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  • Commerce & Chill

Return To Wakanda | A Business Owner’s Perspective

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Commerce and Chill is where Jessica Johnson-Cope & Waleed Cope, who are business partners and a married couple, discuss their take on popular culture, provide meaningful business insights, and share their experiences on their journey through business and life.

In Episode 35 of the ​Commerce and Chill​ podcast, Jessica and Waleed discuss the passing of Chadwick Boseman, how the fictional nation of Wakanda can serve as a lesson for business owners, how to navigate family dynamics across generations, and the importance of having a mentor.

One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 for everyone at Commerce and Chill and likely everyone around the world has been that face time matters. The authentic connections we make with people in-person and face-to-face are enriching and can lead us to new and unexpected places. In the past weeks, Jessica and Waleed were able to get some valuable, socially-distanced one-on-one time with a mentor who has walked in their shoes, having built and owned a number of businesses, including a 7-figure laundry business that has served as a great inspiration for our team at The Soap Box.

Mentorship has been a key component of our business growth. CDFI programs (Community Development Financial Institutions) like the one sponsored by Seedco (now TruFund) that provided Johnson Security Bureau with grant money to help us rebrand, develop a new website and logo, and find a business coach in Mike B, have made growth easier and inspired us to find and hire more dynamic and genuinely good people to our upper management teams. One of the great insights from meeting with our mentor Mike was the value of real advice rather than opinions. Mike has walked the walk in business and his guidance is based on his experience operating in our space. Face time with mentors like Mike is worth their weight in gold.

Yet, while success in our business lives has kept us on a high, the passing of Chadwick Boseman, the incredible actor who played T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther among many others impactful roles, brought us back down to Earth and humbled many folks around the world, Black folks especially. Boseman played real-life heroes including Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson during his career, and his performance in BP helped contribute to its rise as one of the 10 highest grossing films ever at the time of this writing. Fittingly, Chadwick’s character in the movie, T’Challa, is worth $90.7 trillion, making him the wealthiest fictional character in history and the King of Wakanda, one of the wealthiest nations in the Marvel universe. Despite that, the movie, the story of T’Challa, and Boseman’s depiction of the character saw him battling demons that remind us of the importance and significance of family, business, wealth, and legacy for Black characters, on and off screen. For us at C&C, Wakanda represents many things, and among them are: 1) Pride 2) a Sense of Identity & Community 3) Respect 4) the Importance of Wise Counsel 5) the Balancing of Customs and Rituals with Innovation 6) Paying Homage to Ancestors, and 7) Different Streams of Income.

In terms of pride, Wakandans in the movie had admiration, love, and respect for each other and a deep respect across generations. While there was an obvious respect for elders through most of the story, every generation had a voice and took pride in being Wakandan. In the US, we often take citizenship and the responsibilities of citizenship, such as voting in our federal and local elections, for granted. Worse, we tend to forget the sacrifices of previous generations that enabled us to have these rights in the first place.

There is a new tendency for those in our communities to speak about breaking “generational curses” as we reach new goals in life, whether they be financial, educational, or otherwise. We see people making their first millions and denouncing the “generational curse” of poverty or graduating from college and denouncing the “generational curse” of financial ignorance. Yet, while we take pride in the advancement of our communities, we believe that your parents not being millionaires is not a “curse” on your family. Our grandparents not having gone to college is not a “curse” that we should be ashamed of. In fact, the blessing of generational legacy is that many of our parents and grandparents laid the foundation so that we could all achieve the greatness that we’re seeing young people of color (and young Black people especially) accomplish in every realm of society today. In Black Panther, the concepts of identity and community resonated even more deeply in light of these achievements. As a third-generation family business at JSB, we know that it’s important to release the ghosts and the burdens of the past, to build strong relationships in your family, and to find wise counsel, whether it be community elders like in Wakanda or business mentors like Mike B. We also know that, just like in Wakanda, every family member has their place and different streams of income can all contribute to the success of the business and the well-being of the family. In Wakanda, every tribe contributed in a different way, whether it be the mountain tribes, the river tribes, or the agrarian tribes. As business owners, we each contribute across different verticals, from Johnson Security Bureau to The Soap Box, and each business helps our collective businesses and communities grow in different ways.

As business owners and in family, we know that we can govern ourselves and make decisions to help formerly or even currently oppressed communities by creating jobs, working together in marriage and business, and being role models for success. We are also careful to avoid the programming we may be exposed to that might work against us by owning our mistakes and taking responsibility for finding solutions. In the movie Black Panther, though Killmonger attacked his own people, he was using tools, resources and programming that the Government taught him.

What have you been programmed or taught that might go against the best interests for your family and community?

If you can identify anything: take responsibility, fix your mistakes, and own it. You may just avoid an intergenerational war for the fate of your country.

In summation, as a business owner or an aspiring business owner, look at Wakanda as a guide for what you can create in your community and your business. Incorporate legacy, identity, culture, and respect into your business and your family. Use Wakanda as a road map for success and don’t be afraid to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals on your path to get there.If you are looking to change career, you can find opportunities with JSB ​here​.

If you are in need of fast, efficient, contact-less laundry service and delivery, check us out ​here​.

For more on this topic, check out the Commerce and Chill podcast and follow Jessica Johnson-Cope and Waleed on their profiles at the links below.

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