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Collaboration Over Competition: the New Girl Code

Michigan Chronicle
Megan Kirk

April 4, 2022

Entrepreneurship has exploded, especially for African American women. Filled with drive and passion, Black women are leaving the constructs of traditional 9 to 5 careers to fulfill dreams of ownership. As more women create avenues for wealth by working for themselves, competition builds and can sometimes cause owners to lose the unspoken bond of sisterhood shared amongst Black women. However, there is enough money and opportunity to go around, lowering the need for competition and expanding opportunities for collaboration.

Building business relationships are essential for the success of any budding or established entity. The notion of collaboration may seem daunting at first glance but can inevitably mean the difference between success and a much darker path. For Black women, many spaces are not inclusive and pose mounting barriers not seen by other entrepreneurs. Institutions built on not only systemic racism but also gender biases can make it harder for Black female-led businesses to thrive. Creating a sense of partnership across business sectors provides a wealth of resources, camaraderie and support unlike any other.

Established in 2019, the W.O.W. Academy is a resource to help event planners and designers gain the confidence needed to build sustainable businesses. From this, a network of women grew creating another level of the business.

“The S.H.E.E.O. (Sisters Helping Elevate Each Other) portion stemmed from the W.O.W. Academy because working with these women, we were able to form genuine relationships where people were just coming together to help each other during the pandemic; becoming each other’s assistants at each other’s events. So then, S.H.E.E.O. is a play on words for a female CEO,” said Tameishia Pigford, chief executive officer of the W.O.W. Academy and founder of the S.H.E.E.O. lifestyle brand.

S.H.E.E.O. is a lifestyle brand and the brainchild of Pigford. More than a brand, the concept was birthed to create a space for like-minded women in the design and event planning arena to work and grow in their separate businesses, but to also garner a support system. Embracing the collaborative mindset, the women involved believe in the power of numbers and female empowerment.

“What I notice is that in this industry, or industries, can have this negative connotation around women just helping each other. People can be very tight-lipped, sometimes viewed as mean-spirited. There’s this crabs in a bucket mentality and so I’m trying to shift that narrative by showing that there are women that can be willing to help each other,” said Pigford.

Throughout life, women have been taught to see each other as competition in everything from love to business. Men have an established bro code that creates an unspoken and oftentimes impenetrable bond that permeates to various facets of life. For this reason, men continue to edge out women, making the need to collaborate even more vital.

“You’ve got this internal war going on where you’re trying to overcome self-doubt and insecurities and imposter syndrome. Sometimes you can feel like you’re the only person that’s going through this but what I’ve noticed is that because we have created this circle of other women, when we feel this way we can hold each other accountable to help pull each other out a lot faster,” said Pigford.

When we hear the word competition, it often resonates as a negative. However, in business competition can be healthy as it helps to push businesses to the next level. Without competition, there may be little growth amongst businesses, leaving them stagnant.

“There’s no competition at the end of the day when you understand thoroughly that I need to help enough people get what they want for me to be able to get what I want,” said Pigford.

Those looking to make the switch are encouraged to change their mindset. Shifting the narrative to create a community of togetherness, Black women can help combat issues that keep them from having a seat at the table. With more than enough business and opportunity to go around, Black female entrepreneurs must turn the tide and push for the betterment of one another to generate new levels of success for themselves and their peers.

“By women coming together we can achieve more and grow our businesses,” said Pigford. “We can also grow ourselves.”

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