Vanessa Simmons was literally born into the spotlight. Her father is “Rev. Run” Simmons, the founder of Run-DMC, a legendary trio that signified the emergence of hip-hop in the 1980’s.
Her uncle is the Russell Simmons, entrepreneur and co-founder of the lucrative Def-Jam records.
Needless to say, Vanessa is no stranger to success.
However, growing up in a successful environment didn’t stop Vanessa from chasing her own dreams.
“Keep persevering, keep going, keep pushing.”
When Empress founder Neelam Brar had a chance to sit down and chat with the entrepreneur and mother-of-one, Simmons directly seized the opportunity to share her own start-up experience, which started at the age of 22.
Realizing there weren’t any sneakers on the market that were geared towards women, the Simmons sisters decided to create one.
Pastry, was founded by Vanessa and her younger sister, Angela Simmons. Originally created for femme-sporty footwear, the business has sold over $15 million worth of shoes.
“We found a void in the market, we found that there were no sneakers that geared towards young women… It took off way faster than we expected, and that was really where I began my business journey,” Vanessa recalls.
She is not a stranger to reality television either. For about 6 years, the T.V. star was on the cast of Run’s House, a show following the life of her family, including her father, mother and 3 siblings.
At the peak of building her career, Simmons decided to document the experience with her own spin-off Reality Television show, Daddy’s Girls, sharing the launch of Pastry and her move to Los Angeles with her fans.
“I’m currently filming a T.V. show that’s reality based, but it’s more of a competition series, all based around female entrepreneurs and empowering them, it’s called Queen Boss,” Vanessa offers a peak of her upcoming television ventures.
“So the statistics have been very, very clear it’s been extremely tough on women in businesses to get funded, and African-American women are even more at a disadvantage in the statistics, what is your opinion on what’s going on out here?” Neelam inquires.
“It is tough,” Vanessa agrees, “Especially for African-American women out there. We don’t have that glass ceiling, we have a concrete ceiling, so it’s a little bit harder to penetrate and get your word across. The advice I give to other women coming up is ‘Persistence’… You cannot fail, you cannot fail, until you quit.”
Vanessa’s face lights up when asked why she loves being an entrepreneur. She explains, “I love the freedom that being an entrepreneur gives you.
It really gives you a chance to dig in deep and find what it is inside of you that you want to share with the world and make it relatable for everybody.
I love that I get to be so creative in business and use my creative side in my business.”
“Being your own boss can be kind of scary, because you’re in charge… But it’s all up to you and what you want to do.”
Vanessa shares a business strategy that’s worked for her- listening to her audience. “What I really enjoy the most about it is being able to connect with people who connect directly with me.
Now with social media, we can directly connect with comments and I can see exactly what they’re looking for and how I can relate with that and share with other people.”
When asked what the toughest part of her journey was, Simmons talks about the difficulty of being in the spotlight for so long and having to evolve from a child to a woman, and eventually, a mother.
“Motherhood and entrepreneurship takes a strategic balance,” Vanessa offers her own take on the organization of her work and personal life, “Understanding what you want to dedicate your time to every single day, and being very specific with it everyday. Like, ‘Today I will concentrate on my business, but then there might be a day where I want to take completely off and only dedicate to my household. That’s part of being a smart business woman: Being able to know when your household needs attention, and when your attention has to go towards your business.”
Finding that balance poses a challenge for many. When there are too many things going on in life, running out of mental space can become disheartening for any rising entrepreneur. Thankfully, there are several tips to find that equilibrium, even when life proves to be frantic.
“I feel that we’re always taking these leaps and bounds to get where we’re going because we’re in a rush, but we’re not in a rush!”
Simmons shares a tip of her own organization; her monthly checklist.
“I wake up every single day, and I have my little book, and I jot down exactly what my goals are for the month, and I think, ‘Okay, from this monthly goal list, what can I do this week that will help my business?’”
Breaking down assignments and learning how to manage one’s time will mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually benefit any person reaching higher goals.
Time-Management tips are also covered by Vanessa, as she answers a question from a prospective-entrepreneur, regarding keeping a healthy mentality.
“It’s an everyday process,” Vanessa quickly responds, “You always have to remind yourself, why are you doing this and what kind of purpose is this going to serve?”
As Neelam wraps up the interview, she asks if Vanessa has any final words of advice.
“Yes,” Vanessa eagerly responded,
“This is a mantra I made up a long time ago; When you’re out there and you’re fighting for your companies, for your business, for everything you’re doing- You can expect a ‘no’ but you can’t accept a ‘no’. Keep going, keep persevering, keep pushing- it will happen.”