What Does it Mean to be a Black Woman in the Male-dominated World of Business Development?
An interview with Traci Rhone, Vice President at Young America Capital
Business development is not just about closing deals and making money. It is also a profession requiring the ability to build relationships with people, something Traci Rhone has been doing for years as an African American woman who has been an independent filmmaker and psychotherapist for nearly 20 years.
She now serves as the vice president of business development at Young America Capital in New York. She works out of Florida and has been doing so since 2019.
“One of the major surprises for me was that there is really an art to the deal,” said Rhone, who holds two master’s degrees: one in gender and economic development from the University of West Indies and another in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University.
“Deals have life cycles, and you can’t just close one like that. It takes time. You have to massage the client, you have to romance the client, you have to make sure that the product is good, you have to make sure that you get the correct investor there,” she added.
Wearing big eyeglasses with a thick, black frame, Rhone spoke to me via Zoom about her journey in business development and how being an African American woman has been a distinct advantage rather than a liability in a world where business is usually conducted by men.
“It helps a lot,” she said. “Because I walk in with my glasses. I’m a female, and I’m black. Right? So, people are immediately like, Okay, forget the glasses. Just being female. Why is she here?”
She added that her experience has largely been positive, encouraging other women to break barriers and not be afraid to enter fields that have not been traditionally diverse.
“I haven’t come across any racism. I haven’t come across any sexism at all. At all, I’ve only come across people that are respectful to me and kind,” she said.
As a filmmaker, Rhone has worked with major companies such as Time Warner as well as with award-winning producers, directors and actors. Her passion for filmmaking goes back to her late father, Trevor D. Rhone, a prominent Jamaican playwright and filmmaker.
To succeed in any industry, including business development, Rhone believes one must live in the moment and not stress over things that cannot be controlled.
“I made sure to always remind myself on a daily basis, to remain present. Because if I start to worry about the future, at any given time, I’m going to paralyze myself. And I’m not going to be able to function,” she said.
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By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect