Preparing to Pitch: How Nike Lost Steph Curry To Under Armour 

  
I’m obsessed with studying business trends. I’m always looking for little nuggets to try to improve! I came across this article regarding how Nike missed out on Steph Curry & it’s interesting. Read the rest of the article here. When pitching, it’s important to:

1. Personalize the pitch. Whoever you are appealing to should feel like the opportunity, product or service was individually made for them. This means you have to do research in order to prepare a personalized experience. 

2. Make sure you know how to pronounce names & spell check! When you first sit down with someone, ask how to pronounce their name! You have maybe twice to make corrections before you start looking like you just don’t care. If you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation or you have handouts, double check the names. 

3. Be prepared to compromise and to ask the other person what are their wishes or expectations! Don’t assume that you know.

4. Industries are small! People talk! It’s important to be fair, equitable & intentional about your deals. You don’t want to have a reputation that you try to take advantage of other people. You may win initially, but word gets around quick. 

Read the article here! You don’t want to lose out on your own MVP! 

What To Do When You’re Told “No”

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Caption: My beautiful soror & owner of Phatbulous Fashionista & I at our (PRO)ject US Nerd Prom Event (Donda’s House collaborative Fashion Program).

Last week I received two pieces of devastating news. In both cases, it was connected to Donda’s House. When you apply for a grant, it’s almost like applying for a job… you wouldn’t even apply if you didn’t think you were qualified. When you first hear about a grant, it’s so exciting! You imagine ALL of the possibilities of what you’re going to do with the funding, and after you click “submit,” you eagerly anticipate the news.

In this case the news came to my inbox. “We regret to inform you…” I exited out of the screen with a thud. This was the second piece of bad news I’d received that week. My first thought was “I just want this week to be over…” I crawled over to my hubby and laid on his chest and I started to cry. He was very encouraging and my level of “sulkdom” was not as bad as it could’ve been but for the rest of the day I operated like an inflated balloon. I didn’t want to take very many calls, wasn’t motivated to do any work. I was choosing to be sad.

The next day I woke up and figured that I had to work overtime for four “yes” (es) to replace those two “nos.” The first thing that I did was to consider what were similar opportunities that I could find? Which relationships do I have that could help me get to those similar opportunities? I went to work. I started e-mailing, proposal writing and texting my tribe. (NOTE: Your tribe is a group of people who share similar values that may do similar work, they are also the people who are super encouraging and that lift your spirits). On day two, I was down but not defeated.

The one thing I tell myself in those situations when I don’t get what I want is, “Everything happens for a reason.” It always makes me feel better. So I repeated those words to myself the entire day. The best cure for a “no” is overtime! After you’ve been told “no,” you have to do twice the amount of work to replace those “nos.”

The kingdom of “sulkdom” is always willing to embrace you, but you’ve got to be a temporary visitor and take that return flight back to reality and back to your dreams!

CLIQUE/CLICK: Quirky, Brown Love posted 200+ black bloggers divided by categories including Fashion, Lifestyle, Parenting, you name it! Be sure to bookmark and give them some “clique/click” love: http://www.quirkybrownlove.com/2015/08/200-amazing-black-bloggers-list.html

3 Reasons Why You Should Join Me at COSEBOC in Memphis

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 Caption: me presenting at “Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s Inc’s Golden Alert Town Hall Meeting w/ MC Lyte.” Photo by Juan Anthony Images.

In two weeks, I will be joining two of my Echoing Green – Black Male Achievement Fellows, to present at COSEBOC’s  (Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color) Annual Conference: A Gathering of Leaders in Memphis. Tennessee. 3 Reasons why I’m super excited about this:

#1. I am super inspired by the work of my co-fellows. William, is the founder of Village of Wisdom. At Village of Wisdom, they work with families to help youth develop the resiliency and self-confidence they need to navigate the academic opportunity gap. Alex, if the founder of The Anew School. The Anew School “takes African-American 7th and 8th grade boys to Ghana, West Africa for a two-year immersive experience, where we provide them a clean academic slate, free from stigmatizing labels such as “at-risk,” “free and reduced lunch,” etc.” When it comes to working with youth, we have to think more in terms of a systemwide approach if we are going to really move the need for black people in America. It’s not a conversation about whether we need to focus more on in-school experiences or out-of-school experiences or access to arts vs. access to athletics. Anyone or any organization that is seeking to improve the lives of black youth of color is doing important work, and the more that we can start collaborating and sharing, the better off our youth and our community will be. Learn more about the other equally inspiring BMA fellows here: http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows?field_fellow_type_value=Black+Male+Achievement+Fellow.

#2. William. Alex and I are all former classroom teachers – so we understand the importance of what happens in the classroom. We also understand the challenges that educators and administrators face. The skills that I learned as a teacher are incredibly valuable and really translate well into my work as an Executive Director.

#3. Our session is entitled “Ring My Bell: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Leverage Free Resources for Innovation.” We are excited to share what we’ve learned on our social-entrepreneur journey both individually and collectively. Innovation does not always have to cost an arm and a leg! Our interactive session will give those in our session a blueprint for finding and securing free resources.

Register for COSEBOC and learn more about the conference here: http://coseboc.org/annual-gathering. Be sure to say hello if you’re in attendance at the conference & follow the official hashtag;  for conference updates!

How I Keep It All Together… (aka Tips To Manage Your Time)

Happy New Year!!!

Personally, I’m a wife, step mom (including a 16 year old who lives with my husband & I), dog mommy (to a 1 & 1/2 year old Black Labrador) & avid scrapbooker.

Professionally, I’m an Executive Director (of Donda’s House Inc.), 2014 Echoing Green – BMA Fellow, writer and assistant to my husband (who is an artist, writer, radio show host, etc.).

Like most people, I wear many hats, and the key to staying on top of things is organization! I also have to confess that I taught High School for over 10 years, so I LOVE lists, and treat my time and life like one big lesson plan lol! I’m a planner & organizer by training and by nature. My mom told me this funny story yesterday about how I used to line up my shoes and make my bed up (crooked) but I was so proud to “clean my room” at age two! It’s definitely in my blood…

If the system gets too overwhelming for you, don’t feel like you have to continue it. It is never too late to press the “esc” button in your life if something isn’t working for you! The thing about a time-management system is that you have to actually like it to make it work. My system is based on years of trying out different things and then finally I found a combination of tools that really help me to advance my personal and professional goals, stay on top of my appointments and keep my family in sync (without pulling out all of my hair lol).

Here are the tools that I use: 

(1) Paper Planner (Weekly View + Weekly Notes)

(2) Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters

(4) Google Calendar

(5) Print-out of Daily Tasks (with a place to check them off) – Download here: Weekly Checklist

(6) Accountability Partner

Where To Get The Tools & How To Use Them: 

1. Paper Planner – I purchased my paper planner at a store called Paper Source in early December. It’s by a company called Post by Graphic Images. I like my planner because it has a Weekly Calendar View on the left side, and a space for notes on the right side. You can also purchase planners at Office Supply Stores, and Barnes & Noble has a nice selection too. I prefer a planner that is small so that it can fit in my purse! I started with a Franklin Covey, but it was just so big and bulky, I abandoned that system pretty quickly! I love this paper planner, because when I meet with people I usually write down follow up and action items. It’s nice for those notes to “live” on the same page as the appointment.

Here is how it looks both outside and inside:

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2. Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda can either be purchased digitally or a hard copy can be shipped to you.

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I purchased the digital version and then printed out the pages.I like this tool because it is strictly for goal setting. It includes a section for writing goals in different areas of your life (including spiritual, investment, work, networking, personal development, physical well-being, financial, exploration & family/relationships). You basically set goals for each of those areas in your life every quarter and there is a reflection section at the end of each quarter. You then “schedule” time to work on your goals, so that they move from the goal phase to the action phase. Here are some of my Quarter 1 Goals:

  • Explicitly spend time every week Fundraising (work)
  • Attend one networking event per month (networking)
  • Hang out with bestie bi-weekly (family/relationships)

So that lead me to create a weekly fundraising appointment (“Fundraising Friday” from 10 am – 2 pm), find one networking event to attend per month (may be a meeting, actual networking event, other organization’s event, etc.) and schedule time every other week to meet up with my bestie. I had a ton of other goals, but hopefully you see how this system works.

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(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters – My favorite brand of pens for my planner include Paper Mate Ink Joy (300 RT 1.0 M ink), and Pentel RSVP (Med). I like the brands because the colors are very vivid and bright AND they don’t bleed through the planner ruining the page behind. I use different colored ink to mirror the colors in my Google Calendar. For example, personal & social events are written in hot pink, Donda’s House stuff is written in purple, and hubby’s stuff is written in black ink. I adopted the highlighter system from Myleik Teele (Founder of Curlbox). Also, check out this great piece about Myleik: “Mentor in My Head: 54 Life Lessons from Myleik Teele: CEO of Curlbox.” Basically, Myleik makes a daily to-do list and at the end of the day she uses highlighters to update the status of her task. For example, orange highlighter crosses off items that were completed, yellow highlighter crosses off items that were “touched” but not completed and pink highlighter crosses off items that were “not touched” therefore “not completed.” Yellow highlighter & pink highlighter items are then moved to the following day until the tasks are completed. Her color choices may be different but that’s basically how the system works. I usually try not to have more than three things on my to do list per day (on top of the daily tasks like reading my bible, checking e-mail, etc.).

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(4) Google Calendar – Google Calendar is my main time-management tool. Google Calendar is great for “sharing” calendars with others. For example, I help manage my husband’s calendar, and both of us can make updates and it automatically syncs in all locations. Paper calendars don’t have that level of efficiency (unless you + family members use one calendar…) We also maintain an organizational calendar (that large groups of people have access to). Similar to my paper calendar, I use a color coded system.

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(5) Print out of daily to-do list – I created this Weekly Checklist in Microsoft Excel and will print one out every Sunday during my weekly journal/scrapbook/weekly planning time. I don’t want to copy these things daily into my planner, so I will use my little weekly checklist instead. You can download the template by clicking here:

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To print the template, highlight everything that needs to be printed (including all of your daily tasks and the cells through Saturday.

– Click “File”

– Click “Print” from the File List

– Click “Page Setup”

– Click “Landscape” instead of Portrait under Orientation

– Click “Sheet” and check the box that says “Gridlines” (which will print the lines between each row and column)

– Click “Ok”

– Click “Print”

(6) Find an accountability partner and try to check in at least once per month. My accountability partner is my best friend, and we will meet bi-weekly to talk about our goals (and share lots of laughs like we always do).

I have a weekly planning session on Sundays (to ensure that my Google Calendar + paper planner are in sync for the remainder of the month), and every night I update my paper planner (which is where my daily appointments and meeting notes live). If I had a meeting with someone, I take the action items and make time to complete them (whether it’s sending them some information they requested, conducting e-mail introductions or looking up something they recommended to me).

If you have ANY questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer. I wish you well if you try out my full system, parts of the system!!!

2014 in Review

Thank you for reading my blog! I hope to continue to inspire and grow with you in 2015! Toasting to 2015 and hoping to double the 77,000 views next year!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 77,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Something Everyone Wants…

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There are certain things that all humans need… we need water and we need food, but when it comes down to wants, it seems that it is all a matter of preference. After watching the film Birdman today, I realized that there is actually something that we all want, and that’s validation.

To validate (according to Dictionary.com) is substantiate, to confirm, to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to.

When we fall in love with someone, we want them to confirm their love for us, because it makes us feel substantial. When we call a customer service line, we want someone to listen to our complaint, and then validate the error by fixing the problem or directing us to someone who can. When we do a good job, we want someone to acknowledge that good job, by offering a compliment, a pat on the back or even better a raise.

Conflict occurs when either we don’t feel validated or worse, when someone expresses that we are undeserving.

I think a lot of people want to be rich and/or famous, because people believe that material possessions (the rarer or the more expensive the better) and attention (the more followers, likes, & retweets) is the key to approval (even if that approval is based on limited or surface level information).

The truth is, validation is something that we all want because it’s motivation to keep going when things get tough. The more validated we feel, the easier it is to ward off character attacks. Validation is very much connected to our esteem and our self confidence. What can we do to validate each other in healthy ways? Parents, how do you validate your children? Teachers, how do you validate your students?

Survive Your First 90 Days As An Entrepreneur…

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On the outside looking in, it’s sexy! I come across people all the time who say, “I WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR!”

They say…

“You get to “wake up” whenever you want to!”

“You get to work from home?!”

“You’re the BOSS!!!”

It’s officially been 90 days, and I hate to burst your bubble but being an entrepreneur is the most difficult job you’ll ever have in your life!

As a teacher, I had to wake up at 6 am every day, to clock in by 8:00 and be ready for the bell shortly after. Now I don’t wake up that early, it’s mostly around 8 or 9 am, and I don’t start working until around 10 am, but when I start working, I usually don’t stop until 10 p.m., 12 a.m. When we were working on the AAHH! Fest, I slept about one hour for three weeks!

I work harder now as an entrepreneur than I did as a teacher, because I am the Chief Financial Officer, The HR Coordinator, The Event Planner, The Development Director, The Chief Operating Officer, everything. Essentially I am the Principal, The Teacher, The Parent, The Student, The Janitor, basically a whole entire school wrapped into one but the truth is I love it, and wouldn’t trade my job for anything.

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Being an entrepreneur is not for the weak, the lazy, the complainer, the blamer, the hater, the “I just want a vacationer,” or “I just want to travel the world-er.” Most days you have to suck it up, because you are the electricity to the whole operation. As Pearl Duck said “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”

Most companies don’t become million dollar companies overnight, and in the non-profit world very few people take you seriously (especially those who offer grants), until you’ve been in existence for three years, not to mention the IRS can take up to 18 months to approve your tax-exempt status, and while your cause may be very noble, you learn very quickly how to barter services, make lots of new friends, and master your elevator pitch…

“Patience is a form of action…” was placed on my inspiration board in December of 2013, long before I became a full-time entrepreneur. Patience is one of those non-negotiable traits for business-owners and founders because you have to have it with other people, with projects, with fundraising and most of all with yourself…

I think I’ll get “I Survived My First 90 Days as an Entrepreneur” tatted on my chest (in invisible ink), because as with all jobs, the probationary period is over. By all measurements, Donda’s House is exactly where it should be (and in many areas we are off the charts in terms of our metrics), and the perfectionist (overachiever) in me, just keeps moving that target higher and higher. But even beyond that, the alternative (a world without Donda’s House), is just unacceptable to me. I can’t even fathom that…

As I said in the beginning, please keep me in your prayers & thoughts, and I will try my hardest to give you more frequent live updates from the battlefield!

With Love,

The Executive Director of Donda’s House Inc.

The ABCS of Business Failure

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Now that I’m transitioning into the new role as Executive Director of a non-profit, I’ve been thinking a lot about business negotiations, networking and management. I started working (illegally – shhhh – they thought I was 14) at the age of 12 at McDonald’s and have worked nonstop in retail, law, higher ed and education. From my days of “Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?” to writing lesson plans and exams, I’ve learned a lot about being a professional.

If you find yourself stagnant or craving for a change in your work life, you want to follow this series closely to make sure you are putting your best professional face forward. I invite you to share your advice and your experience too!

So we’ll start with “A” for Attitude

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
– Maya Angelou

When it comes to your work environment, EVERYONE has an effect on the “culture” or the “vibe” – including you. If you are unhappy with the way a process is run – perhaps things are disorganized or inefficient, it is your responsibility to take the necessary steps to change it. Attitude is particulary important when you are dealing with external parties. YOU may be the first person to introduce a stranger to your brand, and you want to leave them with a “good taste” or a good impression.

Attitudes are like an air-borne illness. It is easy to spread a bad one, and just as easy to spread a good one. It is difficult for someone to be mean or snarky with a person who is smiling and speaking with a calm tone. There is also a certain energy that people need from leadership so if you find yourself in management, you need to inspire your coworkers. At my job we receive a weekly bulletin and at the top of that bulletin is a quote – about teaching or learning, there may be a funny cartoon included or if it’s a holiday, there may be a piece of clip-art. While the calendar is very much appropriate all of those extra details go into making the work experience better.

When I run into my old bosses, it is always a pleasant experience because they remember my positive attitude and apparently that is something that isn’t so common, because it is what helped me to stand out. Whatever you have to do to “get your mind right” before you start work, do it! When I wake up and I’m not in the best mood, I listen to gospel music. Particularly the following songs:

“Walking” by Mary Mary

“Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood

“No Weapon” by Fred Hammond

“Order my Steps” by GMWA Women of Worship

“The Battle is the Lord’s” by Yolanda Adams

“Open My Heart” by Yolanda Adams

“God’s Grace” by Trin-I-Tee 5:7

I turn the volume all the way up and it doesn’t matter what challenges I’m faced with, the above songs inspire me and help me to have a better attitude. If you find yourself being skipped for promotions or constantly on the other end of a complaint, you should examine your attitude!