When I first became an entrepreneur in 2009 while still in undergrad at Jackson State University, I did it because it just seemed logical. It made sense to capitalize off my knowledge of public relations and offer it to business owners who needed it. I didn’t know the first thing about starting a business but God placed a mentor in my life who literally showed me everything I needed to know at the time.
As the years passed and I ended businesses and started others, I realized what I was doing. I was creating opportunities for myself when there were none. I couldn’t afford to move to Atlanta for an unpaid internship with no guarantee that I’d get a job. I didn’t want to leave my family, my oldest niece was just a toddler at the time and I was in a relationship that I didn’t want to add anymore distance to. I knew I had something to offer the world and I wasn’t going to let a “lack of opportunity” stop me. So I created my own….again and again. I coined my very first official quote in 2011:
“I don’t wait for opportunities, I create them.”
It really annoys me to hear people complain about there being a lack of opportunity, especially in Mississippi. I know that everyone cannot be the business owner because then there would be no employees, but complaining never solved anything. I cringe when I hear people say they’re moving because they can’t find a job and their skills aren’t up to par for even me to hire them. Moving to a big city makes you a small fish in an enormous pond and it isn’t any easier to reach your dreams. You can’t replace or fake the hustle. Hustling is part of it. I’m not against moving at all, because I do think it can be necessary depending on where you live and what you want to do. I’m just challenging you to think a different way about opportunities.
In my opinion, the “lack of opportunity” is actually the opportunity. Think about it. Entrepreneurs solve problems. There were no independent entertainment and lifestyle blogs based in Mississippi, so I solved the problem by creating JessicaSimien.com. Of course I had other reasons but I knew that it was a job that I wanted to be the pioneer in and I was up for the challenge because I know what I bring to the table.
Creating that opportunity for myself has in turn created opportunities for others. I’ve had more interns than I can count on both my hands and I’ve given local, national and global artists and entrepreneurs a platform to share their message. I’m not making millions of dollars but I created something that no one can take from me and that will birth more opportunities for my community every year.
I always get asked about moving to another city and why I won’t pack up and leave Mississippi and my answer is very simple. I’m not leaving Mississippi until I feel that my work here is done. I cannot leave this place that has made me the person I am until I dominate it…until everyone has heard of Jessica Simien and has visited my site at least once. I still have work to do.
Another thing is this, as young, Black Mississippians we seem to have lost our pride. We believe the things people say about us in the media and we’re often ashamed to admit where we’re from. I used to get so down and out when someone I used to work with criticized me about my voice and the way I speak. I recently interviewed one of New York City’s go-to red carpet reporters and she told me that the way I speak is me and she loved it. We have to believe that we’re worthy and that Mississippi is worthy of all the things other places have to offer.
I care about the kids that are coming after me and I want them to have a shot. It’s easy to pack up and leave but right now I’m on a mission to create and give something back to make a better future for those coming up. I have to water my own grass before I try to landscape my neighbor’s yard. I do plan to move to another city and start working on some things there but now just isn’t the time for me to leave the State. Hell, I write for a company all the way in London so where I live has little to do with what I can actually accomplish. I may be missing out on a few things when I can’t travel or sit at the table and meet face to face but I’m OK with that. To me, it’s worth it.
Students send me emails every week asking for internship opportunities and telling me that they aren’t learning things they need to learn in the classroom so they’re asking if I would teach them. Someone has to care. Someone has to sacrifice. Someone has to show that Mississippi has talent and something to offer the world. Someone has to be the face of Mississippi’s entertainment and lifestyle scene.
If not me, then who?