Self-awareness. You need to be aware of your work style, relationship with money, and self-limiting patterns. It’s difficult to manage a business if you don’t know yourself well enough to create a team to support the areas where you are weak. Learn yourself first and then build a business if you can.
Named as one of the top 136 Black Innovators in STEM + Arts by Wonder Women Tech, Adonica is the founder of the health-focused internet company, Wingwomen. She is an intentional wellness advocate who is dedicated to cultivating digital spaces that motivate professional women to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to self-care.
As the Founder of Wingwomen Inc., she believes women, in particular, need a unique support system to break through the glass ceilings in their lives. She’s committed to providing access to valuable health information to women and empowering them to be active agents in their wellness.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have a unique professional background ranging from television and authorship to marketing and public relations. But when it came to building Wingwomen, the concept of the brand was born out of my desire to find peer support for unique health issues I was facing and to be able to easily find like-minded healthcare professionals who would help me navigate health on my own terms.
Wingwomen was a solution to myself, but honestly, it was also a solution for other women who were just like me that faced health concerns on their own, privately. I wanted to give them a way to find care and to also share their stories of overcoming and triumph with others who were still in the trenches as they were managing their own health issues as well.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that happened is that I learned very quickly that in order for my company to thrive I had to be dedicated to my own self-care. It meant that I was going to have to take better care of my body by eating well and sleeping enough. And it meant that I was going to have to have a plan for stress management.
I think the interesting thing that happens when you shift your mindset from being an employee to an employer is that you start to realize how much you have to carry in the absence of “help.”
When this realization set in I had a “Come-to-Jesus” moment that triggered me into taking a hard look at my daily habits and if they were going to help me run a successful business whether or not other people showed up. At the time the answer was no. So I took the time to create a sustainable routine that allows me to show up for my mission daily.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake was actually a costly one. I’m a non-technical founder, and when I was attempting to build an early MVP of Wingwomen I figured I’d take the cheap route and hire someone on FIVERR to build my app.
In my own ignorance, I didn’t understand the process around app building and user design and so I set a launch date to tell everyone about my app thinking it would be done in the 6 weeks the developers promised.
So the day I got the interactive app from the developers I was so excited I shared it with all of my friends. About 45 minutes after my announcement went out someone contacted me and bought it to my attention that the app lacked the hamburger app menu. So here I was, with a product that I announced that lacked the most important thing, the navigation.
It was cringy and embarrassing. After that, I realized I needed to take my time and have more respect for the app-building process. It’s not something you can just throw money at. You have to be intentional about how users will engage with it, and do the research at every stage of development.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In terms of my professional path, I owe a lot of my current success to my lead mentor McKeever Conwell, II. I met him on Twitter last year when my company Wingwomen was still in its idea stage. I actually pitched him shortly after engaging him online…and let’s just say it wasn’t a successful pitch. After the meeting, I was certain that I’d never be able to work with him because I was too early stage, and because there was still a lot of information I didn’t know.
Interestingly enough, several weeks later he was assigned to mentor me through an accelerator program. The relationship was slow to build, but sometimes the best working relationships turn out that way. The blessing of that early rejection, and subsequent opportunity to work together, was that we earned each other’s trust. And that trust gave me the support I needed to bring my vision for Wingwomen to life.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Honestly, I think it’s a mix of the same stuff that holds men back from founding companies like — lack of support, concern about managing bills and responsibilities while your building the business, fears about the legalities of starting a business, and even just plain old self-doubt. And, things like concerns around managing parenthood, lack of a professional support system or network, and lack of essential funding that would allow them to build the business while still balancing household responsibilities.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
As individuals, I think it comes down to being more supportive when people mention they have a business idea. I can’t tell you enough how many people I’ve met who have been dissuaded from pursuing a great idea because someone in their family or friend circle gave them a list of reasons they couldn’t do it, or shouldn’t do it.
And in terms of the government, I know there are tons of programs and grant opportunities available for small business owners, but unfortunately, they aren’t always marketed in the areas that people frequent (i.e. social media, community events, church, etc.). It would be good to see better marketing strategies that people allow everyday people to see those opportunities.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I can think of 3 distinct reasons:
- If you’re called to do an idea or service. Anyone can start a business, but the ones that really last are the ones fueled by passion and love. If you have something in your life that you know would create an impact in your community, then you should pursue it.
- To create your own legacy. When we think of a legacy we typically think about it in terms of a family legacy. Rarely do we think about our own legacy outside of those closest to us. But I believe having your own legacy can create a ripple effect for those around you through wealth, networks, and relationships with others. This can still benefit your family, but more than anything it can spark innovation and enthusiasm for other women who might also have the entrepreneurial bug around you.
- To change the world. If you become a founder you can “found” any number of business structures. Even if you don’t want to run a tech company, you can also be the founder of a nonprofit. Being a founder doesn’t always need to be driven by making money. It can be as simple as your desire to address climate change or create access to clean water for families overseas.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is that you’ll fail. Yes, you might have small failures along the way, but you’ll also have “wins”. It’s important to know that your entrepreneurial journey is just that, a journey, and you shouldn’t shy away from it simply because you might face disappointment.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder, and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
While I do think I think entrepreneurship and the skill set of managing a business can be taught, I think those who excel at it have a talent for it. So for example, you can probably run a decent time in the mile if you worked out consistently, but that doesn’t mean you’re cut out to go to the Olympics.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
The five things you need are:
- Self-awareness. You need to be aware of your work style, relationship with money, and self-limiting patterns. It’s difficult to manage a business if you don’t know yourself well enough to create a team to support the areas where you are weak. Learn yourself first and then build a business if you can.
- A Mentor. Never underestimate the power of another human being who can come into your office and tell you you need to get your -ish together. I hate to be so blunt, but if you don’t have at least one person in your business circle that can make sure you’re showing up for your company and customers, it’s going to be difficult to grow as an owner.
- A Good Relationship With Money. Believe it or not, the most important skill-set you need in business is a strong relationship with money. Why? Because you’ll need credit to keep your business afloat, you’ll need strong saving skills to make sure you clear payroll and you need to understand how to manage assets and inventory as though it were money to increase your revenue. If you are a good steward of money, at the very least you have a strong foundation to be a good steward over a company.
- A Backbone. The world of business isn’t for the faint of heart, and if you can’t stand up for what you believe in, or tell people “No” even when they apply pressure to get you to change your position, your company will fold. There were times early in my career where I believed I would be great at business because I could be diplomatic and likable, and while these were strong character traits, they weren’t the ones that saved me when things got rough. I had to learn to say No, set boundaries with people, and speak up when decisions were being made that would adversely affect me
- Unshakeable Confidence. Okay, okay…it can be a little shakeable. But in all seriousness, your confidence will open doors for you that degrees and a resume cannot. Ultimately, as the owner of any business, your team needs to look to you for direction and they need to believe that you know the direction of the business. If you aren’t confident in these times, then people will have a hard time wanting to invest in your vision.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Wingwomen is how I make the world a better place. By providing access to health information and peer support, we open doors to health and healing to women that might have otherwise remained locked.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement I’d inspire is the self-advocacy movement. In life, we are lucky when people come along and help us find our way, but ultimately the life we live and the experience we have on this Earth is our own responsibility. I want to inspire people to speak up for what they want and stick with it until they find themselves living the life of their dreams.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If I could choose anyone it would be Prince Harry and Megan Markle, The Duke & Duchess of Sussex. I’m quite inspired by their stories as individuals, but more interested in their work with charities abroad. I would love their insights on making mental healthcare more accessible to low-income families in Africa and Canada.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.