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Black History Month: I showed a client the door after being called an “anomaly”

As we continue profiling entrepreneurs for Black History Month, one founder explains why he was forced to turn away a client who made an outrageous remark.
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Following on from details of how the armed forces shaped one entrepreneur’s outlook, Elliott Reid, founder of the Revitalize Clinic, is the next offering his experiences for Black History Month.

With his health enterprise, he connects fitness professionals to patients and clients that need their services. And with a team of five, 500 appointments are managed each month.

He discusses how proud he is of his heritage, and the disrespect he was met with by a client for his background.

What have been the key business challenges that you faced to get to where you are today?

The key challenges have been patience. We live in a “want it now and fast” society. But to grow a business takes patience, overcoming a lot of hurdles and keeping your eye on the prize. Do not be afraid to pivot or change your strategy to get where you need to be.

I have had multiple step backs; have invested tens of thousands of pounds at a young age – I founded the clinic age 21 – all off of my own back. And I have had to be willing to invest my money on a hypothesis and take the hit if my predictions don’t come through. Patience and humility are essential.

Have you ever witnessed racism in the workplace, whether directed at yourself or a colleague?

Overt racism is always the tip of the iceberg. I had a client say that I was an anomaly because I was hardworking, well educated, successful and black.

To think this is what she said overtly, is evidential to me that there is a lot of racism that goes on beneath the surface that we may not even be aware of.

How was it dealt with?

I refused to train her and explained that I would not do business with someone who had a negative predisposition towards my people or my culture. I don’t regret it one bit. I’m a good enough businessman to replace her.

Do you feel as though your heritage has ever been a factor in your career development?

Yes. I am descendant from the Jamaican Maroons. They fought the British for hundreds of years and, with Samuel Sharpe and many others, were able to bring about emancipation.

I want to be a successful businessman. If my ancestors could achieve the impossible, I’m sure I can achieve my more achievable goals. I feel the same way towards my heroes, Toussaint Louverture, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. They are my idols.

How important is an initiative like Black History Month – on a cultural and business level?

It’s a gateway drug to the truth. Black history is church to me. It requires regular revisiting; regular revisal and regular internalisation. More black men and women have died for the progression of African descended people that saints have for Christianity. Black history is my religion.

Do you think UK companies or leaders should be doing anything to highlight Black History Month?

They should celebrate the successes of black people; not just the suffering. Highlighting the suffering breeds sympathy and understanding, but celebrating excellence breeds self-esteem and admiration.

This is what’s missing from the black community more than the former. Black history does not detract from any other history; it complements it. Trade between Africa, Asia and Europe, even America, has occurred for centuries. Europe has benefited hugely from black people.

Concluding our round-up of experiences faced by black entrepreneurs, we heard from a 33-year-old founder who admits that the creative industry is a challenge as a person of colour.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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