Aisha Taylor Issah is a woman who has learned to allow God to guide her steps. Issah balances both ministry and her passion for serving others in entrepreneurship. As the founder of Sistahs in Business Expo, she celebrates entrepreneurial women of color. No matter what she does, Issah puts God at the forefront and strives to serve him. Issah spoke with rolling out about how she tried to ignore God’s calling until he stopped her in her tracks.
Define your role as an ordained minister. Do you pastor a church?
I currently serve as the associate minister for children, youth and young adults at the St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson, New Jersey. I’ve been in ministry for over 15 years and was ordained back in 2012 by the church where I grew up and began my ministry career, Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. In the Baptist tradition, ordination allows a minister to perform the holy ordinances of baptism, weddings, funerals, and baby dedications in addition to preaching and teaching.
Why did you choose ministry?
Honestly, I didn’t choose ministry, it chose me. I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney, which is why my undergraduate degree is in criminal justice. But God had a different plan. So, around my junior year, I began wrestling with this calling that God had placed in my life. I ran as long as I could until God literally wouldn’t leave me alone. I had no choice but to surrender to this inescapable desire to share God’s word and serve God’s people. I accepted my call to ministry with no idea of what I was getting myself into.
Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur?
The same is true for being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship chose me. I had no intention of becoming a business owner. I thought I would go to college, get a good job, and retire like my parents, aunts, and uncles had done. But the entrepreneurial bug got a hold of me back in 2005 when my sister and I began writing resumes for family and friends. That hobby led to the creation of my first business, TAYLORmade Professional Career Consulting. I certainly didn’t think there was another business on the horizon until early 2017 when I couldn’t stop thinking about creating an expo for women of color entrepreneurs. No matter how much I tried to ignore the tug, it got stronger and stronger. I had no choice but to follow this idea and bring it to fruition.
You are the founder of the Sistahs in Business Expo. How do you handle the challenges of running a ministry and a business?
In many ways, I consider my business a ministry as well. Everything I do is done to serve others. So, whether I’m teaching about the love of Jesus or providing an opportunity for women to grow their businesses, I’m serving God’s people. And that in and of itself is a ministry. Are there challenges in balancing both worlds? Absolutely! I try my best to make sure that I stay organized by keeping to-do lists, following a strict calendar, and always keeping my service to God first. When I do that, everything else falls into place. Oh, and most importantly, I’m learning that I can’t do everything myself. I’m learning to delegate more and trust others to help in this work.
What are some of the success stories as it relates to the SIB Expo?
In a short time, we have made significant progress with the Sistahs in Business Expo. In the first six weeks, we sold out of vendor spaces for our launch event. We also partnered with MC Lyte and Dr. Lynn Richardson as our keynote speakers and Jasmine Sanders (co-star of the DL Hughley Show) as our host.
The most rewarding achievement has been hearing the testimonies and excitement from entrepreneurial women of color who have been waiting for an opportunity like this. We are intentional about creating expos that come in at a more affordable price point and are inclusive of a diverse pool of business products and services.
What is your vision for SIB?
My vision is for the Sistahs in Business Expo is to become the world’s premier small business expo celebrating entrepreneurial women of color through expo events in major cities across the globe. In the next 2-3 years, we’d like to bring the expo to the west coast and at least one international destination. The expo will remain affordable, accessible, and profitable for business owners, while always including a diverse pool of both products and services. I’m committed to not losing sight of the vision, even in the midst of the growth.
How do you stay encouraged?
My faith and my husband keep me going. It does get discouraging at times and there have been a lot of “no’s” along the way. So, I try to always remember why I started this initiative. I want to help women of color grow their business in a very practical and easily accessible way. As long as I remember that this is not about me, but it’s for them, I can keep going. My husband keeps me going by always reminding me that since God gave it to me, it won’t fail. He prays with and for me and encourages me in every way possible. I love me some him!
If there’s one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?
I would eliminate poverty through wealth building, entrepreneurship, and community development. There is no reason for anyone to be poor in this world. There are enough people with enough money to aid in creating systems that would even out the playing field. I realize that everyone can’t be wealthy. But everyone should be able to live comfortably. It should be a basic human right.