By: Lisa Hurley
It's a wonderful thing to see entrepreneurs supporting each other, especially Black entrepreneurs, especially during Black Business Month! That's why it was an honor and a pleasure to start off Black Business Month strong with this Founder Feature interview in Instock by pocstock! 🙏🏾😊🙌🏾 Thanks to pocstock's Founder & CEO Steve Jones and the entire pocstock team for amplifying The Great Exhale™! (Fun fact: both Steve and I are originally from Barbados, so that makes this additionally cool! 🇧🇧🇧🇧😊😊)
This is truly reciprocity in action, and I am here for it, with a grateful heart. 🙏🏾🙏🏾 From the time I discovered pocstock a couple of years ago, I have supported them in their mission to diversify the stock photo industry. And by support, I mean I have a paid subscription - we all know that #FreeIsCancelled - and I also invested. (It was a small investment, since that is what I could do, but as a #FundraisingFounder myself, I can tell you that every dollar counts.) I have also amplified their messages and calls to action from time to time. But I did it with a full heart, and asked nothing in return. Steve, in the spirit of reciprocity, has supported The Great Exhale in myriad ways, including offering much-needed strategic insight during our pre-launch phase. So I want to acknowledge that, and also highlight that support is a noun, but it is also a verb. Words are lovely, but actions are everything. Allies, I'm looking at you. #PleaseTakeNotes
And with that, here's the full interview. I share the backstory of The Great Exhale, as well as 8 tips for first-time founders.
Enjoy, and I'll see you in the comments!
[Pocstock] You recently added Founder to your list of accomplishments. How does that feel?
[Lisa Hurley] I did not have becoming an entrepreneur on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are. On June 19th (Juneteenth), I launched The Great Exhale, a private membership community built specifically to center Black women, who are so often left forgotten in the margins of life. How does it feel to be a founder? It feels wonderful! It’s great to do work that is grounded in purpose and service; to be supporting my community in this way.
[PS] What was your inspiration for launching The Great Exhale™?
[LH] The short answer is that Black women are tired. We’re exhausted, and often feel unsafe. We feel forced to code switch, silence our voices, and dim our light. My goal with The Great Exhale was to create a soft, nurturing online space for Black women where we’re able to relax, lay our burdens down—and exhale.
The longer answer is that as an activist, I have worked continuously over the past several years to advocate around issues including racism, anti-blackness, and DEI. With every seeming advancement, society takes several steps back. And with every step back, Black women find themselves at the bottom of the barrel: the most marginalized of all marginalized communities. We feel as though we keep fighting for seats at tables where we are not welcome—and it’s exhausting. I was feeling burned out, and I noticed that many of my friends and colleagues who are Black women were feeling the same. I decided to do something about it.
Black women cannot continue to exist in unwelcoming environments. We want to be able to do more than merely survive. We want to thrive. In this context, the concept for The Great Exhale™ was born. The community is now live, our members are thriving, and the feedback has been excellent. I’m looking forward to The Great Exhale growing into a global sorority for Black women.
[PS] What has the journey been like? Do you have any tips for first-time entrepreneurs?
[LH] Absolutely! Any solopreneur will tell you that progress is not linear. I’ve been planning and building The Great Exhale community since January, and there have been a few setbacks from time to time. That is to be expected. So my first tip is to expect that things will not always go smoothly, and prepare for potential contingencies. Here are some other tips that could help:
1. TAKE ACTION
You must move from ideation to implementation. There is no way around it. So act. And be decisive. Conduct the necessary research, but don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. Execute. What helped propel me forward was that very early on I publicly committed to a launch date of June 19th. That kept me accountable, not to mention motivated!
2. FUND YOUR VENTURE IN CREATIVE WAYS
Raising capital is a challenge that almost every founder has to navigate. Unlike our less melanated siblings, though, most Black entrepreneurs don’t have access to traditional funding sources. I’m no different. I therefore chose to raise pre-seed funds by running a GoFundMe campaign. The great news is that the campaign was a success, and we exceeded our goal!
3. BE CRYSTAL CLEAR ABOUT YOUR PURPOSE
When big shifts occur – and they will – staying grounded in your “why” will help you get back on track. But…also remain flexible so you can pivot if necessary.
4. SELL YOUR CONCEPT
If you can’t convince people of the value of your idea even before you launch, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convert once you’re live. You must be able to effectively pitch your vision and get people to buy in.
5. BUILD YOUR TEAM
As a solopreneur, you will wear many hats – it comes with the territory. On any given day, I’m the CEO, Admin, CMO, Social Media Manager, Copywriter, COO, Graphic Designer, Proofreader…you name it. Sometimes all at the same time. One of the actions you’ll have to take is strategically expanding your team so that you can shift some of those hats on to other people. Know what you’re good at, and divest yourself of the rest as soon as you can.
6. LEAN INTO DISCOMFORT
Anybody who’s been following me for a while knows that I’m a confirmed introvert, so it will come as no surprise to learn that this entrepreneurial journey is a stretch for me personality-wise. BUT, I strongly believe in the purpose behind what I’m doing, so whenever I’m feeling like I want to stay in my shell, I remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing. That makes it easier to show up in my fullness.
7. BELIEVE IN YOUR VISION
Naysayers will emerge. I’m not referring to people providing actionable feedback; I mean folks who simply don’t get it, don’t get you, and speak unnecessary negativity over you and your company. That’s ok. You cannot please everyone, and you shouldn’t be trying to. YOU have to believe in yourself and what you’re building. Stay focused.
8. PRIORITIZE SELF CARE
Building anything from the ground up is daunting and difficult. Take breaks. Everything will feel urgent. Trust me; it isn’t. So take time to rest and recalibrate, so that when you need to be “on,” you can be. Also: make sure that you are surrounded by people who truly care about you beyond what you can do for them. You will need a support circle to lean on. Allow yourself to be cared for by your community. Allow yourself to exhale.
[PS] We see The Great Exhale all over social media. Where can people find you?
[LH] Lol! We’re not everywhere yet, but we plan to be. For now, here’s where folks can connect with us:
Community Site: www.thegreatexhale.com
Follow me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/iamlisahurley/
Connect with me: linktr.ee/lisahurley
Founder story by Lisa Hurley
This interview was first published on 08/01/23 on LinkedIn by pocstock, in their monthly newsletter: Instock. Read the full newsletter here (and don’t forget to subscribe! 😊)