By Alysha Conner | Metro Atlanta Black
Aisha Taylor Issah is a Brooklyn, NY bred entrepreneur, consultant, and ordained minister. She is also most notably known as the founder and CEO of the Sistahs in Business Expo (SIB Expo). The SIB Expo is the nation’s leading multi-city small business expo designed distinctively to uplift and empower today’s fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, women of color.
“In late 2017, I got this idea that there needed to be an affordable and accessible platform for small businesses. The platform would allow small businesses to showcase their business, as well as gather valuable resources and information. As I did more research, I found that women of color are the largest and fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country. However, we are also the least earning. So I knew this would be a good opportunity to create a platform that might help to close that gap,” Issah revealed.
Issah essentially established the SIB Expo to provide an affordable, accessible, and stimulating platform, so entrepreneurial women of color could grow and showcase their businesses. The 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report, released by American Express, reported Black women as the only racial or ethnic group with more business owners than their male peers. Forbes also published that there were a total of 2.4 million African American women-owned businesses in 2018. According to the Federal Reserve, enterprises owned by Black women, generate annual revenue two times fewer than Hispanic women business owners. Profits made by Black women-owned businesses are five times less than all other demographics of women-owned businesses as well.
Before partaking in her entrepreneurial and ministerial endeavors full-time, Issah worked as the executive director of field operations for the City of New York for 13 years. Issah eventually decided to leave her government job in 2016. She went on to focus on her global internet-based professional career-consulting firm called TAYLORmade, which she launched in 2005 with her sister Ayana Taylor-Green. The Taylor sisters created TAYLORmade to assist clients with resume and cover letter writing, strategic job searches, customized interview training, and career counseling. In addition to facilitating the annual SIB Expo and maintaining TAYLORmade with her sister, Issah additionally serves as the associate youth pastor at St. Luke Baptists Church in New Jersey.
Transitioning from working a government job to growing her consulting firm and passion for ministry further, Issah shared, “I’ve always worked and had a business. I actually started my consulting business while also working in city government, as well as being in ministry. It’s just the way that life kind of dealt itself to me. I had this call into ministry that was happening at the same time that I began my career. I also had this niche and desire for entrepreneurship.”
“Our career consulting firm really started as a hobby. We started off with writing resumes for family and friends. As we continued to do that, people began to see results. So we officially launched our business back in 2005. Our success has opened doors that we never imagined possible. We take pride in working closely with every client and business, to ensure that our services are TAYLORmade to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.”
TAYLORmade also specializes in recruitment and staffing services for businesses and non-profits. As Issah continued to service other companies successfully, she felt compelled to create another useful platform for women of color who were small businesses owners. Furthermore, she also possessed a personal longing for a service-based business expo, as a small business owner herself.
SIB Atlanta Expo 2018 (Courtesy/SIB Expo)
The inaugural 2018 SIB Expo tour took place in Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Columbia, SC; and Atlanta, GA. Issah designed a team comprised of a graphic and web designer, visual design and branding manager, marketing coordinator, event coordinators, local ambassadors, and volunteers to assist with executing the first-ever SIB Expo. Her husband and family as a whole have ultimately remained an essential support system to Issah, throughout the Expo’s formation as well.
SIB Atlanta Expo 2018 (Courtesy/SIB Expo)
Each city had an average of more than 700 attendees and featured over 70 vendors. Some of the featured 2018 Expo speakers included MC Lyte, iconic female rapper; Dr. Lynn Richardson, author, entertainment executive and celebrity financial coach; Vivica A. Fox, actress, producer and television host; Cathy Hughes, entrepreneur, radio and television personality, and business executive; and Kim Fields, actress and television director.
Further commenting on the SIB Expo creation process, Issah conveyed, “I had no desire to start another business. A couple of years ago, I had the desire to build a platform for women of color in business. As a woman of color in business myself, I always wanted to participate in expos like ours. I always found that the vendor fees were really high, or that it would cater more towards product-based businesses rather than a service business.”
“It has been an eventual and tedious process. In September 2017, we took a leap of faith and put a deposit down on our first venue, then hit the ground running. We’ve just been learning as we go along, from deciding on what cities to go to, venues to use, and securing the right partnerships. It’s all really been a learning process for us throughout the whole journey. The response and the growth have been more than I could’ve ever expected.”
This year’s SIB Atlanta Expo will take place on September 7 from 10 AM to 7 PM at Ambient + Studio. The first 250 attendees will receive a VIP gift bag filled with complimentary merchandise from SIB Expo sponsors and partners. Former SIB Expo sponsors have consisted of Kroger Co., Miss Jessie’s, Chick-fil-A, CURLS™, City of Columbia Government, Valley National Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, New York Life Insurance Company, and Southeast Mortgage. General admission tickets and discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more are available via sistahsinbusinessexpo.com until September 6. Same-day tickets will be accessible as well.
Over 100 diverse vendors will be showcased, displaying both products and services. The Expo’s signature AuthorPreneur panel will take place as well. Entrepreneurial writers who are women of color will discuss how writing has helped them grow their brand. An exclusive founders chat will also be held, which will be moderated by Dr. LaKeysha Hallmon, founder and CEO of The Village Market. The founder’s chat will be composed of Dr. Hallmon interviewing Sanaia Applesauce CEO Keisha Smith-Jeremie.
Keynote speakers and hosts for the Expo will be Dr. Lynn Richardson, author and celebrity financial coach; Cynthia Bailey, model, reality television personality, and actress; Jovita Moore, Emmy Award-winning news presenter and reporter; and Lakia Brandenburg, author, wife coach, and entrepreneur. DJ Jazzy T from 96.7 The Beat will also be present to supply live entertainment.
Sharing some of the most challenging life lessons she learned through her growing business stages, Issah said, “You have to have tough skin. You hear ‘no’ a lot more then you hear ‘yes.’ You have to keep going and not let ‘no’ stop you. Also, everyone who starts with you can’t stay with you. We’ve had some people who started with us, but didn’t continue with us because of many different reasons. That still didn’t change our why or the mission. We just had to keep going.”
“I’ve ultimately come to realize that this is bigger than me. Even though I was the person who had the idea and started it, it’s really not about me. It’s about all of the women in business who we’ve been able to empower and give a platform that they wouldn’t otherwise have. I knew there was a need for this, but I think I underestimated it. It has really been eye-opening to see how much it has grown in such a short amount of time.”