How One Founder Made Advancing Women Of Color A Full-Time Job

How One Founder Made Advancing Women Of Color A Full-Time Job

Founding the first multicultural networking organization for women in media is no mean feat for a 25-year-old, but for the woman behind ColorComm, it was essential to breaking down barriers. That’s what we call a “Boss of the Week.”

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the founder ColorComm, a networking organization started in 2011 that’s dedicated to advancing and promoting people of color working in communications and media.

Today, ColorComm boasts a community of over 40,000 women. They offer an annual conference, professional membership, content, a fellows program and more. Arianna Huffington, Gloria Steinem, Lisa Ling and Whoopi Goldberg are just some of the names who’ve spoken at their events.

So how did Wesley Wilson get started? And why does she refuse to call herself an “entrepreneur” in a world where everyone’s trying to be one?

What was your very first job?

My very first job was a hostess at Chevy’s Mexican Grill when I was 16 years old. But it didn’t stop there. I also served as a camp counselor during the summers growing up in St. Louis, Missouri and occasionally worked at the St. Louis Bread Company. One summer I managed to have three jobs, it was crazy!

My parents always taught me the importance of being independent and to make your own money, and to not rely on anyone else for your financial independence. During those summers, I was forced to save the money I made and put it into a mutual fund. I didn’t even know what that was at the time, but I’m reaping the benefits now — 16 years later at 32.

Because when I wanted to leave my full time job a few years ago at one of the top corporate communications firms in the country, I had my own financial resources to support me launching ColorComm and pursuing that full time.

What do you “call yourself” now?

I’ll tell you what I don’t call myself. I don’t call myself an “entrepreneur.” I founded ColorComm nearly seven years ago to advance the visibility and accomplishments of women of color working in communications, marketing, advertising, and digital. We began as a luncheon series and turned into a million dollar business and have built teams across New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco to execute programming, content, and large scale events through ColorComm Network, ColorComm’s Annual Conference, ColorComm Fellows Program, ColorComm Circle Awards and more.

So the last thing I want someone to call me is an “entrepreneur.” Because the name gets a bad wrap and in people’s brains, it signals that you are a party of one, working 20 hour days and you can do whatever you want, when you want. I am a businesswoman responsible for my employee’s salaries, 401k plans, time off, etc. and the growth strategy of the company.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received great career advice through this journey. Here’s my top three:

  • As you grow, help others along the way, because you didn’t get to this place on your own. It is important to reach back and become a resource and/or inspiration for someone in need.
  • Do good work. Know your business. Know the industry. Be on time.
  • Keep your word. It’s easy to cancel meetings, reschedule conference calls, or not become available when you said you would be. And when doing so, you signify a chain reaction that greatly affects others schedules and your credibility. If you say you are going to do something, do it!
What does “success” mean to you?

Success to me means seeing more women and people of color in leadership positions and responsible for driving revenue into the business at their workplace — and having the resources to be able to do so through ColorComm.

In my personal life, success means peace of mind and being free from worry. It’s about creating systems in your life that enable you to have a full and balanced one. Exploring the world, sharing in the big and little moments with loved ones, financial independency, self-care, working out regularly, and smiling more. That is success to me!

How do you manage stress?

Sticking to a schedule, keeping morning workouts, meditating for 15 minutes daily, massages occasionally, and going to bed at a decent hour. I often feel stressed when my life is all over the place. When work lunches, work dinners, after work events, and travel throw off my schedule and I feel like I’ve run out of time, because I’m overcommitting and saying “yes” to everything before saying “yes” to myself.

When this happens, I put myself on a travel freeze and start to say “no.” For example, we don’t need to do a work dinner, we can accomplish business in 20 minutes by phone!

What do you wish someone told you when you were 21?

That everything will be OK.

What inspires you and gets you out of bed in the morning?

Knowing that I’m making a difference! There have been several times where I’ve felt that I didn’t want to do the job anymore. My role throughout the years has shifted as the business has grown, and currently I focus on operations and fundraising. I’m always in a position where I’m asking for something and it can get kind of old and the process can be degrading at times.

When I hear the stories of the women who have been greatly impacted by ColorComm, that keeps me going. When people share that ColorComm helped them find a mentor, job opportunity, business relationship, or gave them the strength to advocate internally for a promotion, that empowers me to continue asking for financial funding, because there is so much we can do to grow the community when we have more resources.