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Meet Queer Poet-Entrepreneur Vanessa Newman

After a major setback, Vanessa is bouncing back.
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Vanessa Newman wrote internationally-acclaimed poetry, started a groundbreaking company, and now runs a dating curation studio – and she’s only 22.

How did someone so young become so successful so quickly?

She’s always been driven. As a queer, Catholic black women from the south, she had to be determined if she wanted to change her circumstances. She started a poetry blog, hai/ku/ology. She enrolled in American University, then dropped out because the extracurriculars interested her more than the expensive classes. She empowered herself to “be really black and really queer,” found freedom, and worked at a start-up with other sharp-thinking queer women of color.

After being accepted to an exclusive entrepreneurship program, she launched the company, Butchbaby & Co., which sold maternity clothes for queer, masculine of center, butch and stemme women. Elle even interviewed her.

A booming blog. A successful company. She had it all.

Then she fell apart.

She told Nylon;

I think people don’t talk about the importance of self-care enough as an entrepreneur. I think I really lost myself. It was the first time I developed anxiety ever in my life. There was a lack of funding, so [Butchbaby] ended up collapsing in itself, and I was just getting really burnt out. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. We live in a way now where it’s hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle all the time, and I really bought into that.”

After taking a break for the first time in two years, Newman reassessed what she wanted. Butchbaby was gone, but she was still passionate about issues relating to queer people.

She launched Beau and Arrow, a “date curation studio.” It’s a boutique events planning agency that specializes in low-cost, but romantic and creative, dates. Millennials deserve to have a good time without breaking their banks, and because queer millennials and millennials of color are most affected by poverty, her studio is a spiritual continuation of Butchbaby.

So what can we learn from Vanessa’s story?

  • Prioritize self-care. You never know when things may fall apart, and if they do, you don’t want to fall apart with them.
  • Don’t give up. She could have walked away from entrepreneurship after losing her company. Instead, she brainstormed and developed a company even more dynamic than the last.
  • Be creative. These days, everyone is making an app or a craft store. She looked at the sectors of the population that the market overlooked – butch women, low-income millennials – and figured out how to cater to them.

What’s next for Vanessa? The sky is the limit.

Follow her adventures on her official website.

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J. Marie graduated from Duke University with a degree in International Relations and dreams of being a creative writer--dreams she's now realizing as a musical theatre writer in NYC. She's passionate about global black identities, black representation in media, and leather-bound notebooks. She also loves backpacking through a new country at a moment's notice, and speaks Spanish, Swahili and Standard Arabic.

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