For JeFreda Brown, owner and CEO of Goshen Business Group, LLC, being an African American woman in business is a dream come true. “As a child, around 7 years old, I prayed and asked God to help make me a successful business owner,” she said.
But owning a business for Brown is not the end goal. She wants to educate, motivate, and inspire women of all backgrounds to take control of both their financial and vocational future. As a small business owner, Brown typifies an under-represented segment in the business world; minority women. According to recent statistics, women are starting and owning businesses at an increasing rate.
Motivations to own a business vary, but for Brown, her dream started during her childhood. The importance of being a woman entrepreneur developed when she began to notice that the women in her family did not fully walk in their gifts and talents.
“Being a business owner is important because it shows that as women we are able to do things,” she said. “The playing field isn’t fair. We have to fight harder and do more to get ahead. It’s not hard for us because we fight anyways as women.”
Family members saw a young budding entrepreneur and business-minded woman in the making from the onset. As the oldest child and grandchild in both sides of her family, Brown says she felt a natural obligation to help everyone around her. Often younger and older family members would ask her to help with deciphering difficult to understand mail and business documents.
“They would say that they received an important document in the mail, for example, and would ask me to help them understand what it said and what was needed,” she explained.
But being in that position often left Brown feeling “trapped.” It was difficult to leave home because of her close family ties. Eventually, she moved away from her hometown in Mississippi after completing her bachelor’s degree in math at Mississippi State University. Ultimately, Brown moved to Birmingham, Alabama where she now resides and runs her thriving business.
Brown relishes the freedom that entrepreneurship affords her. These freedoms include being able to schedule clients to her liking and to branch into other areas while using the full gamut of her God-given talents.
“I am not confined and I do not have anyone looking over my shoulder micro-managing me,” she said. “Most importantly, no one decides when and if I receive a raise or promotion.”
For Brown, leaving her full time job to start her own business was one of her biggest challenges.
“I stepped out on faith and left my job in 2011,” she explained. That was the same year deadly tornadoes devastated several areas in Alabama.
“The tornadoes that hit did economic damages and small businesses suffered. I used all of my retirement savings to keep afloat! It was hard to get out of that hole,” she said.
Eventually, she did get out of the hole and moved forward. In 2014, Brown was led to change the direction of her business again when she says God prompted her to “trust Him” completely.
“Whenever I learn something, it is meant for me to share it with others and not for me to keep to myself,” Brown said.
One lesson she desires to pass on to other women concerns giving. Her former hair stylist once shared a life truth that has resonated with her ever since.
“Stop planting seeds in unfertile ground,” Brown said, quoting her stylist’s statement. This was a much needed revelation for Ms. Brown and was a breakthrough moment for her in her personal and business life. Brown quickly took this advice and stopped granting requests to borrow money made by people in her life.
Among other things, Brown is now often called upon as a guest speaker to teach other women on finances and to stand as an example of a woman CEO and business owner. (Brown teaching)
Brown has been pleasantly surprised by the direction her business and influence has taken. “I never thought of myself as a motivational speaker. I was just giving people knowledge concerning businesses and finances,” Brown said.