#EntryLevel: Two Entrepreneurs Share Their Mission to Inspire Black and Brown Creatives

Estimated reading time ~ 9 min
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It takes more than just an idea to invest in yourself and join the world of entrepreneurism full time. That’s why most people don’t make their passion their paycheck. Rogue Mero and Victoria Bermudez launched the first episode of their podcast, What’s A 9 To 5, to introduce a unique conversation catered to black and brown individuals. Their goal is to be the go-to source for entrepreneurs and freelancers so they can receive the tools they need to create the life they want. Although this market may seem oversaturated, Rogue and Victoria’s concept is far from overdone. Topics of discussion ranging from financial literacy to pursuing passion projects. They even cover health and wellness!

As New York City natives, both Rogue and Victoria have a very unique perspective on what it means to hustle in the city that never sleeps. Hard work and grit aren’t easy qualities to develop, but it’s something that these two business women are mastering—one episode at a time. It’s important that the podcast industry continues to amplify more diverse perspectives and these fearless co-hosts are making their contribution a priority. Women of color are often scarce voices in a white, male-dominating industry and it’s imperative for media outlets to continue to share their stories.

We spoke with the two entrepreneurs about their upbringing and how it shaped them, NYC’s hustle culture, and quitting their 9 to 5’s to pursue their creative careers.

Q: What was your childhood/upbringing like?

Victoria (V): I’m a Queens girl. I was born in Queens at St. John’s Hospital on Queens Bully, raised in Elmhurst and partially in Laurelton. I spent most of my school years in Elmhurst, Queens which is heavily populated by South American and Asian people. I’m pretty sure my Mom was the only black woman in the area. If she wasn’t she was definitely the only black woman in our building.

I always felt different from the other children in my classrooms. I definitely looked different. Although, I’m mixed (Puerto Rican, Cuban, and black) and grew up with the latinx side of my family, I did not speak fluent spanish nor were there any latin people around me that considered themselves black or afro-latinx. I received a lot of backlash for being “black.” I didn’t speak spanish so I was just lack” to most latinx kids and their families. When they found out I was half black, they would seem disgusted by it. I remember reactions from other students like, “Oh, you’re black?” When I got to high school, I was around more black students, but I wasn’t fully accepted because I was labeled as acting “spanish,” so I spent a lot of my childhood feeling confused. I always did my own thing however, had a small group of a few friends, and accepted myself as I was. Dance was my passion. I did ballet and hip hop. I was good and it was a healthy way for me to express myself.

Rogue (RM): I grew up on the west side of Harlem. I didn’t grow up in the most pleasant of areas but I feel like it definitely tested me and molded me in ways that I am grateful for now. I was raised by my mother and my father with my two older brothers up until maybe 11 and then it was just me and my mom at home. I was a super tomboy. My parents were very supportive of anything I wanted to do and although they couldn’t provide me with luxury goods, they made sure I had whatever I needed so I could be who I wanted to be. My parents allowed me to make my own decisions and always involved me in youth enrichment programs which shaped my creativity.

Q: How have your experiences shaped your work ethic/ambition?

VB: Growing up in an environment where I constantly felt like the odd ball out, worked to my benefit because I don’t see anyone as competition. The only competitor in my life is myself and the person I was yesterday. Being in competition with myself is a big motto in my life and keeps me pushing forward. I’m very thankful for all those people I previously went to school with who made fun of me, or doubted me. It pushed me to do my own thing, flush out negativity, and be the best version of myself. I’m learning and growing everyday, and I still don’t have all the answers, but I can say I’m growing and molding into a better person.

RM: Growing up in Harlem was all about having the latest of something. Because my parents couldn’t always afford it, I pushed myself to get it on my own. From the time I could get my working papers at 14, I went out and got a job. By the time I was in high school, my dad was on a hiatus, both my brothers were gone, and my mother couldn’t afford to get me much of what I wanted so I started coming up with other ideas to make money like selling lunch tickets in school. The hunger for more and better has followed me in every stage of my life and it has allowed me to have this sense of confidence and strength to just do as much as I can. I want what I want and I have no intention of stopping until I get it.

Q: Tell us more about your podcast? Its purpose and your plans for it?

VB: Rogue and I started this podcast out of failure. We were both in the works of producing visual content for ourselves, but things just didn’t go as planned for either of us. One day, she approached me about doing a podcast. At first, I wasn’t sold on the idea, but now I feel crazy for even second guessing it. It was an opportunity to have an official partner, and have consistent help to produce content. We wanted to create an educational platform with a dose of flavor from the baddest queen in Queens and Harlem’s flyest protege. I remember Rogue saying, “let’s be people’s older sisters.” The more action we took to making this project a reality, the more the universe opened its doors for us.

RM: We hope this podcast becomes as big as Ted Talk but still have it catered to our people. I want What's A 9 To 5 to change as many lives as possible. We plan to have workshops, mixers, and live podcasts in the near future.

Q: What inspired you to take the entrepreneurship route?

VB: My first job was at a hair salon when I was 14-years-old. I loved making my own money because it gave me more independence. But I knew after my third job as a sales associate at ALDO, I wasn’t meant to be under authority. There are so many unwritten rules and unseen eyes at a workplace—it just wasn’t for me. I still worked these jobs because I understood that it takes money to make money. I knew that I would never work in one company for 10 plus years and work my way up because I couldn’t even keep a retail job for 3 plus months before quitting or getting fired. I also knew at a very young age that entertainment was my calling. I’ve always enjoyed being in the spotlight. I took matters into my own hands and began creating video content on Youtube and Instagram. That’s how I started my brand, Experiencevee.

RM: I was raised by two very hardworking parents who did everything they could to give me a better life than they had. My youth shaped my future and filled me with knowledge, hunger, and a big attitude to match. After high school, I went straight to college, and graduated with my associates degree at 20-years-old. I had established a pretty nice contact list and secured an internship at Vibe magazine. I met tons of people that were doing what they wanted to do on their own terms and that has always been so motivating. I wanted that! I see it, I can envision it, I know I can do it, so I am.

Q: What's the most valuable thing you’ve learned after quitting your 9 - 5 and pursuing your passion?

VB: There are two things that I’ve learned since quitting my 9 to 5. One being to trust the process. It may sound cliché because everyone says this, but it’s so true. There are times that I’m getting back-to-back auditions and offers to do hostings. There are also times that I haven’t had an audition in two weeks, or the project I was working on didn’t pan out. Whatever life throws at you, you must trust the process because whatever you are going through, good or bad, is building you up for what’s coming. The second thing I learned is to budget while prioritizing getting rid of debt. I’m not going to lie, my financial knowledge was very minimal post-college. But since leaving a stable job, I learned that it is vital to have an emergency savings, and an investment savings account while managing your spending wisely. You have to do this at all times as an entrepreneur or a freelancer because you want to be prepared for anything.

RM: Becoming your own boss comes with commitment. You will only go as far as you choose to run. You will only bring in as much money as you put in the work for. You are your life’s boss and employee. Pursuing your passion is hard and it takes effort and understanding.

Q: What’s the most challenging part about your entrepreneurial journey?

VB: I think the most challenging part of my entrepreneurial journey is having to distance myself from my family. Most of my family lives the 9 to 5 lifestyle. Go to school, graduate, and get a good job with benefits. My family had the same goals and intentions for me when they raised me. But that’s not the route I chose. It’s tough hearing discouraging comments from the closest to me. For my own sanity, I do my best to keep my work life separate from my personal life.

RM: Not getting discouraged and sticking to the blueprint. I have to constantly remind myself that no matter what happens and what changes, the goal must be reached.

Q: Being an entrepreneur is hard, who do you talk to or how do you find support/inspiration?

VB: I love listening to other podcasts, like Gary Vee or Girl Boss Radio. I’m currently loving Audrey Helps Actors. I love these podcasts because it’s a free opportunity to gain insight from individuals that are already successful in their field. It’s important to me to learn about other entrepreneurial stories because I want to learn from other people’s mistakes. I want to learn what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be doing, etc. Other than meditation, this is how I find answers.

RM: I don’t talk to many people about what I go through because a lot of people don’t understand what I’m working towards. But I frequently seek inspiration from books and listening to or learning about other successful people. Like Oprah. She’s my idol.

Q: Any advice to other people wanting to be entrepreneurs?

VB: My main piece of advice to other people wanting to be entrepreneurs is to just do it! I’m not saying quit your 9 to 5 tomorrow. But whatever burning desire you have inside of you, stop holding out on it and just do it. Go through the trials, tribulations, the ups and downs to make whatever dream it is that you have a reality. I believe you can have whatever it is you want in life. The first step is to just take action.

RM: Decide who you want to be and do everything you need to do to become that person. Make a 3/6/9 month plan for the first year with goals you want to reach. At the end of each period, reassess and check in with yourself. If you feel lost, look to someone who is doing what you want to do or talk to someone who has insight into what you are interested in. Also, understand that things take time. Stay the course and if you can envision it, it’s already yours—you just need to find it!

Q: Why is it important for you—as a woman of color—to tell your story?

VB: Just because you are a woman of color, it does not mean we all have the same experience. That reason alone is why I think it’s important for others to know my story. There were times where I felt alone and I had absolutely no one I could relate to. I know for a fact there’s another 8-year-old girl out there wishing she could relate to someone around her. And if I can be that person for her, I’ll feel like I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose. Everyone on this earth is meant for something. I personally feel as though I am meant to inspire others.

RM: I hope this will spark the interest of other little brown and black girls who aren’t entirely aware that entrepreneurship is an option for them. We can be that light!

After a successful first season, season 2 of What’s A 9 To 5 launched October 7. Listen to the first episode here. And follow them on Instagram @whatsaninetofive.

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