Dana Chanel, CEO of Sprinkle of Jesus
Although social media tends to glamorize entrepreneurship, creating a successful business is no easy feat. 20% of small businesses fail within their first year and 50% fail after five years. For women, those figures are even more staggering. Research suggests that compared to males, female business owners experience higher failure rates. Despite these abysmal statistics, Dana Chanel has figured out the secret sauce to success. At 25, Dana is a successful multi-millionaire entrepreneur and the creator of the number one Black-owned online beauty supply store, Curl Bible, and the number one online Christian ministry and mobile app Sprinkle of Jesus. Dana sat down with Forbes to discuss her evolution as a business owner, how she’s propelling other female-led businesses, and the critical mistake that many new entrepreneurs make.
Janice Gassam: Who is Dana Chanel?
Dana Chanel: I got really well known from creating the mobile app Sprinkle of Jesus…it really dawned on me to continue to build businesses that essentially we could duplicate and build out blueprints to offer to other people in our communities to build successful businesses with their families.
Gassam: What sparked your desire to start your businesses and become an entrepreneur?
Chanel: I mean, just one word—lack of. I feel like we’re always trying to find this miraculous idea of why we need to go into business but to be honest, I realized it was a necessity to build a business when I thought about if my mom died today, she would just leave me with bills. That’s when I knew we had to become entrepreneurs and build generational wealth…I had to become an entrepreneur out of necessity, not because I even had a choice…
Gassam: How have aspects of your background like your age, your race, and your gender impacted your business strategy?
Chanel: I feel like people are constantly seeking for answers from people that look like them and maybe have a similar story to give them hope. For me, I am so honored to be a woman, I’m so honored to be a minority, I’m so honored to be all these things…someone who was the underdog and just showing my people how to, and giving them the confidence, the tools, and the actual resources to become extraordinary entrepreneurs…I’m just looking to assist my community. A lot of times, the people in our community are forgotten about. We’re always talking about ‘let’s buy back the block,’ but what about actually building businesses in the block too, so that our money is not leaving the community…we, as the people in the community, can gentrify it ourselves.
Gassam: What are some tips you can offer women of color who are thinking of breaking into entrepreneurship but are afraid or scared?
Chanel: I have no idea why you working a 9-5, with a boss who could care less, that actually has to answer to someone else who does not know you, dictate your destiny. If that does not terrify you, I have no idea what will. I’d 100% rather bet on myself to provide for the family that I know loves me…it’s really about that sense of urgency. Becoming an entrepreneur has to happen now. Why wait for you to get fired and for you to struggle? I would just say go into a business that you don’t have to beg people to support you…building need-based businesses that your community actually needs and it’s not a situation where we’re asking the people of our community to change what they’re spending their money on but more so change who they’re spending their money with. With Jumping Jack Tax, we’ve created a blueprint and give licensing rights to people to build their own mobile tax office. That is a business that is a necessity…everyone has to get their taxes done. To me, going into a business that makes sense and people need it, really isn’t scary. I would just say ‘forget your passion for at least four to five years,’ just like you forgot your passion for your 9-5, just like you forgot your passion for a college degree that ended up not helping you…if you just sacrificed and dedicated to building a need-based business in your community, then you would have a solid foundation and the funds to go do what your passion is about. Essentially, business is about the transfer of money. I would just say to women, it’s time to not just survive but to thrive, and to actually put ourselves into positions to make money by building need-based businesses.
Gassam: How can you determine who your customer base actually is?
Chanel: I think that what ends up happening is that we try to serve the world before we even serve our communities. If we just stopped looking to social media to come to us and for people to find us and find us important, find us valuable, find us resourceful…not realizing that if you were to walk outside, and I live in Philadelphia, and I look to the left of me and I look to the right of me, there is a million dollars’ worth of revenue on a block and yet we are focused, as women, diving into beauty industries or industries that are so saturated that you have to become liked or Instagram-famous. There is literally people around you who are spending money but then you have to ask yourself ‘what are they spending money on?’ Then you won’t have to find your demographic, or wait for it to come to you, you have access to it…stop looking for a demographic to find you, but look at your demographic and find what they need and then you be the resource or service to that…you’d stop wasting a lot of time. As a new entrepreneur, you’re struggling with capital and for advertisements…it’s 100% more accessible to reach the customer where they’re at instead of you begging social media to bring them to you.
Gassam: What impact has social media played on your businesses’ success?
Chanel: Well, I would say it wasn’t social media that impacted my businesses—it was my businesses that impacted social media. A lot of people have it backwards as if people are going to follow you for no reason. People want followers but my question is, what are you asking them to follow? It was because I actually was resourceful and had something to offer that people then came to me. I would say, the biggest game changer in becoming successful was actually the complete opposite. It took for me to believe in myself 100% to create my own platform. When we built the Sprinkle of Jesus mobile app, it gave us access to communicate and build a community of people outside of social media…now we have 8 million downloads. Because I am the controller of my platform, and of my communication, my first extension was credit repair, Credit Exterminators. On opening day, we received over 2,000 inquiries…2,000 potential customers. I sent a push notification on Sprinkle of Jesus saying ‘Christians need good credit too. Get your credit fixed with this Christian-owed credit repair company.’ And literally because that went to every single person’s phone, immediately on opening day we have hundreds of thousands of potential revenue because I owned the platform. But to get those results on Instagram, I would have had to beg and even pay to get that result…the gamechanger for our business was creating our own mobile application and then becoming the top advertisers on the Sprinkle of Jesus app. Then funnel customers and money into our other businesses. We were making over $100,000 in advertising money…me and my family had a meeting and a conversation, and we were like ‘if people are paying us every single month to send them customers why the heck are we not advertisers?’ So, we created businesses and we kept our name off of them. I, Dana Chanel, am nowhere on the Sprinkle of Jesus app. I would greatly say that us creating our own platform and betting on ourselves was the best thing we could have ever done for our company…once we built one platform, we used that to be the conduit for the others.
I ended up buying the company that created my mobile app so that I could then create mobile apps for small businesses. That’s called Alakazam Apps…we actually create mobile apps for small businesses and help them monetize their brands…and digitalize their services so that they can make digital money with digital products…and essentially make their businesses more convenient. From restaurants to churches, we’re helping small businesses go digital at an affordable rate. To create your own mobile app, it’s 20-50 to $100,000 dollars. We can do that at a fraction of the cost.
Gassam: Would you advise potential entrepreneurs to get into a market that is deemed as oversaturated?
Chanel: As a foundation, no. You’re going to go broke trying to attempt to get new customers that have already made up their minds to spend money with someone else…you’re not going to have a lot of capital. What you need for products is marketing and that costs money. From ads, to influencer marketing, it’s going to cost a lot of money. It’s dangerous…to start a business in that line and you get frustrated and angry because you feel like it’s not working, not because your business is not working but you’ve been out marketed. I would greatly encourage that your first business be that foundation of a need-based business that will then be able to fund your passion. We’re getting into this idea of ‘if it doesn’t make me feel good, I don’t want to do it.’ I’m going to be honest…I would beg to differ…I think it’s important for you to create a foundation first.
There’s a bunch of tax offices in the country, but guess what? There’s also an unlimited amount of customers. The same woman who just bought lashes from Lilly Ghalichi lash is not going to go over and buy lashes because she’s just not going to spend $200 on lashes. We just have to be mindful [of] where our customers are spending money…we don’t want to change what the customer is spending money on, we just want to change where the customer is spending the money that they have already decided to spend…I want money that you’re going to spend regardless. I want to be that credit repair company, I want to be that tax preparation company, I want to be that mobile app builder, for all the businesses because they know that they’re going to have to go mobile. I want to be that beauty supply store. Now once again, I didn’t say product—I said beauty supply store. At Curl Bible, I wouldn’t consider us a beauty business…I would consider us a distribution business, which means that there’s a bunch of women that are creating these beauty products and they don’t have a platform. They don’t have followers, they don’t have an instant amount of customers, but Dana Chanel does, and I don’t have beauty products. So, if I can promote their product on a platform and grow the next Sephora, the next Ulta, and get Black women the opportunity to sell their products, that’s completely different than me banking on making sure this one body butter sells.
Gassam: What is something you wish you knew when you started your very first business?
Chanel: Well, how about we rephrase that question? I’m going to give you a piece of advice that I feel like is needed and that I had to learn. If you’re not useful, you’re useless. You only become wealthy by making other people rich. The second you are not a conduit to help someone do something, your business is going to go to crap…your business is going to be non-existent. A lot of people today are looking at social media, looking at these gorgeous influencers with 500,000 to one million followers, and essentially that’s the goal but they’re not looking at the procedure—what is it that they actually did to get there? For example, you guys may see me now with a community of over 10 million people, but you guys didn’t see that in the beginning of this project, I was creating websites for people. I was useful, which then put me in a space to actually get paid. Stop expecting someone to swoon and praise you for being extraordinary…when you’re in business, you have to be useful. The second you are useful, that is when you’ll start making money…you have to choose profitability over popularity.
To learn more about Dana Chanel, visit her website.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.