Cleveland is the city, that is recently recognizable for celebrating a world championship title after 52 years of grind and perseverance. Conversely, in a city where handouts are scoffed at, NBA Superstar LeBron James mantra “Nothing is given, everything is earned” echoes in the ear of the hustler. In the highly anticipated series Cleveland Hustles, Executive Producers, James and his esteemed business partner Maverick Carter allied Cleveland investors with local entrepreneurs looking for an investment to launch their own brick-and-mortar stores. Cleveland Hustles premieres Wednesday, August 24 at 10pm ET/PT on CNBC.
Successful Entrepreneur, CEO of Styles of Success, and C0-Founder of Reesential Inc. Chareen Fountain is selected as a Cleveland Hustles finalist. The East Cleveland native is among the fastest growing group of American entrepreneurs, Black Women.
Fountain’s professional reputation is reliant on hard work and hustle. Whether she’s curating sophisticated hairstyles for women or pitching her entrepreneurial ideas to investors, Fountain is a must-see finalist on the unscripted series. On the season premiere of Cleveland Hustles, viewers will witness “The Fiery Salon Owner” present a compelling proposal that addresses the conundrums of beauty professionals nationwide. Exuding with both passion and personality, here she discusses The Pitch and more.
@bjaxson: Walk me through the day prior to your pitch. How did you prepare your pitch to the Cleveland Hustles investors?
Chareen Fountain: For me to pitch to a male dominant audience of investors was very difficult. I had to hone in on my pitch to get them to understand my beauty salon concept. I had to shorten it and make it brief and to the point. You are selling yourself to the investors, so they had to relate to who I am immediately because you have to tell your story in order for them to even understand what your concept is. Investors are investing in you, so if they don’t understand:
- Who you are?
- Where are you from?
- What’s your story?
They’ll be clueless, because they will not invest in anyone they don’t know anything about. So you have to make sure you get that into your pitch. This part is just as important as the numbers.
What is your “Big 3” for Pitching?
The 3 Things for a Successful Pitch:
- Tell Your Story: You are your brand! It doesn’t matter what your brand is, you are your brand period!
- What is Your Business Model? Why is it economically viable? You must tell investors what it is that you are providing. [My example is I’m providing jobs and I’m helping to revitalize the community. These are my core values. When I am pitching a concept these values are included in my mission. I could be selling bread on the street, but if it’s not providing jobs and helping my community than its just a piece of bread.]
- KNOW YOUR NUMBERS! You have to give the numbers behind your number. You have to show exactly how you will reach those numbers. [In my pitch I broke down my numbers so easily that the investors understood exactly how much I needed, how I was going to reach that number, and what’s in it for them? Investors want to know: How can I benefit from this? Is it scalable? Can your business model be expanded? Investors needed to know all of this information in the little amount of time that I had.
“I can admit I’m shy, but when it comes to my business I do not know what shy is.” – Chareen Fountain
Very insightful. *Only 23% of the S&P 500 CEO’s are women; likewise, when you pitched there were 3 men and only 1 woman investor. As a woman, talk about how important it was to convey your beauty industry brand to a panel of majority male investors. That’s actually disturbing that we do not have more women CEO’s and executives in top corporations…So it was that much more important to me to showcase that YES, I am this small business owner in the inner city that is thriving, but also trying to grow my community one block at a time. To have only a small percentage of women, on Cleveland Hustles it was that much more important for me to stand out. With that being said, I look at how many women owned businesses there are in our city, and then look at how many made the cut; I was really shocked to see that it wasn’t many women who even pitched.
Although there are many women owned businesses in Cleveland, you said you were surprised that not many women pitched. *There was a recent study that revealed: as women, we sometimes can’t reach our full potential because we lack the confidence. *Researchers say that men are natural born ambitious leaders, and if a woman were to say, “I am an ambitious leader” then we are kind of scorned for that. Talk about how you overcame that hurdle within yourself to become the ambitious leader you are today? I can admit I am shy, but when it comes to my business I do not know what shy is. As women, we got work to do! We have to be more confident. I believe the confidence is there and I think women can actually get something out of what we are doing on the show. Here in Cleveland, you have to work for it, you have to hustle, and you have to grind.
“You are selling yourself to the investors. This part is just as important as the numbers.” – Chareen Fountain
What do you say to that woman, who is shy and lack that confidence. What advice can you give to her? Get out of the box and stay the course. When I say ‘stay the course’ I do not mean stay on the same course you’ve been on, because that course could not be working for you. When I say ‘stay the course’ I mean stay motivated. Stay focused, and if that one course you are on is not working, find another course. Don’t keep beating a dead horse, move to the next lane, but don’t give up. Get motivated and stay motivated. You have to motivate yourself! If you can’t stay motivated or focused, find somebody who will motivate you and empower you. There will be somebody who will cheer you on.
Okay, lets talk more about the show. What was your biggest regret while filming for Cleveland Hustles? (long sigh). My biggest regret would be that I don’t think I hustled hard enough. I think I could have done more, I gave 125% but I think I should have given 150%. Yes, I do keep my bar really high because I didn’t even know I could reach the 100% mark, but I did and surpassed it. Going through everything I went through on the show, I know I can reach back and grab another woman and help her get to that first step I was on. And then we both can reach and walk up the steps together.
I like that. Speaking of reaching back and helping other women, elaborate more about the team of women that are behind you and how important is it to have a multifaceted staff. My team of women is unheard of. You don’t typically have people that stand behind you for 15 plus years at the same business, we just don’t have that in the hair industry. To have a team of people who have been there for 17, 16, 10, 7, and 6 years–one of my nail techs started out when she was just 11 years old, starting out as an assistant–sweeping the floors and answering the phones and then she turned it into a career. You start them young and they all laugh at me because I had my goddaughters sweeping the salon at age 4. But it teaches them skill sets they didn’t know they had. My goddaughters would ask me, ‘This is what I have to do to get money?’ and I would answer them ‘Absolutely, WORK!’ –When you got a strong team behind you that is looking up to you, they are depending on you (which is me) so they’re lives can be just as great. When you get an opportunity you make it happen for everybody.
What’s next for your brand? Well I can’t tell you what my next move is. But I can tell you this; I am going to build an empire where I create more jobs, more entrepreneurs, more empowered women (and men) to help our community get to the next level. It has to start with someone. Every team needs a great leader and a mentor, or they will fail. You have to have that one person who can take on the blood, sweat and tears. I literally have scratches all over knuckles, bags under my eyes from getting only 3 to 4 hours of sleep because I was hustling. Filming, working, and running 3 businesses at one time! There were times I was crying, ready to quit and was having temper tantrums, but my team held me down…You could not have told me a year ago ‘Chareen you gon be on national TV pitching about Styles of Success.’ You couldn’t have told me that! In a million years, I would not have believed you. Cleveland Hustles came and got me, read my bio, checked me out. My final words of wisdom are, you have to keep your credit together, tweak what you learn, follow up on your mistakes and make new mistakes.
“I know I can reach back and grab another woman and help her get to that first step I was on. And then we both can reach and walk up the steps together.” – Chareen Fountain
Last question, you can apply this to either business or personal; What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I would move to Africa. I would sell everything I own and move to Africa. Everything there is just so powerful. I feel at peace soon as I step on the land. I instantly feel a healing presence and I am de-stressed when I’m there. The people give me so much comfort and security because they want me there and I can feel it. Southern hospitality doesn’t have anything on African hospitality. Yvonne Pointer broke ground on her school there; she guides me and helps me with my humanitarian efforts and invited me to Africa. I was there giving away my money on the streets and it was the best feeling for me.
Sources: CNBC & *Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk & “Lean In”
**Chareen Fountain can be reached for interviews by emailing Chareen7678@gmail.com