Stop Undervaluing Being An Employee!!!

I love Tony Gaskins but I hate this quote:


In 2017, there is this perception that everyone should be an entrepreneur and I strongly disagree. Especially because people glamorize and have a misperception of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

People think becoming an entrepreneur means:

(1) I can get up when I want to.

(2) I can work when I want to.

(3) I don’t have to answer to anyone.

LIES!!! ALL LIES! or at least half-truths. When you start a company, it is one of the riskiest things you will do. There may be times when you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from. There will be times when you have to cough up $5,000 or $10,000 that you didn’t have, and you will ALWAYS have to answer to someone (people with options who can take their time and their resources elsewhere).

In 2017, I believe that our culture undervalues being an employee. As an entrepreneur, there is nothing to me that is more valuable than people who share a similar outlook on the world, and that embrace the mission of Donda’s House. Donda’s House then, isn’t just my dream, it’s a collective dream. While I happen to be one of the co-founders of the organization, you can see the handprints and footprints of lots of individuals. You can see someone else’s ideas reflected in our programs. You can see someone else’s ideas reflected in our marketing and social media. You can see someone else’s ideas in how we train and orient our volunteers. You will hear people tell me when something is a bad idea or its the wrong timing.

As Donda’s House grows, I will be looking for people who can commit to Donda’s House for an extended period of time to help us reach our mission. Don’t get me wrong, I support entrepreneurship and I’m a huge advocate of entrepreneurs (especially women entrepreneurs) but I don’t think that everyone should be an entrepreneur. Just like I don’t think that everyone should be a teacher, a therapist or a writer. Many of the worlds largest organizations have thousands of employees. Facebook has 15,724 employees. Google has 57,000 employees. Microsoft has 94,000! Imagine if all of those people decided “I don’t want to build someone else’s dream…”

I also come across so many aspiring entrepreneurs who haven’t done the due diligence to really research their industry and fully develop products and services. If you are starting a business because you want to prove to some random person that you can, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining your business when you have challenges. If you’re starting a business because it’s something that you want to do, but there is no market (or you haven’t developed the market for it yet) you’re going to struggle, and someone that is more customer- or client- focused is not only going to catch up with you, but excel beyond you. Starting a business is about solving a problem and while it’s cool to be able to like (or even love) what you do, if you are not solving a problem that other people have, your business is going to have a hard time raising profit (or addressing a societal or public challenge if you’re in the nonprofit sector).

As Myleik Teele, one of my favorite podcasters & business women says you can be “entrepreneurial” in most settings. You don’t have to necessarily have your own business to have your professional goals and dreams realized. Now if you’re employed by a company that has a culture that you’re not a fan of, that’s one thing. If your ideas are never acted on or you don’t feel valued that’s another thing. Perhaps you don’t have the right employer. My hope is that we can stop acting like being anything other than the CEO, the Director, or the Chief, or the entrepreneur is any more valuable than being in HR, being an assistant or being the front desk manager. Very few companies can exist as single-person entities. As someone who has been on both sides of the fence and in many ways I still operate within other organizations as an advisor, as an assistant (for my husband’s Rhymefest brand) and as a workshop facilitator  – ALL of the roles, from the C-Suite to the maintenance staff are essential in creating a business’s success. Plus if you’re the CEO and you’re ranting and raving about how much better you are (because you’re in this leadership position) than others, it could lead to resentment and frustration with the other members of your organization who have to see & hear you dissing and undervaluing their contribution to the organization or company’s success.

One of the organizational leaders that I have great respect for, has had the same assistant for over 20 years. When it comes to the people that I hire, while I will gladly support those who need to make transitions for whatever reasons, I am hoping to hire people that want to make a long term – 10, 15 + year commitment to the mission so that we can push OUR collective vision forward.

Systems: Implementing Office Hours

Last year, I piloted the idea of hosting Office Hours and I was surprised at how popular my Office Hours were within my work community. Office Hours are an expectation within the academic community and I can remember sitting with my professors for tutoring, to discuss gaining their support for my job hunting efforts, and to discuss my approval (or disappointment) with my grade.

Last year, I hosted my Office Hours in person. Participants came to do everything from discussing time management tips to working on grant applications to fund their creative projects. Since Donda’s House does satellite programming, we don’t have our own space, which would be ideal for Office Hours or drop-in support. We are planning to offer both Office Hours and Drop-In Services when our new space opens, but until then, we had to figure out a way to be accessible for our students.

Here are some of the benefits of hosting office hours:

(1) You already have built time in your schedule to address urgent (but non-critical) issues that may arise. When people call, text, or e-mail, you can send them the link to your office hours that way you can still keep a handle on your schedule and productivity.

(2) You have a place to direct incoming inquiries (requests for meetings, pick your brain sessions and status updates).

(3) You have built in “Research & Development” (in corporate its called R & D) time. Fortune 500 companies all have built in strategies to innovate and ideate. As an entrepreneur you have to make sure that you are investing at least some of your time to researching and brainstorming.

We recently switched over to G-Suite. Within Google Calendar, there is an option to set Appointment Times. Once you set your Appointment Times, you can then e-mail out the link for people to sign up.

We also have a Conference Call Line, and I included that in the “description” section that way individuals with appointments know which number to call. We utilize Free Conference

In the case of my Office Hours, we can discuss whatever participants, staff or volunteers want to discuss and the appointment slots are 30 minutes. Participants are encouraged to sign up for two appointments back to back, if they think they need more time. Here is the participant view:


Here is what it looks like on the page to set up the appointment(s):


What’s great about this system is that you also have the option to e-mail those who have signed up for appointments from directly within Google Calendar.

Note: you have to have a G-Suite Account where you are either paying $5.00/user per month, or if you’re a nonprofit, you can apply for a free account via Google for Nonprofits here. The appointments feature does not work with the free Google Accounts.

You can also look into these tools:


Need To Meet

And here is a link to Multiple Tools that you can use, if you don’t want to use G-Suite.

In addition to using this tool internally to meet with our participants, our staff and our volunteers, I also plan to use it externally for people who want to meet.

At work, one of my internal goals for Quarter 1 is to really design systems and infrastructure to streamline communications, and this is one tool/process that will help in that effort.





Validation Is A Form of Empowerment – Thank You Swizz Beatz & Canon


Caption: Swizz Beatz & Canon Team Up For “The Unknowns” Rebel With A Cause Project

I have so much respect and admiration for individuals that empower others. To me, empowerment is giving someone an opportunity, some training or some information that increases their ability to be successful… without you! Though I have been out of the classroom for going on two years now, at the center of my pedagogy was this quote:

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” ~ Thomas Carruthers

When I was in High School, I had the chance to participate in a Voyager Outward Bound Course through a program called Upward Bound. Voyager Outward Bound is basically survivor with safety measures. Essentially, you are dropped off with a small group, in the middle of nowhere, and you are your group have a certain number of days to navigate to your pick up location. You are not allowed to bring ANY technology. As a 16 year old, it was the scariest thing that I’d ever done. I learned so much, but the thing that stuck with me the most is:

“Do no harm.”

When we created “trash,” we had to bring it with us. When we saw animals, we were taught not to disturb them. We were taught to either leave the environment as we found it, and if we could better than we found it. If we came across a piece of trash that we didn’t create, it was still our responsibility to pick up the trash. Essentially, Voyager Outward Bound made the word ecosystem, come alive for me.

I’m obsessed with all things hip hop, so when I came across the article “Swizz Beatz and Canon Teamed Up To Bring Unknown Artists to New York’s Biggest Museums” my heart skipped a beat. In the last 10 – 15 years, Hip Hop has been so hallow! Excessive, dangerously materialistic and selfish… So anytime I come across an artist who is minimalistic, idealistic and generous, I am encouraged & inspired.

“We came up with the concept of—what if we could do a bunch of unknown artist I probably would never have a chance, and probably will never be seen in a gallery or in a museum or in an auction house,” Swizz says.

In most cases, all someone needs is an opportunity. Traditional institutions often reinforce class, gender and racial barriers and stereotypes. There doesn’t seem to be room in them for regular people because of barriers to access. Sometimes those who achieve that access create too much distance between those who don’t have access. Even more problematic is those who don’t have access are often blamed or shamed, but that’s another blog for another day.

What they were doing was holding a gallery showing, using a giant projector, on the exterior of the Brooklyn Museum and the Bronx Museum of the Arts as part of a campaign called #TheUnknowns, as well as filling the walls of Sotheby’s with the work of those unknown artists.

Swizz and Canon partnered to create a platform for unknown artists. Swizz was willing to use his social capital to validate a platform for lesser known artists & Canon was willing to use its corporate assets to support the platform. Read the full article.

We all have social capital and even if it’s just for one individual, we can validate them. Validation is a form of empowerment. For those of us in organizations (both for-profits and non-profits) it is our responsibility to not only pick up and carry our own trash, but to do no harm and try to leave people, communities and the organizations we find ourselves with and in, better than we found them. #TheUnknowns #Empower