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Running a business

Sharene Wood of 5001 Flavors is building a lifestyle empire in Harlem

Name: Sharene “Shay” Wood 

Location: Harlem, NY

Pronouns: She/Her

Business: I am a serial entrepreneur, and founder and partner of several lifestyle brands: 5001 Flavors, Harlem Haberdashery, HH Bespoke Spirits & Beverages, and Wood Enterprises. I’m also a board member at Take Care of Harlem.

Describe yourself in three words: Purpose-driven, motivated, hard-working. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I started a business in 1992 while in college with my business partner (my then boyfriend and now husband). I handle all the administrative and organizational duties while my husband handles all creative aspects. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and create my own economy and build my own business. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

I learned that entrepreneurship and business management is so multi-layered and more complex than you’d ever realize.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

The most surprising thing about becoming a business owner is the sheer amount of paperwork and compliance of every kind that is necessary to stay in business and succeed. 

How does running your own business make you feel? 

It makes me feel proud. It’s great to watch something you conceptualize and create out of nothing succeed in any way. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?

This year I am celebrating 30 years in business with our custom clothing company, 5001 Flavors. I’m still learning how to sustain and scale my businesses. I’m still meeting and networking with industry professionals, creating strategies and mutually beneficial partnerships and opportunities. I’ve built a solid business foundation and can explore tons of new opportunities that constantly present themselves.

What are your proudest moments? 

For 5001 Flavors, my proudest moments are seeing our custom clothing on international stages, publications, and television. Watching our clients evolve and their careers thrive while being a part of their style evolution and success. At Harlem Haberdashery, it’s watching the brand succeed and receive the accolades and support of the community. For HH Bespoke Spirits and Beverages its the reviews and the customer appreciation of the brand. 

At Wood Enterprises, my consulting company that provides business coaching services to emerging entrepreneurs and provides consulting services for other clients, it’s helping my clients solve problems and make business road maps to specific goals and then watching them achieve their goals.

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

HH Bespoke Spirits started with three branded products: HH Bespoke Rum, Gin and Vodka. We have proudly expanded to HH Bespoke Spirits and Beverages and are ready to launch our own branded alkaline water product, Bespoke Water, in February 2022. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My family inspires me to keep going. I’m working for them. We are working for each other. We are committed to building generational wealth and helping each other build up our different brands. So tough days are many but knowing that your hard work is for your family gets you through the tough times. 

What challenges do you feel are unique to Black small business owners? 

Unfortunately Black and women business owners sometimes do not have access to capital or the various support networks that they need to succeed.

How can Black business owners support each other and their community? 

You can be profitable, relevant, community driven and practice collective economics at the same time. You just have to build your brand around your core values. My goal is to expand my brands, help others realize the potential of their brands, and empower my community. I have made sure that all my decisions and business practices align with my main goals. 

What advice would you give to other Black business owners just starting out? 

Start where you are now and with what you know. Grow, build, and evolve while in business. A lot of people tell me they need to do more research or get more equipment before they start an actual business, but it’s okay to learn on the job as long as you are moving forward. Some people plan too much and just burn out before even starting. But make a plan and be flexible enough to switch and pivot plans, products, and goals as technology and the world changes.

How do you make time for yourself while running a business? 

I plan time for myself and that’s just as important as planning a client meeting or event. I am important and worthy of my own time and attention . 

What advice would you give new business owners about balancing work with mental and physical health? 

Your health is your wealth! So staying healthy, active and whole is your number priority first and foremost . 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“I’m Every Woman,” by Chaka Khan. I’m a child of the 70s (proudly celebrating my 50th birthday this August), and I loved this song as a young girl. I felt Chaka Khan’s power, strength, and call to independence—and I loved the video. It was so feminine yet so powerful to a young girl!

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