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“Who Gonna Check Me, Boo?”: When That Check is Real, Cash is Queen, and Sponsorship is a Need

I am a Black Woman. (Do you see the period?).

And, I own a business that is centered on mental health and the community. (Another period).

And, I’ve been hesitant to engage in “Sponsorship” for years.

Here’s why:

As a Black Woman, society has created this image that we are no good, low down, welfare queens that make bad decisions and look for hand-outs. So, as I sit firmly in my racial and gender identity…while at the intersection of poverty and middle class, I understand how some people see me, what they think about me, and what I can do to stand in my truth.

So, when I started Onyx Therapy Group (fmr: EMC2 Educational Consulting) with my bestie Dr. Ayana K. Malone, I used my own money. And, when I needed to scale up, I saved my own money and used it. And, when I scaled again, I took a couple business loans and business lines of credit, (see the previous blog from March) but only what I could afford because I didn’t want to be in debt and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was looking for a “handout.”

But, when I resurrected the Onyx Therapy Group community events (our first series was in 2020, during the pandemic because all of us were in desperate need of community while addressing our fears of living through a pandemic) last year (2022), I wondered what it would look like if I continued to pay for everything out of pocket. And, while “out of pocket” was not my own personal money, it was the funds of the company.

See, when Onyx does a community event, whether it's our annual Mental Health Fair every April, or one of our smaller community events (February, July, and November), it’s completely free to the public. Free, baby!! And, it's set at $Free.99 because I don’t want money to be a distraction or obstacle for folks to join us and get these free nuggets of mental health conversations or the normalization of our lived experiences.

But, what this means is that I (Onyx) pays for the venue, the panelists costs, the prosecco (because everyone likes a nice drink on a Sunday afternoon, especially in DC) and all the other expenses that come with inviting the community to listen and talk…about mental health.

So, for the 2nd Annual Onyx Therapy Group Mental Health Fair that took place on April 16, 2023, I took a few weeks to see “what was better for the greater good.” My options included: Continue with the narrative of “I don’t want to ask for help and it's misconstrued as needing/wanting a handout,” or “Ask for help, see who shows up, and be thankful for those who believe in Onyx’s mission and vision.”

I won’t lie. It wasn’t an easy choice. It seems like it should be…but it wasn’t. I had to battle a range of core beliefs (being a Black woman that wanted/needed money), business deficits (I didn’t even know how to get sponsors…I mean, who has extra money to give right now?), and logistical challenges (do I spend time meeting with sponsors or spend time earning money with customers). Whew chile…I was in for it. I had to think and think hard. And, I’d like to think that I…thought right.

For our Fair, we secured 2 sponsors: United Way, supported by David Street and The National Coalition of 100 Black Women - Metropolitan DC. And we are thankful.

Here’s how it happened…and how it seems to always happen for me.

I was working. Talking, sitting on panels, sharing my knowledge, being seen for my expertise, and living in the spiritual abundance of my passion and purpose.

And someone said to me: What do you need?

And I said: Sponsors. I need help.

And boom, a few meetings later, I had the help I needed.

And, with this help, I was able to scale our Fair from 20 Black vendors (2022) to 35 Black vendors (2023), 150 guests (2022) to 500+ guests (2023), a singular DJ (2022) to a DJ, curated playlist, and a live band (2023), hungry bellies (2022) to a food and drink station (2023), and so much more…SOO MUCH MORE….by simply addressing “my stuff” and “asking for help.”

Of course there were some other things in the middle, like building a sponsorship deck, getting in touch with the right people, and being grateful for small incremental progress and not just thinking abundance is “big stuff.”

So, the takeaways:

Business leaders need sponsorship.

If you are a person that wants to be a sponsor, let us know. We can help meet your mission, vision, and bottomline while you help us meet our mission, vision and purpose. 😊

If you are a person that wants/needs sponsorship, pray on it, do the work, make the connections, be humble yet proud, and manifest what you want and watch God work.

Ashe 😊

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