Every morning, Angela Yee talks it up on the nationally syndicated FM morning radio show “The Breakfast Club.” Behind the scenes, she’s building a business empire.
Yee, who was born to a Chinese father and an Afro-Montserratian mother, operates three brick-and-mortar businesses centering on wellness, nutrition, education and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Her businesses include a coffee shop called Coffee Uplifts People, which she co-owns with Tony Forte and LaRon Batchelor; a juice shop, Drink Fresh Juice, which she co-owns with Tony Forte; and a hair extensions company, Private Label.
“I believe entrepreneurship was in me, but I didn’t have a name for it. From my first job working as an assistant for the Wu-Tang Clan, I had a lot of side projects. I was always the queen of side hustles,” Yee told Entrepreneur.
Yee says she has faced challenges as a Black female founder.
“It’s been hard because I still struggle with imposter syndrome. Sometimes I feel that I’m not smart enough or that I don’t belong in a certain room. Starting out in radio, I was looked at as a sidekick…I rebelled against that notion because I had so much to prove. Most of the jobs I’ve worked at, I was the only woman. When we’re live on ‘The Breakfast Club,’ I’m still the only woman in the room. I do the most work because I have to prove myself. If I were a man, I don’t think I’d be the same way. I feel that I have to be more prepared than anyone else, yet I still don’t get the same respect. I do all of this work just to be considered equal,” Yee said.
Yee added that she has found people don’t often take her seriously because she is a Black woman. “People think you’re only there to fill a quota, so they may not take you seriously.”
She shared that she has found support from other Black women.
“On the other hand, some of my triumphs have been the support from my sisterhood. There’s a misconception that Black women don’t support each other. It’s definitely not true. My biggest supporters have been women who have reached out to help me, collaborate and lift me up. Of everyone who’s been helpful and supportive to me, it’s been Black women. There’s no one else I’d rather be than a Black woman,” she said.
What advice would Yee give to other Black female entrepreneurs? “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.’ Sometimes, Black women don’t want to ask for help because we think it’s weak. Truthfully, people do want to help us, and helping us can benefit them, too. When people want me to mentor them, I’ll have them do work for me and pay them for it. If you want someone to mentor you, do your research on them and bring something to the table. That’s more valuable to me.”
Yee’s advice to potential business founders is to “ ‘Write down your ideas.’ Every time I have a great idea, I forget it in an hour. I believe writing things down helps you remember and manifest them. Also, learn how to pitch your business and put together a deck. I love watching ‘Shark Tank’ and studying everyone else’s pitch. Then when it’s my time to pitch, I can do it effectively.”
Yee makes it a point to support the communities where her businesses are located. The message she wants to spread is if she can make it, other young entrepreneurs can.
“Representation is important. I’m aware of my presence in the neighborhood. I still live in Brooklyn, and my businesses are here, too. People see me, I walk around all the time, and I’m approachable,” said Yee.” When kids can come into your business and see someone like myself as the business owner, it inspires them.”
She also encourages her own employees to consider entrepreneurship.
“I tell my employees: ‘I don’t want you to work here forever. I want you to think about things you can do to improve the business and let me know what we can implement.’ I tell them if they want more responsibility, I’ll give it to them. I want them to eventually own their own businesses,” she said.
Yee says she plans to create franchises for her current businesses and would like to see her current employees open a franchise.
“For the coffee shop I own, the goal is to make it into a franchise. I would love to help my employees open their own franchises. Being a Black-owned business is not a competition. I visit other Black-owned coffee shops and juice bars, take photos and share them on social media. There’s space for all of us to be successful.”