Going to work and mingling with colleagues seems like a run-of-the-mill errand, and chopping it up with your best friends can be like second nature. For some reason, when business and pleasure are mixed, some friendships or business relationships cannot seem to withstand the storm. However, business besties B. Simone and Mary ‘Mz Skittlez’ Seats prove the stereotype wrong by maintaining their close friendship while opening an all-female co-working space, “The Bakery,” for female entrepreneurs to thrive and cook up their next big idea. I had the opportunity to speak with B. Simone and Mz Skittlez about their thriving friendship, the inspiration behind their latest venture, and how the latest reports of COVID-19 and rioting have impacted their working relationship.
Recently, the two have come together to open an all-female co-working space in Atlanta called “The Bakery.” The 14,000 square foot space will house B. Simone’s “B. Simone Beauty,” and Mary’s, “The Icing Agency.” The all-pink space was constructed specifically for female entrepreneurs in mind to utilize for photography sessions, green screen videography, executive offices, and retail space.
What came first – the friendship or the business? “Actually, the business came first,” bestselling author B. Simone kicked off. She began to explain how Skittlez and her brand of nine years, Cupcake Mafia, reached out to B. Simone years ago when she was a new influencer on the scene. After meeting approximately five years ago, B. Simone and Skittlez connected when B. Simone was an artist, prior to pursuing a career in comedy, which prompted her to ask Skittlez to step into a management position. While Skittlez politely declined, she agreed to still help B. Simone on her journey when needed.
“She helped me grow, get brand endorsements, and that’s when she started marketing the B. Simone brand,” the Wild N’ Out comedienne shared. “I had the talent and of course I’m going viral and I’m posting a lot of stuff, but she really moved my talent into an overall brand with the marketing, campaign, intentional posting and monetizing my content.”
Skittlez adds onto B. Simone’s story by speaking on where they were mentally when they met and embarking on their individual journeys to discovering who they were. “B. Simone was the funny girl on Instagram but she didn’t want to say that she did comedy, and I was at a place where I had a marketing and branding agency but I never managed anyone before,” the marketing manager admits. “Of course, in that aspect, it took some time for us to just get a flow in how we were going to work as a business, but once we got that flow, it was no problem.”
The Icing Agency founder told me that when comparing the two initial work styles, she was a hardcore workaholic and #TeamNoSleep while her B Inspired by B. Simone founder colleague was rather lax about putting out content and creating marketing plans in the beginning. “That was really our only problem that we had, even in these five years of business,” Skittlez said. “I really wanted her to see that she could have this extreme level of success if she just dedicated her time and entire being to the business.”
Even with that one speed bump in the road, Mz Skittlez had no issue listing the many ways in which they complement one another personally and professionally. She shares her belief that a lot of business relationships turn sour when lanes are crossed and designated parties don’t play to their strengths. “We figure out our lane and we stay in it. We honestly know what we want to do and our lanes never cross,” the branding maven refers to she and B. Simone’s understanding of one another’s strong suits. “I’m so comfortable and happy with her being the star of the show [and] I love being behind the scenes.”
While B. Simone and Mz Skittlez have worked together and proven to be a business duo to be on the lookout for, their personal achievements as authors, talents, gurus and mavens have equipped them to be the best collaborators they can be through their individual successes. B. Simone praises how her mentor’s extensive history in business, hiring employees and marketing have become learning tools for her as a new CEO of a million-dollar business.
“It helped me turn my mind into a business mind. I’ve always been the talent [and] I’ve always known how to entertain, but having a business mind is what really affected my business to grow,” B. Simone shares about what Skittlez has taught her in brand development. Skittlez shares that she started off in the music industry at a very young age touring with B2K and Bow Wow, and her experience in internships, styling and artistry developed her appreciation for the brand from the inside out. “That is another reason why we work so well together,” she adds.
On the personal end of the spectrum, the two women were clear on one another’s goals and dreams from the beginning and continue to effortlessly support one another in their individual endeavors. When I asked the two mavens about the balancing act of besties and business partners and defining clear lines, the Manifest Queen says that they have achieved the perfect balance and she is proud to call the GURL MOBB creator her friend, shoulder to cry on, and her confidant for boy troubles, family troubles and internal demons.
“Those are not business conversations. That’s my sister at this point. Even with Skittlez, she always lets it [be] known that we built our foundation on a business relationship. Business always comes first and we separate the two,” B. Simone says about meshing the two relationships with one another.
Though the two ladies can keep it cute, classy and professional within the parameters of a business setting, “keeping it black and white” as B. Simone says they are able to have candid personal conversations hours later because they can draw a clear line in the sand for the time and place for each switch to flip. “If our business crumbles, then our friendship is going to follow along with that. We make sure we keep the business tight and then that leads into keeping our friendship flourishing,” B. Simone clarifies.
Skittlez jumps in to add that the two talk about their monthly business goals in order to align with themselves and have open discussions about their aspirations to help support each other along the way as business partners and friends. “Those conversations are very important, too, that we understand that even outside of me being a manager and B being an artist that there are things that you personally want to do and you have to support your friends and all of their endeavors,” the marketing powerhouse drops.
In the midst of managing a superb business relationship with one another, mental health check-ins, especially during these unfortunate times are essential for any relationship to flourish. B. Simone makes it a mission to spread positive affirmations, remind anyone in her circle that she loves them, and open up the floor for an honest conversation about how one another may be feeling emotionally. “Keeping that open communication, asking those questions and letting people feel comfortable enough to open up to you,” B. Simone shares the secret to their emotional connectivity. Skittlez embraces her talent for reading energies and body languages and uses it to be spiritually in-tune with B. Simone when times are tough.
“When you’re working with someone or you’re around them so often, you should be able to monitor their dialect and their body motions,” she adds. “We have to be a good read for our friends.”
Back in September, Skittlez had lost her mom, but B. Simone had a launch for her B. Simone Beauty brand the following day of her mom’s funeral. “Even though I know she was completely there, there wasn’t a time where she didn’t message me, donate to find flowers for my mom, and whatever,” Skittlez dotes about B. Simone’s unconditional support through her loss. B. Simone even took the reigns of her own launch to allow her friend to take the necessary time to heal. Talk about friendship goals.
As far as the inspiration goes, the GURL MOBB founder realized that there were no all-female co-working spaces in Atlanta and a lot of women who are coached through her digital platform are working at their own homes. “I understand what it’s like to be in a community environment where everyone could learn from everyone,” she says as she goes on to explain that B. Simone teaches her new skills everyday, but she would have had them if the sisterhood they had was fostered throughout the community of Atlanta. “It came to us when we acquired the 14,000 square foot space that we wanted to help other women build and bake their ideas and success stories while in our space. We didn’t want to just use it for our own offices.”
In an era of pandemics, a rise in police brutality and economic and racial injustice, these circumstances may be enough to put anyone’s dreams on hold for the time being. Skittlez tells HelloBeautiful that they’ve been actively scouting for locations for almost a year now because both of their brands have expanded to the point of working out of storage units. “COVID-19 hit us in a place where most people lost motivation, and it just motivated us. It just gave us the hustle we really needed to say we’re not going to let this pandemic defeat us. We worked even harder during this world pandemic and that’s what caused us to set high goals and meet the goals,” she said about turning Miss Rona’s arrival for the benefit of their business.
With keys in hand to their newest business venture and co-working space, being in the midst of a country-wide riot and looting debacle may make any small business owner a bit weary – especially as a Black woman. “Honestly, I think that [with] what we’ve done for the community so far and what we’re planning to do, I’m really not worried about that and I’m leaving it in God’s hands,” Skittlez says in addition to doubling up on insurance policies.
“In times like this, I understand the riots [and] I understand the looting. People are trying to make a bigger statement to the government. I don’t think it’s a personal attack on each business that they’re looting from; and this is not the first time this world has experienced looting. As business owners, you just have to double up on insurance, secure your building as much as possible, but I believe the contribution we’re making to the city of Atlanta, we would have the community behind us.”
For any friends who are looking to go into business with one another, but not too sure where to start or if their relationship can withstand it, B. Simone and Skittlez have some sound advice. “Once you decide you want it to be that person, make sure the business is in order. You have to put feelings, emotions and friendships to the side,” B. Simone advises on operating on a friendship-first basis. She further acknowledges that a grace period is okay every now and again, but you must conduct yourselves in the ways that business women do – contracts, lawyers, numbers and all, no matter how difficult the upfront conversations may be.
“You cannot go into business with someone who wants to be you or be like you. That’s going to kill the friendship right away,” piggyback Mz Skittlez about the aspect of jealousy in any relationship. “If your friend has any part of jealousy, if you feel like they’ve ever not been there for you, if you feel like this friend has never clapped when you won once, you cannot go into business with them.”
Plain and simple, when one win is won, it’s for the whole team. When one victory lap is made, the other makes a standing ovation – in the front row, screaming and yelling. These two Black girl bosses have never taken away from one another’s successes, thus creating the ideal friendship in which business ventures can continue to manifest.