02 Aug Cameka Smith
Bringing Out Successful Sisters
What is a BOSS? Cameka Smith can answer that. Smith is the founder of the Chicago-based ProjectBOSS and BOSS network website (bossnetwork.org) which celebrated its three year anniversary in June. The stellar networking site also celebrated its 3rd consecutive year as one of Forbes’ Top 10 Sites for Women.
Smith’s desire to blaze her own trail and use her background in higher education, counseling and youth development provided the foundation for ProjectBOSS which is the youth mentoring division of the BOSS Network. Even in the midst of all the celebration we caught up with Cameka to learn more about her successful brainchild.
AM: When was The BOSS Network founded?
CS: BOSS Network became the networking site that it currently is in June 2009.
AM: What inspired the start of The BOSS Network?
CS: About three years ago the district began to restructure and there were a lot of layoffs. During the restructure I decided to create my own path before they came knocking at my door. So I looked at my experience over the last 10 years and tried to decide what the defining attributes of my career were. Then I said I need to build my own network within Chicago. It began with calling up a few of my girlfriends and throwing networking events. Throughout my life, [a lot of] women in my life had been mentors. BOSS stands for Bringing Out Successful Sisters! Our mission is to break some of the stereotypes of women in business.
People are very cynical about females’ relationships; there are a lot of negative stereotypes on women especially women of color. The events were popular and women were asking how to join and become involved. At the time there wasn’t anything to join we were just out networking. As I saw the want for something more from the ladies the networking site developed. Initially I thought it was going to be a Female Facebook but because of my desire to keep it positive I made sure to facilitate the development of the site to leave off some of the potentially negative attributes.
AM: What were some of the struggles you’ve experienced?
CS: There seems to be a difficult line of separation especially in the black female community. We get to the personal too fast and we need to set those boundaries. Business first! Show the professional before the personal.
AM: What are your goals for the future and expansion?
CS: We are taking things slowly in terms of growth. As we gain more exposure in areas we are developing Ambassador Programs. Chicago is our home base and we have Ambassadors in Atlanta, New York and DC.
AM: Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
CS: Every day is a new start!
Don’t give up on yourself and don’t be so hard on yourself!