It’s not everyday we get the amazing opportunity to meet an industry icon. But today the Lesbian Pride had the chance to interview MJ Harris, CEO of one of America’s largest minority-owned financial services companies, National Care.. This interview was conducted by LGBT entrepreneur Rizala Carrington.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I became an entrepreneur because as a child I had a learning disability. Because of my learning disability, I had very little confidence that a traditional career (like a lawyer or doctor) would be an option for me since I struggled in school. Entrepreneurship allowed me to create my own path that did not require me to excel in formal education.
Do you think being gay has its advantages or disadvantages as an entrepreneur?
I feel like it only has advantages. Any time you are a minority, you see the world differently. It gives you a greater level of sensitivity to the nuances that make us different. It makes me more conscious of the needs of individuals in minority communities, which allows me to market better based on what makes us unique.
Why did you choose your niche? Why financial services?
I chose financial services initially to earn extra money because I was working in a field that I was not passionate about. As I started growing my business, I realized it was something I was good at which felt great because I had struggled academically for so long. It was also very motivating that what I was doing was helping people build wealth.
What are the 3 biggest things would you tell new LGBT entrepreneurs?
- Don’t see being LGBT as a disadvantage – A lot of people belonging to minority groups may be hesitant to enter areas where they may not be heavily represented. Instead, see that as an opportunity to carve out your own niche.
- Don’t be original, be effective – Look at business models already working well in your industry, extract what they do well and apply it to your business.
- Don’t work alone – It’s hard to be successful by yourself, and so much easier to grow when you can leverage complementary strengths from others. A large part of my success has come from partnering with another LGBT business who had online marketing experience, but I was able to bring compatible production expertise. Together, we have developed a new, mutually beneficial, and very profitable revenue stream for our businesses.
What do you believe are the 3 most important things people need to be successful?
- Willingness to move forward in spite of fear – You don’t need to be unafraid, but you do need to be able to act in spite of your fear which will build up your courage.
- Don’t rely too heavily on planning – Take action and be willing to learn as you go. Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of analysis paralysis, which is really fear disguised as “planning.”
- Believe in yourself – Even if you don’t feel you have every resource and skill you need to be successful right now, you DO have the ability to reach out and acquire the skills necessary to be successful either through partnering or investing in training or personal development.
What should people expect when they get started in entrepreneurship? (What surprised you?)
- Don’t expect it to be easy – There will be many long days and nights, and sometimes your “money is funny,” but it will all be worth it in the end.
- You will have to invest in yourself to make money, especially early in your business – Cash flow is not always as consistent as you like. You may have to invest in yourself for training or certifications.
- Don’t expect to always be motivated about what you are doing – The results may not always be evident, but keep striving towards your goal even on days when you don’t feel like it.
What would you tell someone who wants to start their own business but doesn’t want to invest money?
Don’t go into business. 😉 LOL. All businesses require some investment, so you may be better off working for someone else.
Who is your role model?
My role model is my mom. Watching her overcome addiction and turn her life around to eventually get multiple master’s degrees has shown me that anyone can change their life. Her story inspires me to keep moving forward.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend time with friends, gardening, and travelling.
Wow! We can’t thank MJ enough for that amazing interview! If you are not inspired to jump in the world of entrepreneurship, I don’t know what to you tell.
Regardless, if you are ready to start your own business OR if you want to just simply build your wealth along side of your current career. We have a VERY special treat for you. MJ has so graciously decided to do a FREE Webinar for our community. This is available for a LIMITED TIME click here to join our LGBTQ+ Wealth Building Webinar.