Toni Thorne is
- An entrepreneur who started her first business at age 7.
- Self-starter: “If I say I’m going to do something, I find a way I get it done.”
- “The hardest thing is to start.”
- Pursue what you are interested in and what will energize you: “You have to be very clear in what you want from life.”
- Motto: “Be true to yourself.” – you are your own biggest obstacle.
Experience in Business
- Pursue Your Interests: Toni has constantly been inspired to create, sometimes in areas where she does not have much previous experience. If not an expert in an area of interest, Toni has partnered with and learned from those with more experience.
- Mind Your Business: It is in your best interest to know your business inside out. No one can pull the wool over your eyes or outsmart you (even if they are technical experts) once you understand the business you are in.
- Believe in Yourself: Toni has bootstrapped many of her own businesses rather than accessing institutional financing.
- Align Your Interests: If you are focused enough, know what you want, and are genuine and passionate, you can do many different things at the same time. Get the right team to support you and have an authentic experience.
- Finding a Mentor: Toni does not have any formal mentors but believes that if you have a positive outlook and pursue your interests genuinely, you will attract people from whom you can learn and with whom you can share ideas. Learning can come from many sources, including interviews and articles featuring people you admire and want to emulate.
- Understand and Embrace Failure: Many of the things you do as an entrepreneur are not going to work out. Not all ideas are good ideas. This is one of the reasons you have to love the journey, and the business creation process as a whole.
- Favourite Failure Story: When Toni graduated, she tried to pursue a “responsible, proper job” and worked for over a year in the oil industry drafting contracts. This was a position in which she was not challenged, and became bored, and was not making the type of impact she wanted to make, so she resigned. Upon resigning from this “stable” job, she was faced with years of challenge as a business venture suffered a loss, and she faced criticism for taking the risk to pursue and start new businesses. That struggle forced Toni to “fail forward” and served as an important learning experience.
- There is a mindset issue which is keeping Caribbean businesses, particularly Black businesses, from growing as they should: “People would rather own 0% of nothing than 5% of something.” – instead of collaborating and supporting one another, they would rather compete.
- The Black experience in Barbados, a predominantly Black country, is one in which Black people are treated as minorities and racism is an endemic issue
- Upper financial class does not reflect the racial composition of the country, which affects the level of entrepreneurship and business entry
- Experiences of being Black worldwide are unique experiences
- A study on the business loan process conducted by Harvard University revealed Black entrepreneurs in the USA have to deal with much more stringent policies and procedures than White entrepreneurs with similar or lesser qualifying requirements. This experience of different rules for Black business owners and Black entrepreneurs is also true in Barbados and serves as an obstacle which Black entrepreneurs have to determine how to overcome.
- Black parents have until recently tended to be more conservative, encouraging children to follow a more secure, traditional path and may not have supported entrepreneurship as it seemed too risky
- This stems partly from a historical experience of oppression and disadvantage which has caused them to be more risk-averse.
- That mindset is slowly changing, which is necessary to spur on generational wealth and generational business growth
- White peers may have a different upbringing and exposure to family businesses and business mindset earlier on
- Black entrepreneurs must recognize that although social structures may cause them to be at a disadvantage, they can and must then make their own paths to success, be creative in how they pursue structuring and financing their businesses and set their own goals for measuring success.