How These Young Women are Building a Company With Little or No Money

When Yoko Ihaza, now 20, was a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, in Chicago, she loved two things: rap and fashion. So last fall, Ihaza and three other young friends decided to open HalfAwake, a public-relations company for the hip-hop world (and a reference to when the friends used to daydream, they felt “half awake”).

Rap and the larger hip-hop fashion scene have dominated American popular culture for 30 years and yet it is haphazardly marketed and promoted in many cities, including Chicago.

Besides, Ihaza and her friends – Tayler Nash, 20; Whitney Woolfalk, 20; and Cici Shannon, 19 – needed jobs.

So, first, they sought ways to spend as little money as possible. For example, they reached out to a graphic designer friend who helped create their logo for free. Then they turned to a photographer friend who took pictures for their Tumblr blog.

What have they learned in the last year?

  • Treat your business like your baby. Your business is a representation of yourself.
  • Work every day towards a deadline. Don’t let a day go by where you don’t get something accomplished.
  • Avoid people who will slow you down.

Hip-hop performers are “all young people, but that makes it easier to see their vision because we belong to the demographic they mainly appeal to,” said Ihaza.

Ihaza and her friends did not major in public relations or business in college, but taught themselves through online tools and friends’ experience.

They used the Public Relations Society of America website to put together their business plan. Ihaza also asked her father, a business owner, to help revise their business plan.

Contracts – what performers are supposed to do and what HalfAwake is supposed to do and how everyone splits expenses and profits (if any) – are especially difficult. They are teaching themselves how to write contracts for the artists they represent from online guides. A quick Google search led to many websites.

For example, they looked at websites where you can buy pre-written contracts (there were so many Ihaza can’t recall them). They also took notes about copyright issues from government websites, like the United States Copyright office.

“Being your own boss, you can make your own opportunities,” says Ihaza. She is one entrepreneur who isn’t waiting for opportunity to be handed to her. ❒

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