This myBOB story re-introduces you to Founder and Creator of myblackbox co, Brittinee Phillips. Funny story: former Co-Founder, Jacqueline Carrington, of the discountined subscription box conducted the interview! You can listen to the full interview with Brittinee, as well as read the abridged version below.
You may have noticed Articulate You featured on our Instagram. If you’re interested in being featured in the #myBOBstory, reach out via email. This series brings awareness to Black businesses from the owner's perspective. At myblackbox co it's important to know the vision and purpose behind a business.
Brittinee has always loved marketing and consumer behavior. Over the years, working for corporations and venture-backed startups Brittinee realized she could support Black businesses with the skills and knowledge she’d gained at those organizations. As a woman of color, Brittinee’s intent is to enable the creation of more businesses owned and operated by women of color while also facilitating measurable growth and profit for those business owners.
Can you give a brief overview of what Articulate You is and how it came to be?
Articulate You is a marketing consulting business that also does some creative work. I started it out of a repeated experience when I would go to my beautician, or get my makeup done, or shop at a small boutique. I would hear these stories from women—especially Black women, about their struggles with marketing and how to find new customers, engage with them, and then even how to run their business operations. We'd have discussions, because I'm a marketer for the past 10 years, and I felt good helping them with the ideas I'd been using at large corporations. I felt compelled to start my own consulting business to be able to do that with other small and medium sized businesses owned by women of color.
Oh, excellent! Primarily what was the motivation behind focusing on your services to women of color owned businesses? Is anything more you wanted to add to that?
I was always very intrigued in how small businesses contribute to the US economy. And then looking further into that doing my own research and finding articles and stats about Black women as the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs; consistently it's been that way for the past four to five years. I felt that that was an audience that deserved and needed my specialty, my professional experience and knowledge, and skills because they oftentimes are running their own businesses alone or with very limited support from another individual.
Do you feel that you can relate better to your customer or how do you feel? Do you feel if people of non color were interested in your service that they would be off-put that you say that you primarily focus on businesses with women of color?
I don't think that they would be off-put. I think that they would understand that my primary audience and client base are women of color owned businesses; then women owned businesses. In our society, in the US, women are oftentimes encouraged not to be leaders; not to be entrepreneurs; not to be financially independent; and to always depend on another, especially a male or man. It's really important that any client who's considering me—whether they're women of color or a woman, or not—that they understand that my principles are to encourage women to be empowered, especially women of color. If they can understand that, then they can also understand where my services could also benefit them with their potential customer base as well. For women of color, I think that it's helpful for them to know that another woman of color actually understands what they go through as a small business owner and entrepreneur. At the end of the day, I am still an entrepreneur of color and a small business owner. I go through the same trials and tribulations that they do.
And what would you say then sets Articulate You a part from other marketing services?
What sets me apart is my experience. I've worked with large corporations as well as idolized and followed startups, where on the outside looking in I imagine folks things think that those organizations are well-run and well organized, and they have so much money and they have such a large team. But being on the inside I know how unorganized those organizations can be; how they maybe do something last minute and it may be luck that it's successful; as well as knowing how when you actually put a strategy and plan together how much more impactful that is for your bottom line, for your return on investment and the type of like impact you were expecting to have with your customer base.
The other thing is that I am extremely creative. I've come up with several ideas that garnered millions of dollars in sales and revenue for other businesses when I was employed by doing things that some might even consider very basic, simple idea or approach and taking out the complexity of how to reach an audience and continuing the conversation with them as people. I think that's one of the biggest things that separates me as well is my my focus on personalizing your communication with your customer. It should be two people talking to each other.
I certainly agree with that. I noticed that you said that 'when you were employed.' So it seems like you took a brief hiatus from your consulting business. What prompted it and what was your inspiration to get back to business?
I think what prompted me going back into full time employment was 1) finances, I think every small business can relate to that. 2) The autonomy that you can sometimes get to run an entire business unit or business product, and be very proud of what you are able to achieve with that—I enjoy that; that was one thing that returned me to full time employment in the past. 3) When I love a brand I want to do a lot for them. If I have a great idea for a business I want to work with them so I can see that idea come to fruition and benefit them. And then the last, which I think will change as more clients learn of my services and obviously work with me, is that I value my experience, my knowledge, my skillset, my creativity—everything that makes me a strong marketer. Sometimes you can find potential clients who are not willing to pay for your services and want a discount. Discounting yourself is pretty disrespectful to yourself. You know what you're going to bring to the table. If you can't get out of that trajectory, where you're getting more potential clients who are only interested in discounted services then it can be a little bit discouraging.
What was your plan or series of events that kind of pushed you to walk away from the 6-figure salary and all these brands that you were working with—and say OK I'm going to do this again? I'm going to work for myself. I'm going to do my consulting full time.
Well I realized that while I enjoy a six figure salary, titles like Director of Marketing, and knowing that I am impacting millions of people with my marketing efforts—I have to be true to myself. If I'm not happy as a human being in the workplace that I am in then I don't need to be there. And they also don't deserve what I'm bringing to the table. They don't deserve my talents. They don't deserve my skills. And if I'm not willing to give those away to an organization anymore then I should be doing it for myself. By myself as a consultant and running my businesses where I can be hired by clients who do value what I bring; who will appreciate me and who won't make me feel like I'm not welcomed or worthy. I think that's important for Black women, especially who have worked in corporations or large organizations, to feel whole. With my consulting business I get to be my authentic self and I get to be whole. That's really important to me before anything, worldly or tangible like money and possessions.
Well that's a very good point and I can relate to that as well. What do you say are your short term goals for Articulate You?
Short term goals are 1) to continue networking with those who have small businesses that I have identified would benefit from my services. Networking with friends and other professionals that I've met throughout my marketing career; to share more about my consulting business and learn about new opportunities. Networking really is key. Most of your clients will come through referrals or through your network. 2) To revamp my knowledge base. I've been in this space for 10 years; I have multiple degrees, one which is in marketing, but you can never stop learning. So I've signed myself up for a few classes around Facebook advertising, social media marketing, as well as content marketing, just to refresh my brain—as well as confirm where I know at [my] level of expertise or where I need to improve because I want to be 100 percent for my clients.
Have you thought about longer term goals? Like maybe in three to five years for your business?
[Laughs]. Yes. In three years I would hope—well I'm not going to say hope I'm going to speak it into being—in three years my marketing consulting business Articulate You will be profitable, number one. Two, I will be at a place where I retain at least 10 clients every month, if not every quarter—at the standard rate not at discount rates.
I want to backtrack for one moment because most entrepreneurs and people would like to quit your job to pursue their ideas and passions. I'm sure they want to know, how did you prepare to walk away from your job to engage in a full activity for your business?
Well I will say this, it definitely helps that every job that I've had in the last four years has been six figures and I've always been a strong advocate of negotiating when you get a [job offer]. I would say 9 out of 10 I always get what I asked for when I negotiate a salary. I was able to save. I learned about saving through the Budgetnista. I joined her Dreamcatchers Facebook group six years ago and I have learned so much from the women in that group who shared their financial journey and struggles as well as her helpful tips, Tiffany the Budgetnist. It became natural for me to want to save and always pay myself first when I would get paid. Moving forward, properly managing those savings and knowing what I can do to grow my business because it costs money for me to grow my business too.
Apart from the financial, which obviously is very important—it's scary to not have a steady source of income—how did you overcome the mental fear or challenge with walking into your own?
For me I was tired of getting mentally beat up going into work at these organizations every day. I'm very committed to delivering when I'm hired for work or I have a responsibility with a job title and function. I wasn't horsing around at work. I was focused. I didn't join in in inappropriate conversations at work. I didn't allow people to disrespect me with their ignorance and racism. I kept moving at work, but still would get beat up. I had to personally say what's worse? Continuing this where you basically are someone's pooping ground and punching bag, mentally and professionally, because they're bothered that you're there as a Black woman. Or, try to take a risk on your own and pursue your own business; see how you fair doing things yourself for your business and working with clients that you actually want to work—who you believe will actually value what you contribute to their business? It will not definitely come with a consistent paycheck but you will have better peace of mind. So which is worse?
The best person to bet on and invest in is always yourself. If you don't try, then you'll never know if you'll actually succeed. If not, then life is a bunch of roller coasters anyway. You can always, almost get a job. But it's how you pick yourself up and try again for yourself that matters most. In closing I have one more question. What marketing tips could share with small businesses pertaining to social media?
OK, well one tip that I can offer pertaining to social media is to be consistent. I think that a lot of small businesses will post here and there, post whatever comes to mind, or haphazardly put a picture with a post, and they forget consistency is important. Take for example XONecole or even The Shade Room could be an example. There's consistency. There's a consistency to when they post; there's consistency to how many posts they actually post a day or week. There's a consistency in the content themes that they share, whether that's across video or carousel images or Instagram Stories— if it's on Instagram. And then there's a consistency in the tone of voice and brand personality that they're sharing as well as the way they engage with people who respond in comments to those posts. In the case of XONecole, you can see the color scheme, the illustrations, and the design elements that are consistent across their posts. Consistency is what I would definitely suggest as a tip—and that can be hard, that's why I'm available as a consultant. It can be very time consuming and difficult to be creative enough to find that consistent thread across those areas.
That's good to know! So that's something your service can provide with regard to sitting down with a client and going over their ideas for their brand, and also implementing your vision as well?
Yes. I offer brand strategy, social media—where I manage as well as come up with a strategy for social for clients—content marketing, and then the last primary area I offer is email marketing. I do offer a few other services, but those are the primary services.
All definitely beneficial for small brands, medium and larger brands as well. What advice would you share with others who may be following in those footsteps? It could be someone who is starting maybe a marketing business themself or it could just be someone who's stepping out into their own to have their own business.
My suggestion would be, be true yourself. Whatever you actually believe is going to work, and by work I mean you're going to put the effort behind it and you're going to not be discouraged if it doesn't work the first day or the first month or heck even the first year. Number two would be if you don't have any support that you'll be able to receive from any external person be mindful with your finances. Don't put yourself in a mental state of worry about your finances while you are trying to grow and launch your business. If you have support, like family or partner, be prepared to have conversations with them about what is the cutoff time before they will find your venture damaging to the relationship you have with them. You can't expect from family, friends, or your partner to be this endless bank and also take on the burden of financial responsibility in your family. If you are going to go on this venture it has to be a partnership and you both have to agree on what a cutoff is before it puts a strain on the relationship. The last thing, if you are going to present something to market make sure the quality is something that you would buy. Don't half ass what you do. That's not going to make you stand out in a world where there are millions of products and services available. You have to make sure the quality of what you're bringing is something you would pay for yourself.
Those are certainly great tips and a great way to round off the conversation. Thank you so much. Is there anything that you'd like to add or how can we reach you?
You can find me on my website, www.articulateyou.co and you can also find me on Instagram and Facebook, @articulateyou. Lastly, if you're in need of marketing services and you want to try something different for the summer, now is the time to schedule a free consultation with me for whichever marketing service you're in need of.
Perfect. Well thank you so much for your time. I hope you have a good rest of your day.
Brittinee shows that if you’re committed to something and you do see the long term value in what you commit to you, the reward of helping others can carry you.