According to the Small Business Association, nearly 66% of all small businesses fail within the first ten years of operation.
For Terri Matthews, she’s the defied the odds of failure and has catapulted into entrepreneurial success.
As an entrepreneur, Ms. Matthews have started many business in various industries including but not limited to the beverage, the hospitality, the construction, the retail, the nonprofit sector and the entertainment industries respectively.
As a leading executive she is the go to consultant and investor for those who are looking to catapult their companies to effective, sustainable businesses in the marketplace .
Not shy about where the source of her success comes from; where it all starts and where it ends, this Faith Made Entrepreneur ™ leads with a people first principle. And in doing so, she is the ultimate inspiration of the American Dream.
From the streets of California to board rooms around the world, we had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Matthews about her passion for people in entrepreneurship and her humility that keeps her grounded continually going to the next level.
What was the Lightbulb moment that led to your success as an entrepreneur?
The lightbulb moment to become an entrepreneur was a need for change.
My initial motivation for change was not to live the life that I came up from. I wanted to have a level of success and ability that I had not seen in my own life as a kid.
But overtime, that motivation for change shifted. Not to say that my original intent was selfish to not live the way I grew up, but I moved from a more personal motivation for change to a more professional motivation for change.
There is a great need in the business world.
A need for access to opportunities, a need to look at our communities at large and wonder why certain types access and opportunities are not seen in all communities.
The motivation to ensure that all people and all communities had access to opportunity and develop as entrepreneurs became one of my main motivations.
So again it started out as a motivation to sustain my own life and a create a life different from the lifestyles I grew up around and then once creating the wealth sustain my life moving to being able to create access and opportunities and also understand why those same opportunities weren’t available readily to everyone.
What are your driving forces behind your success?
I feel like I am successful because of my team.
And as an investor and entrepreneur, I think that there is a difference between what drives each role.
For me as an investor, it’s more to me than just money; it’s a level of time, knowledge and experience. And whatever knowledge or experience I lack, I have a team of people who in my mind have more solid experience in certain areas than myself. I have access to those resources and I share those resources to things I invest in. I think it takes a level of humility to understand what your good at and what you need a level of support in. And so, I have come to understand that which has definitely been a driving force for me as an investor.
You are not in the day to day operations as an investor, but as an entrepreneur you can be.You also have to get the business to a particular place and know when you have to have other people come in to execute the vision that you have.
So putting people around me that can help me do those other things is important because as an entrepreneur, I don’t only think of one thing.
My goal is to create businesses that create opportunities for other people. And so, if I stayed in one business, I couldn’t have multiple businesses.
As an entrepreneur, I have to learn when to let go without letting up.
And I have remind myself of a Nehemiah perspective on it. Nehemiah was successful because of delegation and to knowing what to delegate and what to hold onto. And I think sometimes the challenge is that we don’t know? We feel like if we aren’t doing it all and our hands aren’t on everything, we either:
A. Think we’re not going to be successful.
B. Something is going to fall through the cracks.
That’s when I say you have to learn when to let go and not let up.
The vision is still the same, you can share the experience with everyone and it doesn’t take away from your credibility.
For those who are struggling to be an authentic entrepreneur, what is the first step to making the first step in authenticity?
Well one, what you should be doing is not because of anyone else.
Like right now, I think the trend is online courses. So everybody wants to teach how to be a millionaire and have never been a millionaire. Or everybody is teaching how to run a business they haven’t ran one.
Part of it is, is discovering what you are good at and understanding you don’t have to be good at everything.
Even I had to learn that.
I thought when I first started, entrepreneurship meant how can I own a business and I don’t know everything about the business?
It’s been a humbling experience to witness great business people like Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs work. He [Steve Jobs] didn’t know everything about the business. Did it take away from his credibility that he created Apple? He had a team and he had other people that had to understand the X’s and O’s.
When it comes to being an authentic entrepreneur, it starts with you.
You have to understand your why behind what you are doing.
When you can clearly define that whether you are motivated by money, by change, by belief, by hope etc; you are on the right track. Some may pick money, but I am a firm believer that if you do what it is you are purposed to do, the profit will come.
Sometimes we are earning our profit but not operating in our purpose.
It’s tough, I can tell you from experience. When I was in Corporate America, it wasn’t my passion nor my purpose, but it was my school.
But I had to look at it, put a time stamp on it and be flexible with what God wanted. So although I had a timeline, I had to be flexible with what God wanted.
There were times in corporate America where I wondered, “What am I doing here?”
And I allowed the enemy to get in my brain a little bit, some pride crept up. I had to let my hand get slapped.
And then I realized and said to myself, “You work for God wherever you work. And this is your playground, this is your school. What you learned in college is not going to teach you how to be that type of business owner. What’s going to teach you is that you work for a $9 billion company. How are you going to learn how to run a $9 billion company in school? You’re not. Experience is your best teacher Terri and oh by the way, you are by nature a hands on visual learner. So instead of fighting everyday internally with the struggle of ‘I am better than this,’ shut up. Humble yourself. Sit down and figure out what you don’t know and learn.”
I spent time with the CFO of that company. I spent time , with the Controller of that company which I thought I was strong in. I spent time learning that area more because then that took me from where I was to make it applicable to run these multiple businesses. When I thought about the President of that company you know, I wanted to learn how he ran his day. I wanted to know with having a family and wife having to manage a publicly traded company and travel, how he ran his day?
And because I didn’t have anyone in my circle to teach and show me how; instead of fighting it, I changed my attitude and mindset about where I was and what I was doing.
What have obstacles taught you?
You can’t learn without mistakes.
And without obstacles, you can’t learn without them either.
It has taught me to persevere.
Most people in entrepreneurship, quit at the moment they face an obstacle. It’s very hard to navigate around it.
There is a personal saying that I have, “Impossible is where God starts.”
I am firm believer in that. From a faith perspective, that’s where God starts for me.
I am a faith based entrepreneur, a faith made entrepreneur. I had to learn that when obstacles came, especially what I had to persevere as a child; that seemed naturally impossible to me as a kid, the things I had to navigate and manage through, is where I grew.
That is where perseverance was in me birthed.
So now when I came across obstacles in business, that same perseverance I had to navigate how to feed myself and my siblings day to day, how to manage life that was somewhat adverse and difficult, I was able to apply that in a business sense.
The only thing I had to look back on was not my parents or business, it was pure experience of how did I get out of being homeless?
What I did I do when I was up against an obstacle or how did I choose?
In all honesty, the same mindset then I could use to push through and apply to business now.
When I needed my first $275,000, I didn’t know what to do, but the faith in me and the perseverance in me moved me forward.
And the obstacles don’t change, they are just different. God challenges us in different areas.
When you evolve, there is a next level that is required of you.
What does “embrace possibilities” mean to you?
Don’t cut yourself off from dreaming.
Sometimes out limited thinking limits us. What you can’t see, you can’t have.
If you can’t see it because you don’t think it’s possible, then you’re never going to be open to embrace it and know that it’s possible.
People need hope today.
I believe God has the work that He has for me, is to share my story.
Are there a ton of stories like mine? Sure.
There are a ton of people who’ve came through adversity. There are a ton of people in the Bible would came through adversity.
I think that was my realism of how there were dysfunctional people that God had used.
Once I had embraced that it was okay I didn’t have this squeaky clean background that before I got my High School Diploma, I got my G.E.D.
For all the little things that you wanted to hide, that is where the enemy kept you shamed.
So when I say embrace possibilities, one it’s embracing myself first so that I can be open and understand that the things that I want for my life is possible.
Embrace the fact that life is possible and we serve a limitless God who gives us infinite wisdom.
If you had to sum up your life’s purpose in 3 words, what would it be?
Hope, Healing and Faith
Faith Made in Action
Terri Matthews' influence and her passion to empower others is what makes her light shine so bright.
She continues to shake up the business world as well as create avenues to share her light and wisdom as a leading author and motivational speaker.
Her most recently published books, “I Will,” and “What it Takes to Win,” co-authored with world renowned personal development leader Brian Tracy and other leading entrepreneurs, Terri Matthews is just getting started and her faith will always lead the way to the next level of possibilities.
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