By About Her Culture
Sometimes a good idea hits you in the face, and sometimes you fall face-first into one. You just have to recognize the opportunity.
Felecia Hatcher always recognizes the opportunity… No one else has gone from a faceplant chasing an ice cream truck, to starting a vegan-friendly gourmet popsicle and ice cream catering company.
She’s made a habit of smart entrepreneurial decisions that date back to high school where she flipped a “C” average into over $130,000 in scholarships. That creativity, and a keen eye for disruption, have led to the creation of many innovative start-ups – from college prep programs, to experimental marketing and product launch campaigns for the likes of Nintendo, Sony, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and even the Minnesota Lynx.
Now the CEO of music mogul Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition, which awards Black and Latinx entrepreneurs prizes of up to $1million, the five-time author, and winner of numerous awards across a wealth of categories, Felecia talks to us about growing up at the intersection of American and Caribbean culture, the importance of community empowerment, and so much more…
As someone who is truly exceptionally accomplished, how has your Jamaican heritage influenced your drive to work hard and achieve?
Felecia: Man, so much! My mom is from Jamaica, and is big on education. I would have to couple that with my grandmother who passed away seven years ago now. She had to drop out of the 2nd grade, because her mother passed away, to take care of her brothers and sisters. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She taught herself everything. She was big on education. Then, just the way that she loved on us… It was all of those things. I mean being self-taught and thinking what my daughter at eight can and cannot do; that is what drives me in so many different ways.
Being able to be a massive return on her sacrifice is probably the biggest driver for me, more than anything. We often say that we stand on the shoulders of giants and I 100% agree with that. I get to do what I do because of my mother, my grandmother, and definitely because of my Jamaican heritage. Trying to keep this answer relatively short is hard.
I remember going to Jamaica for a bunch of summers as a kid, and thinking about entrepreneurship. We have the luxury of entrepreneurship here in the United States, but what I witnessed in Jamaica was that entrepreneurship was something done out of necessity. Not having the jobs, the opportunities or the upward mobility – and people literally saying: ‘that’s not going to stop me; the system is not going to stop me; we’re going to create something.’ Seeing the sheer amount of homes that the verandah was turned into a shop, a hair salon, a bar – so many different things. It’s in the veins of the people of Jamaica. That flows through my veins.
And the fun part – you know when people joke about Jamaicans having a lot of jobs – I got a lot of jobs… But, because of that, we have a lot of experience and a lot of insight. There’s a lot of trial and error to guide our steps moving forward.
Has your Caribbean upbringing ever created challenges for you in terms of cultural assimilation? If so, how have you handled this?
Felecia: My mom’s from Jamaica. My dad’s from south Georgia, so that made for a very interesting childhood.
I think being in south Florida and all these conversations that kind of come up between the American community and the Caribbean community, being at the intersection of that has made for some interesting conversations and dialogue.
People sometimes say Jamaicans or Caribbean people are arrogant. But, it’s not arrogance; it’s audacity. Although the Caribbean has a lot that it goes through – a lot of things from systemic issues, to political, financial and socio economic issues – being a kid and seeing everybody around you look like you will do something to you in a very positive way. You see your image and your likeness represented on TV. The prime minister, the managers in the bank, the people in all these leadership positions… That’s where that audacity comes from.
Those are the things that you don’t see growing up in America. You constantly have to seek that out. You see very rare glimpses of that even as you start to ascend in your career. That’s what I experienced being in the middle of a Caribbean parent and an American parent, and having those two sides of the family.
Empowering others and building community are strong themes in your work throughout the years. What inspires that within you, and what impact are you seeking to make?
Felecia: There’s a lot… and it changes depending on what project I’m working on. So for everything that I mentioned – my grandmother, my mother, my dad – all of that inspires me. My kids right now are probably the biggest inspiration. I’m trying to build a community and access, so they don’t have to go through the craziness and struggles that I had to go through.
I think the other side of that is seeing ultimate possibility – If you just move the barrier out of the way – how much we soar; how much we take the baton and run with it. Those are some of the things that guide me.
The other part of that is that there are a lot of really crappy people who have power in positions, or have proximity to power, that need to do better. They are standing in the way of the greatness of our community.
The largest transfer of Black wealth happened in 2008 when our parents and grandparents lost their homes. They were told that real estate was the way to create wealth, which is true, but it’s not the only way.
I’m so passionate about tech and innovation, and where that’s going, because that can be the largest transfer of wealth in our communities if we’re smart about it. If we’re positioning ourselves and we’re quick learners, we can apply the knowledge as fast as we possibly can. It’s so important.
My grandmother from Jamaica says our people perish from a lack of knowledge. A lack of knowledge, and a lack of understanding of how to apply that knowledge, is the other part of that. I want to learn as quickly as we possibly can, because our lives and closing the wealth gap depend on that. The only thing that is moving fast enough to combat what happened in 2008, is the tech and entrepreneurship community. That’s why I’m so passionate about it as well.
If there was one message you’d give young, Caribbean American women who dream of success in entrepreneurship and tech in the U.S., what would you say?
Felecia: The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life, and that’s a quote from Tony Robbins. Ask bigger, richer, more expansive, more expensive questions of yourself and of the people who are around you. Use that insight to figure out your next best move. You cannot do this by yourself. You should not do this by yourself. Surround yourself with really dope, smart people, even if it scares the crap out of you, and ask those big bold questions, every chance you get.