Have you ever met a true visionary? When I think of that word, I automatically think of Tracey Coleman, better known as Brooklyn Travel Addict. Tracey is a Creative Activation Director for multicultural beauty brands, including the experiential marketing group Curly Girl Collective. Our paths first crossed through the New York City natural hair scene, and I had the great fortune to collaborate with her and the team during the early days of Curly Girl Collective. That’s when I learned that ideas don’t just come to Tracey, they manifest and are brought to life in vivid visual form. To own a glimmer of her creativeness is to hold a gold mine. When she’s not being the brainchild behind interactive experiences, you can find Tracey traveling and eating her way across the globe. Find out how she rebounded from a layoff and now makes a living doing what she loves.
Before you were a Corporate America retiree, what did you do in your former life?
I spent many years on what they call “Madison Avenue” where all the advertising agencies used to be back in the day. I started off as a web designer, then worked my way up to Art Director and eventually Associate Creative Director. Regardless of title, I was essentially one of those artsy people at the agency wearing sneakers and blowing marketing budgets out of the water with those big ideas nobody can afford.
When did you truly feel like “I can do this?” When did you know you were ready?
I’m still waiting for that moment! Every single day I still wonder if I can really do this. It’s a little scary honestly, and you always think someone is going to pull back your curtain and realize that it’s just you behind a laptop trying to figure it all out. Then you remember every great business started the exact same way.
How long did you side hustle before you made the leap?
Girl, I didn’t leap anywhere! I was notified that I no longer had a job, via cell phone at that, and that was my introduction to this hustling life. My initial plan was to just kick it and travel till the money ran out, but then a few freelance opportunities fell in my lap much sooner than I expected so I ran with it!
What are some things you wish you knew before becoming a full-time entrepreneur?
I wish I knew how much time would be spent doing things I don’t enjoy. For me, the financial bookkeeping aspect of entrepreneurship is for the birds. Ain’t nobody got time for invoices and expense spreadsheets and formulas and budgets. I’m a creative. That stuff makes my head hurt. But I have to do it. The same goes for business people who hate the creative stuff. But nobody trusts a website that looks like it was done in a middle school Photoshop class, so they have to make branding a priority. The good news is, the day you want to kick a puppy because you hated doing that annoying thing all day, you’ll work harder to hire someone who loves doing that very thing you hate. Know your strengths, and find someone to handle your weaknesses. Because you can’t put a price on peace.
What have been some of the toughest challenges and biggest mistakes since going out on your own?
The biggest mistake I’ve made so far is saying yes to too much, too soon. I had an opportunity to make more money, so my head was nodding so fast to requests that I should have turned down as a new business. I wish I had given myself more time to build and learn how to be on my own first. The result was poor performance early on. Luckily, I was able to recover, but that could have lost me the business with a less understanding client.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Part of my business is finding ways for my clients to work with other small businesswomen. A few include designer Charlene Dunbar, Cassandra Nuamah, and Kanika of Fro Babies. For small businesses, it’s great to work with large brands, because of the attention and exposure that can come to your business. For me personally, there’s something really gratifying about being the person who can help make that happen in a way that makes sense for both parties.
What advice do you have for fellow black women side hustlers who dream of working for themselves but don’t know where to start?
Make your dream real. Pick an end date for your job and put it on your calendar. It could be six months or two years from now, but lock it in and set reminders. Then start talking about it. Mention your dream on Facebook. Tell your girlfriends. Drop a hint to your parents (unless they’re gonna pass out at dinner in which case hold off for a while). If that made you happy and nervous at the same time, then it’s time to do it. The more of your dream you put out into the universe, the more likely it will become a reality. After that, start talking to people who’ve taken the leap and are happily self-employed. It will give you the inspiration you need to follow in their footsteps!
What are you currently working on?
My next two biggest projects are CURLFEST in New York, and the ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans. They are both really fun beauty events for women of color which is my happy place as a marketing creative! But they are less than five days apart. Jesus be a venti hella strong cappuccino with 17 extra shots of espresso! If I can pull these off with happy guests and happy clients then I will skip the pat on the back, book a flight to the nearest island and treat myself to a full back rub on the beach instead!