For as long as I can remember, Koereyelle Dubose has been a woman on my list to live up to. She’s a bad ass serial entrepreneur, who kickstarted WERK University to equip Black women with the information, tools and systems they need to make consistent profits in their small businesses – especially during the coronavirus pandemic. With a second wave possibly en route, Koereyelle and her WERK University crew connects women of color entrepreneurs and business owners connect with the resources they need to sustain their business, make a lasting impact on the world and steer away from the life of living paycheck-to-paycheck.
This former classroom teacher decided to change the game by transforming her $32k salary into a six-figure brand and blessed the rest of us with pertinent information on the power of taking your existing skills and turning them into profits and dollar signs. As the founder of WERK University, the first Black-woman-owned trade school for women of color, Koereyelle is a highly-sought speaker, multimedia journalist and transformational educator with a passion for empowering and teaching women how to start a new stream without a specialized skill and leveraging their current skills and experiences to make the money they deserve.
I had the chance to kick with Koereyelle over the phone about the financial future of the beauty business, drop shipping and niche marketing for fashion and beauty brands and her biggest life lessons from being an entrepreneur.
HelloBeautiful: What sparked your interest in entrepreneurship and uplifting Black women owned businesses?
Koereyelle Dubose: What sparked my interest in entrepreneurship was not appreciating my income being determined by someone outside of myself which as a classroom teacher, the way that we get paid is based on the number of years that we’ve held our degree. It did not matter how good of a job I did, how much overtime I did, how many after school extras I signed up for – none of that mattered because my salary was already dictated by someone who had never met me. The thought of that never really sat right with me, but I didn’t feel like I had any options. When I did eventually get into entrepreneurship in a really organic way, that was my biggest motivator: not going backwards. Not going back to depending on one stream of income or paycheck, not going back to someone else being able to dictate what my time was worth; and being able to transition from being a full-time employee to being a full-time entrepreneur and knowing that it’s possible. I feel like I’ve been through a lot of the things that I have so I can share those lessons learned with other people and show them that there’s other ways to do it outside of the traditional “go to school, get a degree, work for somebody, retire” blueprint, which is what most of us were born and raised to believe.
HelloBeautiul: Shifting a bit to everything that’s happening right now in the world, how have you personally seen beauty businesses be impacted by COVID-19 and quarantine orders?
Koereyelle Dubose: I definitely think that Black women have been given the opportunity, even though it looked like an obstacle, to redefine what beauty looks like for them. Because of that, I feel like beauty businesses have probably taken a hit and had to transition in how they were marketing or how they were positioning their products because a lot of talks that I have seen around self-love and being okay with being your true self because we haven’t reached that place. I definitely feel like with all industries, beauty industries especially, had to get a little creative with how they were going to market and sell their products, for sure.
HelloBeautiful: How do you think they’ll recover once the country fully opens? What steps do you think they need to take?
Koereyelle Dubose: It’s gonna be a learning experience for all of us. Because we had to stretch ourselves so much during this time, hopefully by the time it’s all over the creative juices have been flowing for a long time. You’ve had such a long time to plan and prep whatever it is when it’s over with and hopefully you can execute that efficiently or in the way that you intend. There’s gonna be a change in the way that we view beauty because of us having to take matters into our own hands during this time. I don’t know what the right answer is gonna be, but I’m definitely curious to see what they come up with.
HelloBeautiful: As far as financial wellness and literacy, how do you believe entrepreneurs can successfully make a profit during COVID-19 and beyond as the world is slowly opening up phase-by-phase?
Koereyelle Dubose: In my personal experience with the entrepreneurs in my community and I’ve connected to, business for us is really booming during this pandemic. Because of the space that we’re in (the digital space) where we don’t have a lot of inventory sitting anywhere and aren’t dependent on someone walking into our establishment and because we were already kind of set up to have less overhead and require less manpower, I think that we’ve been able to thrive during this time. Whereas the businesses that I know that have really been affected are those that are brick-and-mortar businesses, those local services that have been shut down out of their control because of COVID and everything that’s going on with it.
If you have been creative during this time – I mean, I even saw restaurants turning into meat markets during quarantine – and you are creative, there are ways that you can turn this obstacle into an opportunity. There were other restaurants at the same time that put up a GoFundMe page asking for donations within the same time that other restaurants pivoted and went the other route. Everybody comes up with their own conclusion about what’s right for them, but I think you could put just as much emphasis and energy into pivoting that you can into complaining about your circumstances, especially when you can’t control them.
HelloBeautiful: I know that you mentioned your business has been booming, but how else has the pandemic impacted you and your business? What is your “new normal?”
Koereyelle Dubose: In still figuring out the “new normal,” one of my businesses is a travel agency so that business has definitely been impacted during this time. There’s obviously not anything we can do and it’s out of our hands in terms of the travel restrictions and even if the country is open, clients are still not even feeling safe to travel and not feeling like it was worth the risk. That business has been impacted, but that’s why I’m always talking about the power of having multiple streams of income. If I was only relying on that travel business, I would have been suffering during this time because there aren’t enough travel blogs that I can write to [and] to pay me the money I needed to make that I’ve lost during this time during my travel agency. We’re all figuring out the new normal and day-by-day, hour-by-hour, things are changing and things are coming down the pipeline.
It’s not even things that we’re in control of, but I’m in my business because WERK University is completely online. I’ve been able to go on with business as usual because my people are connected with me digitally anyway. The biggest thing that I’ve spoken to them about is having multiple streams of income, but also finding ways to create passive income so while you are doing what you need to do and still be making money.
HelloBeautiful: What was the inspiration behind WERK University and tell us exactly what it is for those who don’t know?
Koereyelle Dubose: I’ve previously built brands within the women empowerment space and just to be quite honest, after seven years of hosting an annual women empowerment conference, I really felt like the space was overcrowded and it was starting to get a bad rap, you know? Women empowerment, the expensive brunches and all of the things that people like to say and because I knew that my intentions were really education and not just a “look good” event, I didn’t want to get lumped into that category. At the end of 2019, I retired from empowerment and I replaced Werk, Pray, Slay with WERK University, which allows me to really share the secrets that I’ve learned over the years and also provide my students with a blueprint to figure out how they can monetize their existing skills.
It’s an online trade school that is specifically for women of color and Black women to connect them with the resources that they need so they can save themselves, stop living paycheck-to-paycheck and start living the life of their dreams. It’s an online, completely digital online trade school where in addition to learning to monetize their skills, I also have guest experts that come in every month that do training and teach them how to create income in different industries. It’s a membership community, if you will, online trade school with a full curriculum, but it’s all about the common denominator, which is Black women wanting to create multiple streams.
HelloBeautiful: What would you say are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned during your journey as an entrepreneur – and as a Black woman entrepreneur?
Koereyelle Dubose: Prioritizing your purpose and not just focusing on getting paid because I have done so many different things and sold so many different things with the intention of “how can I make money?”. When I really got focused on what I was doing it for, what the objective was and what I wanted to provide for people or what I wanted people to get out of the program or products that I was creating, that’s when it happened seamlessly and easily. I didn’t have to force it, I didn’t have to beg people to buy everything that I was selling because I was really able to position it in a way that people saw value because it was really coming from. An intention of wanting to provide value instead of just wanting to make money. I want to say the biggest lesson has been even if you can’t figure out how to make money off of that thing right now, still focus on figuring out what that thing is for you and what your purpose is because that will eventually get you paid.
HelloBeautiful: Of course I know as an entrepreneur, you’re running around doing a million different things. Even with COVID-19 happening, people think that things have really slowed down, but as you said before, for some people, things have sped up. How do you implement self-care and what are your self-care must-haves?
Koereyelle Dubose: I’m blessed to be able to fuse the things I have to do with the things I want to do so that it doesn’t necessarily feel like work. I can be on vacation and still dial-in and have a class with my students at ATM, get off, and get back to my vacation. Because I don’t have to clock in for anyone and I am able to dictate how my days go, I’m able to take a break if I need to in the middle of the day. I’m able to make my own schedule. For the month of June, I told everybody that I’m taking a leave of absence. I’m still doing the things that I’ve committed to do for my WERK University students and for my travel agency, but I’m not taking meetings, I’m not doing coaching sessions, and I’ve closed down my calendar. I took a break and that, to me, is self-care.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be that you do yoga every morning at 6 AM and you wake up and say your affirmations. That’s like the cookie cutter generic definition of self-care, but I really believe that you have to define what self-care is for you – if I’m able to get a massage every week or if I’m able to read a book, that’s self-care. I just find ways to kind of fuse things I need to do with things that I want to do so that I don’t get stressed out about all of the things that I have to do.