During Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re excited to celebrate some of the most influential millennial, Afro-Latinas that are making strides in entrepreneurship and in corporate America.
Unapologetically Latina & Black, Vivian Olodun is an Afro-Latina & Nigerian Mogul Millennial that has impacted and connected thousands of millennial entrepreneurs.
Currently, she is the ghostwriter behind luxury real estate articles published in the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel. Vivian co-founded a boutique marketing firm that has grown to over 6-figures in less than two years, and she created an annual business conference called Flourish Media through her nonprofit Behind The Leaf. Outside of that, Vivian is also the author of Stumbling Through Adulthood, an account of short stories in an interactive journal for adults struggling to find purpose in their failure.
As often the only brown girl in the room, Vivian has had years of experience working past stereotypes and misconceptions due to the color of her skin – all while growing her business, and helping Mogul Millennials in the making. Through her work, Vivian has helped entrepreneurs scale their brand so that they can demand top dollars for their services and have more leverage in their industry. Vivian’s consulting clients range from realtors and lawyers, to consumer entrepreneurs with products being sold in retailers like Marshalls and CVS.
Recently, Mogul Millennial contributor Tempestt Davis was able to catch up with Vivian and learned more about her experience as an Afro-Latina entrepreneur, the tools she uses in her business to successfully jump-start her day, and her advice for entrepreneurs.
Tempestt: In your business, you’ve been known to be very unapologetic about your heritage. Why do you think so many other people your position are hesitant to be unapologetic too?
Vivian: When it comes to my heritage, I always felt that there’s no hiding that I’m Black and Latina. One of the things that I had to be mindful of overtime was owning who I am, and understanding that I cannot change for anyone – and there isn’t anything wrong with it.
Because I’m in South Florida, there’s a very heavy Hispanic environment here. The reality is, I’m Afro Latina – my mother’s from Panama, and my father’s from Nigeria.
Both of my parents were also in the U.S. military, so I was born in Germany, which is a bizarre fact about me. I’m a global citizen, and I own the fact that I am a black person.
Through my experiences, I’ve learned that there are doors that are never opened for me. There are things that people will never say in front of me, and there are so many opportunities that I will never get unless I have the confidence to demand it – not ask. You know it’s like what Maxine Waters said about “reclaiming my time”. You have to have the audacity to demand, because it’s so easy for you to be ignored or for people to speak over you.
Of course, because of the color of my skin, I had the typical things that come along with being black in America, like the struggle of, am I going to relax my hair. I’ve had interactions where people will comment things, which feels like an insult but it’s supposed to be a compliment. For example, I’ve had people insult me when they say, ‘You speak very well,’ or, ‘you’re very knowledgeable about XYZ.’ Of course there’s a way of complimenting someone, but, there is also a way of belittling someone as well.
Tempestt: How did you deal with race while progressing in your career?
Vivian: For most of the environments that I saw myself in for a lot of my corporate career, I was the youngest person in the room. I was one of the very few women in the office, or I was the only minority in the room – all the time.
I had to learn to be okay with being an “other” and understanding that for some people, I am the only interaction that they will ever have with somebody who looks like me. It took some doing to get used to that because I’ve had people ask me, if I have ropes in my hair when I’ve had braids. Also, as you know I’m Nigerian and most Nigerians are very religious (usually Christian). In my family, we celebrate Christmas – we go hard in the paint for Christmas. But being the only minority in the room, I’ve strangely had people wish me Happy Kwanzaa.
And I get it – people are trying to welcome me, and that they are trying to be sensitive to me, but then they’re also making assumptions about who I am as a person, because of the color of my skin. Those instances are in my book because I think that as minority people are being more respected in certain spaces, you have to learn how to navigate those experiences.
You have to learn how to educate people on what is the appropriate way to speak to you, or what is the appropriate way to engage someone who is not you. I think every black woman in corporate America has had somebody reach for your hair and try to touch you like you are a dog.
If you allow those type of behaviors, then that’s something that you have to deal with. Just like the saying goes, ‘the things that you allow, you have to get used to.’ If you don’t want to get used to it, you have to train people how to treat you.
Tempestt: What would you tell a young, Black woman coming into her career on how to handle race situations in the workplace?
Vivian: When it comes to your race, you don’t need to hide who you are because everyone can see it.
One of the things that I realized working with high network individuals and with non-ethnic people is that people can see more of you than you think they can.
If you’re an insecure person, your insecurity is not something that you’re hiding from everyone around you. Everyone knows that you’re insecure; it’s you that’s lying to yourself.
If you’re a black person, and things that are affecting black people are happening in the world, don’t think that the other people around you who are non-ethnic don’t know that it’s affecting you. They know that it’s affecting you; they’re just choosing not to bring it up, or you’re choosing to ignore it.
So I would say that your race doesn’t define you, but do not hide from it because everyone can see who you are.
Tempestt: Out of all your phenomenal hats to wear, which one is your favorite?
Vivian: My favorite hat is being a storyteller because I think that it crosses all of the different areas of my business, and it’s also my favorite thing to do. I can sit down and gab and chat with anybody on anything.
My gift of storytelling is the same reason why I am able to sell services for my business. It’s the same reason why when businesses come to me and they want me to market their product or their service that I have the ability to do it, because people learn through stories. They grow through stories. In my nonprofit, our story is that we want to close the wage gap for women through social entrepreneurship. We want more women to be able to integrate digital tools so that they can grow their business, and so that they can provide jobs to other women that look like them.
Tempestt: What is one of your biggest success stories coming out of your nonprofit?
Vivian: I think the biggest success for me would be understanding that helping other people is worth the effort and time.
I think that as you’re growing a business and starting out as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get fixated on, ‘I have to get paid the right amount,’ and ‘I’m not going to work for free.’ All of this different stuff and this mindset can rob you of the opportunity to truly make an impact on your community.
Having a nonprofit allows me to do that and more. For example, my nonprofit was able to support the Jamaican soccer team go to the recent World Cup. That’s not something that I would be able to do through my business but because I have a nonprofit, we’re able to meet other people in philanthropy and grow the brand overall in that way.
My nonprofit was also able to create a small business scholarship that we give away at our conference every year. Through my nonprofit, we’ve been able to connect with high net worth individuals who are angel investors for businesses that come to the conference in Miami, Florida every year. These angel investors may not need marketing support from my company, but they understand the impact that women-owned businesses can have on a community, and their way of being engaged, is to make those funds available. This is a reach that I have in a network that I can grow.
Tempestt: When people look at everything that you’re doing in your space, they may say that you “have it all”. What are your thoughts on that?
Vivian: I definitely don’t think I have it all, mostly because of the other people who are way more successful than me. I think hearing that is 100% a compliment, but I always feel like there’s room to grow. One of the things that I’ve been focusing my energy on is self-care, and making space for my loved ones as my business grows.
Tempestt: What was a typical day in your life from the time you wake up in the morning?
Vivian: No day is the same, but I do wake up between 5-5:30 in the morning. When I open my eyes, I’m thankful to see another day, and I give thanks to God. I usually look at my phone, and my emails right away to see if something new or exciting happened, or if my clients need anything. I tend to have a plan for the week, so it’s important to me to function within that structure. For example, I don’t work on Sundays and Mondays. Tuesday is my Monday, and that allows for things to happen. Usually, for my clients Monday is a hectic day, and it’ll bring out questions for me on Tuesday.
So after I wake up, I usually look at my phone, plan out my day, and my email tells me where the day is going to go. When I’m taking care of my health appropriately, I go to a boot camp here in Miami from 6 am-7 am.
Around 7 am, I usually get into looking back at those emails. I like to write also at that time because that’s when I feel the most inspired. From there, I connect with my team – I’m currently using a management system called Trello, and I also use WhatsApp and Google Drive – that combination is how I run my business from my phone.
I communicate with my spouse or child, and usually, I have meetings throughout the day. I spend the afternoon in meetings, and by five o’clock I’m usually winding down, thinking about how I’m going to spend my time with my husband.
I do believe in working very hard in a set time, but I don’t believe in working all the time. I think that’s very unhealthy.
Tempestt: What would you like to say to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Vivian: Having my business, working in the environments that I’ve worked in, and being around the people that I have been around, I learned that having the freedom to make mistakes is a luxury.
Outside of that, it’s also a mindset thing that you can create for yourself, because for most people who have an idea or a vision, it’s there for a reason. The minute you start walking in it, it’s like the whole universe operates to help you be successful. I don’t think a lot of people have the idea of freedom in their mind, or the courage to really try and hope.
I hope that for the different narratives that are coming out of Millennials coming of age, that the freedom of the mind can become a part of the new American dream.
feature photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/michellevantinephotography/