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Diversity in Business

Black Girls Run CEO Jay Ell Alexander Talks About What it Means to Be A Business Owner

Photo: Courtesy of R. Thomas Jackson photography

We talked to the CEO and owner of Black Girls Run Jay Ell Alexander about what it really means to run a business, from the employees to the expectations and responsibilities.

What was it like getting your business off the ground?

When I look back on it now, I honestly feel like I put the cart before the horse. I was so excited that I just jumped out there. It wasn’t until later that I realized I missed some steps — establish a business plan, open a business account, create a budget. All in all, launching my business was fun and scary at the same time. Seeing something you love manifest into something that makes money is a dream come true.

Can you share some characteristics you look for in your employees or business partners? What work qualities do you promote in your business? 

I appreciate people who have different skillsets than me and think outside the box. I do not need “yes men” around me. Let’s push each other, provide feedback, not be scared to say no or try again. [Let’s have] people who love working on teams and understand the power of a village. Communication and consistency are big qualities I push for.

Do you think there are certain responsibilities and expectations that come along with being a Black business owner? Do you think these responsibilities and expectations are fair? 

I think Black business owners have to work harder. Unfortunately, the ins and outs of being a business owner are not skills we have historically passed down through generations, so when I became a business owner, I felt like I had to play catch up with my counterparts. I had to surround myself with mentors and people who could help me. 

How do you feel your product stands up to mainstream standards while also being inclusive of the Black community? 

Our business directly supports the Black community and we play a major part in mainstream standards, as we help to increase representation on the pavement and in the running world. 

Does it feel like the Black community isn’t considered in mainstream standards? What advice do you have for someone looking to start a business that feels like they have to choose between one or the other? 

I think the Black community carries a lot of weight in the mainstream, but oftentimes we do not receive the credit we deserve. I do not think you have to choose between one or the other. I think, as a business owner, you have different patrons and you should treat each patron uniquely — what do they need, how do we communicate to them, how [do] we celebrate them and advocate for their business.

What are some business myths you believed prior to your current work that were dispelled once you started working in your business? 

I thought you did not need a lawyer or accountant. I now have both. You need people in both of these specific industries to keep you in line financially and legally.

How has the most recent push of the Black Lives Matter movement changed your business? What are your feelings on this new push and appreciation for Black business? 

It has not changed our business, but more so underscored the importance of what we do. The push of the BLM movement has definitely amplified our voice in the running community. We are not a social activist community, but we could also not be silent during this time.

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