Why Your Black Parents Doubt You —Their Entrepreneur Offspring

I’ll never forget the first time I heard my neighbour shouting in englishized Jamaican Patios.

That Saturday morning was the first time that I heard shouting coming from their home. It was also the first time that I heard her speak patios—not to mention belting it out at her father. She had just told him of her plans to resign from her prominent job and to open her own business. She would still be providing consulting services to her former employer. But her father could not see the logics of that move and like the typical Jamaican parent of the day he declared that the plan amounted to “madness”.

Photo credit; Can Photo Stock, dneffendorf

As soon as I was in the privacy of my car I laughed at hearing her lash out in Patois and I cheered her on. “Serve him right”. “Yes, it is high time for our parents to  show confidence and respect when their children decide to start their own business”. Of course, they could not hear me but I was happy to support her quietly.

Thirteen years later I hear the same cry only with Canadian or Canadian-Caribbean accents in addition to the Jamaican. Today, I take a different view of the situation despite having walked in my neighbour’s shoes— for a while.

This time around I am looking from a lens shared with us by Stephen R. Covey as the fifth habit of highly effective people, that is —”Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

If we apply this lens to the typical response of the parents of black and Caribbean entrepreneurs on learning of the calling of their children, we will be able to maintain more harmonious family relationships. At the same time, we will be able to accelerate our own growth and development as entrepreneurs. Which in the end will serve to fuel the growth of a culture that supports and promote entrepreneurship in our communities.

However, none of this will happen if we fail to understand and respond appropriately to fear that drives doubt in our parents and communities.

“I believe you would be better off finding a job than killing out yuh self on that business!

Eev’ry day you work, and no money coming in; you went to University why don’t you just get a job?


 Photo Credit: Can Stock Photo, AndreyPopov

Photo Credit: Can Stock Photo, Andrey Popov

Those words can really hurt individuals who are just starting out in business, they can hurt even more seasoned entrepreneurs just out of the growth phase. Unfortunately, those refrains are very familiar to first and second-generation entrepreneurs in the Black and Caribbean communities.  They hear it from parents, siblings, spouses and friends. Coming from parents and loved ones those words could carry a potentially more lethal sting because entrepreneurs look to them most for support. Every entrepreneur must therefore decide to refuse or to permit hurt from such words.

When we do not understand or are tired of the well-intentioned distractor-doomsday prophet there will be resentment and even anger. Matters are made worse when detractors seek to wield financial or emotional power in order to have their way.  If you are a parent or partner who use such tactics please remember that you got one life to live and so does your relative. I doubt you consciously want to be a poacher of someone’s life.  If you are the entrepreneur, know that your life is yours to live.

But fact is, some people don’t mind poaching on the lives of others.  While some end up doing so unintentionally.

How do you overcome the overbearing naysayer and unintended deprecator?

First, understand that while black and Caribbean entrepreneurs are likely to hear those intended “words of wisdom” which lack even shadows of wisdom, a thousand times more than other groups— they are not alone. In every social group the ears of the young in business will be assaulted by family and peers who doubt or fear for them.

Second, remember naysayers are more risk averse; that is why they are not entrepreneurs. Their fears are real. They do not have many success stories of their own kin who have led big businesses. Some have shared negative business journeys with family and friends while others are acting from the negative half of their view of the world. Uncle John and Aunt Lou tried their hands at business but failed to attract adequate numbers of customers. Understand their frame of reference!

Some operate from a position of wisdom, but wisdom for whom? Yes, they have seen the lack of support for the black and Caribbean enterprise in their communities and feel forced to warn you. Because your loved ones do not see business as a feasible option for ensuring your financial wellbeing—or for making a basic living they have no logical basis for supporting you. Your view is different so you must find creative solutions for maintaining harmonious relationships while bearing your own weight and growing your business.

Many among us lack entrepreneurial experience, formal training, do and learn or the combination—that ignorance drives the persistent fear of doing business. Even you feel it at times when too many doors are slammed close in your face over a short period of time. So, empathize— with your parents or loved ones even as you reinforce the boundaries of respect for you and your business.  Their intent is not to harm or to show disrespect for you. It is merely their crimpling fear that is rooted in caring; it will hold you back if you let it.

Sometimes they do take things for granted though—”Sale is on let’s go shopping Tuesday”. Remind them that those are full working and business days.

Don’t expect a culture that supports and promote entrepreneurship to emerge to meet your needs when there exists no universal training in entrepreneurship and historically your people have served more in micro-businesses and employment compared to others.

Be grateful, for even partial support from naysayer-parents, they are the ones who will ensure you eat, wear clothes get to the doctor when clients and customers don’t pay and the bank won’t give you a loan.

Some wives and husbands who are irritating and backstabbing naysayers make the sacrifice to hold down jobs they would rather fire because the bills must be paid while you experiment with growing your business.  To make it work for you and your family, you must walk around in their shoes even as you stick to your calling.  Caring for the significant persons in your life despite their lack of faith and understanding will help you to make the right decisions for you and your business. Besides, you might discover new revenue streams or opportunities.

When you succeed and can demonstrate the outcomes and impact of your business and can share your journey as an entrepreneur you will help to make starting and growing a business a more feasible idea for parents, loved ones, educators and others in your community.

If you doubt me watch carefully what happens to your network while you are growing your business, especially if you had what they deemed to be a “great job” before. Watch what happens when that business begins to take off.

Let’s use understanding and success to root out fear and under representation of high performing Caribbean businesses in an era when jobs are threatened and entrepreneurships is a must for providing solutions as much as it is for survival.

Copyright © 2017 by Meegan Scott

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