Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Many Black women are underestimated and undervalued in workplaces, specifically in corporate America. Not only in the income realm but also in finding a workplace that appreciates their ideas. Domonique Townsend noticed this gap for herself. She realized she did more than her role required while also being underestimated and undervalued as an employee. She also noticed that the consultants brought into the company were more respected, and companies were more apt to listen to them.
Domonique shared, "One of the things that I wanted to do was to go out and make a bigger impact in the world and become that consultant that companies are more apt to listen to. To let them know the value of utilizing their employees, equipping them with tools to succeed. But also just valuing them and knowing what it means to include people that we normally don't utilize in project opportunities."
This is the cornerstone of We Optimize Work (WOW). We Optimize Work focuses on changing how employers approach work and how that relates to women and working moms equipping them to be successful in the workplace. Their framework equips business executives and leaders with a unique perspective to align their work approach to meet critical business goals while engaging employees, increasing productivity, and providing belonging to women in the workplace.
Domonique said, "Being a Black working mom—there's a whole extra layer of challenges that you face. Let alone, like your existence is always already questioned and the value you can bring into a workplace, no matter how smart you are, the stereotypes sometimes exist before you even enter into a room."
She is committed to removing those layers, developing these women with strategic action steps and systems to help support them.
What are you most proud of when it comes to We Optimize Work?
Domonique is most proud of fulfilling the mission that speaks to her heart. She said, "We often are very scared to openly say what we want to do and what we aspire for ourselves for fear of what other people may think, or it not being something that we see most of." Despite many challenges and ways to pivot the business, Domonique continues to focus on her core mission, which is to continue supporting working moms.
In business, you can find yourself being pulled in many different directions and impacted by other people's agendas. Therefore it's crucial to remain authentic and stick to your original mission to achieve what you initially had set out to do.
She continued, "Then why, you know, not being afraid to fully speak about what I'm passionate about, fully speak about what, who we serve and how we serve, what is the problem, and what are the things that we need to address—but being comfortable in that. I would say that's the biggest accomplishment is speaking to that.
And even if you feel like you're going to be judged or something. You know, like being aware that there is criticism out there and being aware of opinions and all of these things, it's like me sticking to the mission and saying, I believe in this because I've experienced this."
What were some of your biggest fears along your journey?
Like many entrepreneurs, Domonique had many fears. She feared that her business venture wouldn't take off the ground and that she'd have to return to work. Domonique feared running out of money. However, those were not her biggest fears. She didn't want to prove those people who didn't believe in her right. At the time, her husband was an entrepreneur and a stay-at-home dad. Her family depended on her steady income and benefits from her job. Therefore, leaping faith to create and sustain We Optimize Work was a significant risk. She didn't want to return to what life was like for her, boxed up in corporate America and being around people with limiting beliefs.
Tell us about any significant setbacks that you had in your business and how you recovered?
There were a few setbacks along Domonique's journey. First, she came across people wanting to use her solutions but not the business. Then she encountered a significant marketing setback. When she was prospecting for business, it took her months to realize that she was approaching every part of it wrong. She operated from a scarcity mindset, willing to work with anyone who would give her a chance.
Domonique said, "I found myself doing that same thing in how I initially operated my business. Like the way, I prospect it was begging people to value and looking for the validation and looking for them to say yes, and those no's that I was starting to receive. It was very hurtful. So I slowed down." She reframed the rejection she experienced.
She said, "Some people look for different things, and I look, and they look at it from a different type of solution, and it's served differently. It could be something that has totally nothing to do with you. You're presenting your solution. You're not presenting yourself. You're representing what you can offer."
But it wasn't until she became more intentional about her target market and tweaked who she served and how she could serve those companies that things began to shift. When she clearly defined how she could add value to the whole experience, those no's turned to yes's.
Domonique also spent a great deal of time trying to convince people that they had a problem. When you're in front of your prospect, and they don't believe they have a problem or the prospect isn't clear, then she said she had to pause and figure out how to educate her target audience.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition?
This wasn't Domonique's first pitch. Since she pivoted her business during the pandemic, she started to pitch for funding for her business, but generally. Pitching through Black Girl Ventures encouraged her to become more intentional about her pitching related to the value it adds to the people she is pitching in front of. Participating in the pitch practice with BGV changed the game for her.
Donique shared, "That was really phenomenal, 'cause it was like, just a group of sisters. I have not had that before. Just a group of sisters, like cheering each other on, you know, here's some things that have worked for me. Look at that in your particular slides. Make sure you speak more on that. It's like a love—that was a different experience as well. That whole thing leading up to BGV was amazing."
Domonique used her pitch funds for software development to help automate the framework that she's teaching the working moms. This will help her to scale her business and to help more women. With these continued funds, she hopes to be innovating in a lane of how people approach work.
The best advice that Domonique can give to potential pitch participants is to pitch their businesses to show how they see it in the world. She encourages entrepreneurs to explain their mission and share the urge behind the creation. To always put themselves in front of people they don't know to talk about the things they seek, speak about their mission, and never forget the mission.
She said, "Utilize the opportunity. Believe in yourself and use it as that marketing opportunity because you never know who hears you just by taking that one step. And, I used to pitch like to win until someone told me, pitching is a marketing opportunity."
Domonique said, "Anytime you pitch, you're already winning. Because there are so many people who leave their ideas, who leave their pitches, they leave scripts of what they wanted to pitch. They leave slide decks all in Canva. They leave their pitches on pieces of paper. They never take it off of the paper. They never submit their names and put their names in a hat for competitions. And you decided to show up. It is huge. You're already winning."
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Domonique said, "We're often over mentored. Over-advised but under-connected and underfunded. The biggest disappointment is when you're in programs where people are seeking to help you. The advice is valuable, like mentorship is valuable. But some connections need to be had for that proper level of support that helps us increase awareness but gets our foot in the door. And that connection is often far and few in between, particularly for Black and Brown people.
She also spoke to the challenges in applying for funding where the criteria keep Black and Brown women out of opportunities. She said, "What does it mean where it's not overwhelming for someone who doesn't have the resources or access to the education in some of those areas that you asked them for that qualifies them to get—it's so many layers. And I think that if they simplify those things, I truly believe black and brown people and the only thing that separates us is opportunity and funding."
Strategic introductions are what she says Black and Brown women-identifying founders need from those who are highly interested in their business. Domonique has accounted for every dollar if she ever receives the funding she needs. She knows what she will do with that funding to help scale her business. She also believes that Black and Brown's women are uncomfortable asking for conditions that'll take their businesses to the next level, so it's twofold for her.
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
The biggest lesson Domonique has learned is being more intentional about her actions, how she approaches her business, and where she seeks to progress. She has absorbed a lot of information without being clear of the intention of the information. Domonique doesn't make any more decisions without ensuring it aligns with all areas of her life. She develops standards and expectations for herself, whether it's how people treat her, how she takes care of herself and defines success.
She said, "Your intention of going about this way or setting this day like this, be really sure in it. So you compare yourself less. You don't feel like you have to be like someone else or do a certain thing that fits other people's check box to determine whether or not you're successful in life."
How do you measure success?
Domonique measures success by how much joy something brings her from her heart. Success is impact and creating a legacy and how that is impacting others. She thinks about how what she's creating is teaching her children to grow up and continue to break generational curses.
What do you think is an important skill or asset that you need to have to succeed in business?
The most critical skill Domonique identifies is adaptability. She said, "Being able to adapt to changes, I mean, between COVID and just anything in the world. You constantly feel like you have to be stuck in your own mission, vision, and everything, and all that stuff, but like adapting and really understanding what are those changes telling me, what is this saying? What is this opportunity for? I will say, I definitely would say adaptability."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
The most exciting part of Domonique's business is when someone invests in her services, whether that is a corporation or a business owner, because that means she gets to work in her zone of genius. When people have problems and have goals, Domonique is the expert in the in-between strategies, systems, and processes, where she teaches people how to work at their own pace without having to overwork themselves. She loves helping businesses meet their needs while also taking care of those in their care.
Domonique shared, "The most exciting part about the business is like bringing a solution to life for others and helping them reach their dreams. And just change and redefine work approaches, redefine how they go about business, redefine what it means to be a mom, what it means to be a woman business owner, like all the works."
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
Domonique said, "I honestly believe the future holds unlimited, unlimited opportunities for us to shift industries, shift how industries meet customer needs, how industries perform work, how people pay attention to what is valuable. I'm an engineer by trade. When I pull up into engineering, I still see there's a little speckle of people of color in Google, but it's still not where it needs to be.
So when they think of a business as leading, when they think about success, they will include in their thought process a person of color that can perform that work and help meet those solutions. I see unlimited opportunities because we're going to start shifting spaces and industries in all aspects. All because a Black woman was there and who believed in herself, you know, and paved their way—Black and Brown in particular."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Domonique sees her tech platform valued at $50 million. She'd love to be known as someone who specializes in innovative work approaches and be one of the top five leaders of her industry. Because of her impact, she hopes to see companies shift how they approach work.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Domonique prioritizes her self-care and then organizes her week around that. She schedules a block of time without the activity and commits to doing something to impact her well-being during that time positively. That time she might get a manicure, relax at the house, write in her journal or read a book. Taking herself out to dinner without the children also helps. She might even go to Target to buy random items. She does this once per week. It's unstructured, structured time.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
I am fully equipped to do anything I seek to accomplish at this very moment.
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Domonique puts everything into buckets. She works on the days that she feels most productive, which are Tuesday through Thursday. Domonique will prospect or do outreach on Mondays and doesn't schedule meetings on Fridays. She believes it's essential to set your week according to how you feel. She recommends working according to how you flow to give your best performance.
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What is next for We Optimize Work?
We Optimize Work is working on creating a project management AI to help streamline and optimize the business. She hopes to continue to land introductions that help to grow her business and increase her impact.