Serial entrepreneur Sasha Allen Walton is Editor-in-Chief of Northend Agent’s Newspaper, Connecticut’s largest and longest-published African American newspaper. She’s also Founder of Sasha’s Whole Earth and Bird’s Eye Media. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Sasha to learn about her entrepreneurial journey and how she simultaneously runs more than one business.
NAN PRICE: Northend Agent’s Newspaper has been in your family for decades. Give us some background about how it came to be and how you stepped into your current role.
SASHA ALLEN WALTON: My father started the business in March 1974, before I was born. During a time of so much unrest, he had an opportunity to create a safe space to share Black people’s perspectives without bias.
So, he creates Northend Agent’s and keeps it running, he and my mother get together, along comes the three of us and my mom creates a rule: You must touch the paper three times a week. So, as children, we had to go out on the delivery. We had to be in meetings. We had to do something in the office, whether it was stuffing an envelope or answering a phone.
NAN: As you were immersed in all that, were you also learning how to run the business?
SASHA: I was totally learning how to run the business. I learned about what worked, what didn’t work, and what happened when there was a bad edition or an error. So, I grew up with a deep understanding of the power of your voice, how businesses survive, and what it means to run Black media.
All of that helped when it was time to run the business. It took some of the fear out of it. I knew I had to be fearless in everything I was doing. And if there was fear, it was more an acknowledgement of feeling a little uncomfortable in this new territory.
NAN: What’s it like to step into a family business?
SASHA: There was an awareness that we were going to inherit this business. My mom is retired and my father is deceased, so my youngest sister and I now run Northend Agent’s. She’s responsible for all social media and interviews and I do the back end, including the layout and interaction with writers.
We split the responsibilities. It’s not always balanced but we’re working together as a team in a way that we watched our parents work together. It’s a good, full circle moment. The newspaper is still here and it’s still moving forward. I love this work. I love the importance of having this space.
NAN: As someone running several businesses, how do you make that all align?
SASHA: There is no balance. Each of my businesses is focused on creating safe space for Black and Brown people to be heard, to be healed, and to be held. That is the balance and how those things intertwine.
A lot of days I’m solely focused on Northend Agent’s. I compartmentalize and strategically plan my efforts so I can give each of my other businesses the time and energy they need to grow.
The alignment comes from recognizing your rhythm as an entrepreneur and being okay knowing it’s not going to be balanced. I’m going to show up to the best of my ability. I can’t do everything, because that means I’m not going to excel at the things I’m good at doing. I’m giving the bare minimum if I’m doing everything. So, when I need to, I’m going to say, that is not my ministry. I can’t do that. I need to outsource or bring in somebody else.
Also, making time to do nothing is so important as an entrepreneur, because we don’t get paid just because we showed up. And sometimes when we think about doing something for ourselves, we think we’re going to miss out on revenue. But I know I’m no good to myself or these businesses if I haven’t fully allowed myself to “replenish my tank.”
NAN: Can you share some other entrepreneurial lessons learned?
SASHA: I have no problem saying: that’s not going to work for me and I have no problem being the bad guy. You have to be comfortable being a bad guy as an entrepreneur. Sometimes you have to lean in and be honest about what is and isn’t going to work for you in your business. That may mean suggesting someone takes their business elsewhere because it’s not a good fit. It’s recognizing that all money is not good money.
I’ve also learned that I’m not afraid to take a risk because I believe in this principle: I will reinvent myself as many times as I need to. So, if this version of Sasha doesn’t work with this business, I’ll reconfigure and go back to the drawing board.
Also, if I reinvent myself, that doesn’t mean I’m failing—I’m learning lessons and figuring out how to move forward and get back in alignment. And, if it doesn’t work, I know I’m going to survive.
If something isn’t working, it may not be your season for that particular thing. It doesn’t mean you’re not skilled; it may not be the right timing. For me, every time the timing hasn’t been right, I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and as a human being. And when the timing came right, I was better prepared for that thing.
I’ve learned to be okay with having fun with myself through this process. There is no blueprint. Everyone can give you advice about entrepreneurship but it’s one of those things that’s really hands on.
NAN: Speaking of advice, any to offer others?
SASHA: Get a tribe that supports you, is honest with you, and holds you accountable. If you’ve don’t have that tribe, ask for it; put it out there that you’re looking for those people.
And, if all else fails, have fun. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. It’s a rollercoaster ride. Enjoy it.