatly supported me regardless of what I was doing. I know it’s from a place of my work connecting and my message is being received. This informs me, in turn, to be more giving and support what I actually like and enjoy, especially when it comes to other Black women businesses.
We know there are the friends, associates rather and family who take without giving…a whole ‘nother topic for another day. But for the people in your life who add value in other ways, you need to think through and define how they add that value. Learning how to appreciate them from where they are, so you can focus your energies on your business. Be strategic. Create your board of council members who you can turn to for business support and advice. And I promise when you get it together, when folks see that you are serious and your product is consistently dope they will indeed find the support with love and joy from those who are close to you. It might even be the moment you know you’re on to something great when your Dad, who can never remember the name of the company you work for, it’s hip to what you’re doing.