African American women aren’t only the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, they own 1.3 million businesses and counting. And as black women shatter records in the business sector, self-made businesswoman Renae Bluitt tells the world what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
Bluitt has been narrating, highlighting, and celebrating the stories of African American female entrepreneurs with her blog In Her Shoes. Interviewing what she calls “fly female entrepreneurs,” such as Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter; Nzingha Stewart, director of With This Ring; and Claire Sulmers of the Fashion Bomb Daily, Bluitt not only gives black female entrepreneurs a platform, she also teaches and inspires. She’s created a community where veteran and budding female entrepreneurs can connect and support each other in an online marketplace called The Beauties and Brains: Behind the Brands.
While Bluitt is uplifting other black female entrepreneurs one post at a time, she’s an entrepreneur herself. Growing up in Indiana, she already had a blueprint of what entrepreneurship looked like because her grandfather and father were entrepreneurs. Before starting her own business, she worked for various companies, including Lifetime Television and Edelman. Now, she’s the founder of Crush Media, a public relations firm that represents beauty brands like Eden Body Works and Vibrant Beauty.
Now into her sixth year of spotlighting go-getters in the African American entrepreneurial community, Bluitt speaks to Black Enterprise and discusses what’s in the works for In Her Shoes Blog, her daily mantras, why passion matters when pursuing your career, and encountering failure.
Black Enterprise: Tell me a little bit about Beauties & Brains: Behind the Brand?
Bluitt: Last year, for the blog’s five-year anniversary, I made [Beauties & Brains: Behind the Brand] a little bigger, and I introduced the very first In Her Shoes marketplace, which brings to life the mission of the blog, which is to celebrate and support women-owned brands. So the marketplace last year was filled with brands that are owned by black women. I wanted to create this opportunity for women to shop and support each other’s brands onsite. Last year, I also gave away the first award to aspiring fly female entrepreneurs after meeting these young girls, all under the age of 11, who started their own nail salon on their stoop. I thought that was awesome and pretty innovative. Not only did we give them an award, we also offered them a one-day internship at Polish Bar.
You talk a lot about your passion. You’re very passionate about beauty and entrepreneurship. How important is it to tap into your passion, especially for a living?
This is not an easy journey. Each day is different. Your income fluctuates. But the one thing that has to be constant is your love for what you’re doing. There are going to be some days where you’re going to be faced with some challenges, and if you don’t absolutely love what you do, you will not make it, you will fold. Your passion is what drives you, on the good days and bad days.
Is entrepreneurship taught or innate?
I do not believe one has to be born an entrepreneur to succeed but it certainly helps. I think, innately, we may have tendencies and ways about ourselves that make some of us more likely to succeed as entrepreneurs. But I also think that going to business school, taking on entrepreneurship, or studying under an entrepreneur will give you the skills you need to be successful as one. [For me,] I think it’s a combination of both because of what I saw growing up. Entrepreneurship was normal for me. But I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and work with people who are entrepreneurs. Being in PR, a lot of my clients are women-owned brands, and I’m interfacing and working directly with the owner of the brand, day-to-day. That helps me sharpen my own tools when it comes to my business.
What advice would you give your younger self, when you were first starting out as an entrepreneur?
As cliché as it may sound, one very important thing that I would share with my younger self is the importance of making time for what really matters. There will always be work to do because an entrepreneur’s to-do list is never ending. That said, no matter how “busy” you are, make time to nurture relationships. One reminder of this came recently from my dear friend, the late Brook Stephenson. He was a lover of life, a noted author, and all-around beautiful human being. I knew he was special in my social circle, but it wasn’t until he transitioned that I realized how many lives he truly touched. He followed his dreams, blazed trails, and left his footprint, but he never forgot to make time for loved ones.
Your seventh year with In Her Shoes is approaching. What’s next for the blog and for you personally?
For the last six years I’ve been focusing my efforts in New York City, but I want to take In Her Shoes experiences to other cities—like Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles—where there are so many more Fly Female Entrepreneurs. I’d like to expand the brand globally. I’ve had people reach out to me from parts of Africa and London asking for this type of content and experience to happen where they live. The goal is to just expand naturally and globally.