Three small business owners explain how to make it 5, 10 and 15 years

Kenyatta Forbes didn’t plan to start a business. While teaching middle school in Chicago, Forbes realized the traditional Black History curriculum focused on only a handful of figures — and missed a lot of the discussion about the cultural and historical impact.

To add insights to the lessons, she created a deck of index cards that mixed historical figures with people students might recognize, like modern-day rappers and reality TV stars. Each player is dealt five cards. To win a round, a player has to convince everyone else that the person on his or her card is the “blackest.” Forbes tested her new game, Trading Races, with friends, who encouraged her to create a business. A subsequent crowd-funding campaign raised $5,500 — and Forbes’s new venture was born.

For a few years, Forbes did okay by selling the game at Black culture festivals. Then the pandemic halted all in-person events. “I wondered: How do I get the word out — or is this the end?” says Forbes, who works on her business out of her Oakland, Calif., home.

Forbes didn’t have professional marketing experience and as a solopreneur, she couldn’t lean on co-founders to help her develop ideas. So when she heard about Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, she signed up for  live 1:1 reviews to discuss social media marketing and strategy.

“The one-on-one sessions were phenomenal because we could drill down on my business,” she says, explaining that the discussion focused on actionable goals. “We could get into the nitty-gritty.”

The expert advice helped refine her promo ideas into a marketing calendar with a coherent social media strategy, tailored to her target audience. “Having a firm understanding of what I need to do, creating that content, and scheduling it out has been super helpful,” says Forbes. Today, Trading Races has several thousand followers on social media and partnerships with influencers. Sales have surged.

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