Melaninated Corner: Meet Founder of Tchuento, Elise Woappi

You know, when the founder of Tchuneto, Elise, reached out to me in hopes I share her story here on MDK, I was truly honored. Through hearing Elise’s story, I learned that we both have gone through the trauma of losing a parent and left trying to pick up the pieces. I am very proud of her fulfilling her dream of becoming a business-woman. Check out her story.

Before you built Tchuento, did you see there wasn’t much visibility of Black owners in creative design and marketing?

The creative design and marketing industry has a diverse range of talent. With that said, I noticed that most companies or businesses providing these services did not have as many black leaders in their executive positions. Although the recruited talent included a diverse workforce, not everyone at the top was representative of various minority groups.

How did you start your business? Did you find that there were a lot of resources available for you to become an entrepreneur?

I was able to find a few resources to help me as an entrepreneur, most were found by simply googling my options. I used various online platforms for ideas and guidance on starting my business (i.e. entrepreneurial blogs, magazines, YouTube channels, social platforms). There’s also the Small Business Administration which provides great resources for entrepreneurs.

Once I set my mind on creating my business, I immediately built the website, designed the logo, created a mailing list for potential clients, and started selling my services. This all happened within a month of me launching my business.

You’re an entrepreneur with a business design to help entrepreneurs with their business, do you see yourself in a lot of your clients?

I was fortunate to have worked for big companies that challenged me tremendously, and have been in managerial positions that allowed me to understand the day-to-day operations of a business. I’m not new to entrepreneurship as I always had side projects growing up to generate extra income. I see myself in entrepreneurs who are new to the world of business, because I can relate to how nerve-racking and scary it is knowing that all decisions made, successes or failures, and the growth of business fully depends on the entrepreneur. There’s no one else to blame. That’s both empowering and scary.

Tell us about your story because I find it extremely inspiring as you and your family came to the U.S. as immigrants?

Yes, my entire immediate family moved to the states when I was 10: my twin sister, two older brothers, and my parents. We’re originally from Cameroon – which is a developing country in Central Africa. My parents applied for the United States Green Card Lottery and won back in 2001; it’s through that process that we became U.S. citizens. We moved to Hanover, Pennsylvania and that’s where I grew up. Moving at a young age definitely impacted me because I constantly struggled with not knowing which place to identify with – even though I’m from Cameroon, most of my upbringing happened in the states. With that said, my parents did a tremendous job making sure our African roots never wavered and that we remained humble with the opportunities we were granted. My dad, unfortunately, passed away in my teens but we’ve always been a very tight-knit family.

Elise with her parents, brothers, and twin sister.

Like you, I experienced a death of a parent at a young age and I say the most defining moments of strengths is the life after their death. Funerals, wakes, etc. are a one-time event, but you relive your life every day after without them. How do you find strength in going through the highs and lows of life without your father?

Great question. To be quite honest, I had to learn that grief doesn’t have an end date. When I started grieving his death within the first two years of his passing, I constantly was waiting for an aha moment for when I would stop hurting from the loss. Truth is, grief doesn’t actually go away, but you discover that although someone you loved has left, you still have a great life ahead to live. You just learn to manage grief better.

I’ve always had strength but I solidified it by doing group therapy for a year, spending more time with loved ones, surrounding myself with positive and uplifting people, and most importantly –always putting myself first. I started to meditate on a daily basis to strengthen my emotional and mental health. Meditation has really helped me process the highs and lows of life.

Melaninated is the part of my blog where I talk about the failures and triumphs of being Black. I have to ask what failures and triumphs have you experienced as a business owner?

When I started Tchuento, the first two months were very difficult for me. I was so ambitious and would often feel down on myself if I couldn’t close any clients/leads. I also didn’t receive funding that I was relying on to build a specific MVP for the company and keep up with my business expenses.

I don’t really think of them as failures because this business is growing as much as I’m willing to grow. I think that as long as I continue to work hard, provide great content for my clients, and stay true to my values – massive success is inevitable. I just have to be patient.

You have successfully started a business as a young black woman in marketing, how do you break down those barriers for the next generation?

As I continue to grow the business, I’ll recruit more talented black and other minority professionals to join me on this journey. My goal is for Tchuento to be world-known as a company that fully embodies talent and diversity. I also would like to do keynote speeches and attend conferences to share my story to audiences around the world; specifically in underrepresented communities.

All in all, you’re a girl boss. How can other women and young girls become bosses of their own?

By choosing to, regardless of what field or current life stage they’re in. When I want something, I go out and get it. My motto is: as long as whatever I want is not harmful to myself or others, there’s no reason I shouldn’t have it. I’ve been empowered my whole life because I believed at a young age that I deserved the absolute best. You don’t need permission to be a boss. Be unapologetically yourself and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t achieve your dream(s).

To be more practical:

  • Figure out what you want to accomplish in life
  • Write down your short and long term plan/goal
  • Create actionable steps for you to achieve your goal
  • Work hard, be consistent, don’t quit
  • Hold yourself accountable and celebrate milestones and accomplishments

What do you want other Black women to know about starting a business and going after their dreams?

You just have to start. Yes, it’s scary and financially challenging, but starting is the first step to success. If you don’t do something, you won’t get anywhere. Don’t let your race or gender stop you from doing something. When I reach out to clients or advertise my business, I don’t think from a place of hindrance due to my gender and race. I know my worth and value and I act on that.

Save your money. Starting and growing a business is a bit more feasible when you’re financially “secure”. You don’t have to be rich or have a ton of money saved, but you don’t want to start a business or go after your dreams if you’re in debt or financially irresponsible.

Be practical and patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and if you think it does, you’re in for a rude awakening. You have to be patient and practical in how you guide your life to accomplish your goals. There’s this quote I read online that I absolutely love, “never let the fear of time keep you from pursuing your dreams. The time will pass anyway”.

Tchuento is a creative design and marketing company created by a young woman who had a dream to increase the representation of Black-owned media companies in the marketing industry. Her company also designed my gorgeous logo. Head on over to the company’s website to learn more about their services!