Tanisha Colon-Bibb of Rebelle Agency

On financial literacy, looking 20 years ahead, and asking for what you're worth

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Tanisha Colon-Bibb first created her communications company, Rebelle Agency, out of necessity. She’d been laid off and needed to work. But she ran into one big problem — and it was about money.

“I didn’t know how to handle my own finances,” Tanisha says. “Then, when you switch over to business, there’s so much red tape, there are so many different lanes that you have to stay in — you don’t want to comingle your funds, you want to make sure that you know your accounting is correct and your banking is correct. I didn’t have enough financial literacy to really understand the depth of knowledge I needed around finance and I’m just now getting on my feet.”

Her business was formalized in 2012, but Tanisha says that at the time, she was 24 years old and just wasn’t quite ready.

“I didn’t have any money,” Tanisha says. “I didn’t have money for a lawyer and an accountant, which are the two things you should get out the gate. And I didn’t have relationships (to get them either) because I was only 24. A lot of my friends were in law school, but they hadn’t finished law school yet.”

Courtesy of Rebelle Agency

With the help of her brother who owns a business, she did venture out on her own but says it took her six years to be ready to help her business actually thrive.

“I think I was very presumptuous about what being a business owner entails. I wanted to do things right,” Tanisha says. “I don’t think that I was mentally ready to be a business owner … I don’t think that I was prepared for the vision that I had.”

She didn’t have a business mentor to guide her, but she got to work teaching herself all that she didn’t know.

“I literally just failed, and gave up on myself, and then picked myself back up, and then Googled, and then thought about it, and then matured,” Tanisha says. “It really just was like a life journey.”

Courtesy of Rebelle Agency

Now, things are different. After being in business for years and putting in the work, Tanisha has the people and resources she needs and studies what she needs to know. She says that mentally, last year felt like her first real year as an entrepreneur.

“2018 was our best year, 2019 is going to be even better, my whole mindset is just different.”

And that security is something that benefits Tanisha’s impressive list of clients. Rebelle Agency, which fuses the traditions of public relations with modern strategic communications practices, has an avant-garde approach to trying to stay ahead of the industry’s curves and changes and teaching clients what they should prepare for in the future.

“I don’t look at the industry as what it is today, I look at it as what it’s going to be in 20 years,” Tanisha says. “I don’t think enough people do. … I think that they they give you what they know now. Maybe a year or two out, maybe, but I don’t think that they really look and they say: How can we prepare you for this next generation of PR, this next generation of communications?”

And after battling her initial money issues — and winning — Tanisha’s money-making mantra is simple and to the point.

“There’s no shame in wanting to make money and to grow your business,” Tanisha says. “There’s no shame in asking for what you’re worth. That’s really my mantra. If you do the work, ask for what you’re worth.”

This interview is part of a Black History Month series highlighting black business owners. You can find more here.

Top image: Courtesy of Rebelle Agency