Lakesha Brown-Renfro didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur, instead it was something engrained within her from generations and generations of family members who showed her the value of hard work. In 2011, along with two business partners, Lakesha launched Simply Panache, an event planning firm. Part of her menu included their unique product, mango preserves, and quickly it became known as a ‘party in the jar.’ The wildly popular ingredient led to sale after sale and has now landed her team on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank.”
This Friday, September 27, the Navy wife will have her shot at pitching to the sharks in front of America. The sharks, who themselves are multimillion dollar business people, provide people with resources that help businesses grow to heights they normally wouldn’t be able to reach. But this opportunity did not come easily. Lakesha explains how wearing the hat of military wife and business owner comes with a hunger to succeed, commitment to your vision, and willingness to not give up. “The most challenging part of starting and owning your own business is the amount of your life that you sacrifice for its maintenance and growth. Being a military spouse and a 24 hour entrepreneur is not just a euphemism or a cute little buzz word. It is an absolute reality. You must be available for your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You must be flexible, you must be open minded and you must be available.” And her most telling insight to us? “There are indeed some opportunities that only knock once, and when they do you must be available.”
The Value of Networking
People have been the centerpiece of Lakesha’s success. By building relationships, utilizing social media, and grass roots marketing her business has expanded in less than two years. She also credits a series of people who have been a part of her life at the right time with providing her with critical knowledge and feedback to stay on the right track. However, her biggest supporter has been her Sailor. “My husband, who is in the world’s greatest Navy, has also been one of my biggest cheerleaders because he has also wanted me to exercise my entrepreneurial spirit.”
Tips for Fellow Spouses with an Entrepreneurial Spirit
Entrepreneurship is one of the most portable career paths for the very transient lifestyle of the military community so Lakesha shared her three most valuable lessons:
1) Do not be afraid, take the leap.
2) Prepare well, get all of your paperwork in order and always follow the rules.
3) Be open to receive advice from those who have gone before you and when it is your turn, always help someone else as much as you can, because what is meant for you, is meant only for you, competition is a meaningless concept and only serves to distract you.
And we will all get to see what is meant for ‘Mango Mango’ Mango Preserves when the Houston based team makes their debut this week. In the promotional video, you can see the ladies dancing onto the stage singing their catching phrase for their mangolicious product, “Spread it! Mix it! Shake it! Stir it!” Regardless of the outcome of the pitch, Lakesha’s dedication to her goal inspires us that it is possible to pursue your dreams while supporting your service member’s honorable service.
To support our fellow military spouse, make sure you tune in this Friday at 9 pm EST to ABC’s “Shark Tank.” On behalf of the military spouse community, Military Spouse magazine wants to express how proud we are of Lakesha for her success and for being a role model for all of us who dream our own dreams.
For information on Simply Panache and the product that will be featured on “Shark Tank” visit:
Simply Panache Products, LLC, 1-800-313-5613, http://amangoparty.com/
The ‘Mango Mango’ Mango Preserves product is known for over 100 uses, to include Spread it on breads, Mix it with cream cheese for a delicious fruit dip, Shake it with red wine vinegar and olive oil for a mangolicious vinaigrette or stir it in shrimp and a ginger spice for a mango ginger shrimp.