The Funemployed: Camille and Gabriella of Hustle Over Entitlement

DCF: Who Are You?
Camille Stewart and Gabriella Ziccarelli are attorneys and the co-hosts of Hustle Over Entitlement. Hustle Over Entitlement is a podcast that tells stories of trailblazers and risk takers. We seek to inspire our listeners to pursue their dream careers, take the leap, and own their futures. You can find out more about the podcast at www.HustleOverEnitlement.com, follow us on social media @iHustleForIt, and subscribe!

You can find out more about Camille at www.CamilleStewart.com and Gabriella at www.IPwithGZ.com.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
CS: I love Hustle Over Entitlement because we get to tell stories that inspire and empower. My career path has been nothing short of nontraditional and it couldn’t be more rewarding or amazing! BUT that doesn’t mean it was easy. Finding your own way can be scary, confusing, and uncomfortable (DCF: Soooo uncomfortable but so worth it!). It’s stories like these and trailblazers like these that keep me pushing to do what I’m passionate about and make room for others to do the same. I get to work on the subject I’m passionate about by day and, hopefully, inspire/empower others in my “spare time.” There is nothing better!

GZ: How lucky am I? With my both my 9-5 job and my side hustles, I get to work with innovators, entrepreneurs, and intellectual pioneers. The energy these individuals bring to their work is infectious and inspires me to be the best version of myself. In my role I get to be both a support system and a catalyst for the change and innovation they are trying to push forward. In particular with the Hustle Over Entitlement podcast, I get a chance to amplify the voices of these outstanding individuals in a way that, hopefully, inspires a generation of future trailblazers.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
CS: One of my honors program professors in college, Ms. LaGesse. I’d had people invested in my success before but she really invested in all areas of my life. She took me under her wing from the day I arrived on campus and to this day is part of my family. She helped me navigate college academically, supported my social and extracurricular endeavors, and continues to be a sounding board. She is a fearless trailblazer that inspires me to be my authentic self unapologetically.

GZ: My highschool freshman year english teacher, Ms. Pattison. She started every class with a life lesson, during what were arguably our most impressionable years when we needed that advice the most. I’ll never forget her advice to “never compromise yourself for anyone.” The advice applied across work, love, and friendships. It also required you to know who you are first so you know what it is that you won’t compromise on. I am forever grateful for her guidance. Knowing yourself is highly undervalued. (DCF: YASSS I believe knowing yourself is a muscle we all should exercise more.)

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
CS: I LOVE to travel and take every opportunity to do so. I also love to spend time with my family and friends. That said, there is nothing better than escaping the everyday to explore a new place with the people closest to me.

GZ: Being in motion traveling, anywhere. Climbing cliffs near the beach, strolling down a small cobblestone path in a new city, watching the sun setting from a new vantage point.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
CS: God. I honestly have no other explanation for how I find the time and energy to keep up with everything I seem to put on my plate… Oh and lots of coffee. (DCF: I know I do not do all of this alone).

GZ: Music and dancing is my fuel. That and Italian espresso, of course.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
CS: Balance looks different every day, every week but it comes down to making time for yourself, the people you care about, and your passions. The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is taking care of me so that I have something to give to others.

GZ: Balance means giving attention to the different sides of you – the professional, the friend, the sister, the artist, the athlete, the cook – we are not one dimensional. Make time for yourself by learning when to say no. (DCF: Self care is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  I saw a scale on “how high maintenance are you” and I wanted to change the title to how much self love do you practice #BreakTheStigma).

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
CS/GZ: This podcast is a rewarding labor of love. We do all the work from prep, to recording, to production, to promo, to legal, etc. That takes a lot of time and some money. But we’re happy and honored to do it as long as it continues to inspire listeners.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
CS: As a woman of color in tech, I often find myself being the only person that looks like me in the room. This is a problem. I often walk into a room and am treated as the assistant or worse like a child. I let my intellect and skills speak for themselves but it’s a burdensome and limiting perception.  I hope that by being in the room and killing it I am opening the aperture of what tech looks like for the people I encounter. (DCF: It is exhausting but you are right, you are laying the path for the next one of us who comes through the door).  There is still has a lot of work to be done. My being in the room is not enough. I seek to make room for other women and people of color in tech (and the other industries I’m in). This is actually how Gabby and I met and became friends. Our friendship and passion for making tech a more inclusive space has bred a number of initiatives to open doors for other including this podcast!

GZ: The tech industry is not representative of the customers it serves yet, but it’s slowly getting there. Camille and I met on our journey to building a balanced tech industry, and our work has just begun. Although a major barrier to entering the industry is hiring diverse talent, we have a greater issue we are just now wrapping our heads around in figuring out how to build inclusive environments for women in tech and make them feel like they belong, and how to value their contributions and promote them. My sincere hope is that by the time I retire, I will have helped build a tech industry whereby all individuals are assessed by their skill, passion, and contribution – regardless of their gender or the color of their skin.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
CS: Love yourself! Everything good starts and ends there.

GZ: Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. You have your whole life for that.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
CS//GZ: So we don’t love the word failure because every misstep is an opportunity but we would say our biggest lesson learned has been around the tech of podcasting. We are learning how to get the sound right, balancing equipment needs with budget, and learning to produce the episode. Every session we get better and we can’t wait to see how we continue to evolve.  (DCF: I ask this cause I want to reframe failure, without missteps we often wouldn’t get to success so I want people to realize that failure is a necessary step for us all to learn and grow.)

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
CS/GZ: We are proudest of Hustle Over Entitlement when it genuinely inspires someone. One listener reached out to let us know that one of our interviews had come at the right moment. She was wrestling with many of the issues the interviewee has wrestled with and it motivated her to keep pushing. The message came out of the blue and was so heartfelt. There is nothing better than knowing that stories that empower us have empowered or motivated someone else.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?!? 
CS: Figuring out how to top Season 1 and meeting all of the demands for our Hustle Over Entitlement gear! And there is nothing I’d rather work on. The outpouring of love is amazing so we want to continue to highlight trailblazers from different industries who pivoted in new and unique ways. If you haven’t heard the podcast yet, catch up and get your Hustle Over Entitlement shirt!!

GZ: We’re already preparing for season 2 of Hustle Over Entitlement! The outpouring of love from our listeners has been humbling, and we can’t wait to deliver you more inspiration and motivation in 2018. We are still accepting nominations for guests who have made incredible career pivots or beat the odds to forge their own path. Don’t hesitate to email us at hustleoverentitlement [at] gmail [dot] com and follow us on social media at @ihustleforit.

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DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Check out our website for updates and information about our guests! www.hustleoverentitlement.com
TwitterInstagram, & Facebook handles: @ihustleforit
And most importantly subscribe!
iTunes subscribe link: http://tiny.cc/234sny
Stitcher http://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=51507456
Google Play https://play.google.com/music/m/Ibedlpwbkqbsouuw3rsgstc6olu?t=Hustle_Over_Entitlement

To connect with Camille and Gabriella visit:
www.CamilleStewart.com @CamilleEsq
www.IPwithGZ.com @IPwithGZ

To listen to Hustle Over Entitlement Season 1 Playlist visit https://open.spotify.com/user/12443553/playlist/6mh0vxe38BA5tklgnOQKOE

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The Funemployed: Shreya Bhargava

DCF: Who Are You?
I am Shreya. I grew up in India, in an upper middle-class family. However, many around me struggled to make ends meet. This income inequality always gave me a deep sense of discomfort. That is why I decided to study Economics at Brown University. After graduating from Brown, I moved to D.C. to work for an economic consulting firm. Last year, for my personal fulfillment, I started volunteering at a homeless shelter.

At the shelter, I heard the stories of the homeless and, I was compelled to do something that could enrich and impact on their lives and also eventually help them out of homelessness. With that in mind a year ago, I started District Mugs, a nonprofit that introduces entrepreneurship to the homeless, teaching them how to run a business painting, marketing, and selling coffee mugs.

I have been able to help almost 20 homeless men and women to date and it continues to be an incredibly rewarding though tough journey where I have collaborated with other nonprofits, involved fiscal sponsors, roped in the Brown University faculty and networks, and become an entrepreneur myself.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployed?
SB: Being able to see the impact of what I do is what keeps me going. The fact that District Mugs is able to provide a space that is welcoming to the homeless community is enough to make all my work for District Mugs worthwhile.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
SB: My first mentor was my Entrepreneurship professor from college. I had taken a class with him and knew that he would be supportive of my idea and provide all the guidance I need.

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
SB: My happy place is spending time with family and friends. With my full-time job and managing District Mugs, I have had to cut-down a little in time for friends, but I have learned to appreciate whatever time I have with my friends more.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
SB: Every week attending the District Mugs workshop and interacting with the homeless participants keeps me going. When I conduct the monthly interviews with the participants and learn about their lives and how District Mugs is helping them, that’s what keeps me going!

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
SB: Balance to me means using my time in most efficient manner. I make a checklist of tasks I need to finish and plan my day accordingly in order to make the most of my time.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SB: Working for District Mugs in addition to my full-time job has definitely left me with lesser time to have fun outings with friends or visit my family in India. But, my passion for the cause makes it all worthwhile.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a woman in your industry?
SB: What I have struggled with most is my age – I’m 24.
The way District Mugs operates is that we conduct 2-hour long weekly workshops at the offices of nonprofit organizations such as Thrive DC. In the first hour, our participants learn formal business lessons. In the second hour, participants are taught how to paint the coffee mugs. The mugs are then sold at pop-ups where our participants have the opportunity to learn how to market and sell their mugs.
In order to scale up and include as many homeless people as possible in the District Mugs program, we are trying to partner with more organizations such as Thrive DC. When I try to interact with nonprofit organizations to see if they would be interested in adopting the District Mugs workshops, I have had a difficult time with people taking me seriously primarily because of my age.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SB: Growing up, I lacked in self-confidence. Even though my parents always encouraged me to believe in myself, I never did. But, when I moved to the U.S. for college and had to live by myself, the importance of believing in myself became very important as I tried to find a job or take leadership roles in college clubs. Slowly, friends in college helped me develop that confidence.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SB: Two months after I started District Mugs, I recruited a volunteer without much vetting, someone simply not up for the task and who treated responsibilities haphazardly. This put me in the difficult situation of delicately approaching them about their attitude and contributions. I had to get a handle on this situation, no matter how difficult before moving onto any other initiative, and before recruiting any more volunteers. I did not want a bad apple to spoil the bunch by setting a lousy precedent. I called a time out, then had a sit-down meeting with the colleague, gauging the level of genuine interest. We both agreed it was not a good fit, and amicably parted. This cleared my plate allowing me to focus on defining more clearly who would be a good fit. Subsequently, I was much more selective and strategic in who I brought on board.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
SB: My biggest achievement was an admissions letter from the University of DC, which was sent to our 56-year-old participant Sheila. When Sheila started attending District Mugs workshops, she had recently become homeless after her apartment was flooded. The income she received from selling mugs through District Mugs was very helpful to Sheila as she struggled to adapt to her current situation. While assisting our volunteers in taking pictures of District Mugs’ mugs, she incidentally discovered a passion for photography. With the help of the District Mugs team, Sheila managed to apply to UDC and is now majoring in business and photography.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
SB: Team District Mugs has been a low-cost nonprofit organization for the last one year. But, we are now trying to grow and need more funds for that. We have recently started Sip & Paint events where we go into offices of corporate organizations and teach employees how to paint coffee mugs. At the end of the event, employees can either donate the mugs back to District Mugs for our fundraising purposes or take their mugs home after making a suggested donation of $5 to District Mugs.

What’s Your Social Media!!
Website: www.districtmugs.org
Instagram: www.instagram.com/districtmugs
Facebook: www.facebook.com/districtmugs

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The Funemployed: Courtney Rae O’Neal

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Courtney Rae O’Neal of Courted!  “More than fashion – it’s a Lifestyle”.  Courted! is a personal styling service and fashion blog. At Courted! we help clients through personal shopping and mobile services to enhance or develop and execute their personal style.

DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

CO:  Funemployed means doing what you love. And that path for me is still being written…stay tuned.

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

CO:  Two of my former coworkers, I’d have to say, as each individual encouraged me to pursue different aspects of the business.

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

CO:  I believe that working in politics has benefited me as a business owner, because it has made me very resourceful.

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

CO:  Creativity. My own and other people’s. The circle of inspiration! (DCF: It’s important to have those people around you that fill you up!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

AO:  Balance to me means having the ability to not spend 90% of your time devoted to one person, at one place or doing one thing.

Balance is EVERYTHING.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AO:  I have just invested a lot of time, money, myself and now the buy-in of others.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AO:  I think all stylists face the challenge of being taken seriously in their profession, but I am not working on just my individual reputation, as much as constantly working on developing a business brand. This feat has a learning curve, as well as natural challenges that anyone faces as they embark upon something new. Otherwise I find that in general, women shopping for themselves are more challenging as clients than men, but are more supportive as consumers and followers.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

AO:  I really try to live without regrets, thus I may best be able to answer this by saying that perhaps I wish I had started Courted! sooner.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AO:  I have no specific answer. Each failure teaches you not to make the same mistake twice. We fail to fail better the next time.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AO:  Mmmm…. I’d have to say launch of Courted!’s site and the personal private wins for Courted! that no one else knows, except a few close Courted! insiders.

DCF: What’s next?

AO:  Courted! has recently extended its arm to design and released the “”BEEN WOKE”” t-shirt line. These Courted! exclusively designed tees for men & women feature the statement “”Been Woke Since”” and a select year or phrase.  The founder of Courted! is a contributor to Capitol Standard Magazine.

On Philadelphia’s WURD Radio station 900AM/ 96.1 FM Courted Style has a weekly segment every Thursday on “The Reality Check” –see social media for more details on topics and time.

For more information visit: www.courtedstyle.com

 

Follow on Instagram or Twitter: @CourtedStyle

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The Funemployed: Ginny Wright

DCF: Who Are You?
Ginny Wright, founder/owner of BbG Fitness and The Total Wellness Challenge. BbG Fitness is a year-round outdoor fitness company which I started in 2003 with no business plan. Today we have 5 instructors, 19 classes at 7 locations offered 6 days a week. As a certified Health and Wellness Coach, I used my knowledge and experience to design The Total Wellness Challenge.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
GW: People who exercise are happy people. People who exercise outside are really happy, upbeat and energized! It is a pleasure to work with our super-fun clients. I am honored to have had the privilege of helping so many people get and stay fit and healthy.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
GW: My best friend Karen Bate has been my biggest cheerleader throughout. We met on the first day of college many, many years ago. When I was going through my transition from a stay-at-home mom back to the business world Karen encouraged me to “do what I love”. Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve always loved to exercise—so that’s what I did. It worked!

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
GW: Anywhere near the ocean. Our sailboat.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
GW: My exercisers. I have received and saved many notes of gratitude over the years from wonderful people expressing their appreciation for what BbG offers; fun, challenging outdoor fitness classes where people connect and friendships are formed. We’ve been educating people about healthy diets and general wellbeing since about 2008. Knowing we’re helping and knowing people appreciate me is the biggest motivator of all.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
GW: Balance means taking care of myself and giving my body a break when I feel tired. It means taking time each day to relax. I’ve learned to say no when I’ve reached my limit. Cooking is a form of relaxation and a creative outlet for me. I enjoy trying and sharing new recipes on my blog. I take most of my time off during the summer months. This is when I recharge.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
GW: When I first started my business I got up at 5:00 am every day and had to leave my children alone at home to get themselves up, ready and off to middle school. It was hard and I was tired but I was building a business going full speed ahead. At one point I taught 24 times a week between groups and private clients!

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
GW: My classes are advertised as co-ed but because I’m a women we get very few men. I believe only guys who are comfortable in their manhood join our groups! The workouts are hard and no guy wants to be shown up by a woman. I worked for another company before I started BbG. I heard later the owners thought I was a just daffy blonde. I proved them wrong!

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
GW: I’ve never been my best advocate. I’m still shy about promoting myself. Even though I was way ahead of the crowd in terms of health coaching, wellness and even the type of fitness we do, I didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon soon enough when certain people were telling me to do it.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
GW: In the early days I gave a web designer what was a lot of money for me at the time. The company ripped me off; took my money and ran after stalling for many months. I certainly never did that again. I learned my lesson and questioned everything from that day forward. We had the same instructors for over 10 years. Once I made a decision without including them. We’ve always been a team. It was the wrong thing to do. We made it over that bump but I never issued “decrees” again!

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
GW: My first award ever was the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s “Best Home based business award”. I held my head a little higher after that. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to write anything about my company and what I do. The process reminded me of all I’d accomplished. I was proud of how far I’d come.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering? 
GW: I’m always working on The Total Wellness Challenge. It’s an online wellness game I created that teaches people to make sustainable changes in their diets and lifestyle to improve their health. The beauty of the program is that it provides not only accountability by posting scores each day but also support from fellow Challengers in the form of online reflections so everyone shares their daily success and challenges.

What’s Your Social Media!!
bodybyginny.com, twcfit.com
Instagram: bbgfitness_twc
Facebook: BBG Fitness/twc

With fellow exercisers at BbG_s annual holiday party

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The Funemployed: Dr. Kristian Henderson

DCF: Who Are You?
I am Dr. Kristian Henderson, a Public Health Professor, a believer in #BlackGirlMagic, and am committed to all things wellness and self-love. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Yale and my Doctorate degree from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. I blend my academic knowledge, creativity, and unconventional philosophy to promote healthy, happy, and free lifestyles. No day is the same, from teaching public health at George Washington to leading yoga classes to mentoring entrepreneurs, I aim to redefine success and help others do the same.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KH: I was tired of complaining about brands neglecting black women, so I decided to create a platform that promotes and supports black women and their brands. I was tired of using toxic products that were negatively impacting my health, so I created a way to easily find better, healthier options. I was tired of just talking about the economic problems impacting black people, so I decided to find a way to circulate our dollars within our own community. I created what I felt was missing and that is why I love what I do. (DCF: Yasss be the change you wanna see!!)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KH: My Family is my village. My dad is an entrepreneur at his core and I got his spirit of dreaming of solutions and executing them. My mom is a risk taker, and she always empowered me to not be afraid of failure. My little brother is my biggest supporter; he believes in my dreams and my ideas before anyone else, and he is one of the few people that I take advice from. Their support and encouragement recharges me. (DCF: It’s so important to have a village or tribe that you can turn to, especially when you are building something new.) 

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
KH: Yoga, my bathtub, or exploring a new country. (DCF: Love all of this!) 

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KH: Adopting a healthy lifestyle has been key to maintaining my energy. I have a mostly plant-based diet, which means I eat tons of fruits and vegetables, incorporate green juices and smoothies, drink plenty of water, and avoid processed foods. I also workout at least three times per week, although some weeks are better than others. I am also very protective of the energy that I am around, managing the people and places that I interact with. (DCF: Yes protect your space and your energy!)  I truly believe in holistic health.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KH: Self-care, self-care, self-care. As an entrepreneur, there is always something that needs to be done, an email that needs to be written, a phone call to be made, or a website update to implement. It was really easy for me work 20+ hours on BLK + GRN in one day, but I quickly realized that working non-stop with no time for self-care wasn’t good for me or my business. I had to quickly learn how to outsource tasks that I didn’t enjoy (or that someone else could just do better than me) – (DCF: I am a HUGE believer in outsourcing, especially if you  and I had to reframe how I thought about downtime. Instead of seeing yoga, meditation, or watching a movie as a distraction, I started to frame it as necessary downtime. It helped me achieve balance, which has ultimately propelled my brand. (DCF: Scheduling self care can be just as important as scheduling that angel investor meeting because it helps you show up at your best!) 

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KH: I had to let go. I had to let go of bad habits such as judging myself, caring too much about what other people thought, and eating processed foods. I have had to let go of people that I loved, not because I didn’t love them anymore, but because they didn’t serve me. I had to let go of who I thought I was, in order to allow myself to be who I really was. I had to let go of the narratives of self-sacrifice and embrace the ideas of self-love. Many of these things were difficult to let go, but I had to sacrifice my comfort zone so I could truly realize my personal mission. (DCF: Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable in order to grow!)

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
KH: Happiness was difficult to find while I was trying to outrun and outwork racism and sexism. Working in a corporate environment historically created by and for white men made it nearly impossible to escape bigotry. I had a choice – either I would fight to change the organization or I could create my own. I needed to take some risks in order to find happiness so I chose to build a company that is consistent with my values, supports black women entrepreneurs, understands the importance of self-love, and is built on holistic health.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KH: Slow down. I have a tendency to move fast. I rarely procrastinate and I truly live by the words, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” But after wasting thousands of dollars, trusting people I shouldn’t, or investing my time into broken ventures, I realized that maybe I should hold off until tomorrow for larger decisions.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KH: I love the idea of embracing failure to ensure that we learn from our mistakes, but it so hard for me to pick just one failure. I agreed to speak at a retreat, but I neglected to get a contract signed, and subsequently we didn’t have a clear understanding of the expectations. I have invested thousands of dollars in business ventures that I later decided were not a good fit for me. I have invested time in people and refused to let them go (even though I know I needed to), simply because I had already invested so much time and energy. The first lesson is always get a contract, the second lesson is do your due diligence before you spend any money, and the third lesson is value people for what they are, not what you need them to be, and let them go when it is time.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KH: I’m taking risks, caring less about what people say, and finding my happiness. I quit my corporate job, got a divorce, became a professor, moved to a new city, started a new company, and became a yoga instructor. I am truly living my best life and that makes me proud(DCF: Shed that old skin!!)

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DCF: What are you currently conquering?
KH: I recently created BLK+GRN, the only premium purveyor of a variety of clean, all natural, black-owned products. Instead of complaining about brands neglecting black women, I created a platform that promotes and supports them and their brands. Instead of using toxic products that were negatively impacting my health, I created a way to easily find better, healthier options. Instead of just talking about the economic problems impacting black people, I decided to find a way to circulate our dollars within our own community.

DCF: What’s Your Social Media!!
www.BLKGRN.com
www.instagram.com/BLKandGRN
www.twitter.com/BLKandGRN
www.Facebook.com/BLKGRN
www.pinterest.com/BLKandGRN

 

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The Funemployed: Maria Moss

DCFWho Are You?
Maria Moss, Owner & Principal Consultant at Phoenix Leadership Solutions, LLC. Our goal is to work with companies to help support employee development through leadership and employee training sessions. We focus on building the workforce through strengthening the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills of all employees.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
MM: I love what I do because it is in line with my personal mission of servitude AND I get to do it on my terms! I have been a fan of training and development since my earliest days and was literally a training groupie; attending any and every employee development course offered at my company. Years later the student became the teacher, as I later moved into a training role for several years and then in 2015 started my own consulting company doing exactly what I love everyday on on my own terms. It was not easy taking that leap into entrepreneurship, yet it has been the best decision I have ever made. I walk into a client site and I am usually working with people who are hungry for self-development, ready to learn new skills and improve their careers and lives. I get to not only teach them, but at the same time I get to learn about challenges facing employees in all different types of companies from federal government to non-profit…and everything in between!

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
MM: My first mentor was my first manager when I moved into a training role, Deidre “DeeDee” Williams. It was initially very informal as I looked at her as just my “boss.” Very early on, however, I realized that the talks in her office, the stretch assignments, chats about my future and occasional “blessing out” were all a part of a very valuable mentoring relationship that lasted until she left the company for a VP role in another organization. (DCF: It’s an amazing blessing when people just take you under their wing with no hesitation.) Dee Dee would be the first person I would go to when I was frustrated or excited at work. She would ask the right questions to help me find my own answers and provide lessons by sharing stories about her journey. Once she left we stayed in touch and when I was thinking of starting my consulting business, she was one of my first calls to talk it out and get advice.

DCF: What’s your happy place?
MM: My happy place would be in a room full of learners who are sharing and learning from each other! I don’t mind if I am the student or the teacher, just being in a group of energized minds is my happy place. (DCF: It’s amazing how interchangeable those roles are!)  

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
MM: My daughters! My husband and I have four super star girls who are my motivation and my inspiration for everything I do.  I had our oldest at the age of 18, my senior year of high school. There were so many people counted me out being a teen mom, and that was also my biggest motivation (DCF: So glad you ignored all the haters!). I wanted to make her life one of ease and to be able to say “in your face” to everyone that counted us out. Mission accomplished 🙂 Now, their support, excitement and encouragement keeps me going.  A couple months ago my 3rd grader had entrepreneur as a vocabulary word. She used it in a sentence and said “My mom is an entrepreneur, she has her own business where she is the boss.” I cried real tears because she came home so excited to tell me she used me and that she is also going to be an entrepreneur. That is my fuel on a cold day! (DCF: This is also a great example of why representation matters!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
MM: Balance to me means having a designated time and place for what I need to be focused on. I realize that when I’m giving 100%, it will not necessarily be evenly distributed 50/50. Sometimes I’m back to back with clients and travel at about 90%, and I can only be a “Facetime mom”which to me is about 10%. I accept that and also know that there will be times where I am home, doing my room mom thing and volunteering at the school at 99% and may only glance over my business emails and plan a time to answer them at a later date which is about 1%. This to me is balance. Knowing that I can be successful at work AND at home life, be amazing at both…just not always at the same time.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
MM: I would say the biggest sacrifice for me was comfort. I was used to that 9-5 guaranteed paycheck life for so many years. When I made the leap to entrepreneurship, it was after twice losing a job. In college, I was fired from the job I thought I would work at forever for insubordination, by a manager I did not get along with. It was 8 weeks before college graduation and 2 weeks before I gave birth to our second daughter. It was a big shake up because I knew I could not run out and get a job at 9 months pregnant, and yet it gave me the space to mourn that job, celebrate my daughter’s birth, graduate from college and move into the industry I actually was studying for in college. Twelve years later, I was 5 years into my dream job as a Senior Leadership Development Specialist at a Fortune 500 Company traveling the world and leading our training department team, who served all the leadership training needs in a company of 10k employees. I walked in to a staff meeting in Oct 2015 to news that my position, along with several others, were being eliminated as a part of a company wide re-organization. I had the option to apply for other jobs in the company, yet none of them would be doing what I absolutely loved…training and development. In that moment, I again faced what I had come to feel was the myth of job security and comfort. I thought back to 2003 and all that I had accomplished since being fired, and reflected on the risks I would not have taken had that never happened. In that moment, I decided to forgo comfort and step out into my dream with the realization that the worst thing that could happen is I would have to go and get a job. Three years later, I am so glad that I sacrificed comfort for my dream.

Moss Wall

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
MM: My industry is consulting and it was historically dominated by middle aged men, who moved into consulting roles after years of corporate work, and are often retired from at least one career. I’m coming in to consulting as a 30-something female who doesn’t have 20 plus years at an organization to fall back on as the basis for my expertise. I also tend to work a lot with manufacturing organizations, some of which provide military contracting and manufacturing work on planes, submarines and ships. This makes for interesting interactions as I have routinely held training sessions for as many as 50 people, where I was the only female in the room. In these instances, I do quickly work to build a connection and usually within the first two hours things are flowing smoothly. I often feel that I have to work against the misconception that I am not qualified to consult at some of the high levels, such as those of the C-suite, because I am younger and less career experienced than a lot of my peers. Several times I have had to tell that little voice to “shut it” and focus on showing up like I was supposed to be there. I am constantly learning to stay abreast of new business trends, working on my own professional development and I have gone back to school for my MBA with a concentration in International Business in order to stay competitive.

DCF:  What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
MM: Some early advice that I wish I had listened to would be from my English teacher the late Mrs. Lula Bass. She always told me I was smarter and better than I thought I was. She never let me slack and she pushed me like no other. I think had I left my AP English class with Mrs. Bass’ firmly words firmly planted in my mind, I would have gone a lot further a lot quicker than I did. It goes back to what was comfortable and every time I got comfortable, I think I was also limiting myself.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
MM: My greatest failure I would say was getting fired from that insurance job in 2003. I think from it, I learned that I needed to better temper myself towards the outcome I wanted. As much as my manager and I did not get along, had I had better emotional intelligence I could have navigated that situation better and possibly left on my terms which is what I was planning for after the birth of my daughter and graduation. From that failure I also learned that I can survive and bounce back from ANYTHING! That was a huge lesson as I really hit a low during that short period of about 8 weeks, both personally and professionally (lost job, baby on the way, partner arrested and sent away for 8 months, good friend died unexpectedly.) I was able to keep pushing and come through on the other side better than ever. In hindsight I am so thankful because that whole situation taught me resilience!

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
MM: My proudest moment to date was when I was starting my consulting business and after coming up for air, realizing that my daughters (ages 12, 10 and 6 at the time) had been watching me and had started some businesses in the neighborhood at the same time (babysitting and dog-walking). It was the realization that they watch me even when I am not thinking they are, and I am their model in every form. When I worked at the Fortune 500 company, they said that was where they were going to work when they grew up. When I decided to start a business, it expanded for them their version of what was real and possible. Now they talk about businesses and entrepreneurship all the time as a new option. I was so proud because despite the awards I’ve won, travel I have done, magazines I have been in….my legacy is the most important thing to me and seeing that entrepreneurship spark in my girls so early let me know I was on the right path to raising some truly amazing game changers.

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
MM: I am currently working on developing a Business Training Program for high school students. Having had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing organizations both domestic and abroad, I want to help students develop some of the skills they may not be taught at home to help them be successful. Right after college I went into working with troubled juveniles and noticed that a lot of the challenges they faced were not necessary around intelligence but more around life and relationship skills. (DCF: There are multiple types of intelligence, troubled kids are often very smart, just underexposed).  Things like how to communicate their frustrations effectively, business etiquette, interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence or even simple things like how to shake hands and or dress for an interview. These are invaluable life and business skills that a lot of schools near me are asking for, so this year I will be running my first pilot at Beach High in Savannah, GA with the support of several staff members and we hope to grow it from there.

My other passion is travel and so I am also working on travel goods and services targeted at the “Girl’s Trip” travelers! To launch in the Spring of 2018, GirlzTrippin will initially provide recommendations and assistance with booking excursions, later moving into travel goods and full service travel booking.

Forsyth Park

DCF: What’s Your Social Media!!
Website: www.PhoenixLeadershipSolutions.com
IG:  @Phoenix_leadership
Twitter: @PhoenixLead1
LinkedIN: Maria Moss
IG: @GirlzTrippin

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The Funemployed: Dr. Ashley Elliott

DCF: Who Are You?
Dr. Ashley Elliott. I’m the owner of Vivid Innovations Consulting, LLC. I am a mental health clinician, author, and motivational speaker. (DCF: Drop that wisdom on us!)

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AE: I love being able to make an impact in someone’s life. People trust me with their personal histories. They come to me and reveal their ups, their downs, their struggles, their vulnerabilities, their fears, and their dreams. I’m always honored to be allowed into such a personal space with clients. To be so raw and uncut with your emotions and thoughts, and then allow me to help you acquire the tools you need to live the life you desire, that’s huge. (DCF: Vulnerability is such a beautiful and fragile thing, I love how you describe it.)

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Today in Black Fashion History: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907)

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born into slavery in 1818 in Virginia. As a talented dressmaker, Keckley gained a powerful network of supporters and was eventually able to buy her freedom from her St. Louis owners for $1200 (more than $30K today!!) in 1852. In 1860 she packed up her family and moved to Washington DC, where she was able to establish her own dressmaking business. This is where she first met Mary Todd Lincoln, the future FLOTUS. After President Lincoln was elected in 1861, the FLOTUS hired Keckley to be her personal stylist and dressmaker and the two women became close confidants. While very little consensus exists on which designs can be attributed to Keckley, The Smithsonian and several other collections across the country have a pretty good idea of which dresses are hers due to her simplistically streamlined design style, which was not very common in the Victorian era. Check out this article by The Smithsonian for more information, and stay tuned for my next post about the iconic black designer, Ann Lowe!

madam elizabeth

-Alexandra
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Celebrating Black History through Fashion

Happy Black History Month! *Note from Morgan – Alex is a friend of DCFunemployment who is going to take on us a journey this black history month through fashion!! She will be popping in a few times this month to share with us.  Enjoy!!*

While I am always proud of my heritage, I believe this month is especially important for shining some light on black excellence and achievement that otherwise may not receive the recognition it deserves.

To celebrate, I’ve decided to share some of my knowledge throughout the month on black fashion history and influential black designers! If you saw my last post then you know this is something I am extremely passionate about, and I hope to provide some inspiration for other young designers of color so that they know that they do, in fact, have a place in this industry. Let’s get to learnin’!

First, let’s talk about some history. Have you ever heard of the term “Sunday Best”?

While the history of African Americans in this country began through slavery (starting in 1619 when the first African slaves were forcefully brought to the Virginia colony), fashion was still very important.

During the week, slaves wore old simple “work clothes,” often hand-me-downs or clothing that they made from the fabric scraps of slave owners. But on Sundays, they were generally permitted to attend church with other slaves. The role of religion and church and their influence on black fashion began during slavery, but this tradition has continued even into today!

The term “Sunday Best” came from these times. With protestantism spreading in the new colonies, the concept of “saving negroes from their heathen religions” became popular. This was also incredibly controversial at the time, as some believed that once slaves converted to Christianity, they had to be given their freedom. Eventually, slave owners found a way to have legislation passed that negated that idea, allowing them to keep their slaves even after they converted.

In order for slave owners to be considered “good Christians,” their slaves had to have at least one good outfit for church on Sundays. Slave women who were able to sew would often use scrap materials to fashion their own pieces for themselves and their families for church. This became an opportunity for black women to differentiate themselves using clothing during church, which was the only time they were permitted to be social. This tradition of “Sunday Best” can still be seen today through beautifully-made formal outfits for women, often accompanied by ornate hats in church.

While this is most common in black Baptist churches in the south, black women from all over the country put on their “Sunday Best” every week, showcasing their gorgeous styles with the pew aisles as runways. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of my late grandmother bringing my sister and I to church with her, and pretending to pay attention when I was really just mesmerized by the beauty around me. How could you not be?!

*Note from Morgan, I grew up with this fabulous hat lady!!

Thanks for reading along and learning with me! I can’t wait to share my next article for Black History Month where I’ll be writing about Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907), a slave-turned-designer who bought her own freedom and became the personal dressmaker and stylist for Mary Todd Lincoln. Stay tuned, and stay woke!

-Alexandra

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The Funemployed: Jihan Thompson of Swivel Beauty

DCFunemployment: So… Who Are You?

Jihan Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Swivel Beauty, a new app that makes it easy for black women to find the right hairstylists for their hair type (natural, relaxed, braids, locs, etc). Prior to starting the company (with my best friend Jenny Lambert), I was a magazine editor for nearly 10 years, working at publications including Glamour, Marie Claire, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

JennyJihan Photo

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
JT: Swivel has always been a passion project of mine. I’ve always wondered why it was such a struggle to find the right stylist, whether I was new to a city, traveling, or just wanted to switch up my look. (DCF: Seriously, it’s like trying to find the holy grail).  So, finally, after getting fed up, I decided to create the solution I wish existed. This is my dream business, which means every day feels like funemployment. (DCF: Thank you! Cause we were all struggling/suffering with this one!) 

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
JT: I’ve had so many great mentors. But the first was probably one of my first bosses early in my magazine career. She was a dynamic, natural leader and she saw my potential early on and encouraged me to me to take on assignments that might have appeared above my title or position. As a result, I learned to take risks really early in my career and they always paid off. (DCF: Taking risks is so important otherwise it’s very easy to get stuck and never try anything new.)

SWIVEL_Salon Directory

DCF: What’s your happy place?
JT: My happy place: Working on Swivel. Seriously. Sitting on my couch, brainstorming ways to grow and build this business makes me incredibly happy(DCF: I love that you are doing what you love and also helping out black women). Starting a business is tough, but I love what I’m creating.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
JT: Talking to our customers! Every time someone tells us about a really great hair day they had because of a stylist they found on Swivel, I’m instantly recharged. We’re doing this to fill a need we know black women have — so when we get feedback, it pushes up to keep going and growing. Also, sleep. 🙂 I try to prioritize sleep (not always successfully-see below), because I’m not the type of person who can do well on just a few hours. When I sleep well, I’m fired up the next day. (DCF: Sleep is so important, we all definitely could use more of it!)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
JT: Let me get back to you on that. 🙂 (DCF: Hahaha touche!) As a first-time founder, I’m honestly still learning how to find balance. There’s always more to do, even if the deadlines are self-imposed. We have big dreams for Swivel, so it means long hours are required right now. But I will say, it’s great to have a cofounder. We check in with each other and make sure we can cover when one of us needs time off to recharge. It’s important to take time for friends, family, and self-care, so I feel my best when I can work a full, productive day, but still call it quits and do something unrelated for a few hours.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
JT: I read somewhere, that when you’re launching a company, you can only pick three from this list: work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness. I think that’s so true, it’s impossible to give your all to every category because launching a company consumes so much of your time. Time is so precious so I really try to prioritize my family and friends, but that often means sleep and fitness take a hit. (DCF: You’ve got the right idea, balance where you can!)

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
JT: I don’t have to tell you that women, and particularly women of color, are less likely than men to get funding for their tech startups. We’re now beginning to raise money for our company, so we have to be aware of the obstacles we might face.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
JT: I wish I had started my company sooner. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I can’t leave my job..I can’t do x, y, or z.” But now that I’m on the other side, I so wish I had taken the leap earlier. (DCF: We often get in our own heads with these things but I’m so proud of you for making the leap!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
JT: This is a tough one! I’ll get back to you on it.

New York Times Screenshot

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
JT: Swivel was profiled in The New York Times last December (DCF: see above). A total pinch-me moment. So many people have ideas, but to see it come to life and to get that level of validation is still one of my proudest moments.

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
JT: SWIVEL is growing in DC soon! We’re actively signing on stylists and salons. So, if you know anyone good, have them fill out this survey! Thank you!

DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Website: http://www.swivelbeauty.com/
Instagram: @swivelbeauty
Twitter: @swivelbeauty
Facebook: SwivelBeauty

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