Sistas in Sales: How Chantel George Built a Community for Women of Color in Sales

March 1, 2021

Crunchbase Spotlight is a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech by profiling people of color, women, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

How do you bring more diversity to a profession that lacks it? You create opportunities for diverse people to enter the field, help them expand their skill set, and provide a network where they can get mentorship.

Meet Chantel George, Founder of Sistas in Sales, who built an organization for women of color in sales from scratch that does all three of the critical tasks above. 

To learn more about George’s career and what sparked the creation of Sistas in Sales, let’s go back to the beginning.

The Bronx, New York

George’s story starts in the Bronx, New York.

Raised by parents who immigrated to the United States from the Carribean, George was born and raised in an environment that was full of family, social gatherings, and music. Her parents — mother was an IC nurse and father was a building inspector — worked hard to instill the right values that would help her get ahead in life. 

It was her father, however, that cultivated her entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Growing up, she watched her Father’s tireless work ethic and trajectory when he transitioned from being a building inspector with 20 years of experience to a real estate investor. 

Launching a real estate firm where he would buy and flip homes by leveraging his knowledge as a former building inspector, George’s father would help build her business acumen through hands-on experience. At the age of 14, she was given the opportunity to become his secretary in charge of answering phones and writing contracts. 

Getting the title of secretary and doing hands on work enabled George to see her Father in a different light. 

“My dad was always on the move,” she said. “Even though he did very well for himself, he would always be ready to get into something. He always had his tape measure with him, his construction clothes nearby, and tools in his truck.” 

When the duo would drive around, he would imagine what the future of their neighborhood could look like and what investment opportunities could develop.

At a young age, George was getting a crash course in business and investing. The lessons she learned from her Father — from work ethic to self confidence — stuck with her. As she would eventually find out, these lessons would come in handy.

Hello sales 

George’s path to a career in sales wasn’t straight. 

In fact, the only reason she got into sales after college was to make extra money while she was studying for law school. But she had a knack for selling.

Her first sales job was at Yelp where she was a Junior Account Executive. In that role, George focused on cold calling small businesses and discussing the value of advertising on Yelp. This wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned for the role, but she was good at it. 

Despite the work not being what she expected, George got fulfillment from the role because she was helping small business owners. Some were even in her own neighborhood, which made her feel more of a connection with them. After three years, her success propelled her into a leadership role where she managed a team.

Sales can be a demoralizing job with “no” — or some variation of it — being a frequent word used by prospects. George attributes much of her success at Yelp to having a strong sense of identity and knowing that she has been in more extreme situations than cold calling people on the phone. The instant gratification from sales was also compelling.

While George was now managing a team and generating revenue for the business, there was something on her mind that she just couldn’t shake.  

A deeper purpose

If you spend any time in a sales department, one thing is obvious: racial and gender diversity, especially in leadership roles, is quite low. Overall, it’s a male heavy profession. 

George noticed the same thing while at Yelp and embarked on a passion-project where she focused on ERG and workplace diversity work at the company. 

“I wanted other people to be able to experience what I was experiencing,” she said. “And sales at the time, solved so much more than just money. It definitely made me feel seen.” 

At that time, George began looking for a woman-of-color in a sales role that could mentor her and give career advice. But she couldn’t find anyone. 

After Yelp, George found herself at Justworks as a Strategic Account Executive. This was her first time picking a sales role by choice versus out of necessity. Eventually, she ended up at DataMinr where the idea of finding a mentor reemerged. 

Launching Sistas in Sales

While at DataMinr, the realization of just how hard it was to find a woman of color in a sales role that could help guide George’s career began to seep in. But this also planted an idea in her head.

A regular attendee at events, George began to analyze how organizers put them together. 

“I began to think, I can do this,” she said. “All you need is speakers that can talk about a topic, a great moderator, and an event space. And people will come if they’re interested.”

Convinced she was on to something, George put together a private dinner to test the viability of organizing events for women of color in sales by inviting 10 women from her network to join. The idea for these events was to enable women of color to find mentors and build their network. 

George pulled out all the stops at the dinner by making it feel like an exclusive experience for guests. Complete with a custom menu, private chef, and gift bags.    

After the success of the dinner, which doubled as a focus group enabling her to collect feedback, George began floating the idea of hosting events for women of color in sales with her network. 

“I wanted to create that sense of pride in the [sales] career for Black women and the sense of exclusivity,” she said.

The entrepreneurial spirit her Father helped cultivate all those years ago began firing on all cylinders. Sistas in Sales was born. 

The first Sistas in Sales event George organized was sponsored by Salesforce after a mentee of hers recommended the company as a sponsor. The event got off the ground with zero budget and no marketing. Over 100 women of color RSVP’d.

Since that first event, the organization has continued to grow, expanding beyond events and into webinars, a Slack community, and an annual summit. 

“So many Black women are not intentional about sales,” she says. “We just get there and figure it out, like me. To see this wave, this generation of women that are so intentional that they’re going to bootcamps because sales is a career they want, it takes me by surprise and makes me want to serve them more.” 

In just a few short years, with over 2,500 members, Sistas is Sales has become a valuable community and network for women of color sales professionals. George and her team are in fact changing the game.