Episode 61: How to Build Stamina and Endurance in Entrepreneurship, with Natasha Bray
What if you knew before you were even a teenager that when you were all grown up, you’d be running successful businesses? You’d have a community of thriving entrepreneurs lining up at your door to invest in your message because you were a vital resource to their success? This is in short what Natasha Bray’s journey in business has been.
Natasha never turned down her gift of wanting to help others and has built on her passion over the years despite working her way up the Corporate America Ladder to now an Assistant Vice-President with a leading financial institution where she has worked for the last 18 years with experience and focus over the years in the areas of Information Technology, Anti-Money Laundering, Systems Development, Operations, and Risk Management.
Natasha was raised at the shores of New Jersey and graduated from Seton Hall University with a BS in Business Management Information Systems (MIS). She also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, in addition to a few technology certificates.
In addition to her employment in corporate America, Natasha is also a serial entrepreneur. After operating and selling a successful consignment boutique, she founded a movement called NJ Black Businesses (NJBB) that focuses on promoting the awareness and business development of Black-Owned Businesses in New Jersey. Additionally, in 2014, Natasha founded Wallace & Partners Consulting, which is a firm dedicated to providing business solutions for small businesses.
Natasha finds pure fulfillment and joy in giving back to her community, spending quality time with family and friends, traveling, entertaining, the arts and cooking new recipes!
I cannot wait for you to listen to this episode!
Some of the things you’ll hear in this episode…
How Natasha started a business at the age of 9 years old.
How she did not give up even when she called for help.
How to build and stick to a schedule in order to run your business successfully.
The essence of her amazing NJ Black Businesses community.
You cannot expect family and friends to always be there for you.
The services she offers to small businesses with her consulting agency.
Some questions I asked Natasha…
What is your strategy in making sure you are productive in running your brands?
What can a small business owner benefit from with your services?
Where do you envision your brands to be in the next 3 years?
Links from this episode…
NJ Black Businesses email: email@example.com
NJ Black Businesses phone: 732-788-NJBB
Wallace & Partners Consulting email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wallace & Partners Consulting phone: 732-540-7700
^ Read the Interview Transcription Here
Martine Cadet: Natasha, I am super excited that you agreed to come on the show. I've been with you for what now? Over two, three years almost. And yeah, and it's been such a pleasure having the opportunity to work with you and you know, with your brand and I'm super excited that you're on the show and share with us your journey and really give us the inspiration to continue to do what we are looking to do for ourselves because you are doing it and you're doing a phenomenal job. So why don't you share with us a little bit about how it all started? What exactly do you do with your brand?
Natasha Bray Okay, well thank you for the opportunity. It has been wonderful knowing you over the last few years and partnering together with the different events and activities and things that New Jersey has had. My entrepreneurial journey. I mean I, if I'm being honest, I could say started at nine years old with having garage sales and selling my toys and my cousin's toys to the kids in the neighborhood. But formally I started the journey of Entrepreneurship back in 2012 when I opened a consignment boutique. I had the business for about three years. The plan was to have it for five, make a profit and then sell it. So I sold it in three. So it's doing exceptionally well. After that, I decided to start New Jersey Black Businesses. First. New Jersey black businesses just started off as a hobby, I would say. I always just wanted to support black owned businesses in the State and knowing the support that I had through my consignment boutique, the opportunities were there for advertisements and support from the community.
Natasha Bray: But I felt that a lot of our businesses in our communities did not use the platforms of social media and such and networking and things like that to get their businesses out there and to get them to grow and to make folks aware that their businesses are out there and in the communities. So it kind of started as a hobby promoting businesses that I would see and promoting them on social media. And it just kind of grew out of that. And from there I started with expos and small business workshops. Also I begin advertising at a cost for a business events as well as the business itself. And then it also then just grew into our signature program, which is our Annual Awards Gala each year. Additionally, I have a small business development solutions firm called Wallace and Partners where I assist small businesses with branding and websites, logos, flyers, whatever it is, you name it related to small business solutions. We provide that as well.
Martine Cadet: Awesome. I have to say, I love the fact that, you know, it started for you from the get go like nine years old. I love that. I remember for me, I started when I was 13 actually selling rice krispies treats to school until I got in trouble. But it's such a great point to bring up, I feel, because you know, a lot of people believe that they can just wake up one day and become an entrepreneur. And I feel like it's a journey and you know, you have to just keep growing and maturing with it. Um, so I guess, can I ask you a question? Like, I, there's a lot of people that I know that want to get into this entrepreneurial journey and they're afraid, that whole imposter syndrome, you know, the fear that, oh, would anybody buy from me? Would anybody, you know, trust me, I'm new to this. Nobody knows me. Are My friends, family, are they gonna like laugh at me? Like have, I would say, I'm pretty sure that you went through that. Yeah.
Natasha Bray: Any big step that you're ready to take in your life, there's always that hesitation. And definitely if you share that idea with anyone, whether it be family, friends, whomever, you're going to have your naysayers, your doubters, folks who are going to force you to double thing and you know, see if this is something that you really want to do. But I think that if you feel it in your heart that this is something that you always aspire to do, entrepreneurship then go for it. I mean, it's a risk, but there are many things in a risk in life that are risks that we take anyway. I don't think entrepreneurship is for everyone. I think that you have to really have a desire for it and you have to have the leaderships skills, the business skills, you're not going to be born with them of course.
Natasha Bray: So that's something that you just developed over the years. But truth be told, I think everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. Just like everyone's not necessarily meant to be a people manager. I think that, but if someone has always kind of been the leader of their or the captain of their teams or the leader of their network of friends or family and has just always had that drive in them, then that those are great characteristics to have to begin entrepreneurship because you have to know that it's, it's not going to come easy and you have to be willing to make sacrifices to run your business. And if you're one who may quickly give up, then it may not necessarily be the road for you. So I think that most folks have to really be honest with themselves and kind of know the type of person they are the type of interpersonal skills that they have and, and leadership abilities and passion and drive and all of those things that they have. I mean, it sounds good to be an entrepreneur, but do you really have what it takes to, to run a business and not necessarily give up? If you put your open for business sign on the door and no one comes in that first day,
Martine Cadet: Totally agree with you. I agree with you. And I'd love to add to this that once you identify that those skills that you have in you, it's important I feel, because I know that's what's happened to me is to invest in them to get better and keep learning. It's a constant learning and listening to podcasts like this or reading books right? And watching videos and whatnot. I feel like a lot of what I've been able to do by myself is because of really paying attention to wanting to get better and better and better. That's self-development, I guess they call that right is extremely important. So talking about, you know, building a business. Now when you have that idea and you're like, you know what, I want to open that store, the consignment store, I want to open that community and whatnot. And when you do that, you're, most of the time when you start, you start by yourself. Right. And I guess, do you have or did you have or now that you probably have a team, but how was it in the beginning for you when you started your businesses, you were alone and I'm assuming or how did you, how did you address that? Like building it, starting it?
Natasha Bray:In the beginning it was lonely and I think most entrepreneurs can relate to that because you, you cannot expect your friends and family to, um, necessarily see your vision or have any interest in helping you develop your business or get down and dirty in and work with you with your business. So you have to be ready for that as well. My first business, my consignment store. I remember asking for help to tag the clothes and you know, just one day I just want it like group of folks to just come out and help me to prepare for opening weekend, which was the following week. And I remember sending a message out to 10 friends and family girlfriends and asking, Hey, is anyone going to be around to help me? I have like over 500 pieces of clothing and accessories to tag. I didn't give them the number.
Natasha Bray: Of course, I just said I just need extra hands just for that weekend. And out of the 10 messages I sent, I had probably about seven of them never replied and two of them tell me this wasn't a good weekend for them, but they can come another day, which was totally fine. And one who wanted to come and help that she was so far away I just felt bad having her drive out. And I remember being so upset, kind of being disappointed. But then it was an expectation I had and I had to really be honest and say, you know, I chose to start this business, not them, so I cannot expect them to come out here and help me for the day or the night. So I, you know, it was hurtful and it was lonely and tagging 500 pieces individually and adding them to the system. So it's certainly was. But I was still forgiving because I said, you know, at the end of the day, it's my business. If you get extra assistance from family and friends, then that's just a bonus. But you cannot expect that they are going to be there.
Natasha Bray: I think that, you know, they certainly realize like, wow, maybe we should have been there. And I never had any issues after that. You know, opening weekend came and everyone was super supportive and all the other business journeys I've taken, they have been there and my team has grown with the consulting business. I have a team of consultants and with New Jersey businesses, I have a team that certainly helps me execute these events that I have and also manage the requests that come in for promotions. So, but in the beginning it was certainly lonely and you know, you may experience that someone may experience that, but still don't let it discourage you because again, at the end of the day it kind of test your commitment to wanting to start the business. It tests your commitment to entrepreneurship because there are going to be days where it's lonely and you have to be okay with that.
Martine Cadet: Yeah, no, totally, totally can relate. You know, you did mention earlier that you started your first business out of like really looking at it as a hobby and you know, and also New Jersey Black Businesses, your community and everything is really something that you saw a need and you really passionately dived into it and decided to do something about it. And I'm bringing this up because, we talked about skills, leadership skills, but I also feel that it's important to bring up the fact that you have to be passionate about it because all of this balances out. Once you're passionate about what it is that you're doing for people, you know, what you just walked us through the disappointments and whatnot, you know, it's going to be easier to overcome. And I'm bringing this up one because you work a day job and you're doing all of this, which is awesome because I'm in,the same boat right now where I've been building my business, reporting to my day job.
Martine Cadet: It's really because that passion of mine of doing what I want to do for my business is so much greater than anything that it's still giving me the motivation. So tell us a little bit about the life. How do you manage that life? Meaning you know, reporting to your day job yet knowing that you have all this going on with your businesses and you know, still giving it all and all that passion and because it's a lot of work, although you know, you have the teams but you're still running the show at the end of the day. So how do you maintain that endurance? That's always like the most biggest question that anybody come to me with. And they're like, you have two kids, you work a day job, how do you do it? But you know, it's all of us. Like you're doing it too. So do you mind sharing a little bit about how you, you know, strategize in making sure that your days productive, not only for your employer, um, but also for your own business?
Natasha Bray: Right. Yeah, it definitely be a lot sometimes. So balance certainly comes into play, work life business balance, the businesses balance. So it's, you know, because this is the first time where I had been running two businesses at one time, plus the day job in the past. It's just been, I've had the day job and I've been able to also just focus on one business and it was certainly more manageable and once I got ahold of how to balance those two, then I was able to take on more and you know, branch out into another business. So, so yeah, during the day I am a bank executive and so how I start my mornings, I mean, you have to have some type of schedule and if you don't, you'll be all over the place and then I'll become overwhelmed and then I will fail.
Natasha Bray: And so in the mornings when I first get up, I start off with New Jersey, black businesses and I handle the inboxes and I handle the social media posts and things like that or I'll, you know, send information through my team to post because it has to come through me first. I have to, I have to see it. So I'm not at that place where I'm totally hands off as yet with New Jersey Black Businesses. Um, so I'll start there and I'll do and NJBB work for about an hour, hour and a half. After that, I then focus on my nine to five and I'm totally committed during my nine to five because my day is filled with meetings and timelines and you know, fire drills and everything was due yesterday. So I have to be 100% committed and focused there. And then in the evening times is when I focus on Wallace and Partners.
Natasha Bray: And the good thing with Wallace and Partners is I have a very competent team. So I have the team of developers and graphic designers and folks like that. So, there is not a lot of burden put on me. I'm just able to disseminate projects and we do not take on too many projects at a time because of these contractors are subcontractors, so they have other things going on as well. So that's just pretty much how I balance it. And, um, and I do that Monday through Friday, but on the weekends that's when I need to have family and travel and just being able to just enjoy the downtime. I crunch a lot into the week, into the Monday through Friday. But it works. Yes, I've been working for me. Martine Cadet: 18:03 It's so refreshing. I'm basically envisioning what your work week looks like and as you walk me through and I'm like, man, I want to get there one day, because the reality is, you know, I, in the beginning you tend to want to do everything. And because you know, you feel like if you don't touch it, it's not going to be good. And, but at some point, you know, it's really good to hear you share with us your work balance, life balance because everybody has a different lifestyle. But it's extremely important and I came to realize that for myself not too long ago and I've been doing this business for four years now it's just recently that I realized that wait, I need to put scheduled time for myself and my business. Otherwise you get burnt out and I've been there and it's not fun. And that's when you start hating your business, which is not good because it comes out and you end up really, you know, burning the possibilities of it to scale up and grow when you're not well. So absolutely important to make sure that you have that setup. And thank you for sharing your work schedule with us. Cause that that's actually giving me ideas on how to attack my work schedule because it could get crazy.
Natasha Bray: You mentioned getting burned out and not only will you get burnt out, but eventually because you will be so overwhelmed eventually somewhere you will lack, you know, or let's just say me, if I, if I don't have that balance of this somewhere, I'm going to not give my all. So I'm either going to laugh at work and it's going to be noticed of course, because I have a high exposure projects and things like that or one of the businesses will lack and I will not be able to produce as I should and deliver to my clients as I should. So being able to manage your time and projects and your life overall is certainly a key element to successful entrepreneurship for sure.
Martine Cadet: Definitely. Before we end the conversation, Natasha, I want you to share with us a little bit more, you know, about the services that I know you kind of, you know, pointed a bit bits by bits during the conversation, what New Jersey Black Businesses is about and your consulting business is about. But if you could just like tell us for those of us listening to you and perhaps be able to use your services, can you tell us how can we benefit from what you have to offer for our businesses and help us out and grow it or have more visibility or, you know, what do you have to offer to help us out?
Natasha Bray: New Jersey Black Businesses I believe I'm your number one resource for black owned businesses in New Jersey. Your number one place to go to find businesses in particular regions, businesses in particular industries. We have an online directory and that is a paid service. So, we have one month subscription and six months subscriptions that's all available there. And then we also have, postings available through all of our social media circles. So Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. We have grassroots hosts which are complimentary to a startup businesses and which are businesses also who have not been promoted through New Jersey Black Businesses. And then we also have your pro options that's available to businesses as well. And there are some fees depending on how long or what kind of posts we would be making. Additionally, if there are business related events going on, we promote those as well for a nominal fee.
Natasha Bray: And so we have over through all of our social media circles, probably about 10,000 followers. So that is great visibility for the small business, particularly if you are focused, if you're a brick and mortar or if your main demographic are, you know folks in New Jersey. So that, those are wonderful options to grow and sustain your business. Because at the end of the day, folks have to know that you exist and they have to be able to contact you. So we have those advertisement opportunities. We also have small business workshops where we focus sometimes on branding and marketing and technology solutions and the Financing. So capital. So we have those opportunities as well once a year. And sometimes we'll do small business expo. So, small businesses can be a vendor and you know, the community comes out and shops with them.
Natasha Bray: And then of course, the signature program again, which is the Annual Awards Gala, which you have partnered with us for years as an expert judge. And I appreciate your partnership for sure. Thank you. And the Awards Gala is highlighting the best of the best. So those businesses that are demonstrating operational excellence and quality and integrity and these are self nominations and peer nominations of folks and again, we have a panel of judges who are really going through and doing their due diligence to see who are the best of the best in New Jersey. We have tons of wonderful businesses throughout our state. Unfortunately, many people do not know about them and this program or this event is, it's very important to me because there are many award programs throughout the State and oftentimes, you know, there's a huge disparity, you know, our folks get overlooked and, these are kind of some of the reasons why I started New Jersey Black Businesses. We're just as great our businesses, our produce quality products and services and we need folks to know about that and we need to be able to sustain and grow.
Martine Cadet: I was so impressed. I remember the first one, the first award show that I attended and thank you so much for inviting me. It's just so inspiring and just to have this community all together in one room, the energy, it's just, you can't compare. And you know, I enjoyed it myself because, you know, I was able to create new relationships from there and I also was able to reinforce relationships that I had already established on my own and just being able to see, you know, these contacts in that same room was just great validation and knowing that all these people, you know, are there with the seam purpose, like meaning, you know, they to help people, they're building something and it's just, you are doing such a great job with this community and I, I'm very, very grateful to be part of it and I believe that it's going to grow more to not just New Jersey. I'm just letting you know because. I totally see it and you know me, I'm all about visualizing and creating. And you know, this is actually a great segway to the next question that I have is, you know, where do you see your brands yourself, Natasha, in the next three, five years? What do you see happening?
Natasha Bray: I see myself still creating opportunities, you know, I strive for that, you know, it really does bring me joy to see, folks grow and businesses grow from being a part of the NJBB network. So, you know, like you mentioned going to the Awards Gala and building and creating some new relationships and I've seen a lot of that happened. The business to business relationships that have been made through attending an expo or the galas or workshop. And I'll see these businesses working together and you know, coming together to curate and produce products and events and, and all of these things. And it really does make me happy. Um, I've seen some of our businesses who have been awarded, given the opportunity to interview on New Jersey Channel 12, and you know, as a result of, you know, being recognized in the community through New Jersey Black Businesses.
Natasha Bray: So I see over the next three years just seeing more of that, even more of that and to really our businesses just kind of, again, just growing and not being forced to shut their doors down because they don't have the support of their community and folks don't know about them and, you know, I want to be able to provide more resources, particularly financial resources, whatever that may mean, just, you know, whether it being may mean introducing them to the folks in the financial industries who can help them, or again, just kind of creating those avenues through events and such that will bring more networth to their business. So, I'd say the key word is just kind of creating more opportunities for the businesses in our communities. That's where I see myself and my brand growing over the next three years. Martine Cadet: 29:49 I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your vision with us and you know, for all of us, for those of you that are thinking of starting a business and you're not sure, and you know, this is where you need to really connect and find community, a community like this that's going to give you the resources and support of like-minded individuals. They know what you're going through, they know what you're looking to do and you know, Natasha is pulling them all together in one pod to help each other out and it's fabulous and I really, really applaud you for it. Thank you, Natasha for coming on and I know we're gonna be talking again soon, on this podcast and more. And you know, I'm sharing your information in the show notes. So for you listening, please do visit the show notes.
Martine Cadet: I have all her links, all the information regarding her businesses and I really encourage you to check it out and whether you have a business right now or you're in the midst of looking to start one or you're struggling finding resources to help you with your graphics and whatnot like Natasha said, everything is there in the show notes. So please do visit, um, and, and check the Tasha out and all her services because she is fire and I'm really seeing this from the bottom of my heart. I've watched you and you're amazing. I love it. Yeah.
Natasha Bray: And I, and know the same, I can say the very same about you. You are a dynamic woman and I am so glad that our paths crossed. Yeah. And I just, I thank you so much for inviting me on and I think you, for all of the support that you have given me, and you've given New Jersey Black Businesses and you do it all so gracefully and with a smile and I love what you are doing and what you are adding to the entrepreneurial community as well and helping these small businesses. So, you know, I applaud you as well.
Martine Cadet: Thank you. Thank you so much, Natasha. Absolutely.