We are excited to feature one of our 2022 Women of Color Incubator Pitch Competition winners. These up-and-coming Black women business owners are sure to inspire and motivate other young Black women entrepreneurs, and all of us, to pursue their own business ventures.
Meet Janae Duclos, Ph.D., Founder and Co-owner of PhD Peers LLC and 2nd Place Awardee from Florida A&M University.
What inspired you to start your business?
As a school leader and sister of an individual with Autism, I have seen through first-hand experience how intimidating and discouraging the current process schools use to engage students to gain their input can be. Starting my own business has allowed me to provide a voice for the unheard, a platform to advocate for the underserved and underrepresented student population and maximize my resources to gain additional support for youth with disabilities and other marginalized doctoral candidates that attend school in K-20 settings.
Knowing that my impact will extend far beyond my reach is what inspired me initially and continues to motivate me daily. I am not seeking to become an entrepreneur for personal gain, but to make lasting change in the field of education and school communities in which I came from.
What has the entrepreneurship journey looked like for you so far?
The entrepreneurial journey has been very rewarding so far. The collaborative collisions, connections, and relationships I have developed along the way has opened up a new world of opportunities. I am eager and excited for what’s to come!
What has been the most rewarding part of being a young female entrepreneur?
The ability to advocate, raise awareness of and represent not only myself but other young female entrepreneurs has been the most rewarding part of this journey. The relationships, connections and collaborative communities built as a result of participating in the WOC Incubator has been extremely helpful. I met some spectacular students and peers alike that I now know and will keep in touch with forever.
Where do you see yourself in one year? How about 5 years?
In one year, I see myself finalizing, producing and distributing our prototype product into school districts across the state of Florida. I also see myself conducting and concluding a pilot study in which the data and results from the study will be analyzed and shared with school leaders for future decision making. I also see myself securing additional funding for marketing and provision of services, growing our network of who we serve and expanding our team of experts. I would like to secure a chain supplier engage in university partnerships to strengthen the pipeline for students with disabilities transitioning from high to college. In 5 years, I see myself securing additional partnerships with districts and schools in other states and possibly nationwide. Transferring some of the work and initiatives internationally and securing additional grants through state and federal funding to be able to mass produce, develop and deliver resources on a larger scale. Possibly partnering with the FDOE to provide technical assistance and training to schools and districts and develop an online module or database for stakeholders to access and gain further information.
What advice would you give to other female founders just starting their business?
Trust the process! The highs and lows are both equally as important during the entrepreneurial journey. Be prepared for your opportunity because it will come- The question is what will you do with it? Know that you are not alone on this journey. Seek to be a lifelong learner. Know your “WHY” and keep that at the forefront and center of all decisions you make for your business. You will get 10 minor Nos before you get your one major YES. Remaining mindful of WHY you started the entrepreneurial journey in the first place will allow you to keep going even on the days when you think you can’t.
How did you first learn about the WBENC WOC Incubator?
I learned about the WBENC WOC Incubator through FAMUINFO email correspondence. The university advertised the upcoming event and provided details on eligibility to participate in the program.
How would you describe your experience?
My experience in the WOC Incubator has been life changing! Participation in the program equipped me with valuable tools and resources for a successful start up of my business. Additionally, the WOC Incubator has empowered and inspired me to trust the process and continue the entrepreneurial journey while embracing the leaps and lessons along the way.
What did you learn during the program that will help you grow your business?
I learned an immense amount of information related to starting and sustaining a successful business. For example, I developed a business model, increased traction by surveying my target customers, developed a prototype product and refined and finalized my pitch. Every strategy and resource I learned in the program, I have applied and had positive outcomes from.
What’s next for you and your business?
What’s next for PhD Peers LLC. is continual improvement and progress. As we grow, we seek to remain committed to our target customers, while refining methods and markets to be more accessible and beneficial in addressing our customer’s needs. We will continue to strive for excellence while expanding in sales and partnerships secured. The opportunities are limitless, and we are excited for what’s to come. Stay tuned!