From the book
I was at the lowest point of my life in 1983. After I had worked my wayup to vice president of Colorado's largest bank, my manager calledme into his office. Avoiding eye contact and reading from notes he hadscratched on the back of an envelope, he told me I was fired. I was thehighest- ranking black woman in the entire bank, and the word was I hadpushed too hard, talked too much, and rubbed too many of my whitecolleagues "the wrong way."
That night, as I cried myself to sleep, I wondered, at age fifty- two,what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Like many women, I had bumped hard against the glass ceiling. Mypersonality was too big for the confines of corporate America. But in thecold light of day, I also had to admit that I had grown as tired of working"for the man" as he had with me. The very traits that had irked mycolleagues— being a pushy, assertive, independent thinker, fast on my feet, with a tendency to stir things up— were the qualities of which I wasmost proud. And I soon learned that these were the very traits that makea successful entrepreneur. These gifts had been passed down from myown mother, a dynamic self- starter who had run several businesses out ofour home on the south side of Chicago in the thirties, forties, and fifties.
So I brushed back those bitter tears, and by the following year I hadregrouped and launched what was to become one of the country'sbest-known independent specialty bookstores. Even though I had neversold a book in my life, my store, Hue-Man, became a small-business successstory.
My entrepreneurial flame burned bright, but in 2000, after nearlytwo decades in the business, I was burnt out. I had served as the firstblack person on the board of the American Booksellers Associationand had become a major player in the publishing industry. I was theAfrican-American go-to girl for agents and editors and had hosted someof the hottest black authors, including James Baldwin, Toni Morrison,Alice Walker, Terry McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, Maya Angelou, WalterMosley, and Colin Powell. But I was tired. So I sold the store in Denver;I planned to move to New York to be close to my daughters and grandchildren,and coast into retirement.
But before I could book that Caribbean cruise, entrepreneurshipagain came calling. I was presented with the opportunity to open a bookstorein the rapidly changing hot and happening neighborhood of Harlem.So I got my second wind and opened another Hue-Man Bookstore.It boasted four thousand square feet of floor space and a café, and thisbigger and better New York City Hue-Man became the world's largestAfrican- American bookstore. The Harlem store enjoyed the same brandrecognition but on an even larger scale, and became a mandatory stopfor an author's New York book tour. In 2003, Hillary Clinton chose ourbookstore to host a signing for her book Living History.
One year later came my crowning achievement. Hue-Man wasselected as one of only two stores in the country to mount an in-storeevent on the release day of President Bill Clinton's memoir, My Life. Onthat warm June evening, the store was mobbed and the signing was coveredby local, national, and international media news outlets, includingCNN, Access Hollywood, and Entertainment Tonight. At the end of the day,I had orchestrated the successful signing of 2,119 books.
The Clinton signing marked the complete realization of my vision,to create a million- dollar small business. Now it was time to retire forreal, and pursue a new challenge: to teach other women to realize theirown entrepreneurial dreams. I now work as a business coach with avariety of...