We had the good fortune of connecting with Chanita Simms and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chanita, how do you think about risk?
We often associate risk-taking with being a negative thing to do. Why is that? Is it because it takes us out of our element? Or maybe because it re-writes the narrative that society forces upon us and displaces false generational beliefs? Risks are simply the possibility of something terrible happening. We tend to forget that while bad things can happen, there is also a possibility for greatness with risk. I’ve been called a risk-taker, brave, daredevil, completely irrational, and even foolish for the things I’ve done over the past decade. Have all of my risks turned out to be beautiful stories full of joy and success? Of course not. Have I learned from every single one? 100% yes. And I don’t regret a thing. Risks are necessary for growth and enlightenment. If we’re honest, a life with no risks sounds pretty dull too. I still remember the first significant risk I took, dropping out of college. I never had any intention of going to college in the first place. I was trying to make my mom happy. I quickly realized that it was an expensive mistake because you know… student loans. I have nothing against higher education. I just realized it wasn’t the path I wanted to take, so I shouldn’t have. Going to an HBCU my freshman year was pretty incredible tho. Thanks to Alabama A&M University, I realized how phenomenal it was to be a Black woman, no matter what the world had to say. Being a college drop out ten years ago was anything but “cool.” I always had to argue my case that I wasn’t throwing my life away and that I was still learning daily. Fast forward to a decade later, and there are resources galore for folks like me who decided the traditional route of education wasn’t their forte. After a few years of lying low and figuring out life, I took another leap of faith. I decided I wanted to backpack solo through South East Asia. First stop, Thailand. This trip sparked my admiration for other countries and cultures. After what was supposed to be a few months of adventures through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, I decided I wasn’t going back home to Atlanta and took the risk to make things work in a country where I didn’t know anyone or how to speak the language. It was everything I needed, and more. Living in Vietnam opened the doors wide open for me to live in Ecuador, Colombia, and eventually Mexico. This experience showed me that I was way more capable than I had previously given myself credit for. Once you realize you’re about that life, everything seems obtainable. My most recent experience with risk-taking was quitting my very well paying job, with incredible benefits and amazing co-workers- in the middle of a global pandemic. Several factors went into my decision to leave. Still, ultimately, I knew it was time to dedicate myself to my own company the same way I have dedicated myself and given my all to every other company I worked for. When you know, you know, and it’s essential to trust your gut on these types of things. So towards the end of May 2020, it was time for me to develop an exit strategy. I left a few months later without a regret in the world. It was the best decision I could have made for myself, my company Melanin.Tech, and all of the people we’re going to help. Not to mention, being a Black woman in America and a woman in any country is indeed a risk these days. It shouldn’t be, but it is. This is a reality we all have to acknowledge. This is a reality we all need to work harder to change.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Melanin.Tech is a place for Black people in tech to make meaningful connections, have access to a group of people you may not have otherwise met, find jobs, collaborate, build teams, learn from mentors and explore new career paths. We’re here to encourage personal and professional advancement by creating a space where everyone can truly be themselves. Our mission is to unite, inform, and encourage Black professionals and accelerate the growth of the Black tech ecosystem. We will do this in the interest of our shared identity and a shared sense of purpose that serves the individual, the whole community of Black people in the tech, and the companies that employ them. Our goal is to further liberate Black people in tech from industry-wide oppression. In short, we’re here to shake up the industry and connect other organizations and people who want to do the same!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would start our day with a delicious smoothie at Wadada Healthy Market & Juice Bar, then head over to either The Gathering Spot or Switchyards to get a little work done. After a few hours of hard work, it would be time for lunch. We would take a quick trip to Tassili’s Raw Reality Café for the infamous Punany Wrap. After this raw vegan lunch of champions, we would need to walk it off so I would take my guest over to Krog Street Tunnels since street art is life. We would finish our afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens then make our way to Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours for those delicious sweet potato biscuits! No night is complete without a little dancing, so we would show off all of our moves at one of my favorite spots in ATL, the one and only MJQ.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am truly surrounded by brilliant women who I have the honor of calling my best friends and family. Each of them encourages me to dig a little deeper, go that extra mile, and reminds me to take care of myself. Everyone from Chantai Ferguson- founder of J3C Homes, Skye Williams- founder of Set by Skye, Terri Alford- founder of #BeingSelfishMatters, Melle Houston- founder of Melle Houston Photo, Auri & Frankie- cofounders of Open Wide Nena, and so many others, have inspired me to be who I am today. However, this shoutout goes to Rhea Perkins- founder of Attyre. Attyre. is a same-day delivery service where delivery meets luxury. Not only is Rhea fulfilling her mission to give us what we love, quick convenience, she is also dedicated to providing jobs for people in the metro Atlanta area. Beyond her success with her own company, she has been there to support me through all of the ups and downs of Melanin.Tech. She was the first person to know I would quit my job to take on M.T full time and reminded me of the greatness I possessed when I was doubtful that I could survive financially on my own. Rhea drops life gems daily while making me laugh uncontrollably. We’ve had full-on think tank sessions to provide support for one another. Her love, support, and encouragement are significant reasons that Melanin.Tech is back and better than ever.
Terri Alford & Ben Alford