OWN IT! A belle business conversation

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By Amia D. Edwards

Jackson Advocate Lifestyle/Entertainment Writer

 

Before being cast in the reality show “The Belle Collective” on Oprah Winfrey’s Network, the last time I saw Latrice Rogers and Lateshia Pearson was on stage. No, they weren’t performing, they were giving other southern bosses advice at the Black Women’s Business Expo. That was in 2020 before the pandemic hit. Like any successful business owner, it is obvious that these ladies did not allow COVID to “stop their show.” They adapted. 

Now that the show has fin-ished its first season, I want-ed to pick their brain and brands. Rogers is the CEO of Goddess Lengths, a luxury hair extension brand. Pearson runs National Women’s Brunch. Both ladies are well noted and awarded for their brands and hustle.

Our ZOOM interview didn’t feel like an interview at all. Lateshia and I had a few minutes to ourselves to catch up. We are well ac-quainted from several of her brunches, and have always discussed our business goals. 

Latrice joined us busy and bubbly as ever, leaving one business meeting and head-ing to the another. Before my ZOOM minutes ran out (I re-fuse to upgrade), I had to stop the chit chat and get straight to the business of asking the right questions. This time, I didn’t want to have the questions come from me. With it being Women’s History Month, I asked a few other em-powered women what they wanted to know from the OWN Network castmates. 

Tasha Bibb is the Entre-preneurial Development Director with Innovate MS. She wanted to know how the ladies got their first customer.  

Pearson didn’t start her self-employed journey brunching. She started out delivering homemade fruit platters and baskets, then took on adolescent birth-day parties by helping par-ents bring just about any cartoon character to their child’s special day. “With all my businesses, my first cus-tomers come from social me-dia. I cut up some pineapples and post a picture.”  

Rogers says her beauty brand mirrors Pearson’s an-swer when it comes to getting the first customer. “My first customer came off Instagram. I met them in a gas station parking lot.”  How beautiful is it to find that a gas station sale would pump up her million dollar hair empire. 

Dr. Sondra Collins is an economist who works closely with the state level government.  She was curious to know what the ladies believe makes Mississippi a special growing place for a boss to take root. 

Rogers says it’s our community. “It’s that sisterhood, that brotherhood – especially in the Black community. We come together; we deem  what’s necessary for the next individual to succeed and we go after it. If you need my knowledge then that’s what  I’m going to give you. It’s like a  family.” 

Rogers used other resourc-es besides hospitality to build her business. “SBA (Small Business Administration) helped me a great deal when I was starting out, getting an LLC, and all those things, and my husband of course. But, I’m so glad I learned about SBA; I encourage any entrepreneur to reach out to them.”

With their success stories, Collins and myself wanted to know what the ladies think is still needed here (besides infrastructure) to recruit busi-ness to our state. 

With her development ambitions on Farish Street, Pearson says not only fund-ing but also community support would help. “We need to see more people in the community who really want to see the area thrive again, not just Farish Street, but Jackson. And if you can make it in Jackson, you can make it anywhere.” 

The next set of questions made the ladies slightly roll  their eyes at me. The inquiries came from one of the many social media groups where viewers do not hold back opinions of the ladies, their storylines, their wardrobe, etc. One poster simply wanted to know where the ladies see their businesses in five years. 

I loved Latrice’s entrepreneurial response. “Which one?” But her hair business is still growing. “I have a new hair care product line coming out. Esensual Beauty has officially made it into a major retail store and I’m looking to get into more. And Goddess Lengths is looking to get into the realm of fran-chising. So, Goddess and Esensual EVERYWHERE.” 

Pearson says she will always empower and educate with her brunching nonprofit. “I want to focus on an enterprise and build it.  We are focused on several things that are coming soon. So, we will downsize to just two brunches a year.”  

Another fan wanted to know Pearson’s goals for Farish Street and where she is with it. 

Pearson answered, “My experience with Farish Street has been an EXPERIENCE and I’ve learned  A LOT! I didn’t know all the ins and outs of that area. It’s been a roller coaster. I was moving off a vision – a dream. It’s going to take more than me; but the vision won’t change.” 

A question that was asked several times in the group: How has the show made you look at yourself and how do you feel you’re being portrayed? 

Pearson says she learned a lot about herself. “I learned to just say what I want to say. But, overall, what I love about it – it’s reality. So I can only be myself.”  

Rogers says she, too, has definitely grown since the re-cording and airing of the show. “It made me more self aware of people. And people don’t portray who they say they are. You have to learn how to ma-neuver; just learn you and keep going; keep striving.”

So I candidly asked: “Isn’t that part of being a business owner and growing as one?”  We all agreed. That’s part of being a woman. 

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I encourage all readers to fol-low the examples of not only Pearson and Rogers but all women who are taking chances, growing businesses, pursuing dreams, all  while embracing  the power, beau-ty, and pain of womanhood.

In plain, I hope you OWN it.