It’s that time of year again.
We know it’s kind of annoying when the phrase “new year, new me” gets overplayed on social media. But really, could there be a better time to plan your glo up?
Pretty soon, people will start announcing their New Year’s resolutions, and if you actually intend on sticking to your 2016 mantra, Teneshia Warner is a great example for inspiration. Regardless of your specific aspirations and/or career paths, her success story is one to know.
The SHE-E-O began her work as an unpaid intern for Russell Simmons and gradually rose up the ladder to become General Manager of Rush Communications before establishing her own business. Egami Consulting Group is now an award-winning marketing firm that’s connected brands such as Verizon Wireless, My Black Is Beautiful, Heineken, General Motors, Dasani, Hennessy, and KFC (just to name with a few) with multicultural consumers.
In anticipation of the New Year, we had the chance to talk to Teneshia about all things self-improvement, including the benefits of HBCUs and successful celebrity businesswomen.
Plus, she discusses her annual two-day conference, the Dream Project Symposium, and shares her tips on how to prosper in 2016.
What are some of the benefits that HBCUs can offer students?
As a student at Alabama A&M University, I got an opportunity to learn about who I was, the Black experience, and my heritage. I definitely would say it played a huge part in my self-confidence, in terms of me just trusting my voice, trusting my opinion, trusting my point of view. I also feel that it was a four-year period of professors preparing me for what the real world was going to look like and how to navigate that real world, stand up for yourself and take a stand in corporate America, where I was not going to be the majority any longer. I also think alumni is a huge part. Just graduating and having this network that looks out for you. Those are some of the benefits.
In this Kardashian world, is there any celebrity whose marketing plan you admire?
I am a huge fan and lover of Oprah Winfrey. I think you can learn a lot from her model. I think very early on in Oprah’s career, she got extremely clear about how she wanted to use her platform to align with her purpose. If you pay attention to every brand deal that she’s done, whether it’s her O network or partnerships with Starbucks or Weight Watchers, every one of those supports individuals in living their best life. She’s a billionaire, and she’s built an enterprise by staying true to her brand’s purpose.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the workplace?
My biggest challenge has been what most people refer to as “work/life balance.” However, for me, a more accurate description of that would be “work/life alignment.” I am so thankful for my dear friend, Jonathan Sprinkles, who landed me on that lightbulb moment. Later in life I came to the realization that, just as my purpose has structured my career path, my purpose must also help me to prioritize my work/life interactions.
So, I am constantly working to align my choices to ensure that they are on track with my purposeful and intentional goals concerning relationships, time management, etc.
Which aspect of your career are you most proud of?
I would say when I was bold enough to follow my passion. When I was bold enough to say no, I’m not going to do this because this is what society expects, I’m not going to do this because this is what my family or grandmother expects, I’m really going to do the soul-searching to see who I am, what I’m passionate about, and then lead a purposeful journey. That’s what I was most proud of, because I think that changed the trajectory of my career. It changed the path that I’m on completely.
Which celebrity businesswomen inspire you?
Of course, Oprah. But also, Cathy Hughes. I love Cathy’s story. She was apart of the Dream Project and she talked about the belief she had to have as an entrepreneur. When she originally launched Radio One, she actually lived within her office with her son. She was a single mom for a number of years. She just represents a strong African-American woman that definitely inspires me. You know who else I like? Miss Robbie. Do you watch Sweetie Pies? (laughs) This woman still has the twinkle in her eye as if she started to dream yesterday. She’s so excited about her cookbook, she’s so excited about opening new restaurants. That says to me that dreaming is truly a journey that should be forever. You can bring passion to this no matter your age.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received from Russell Simmons?
Hands down, it would be this: keep your head down. That says so much to me. He used to always go through the halls and say, “keep your head down, keep your head down.” To me, that means “am I doing what I can do today?” Let me do what I’m doing right now in excellence. I was this person who he provided with an opportunity because I kept pitching myself. I wasn’t on payroll, I was working for free and all he would say to me was, keep your head down. It was about whatever my assignment was for that day, doing it the best I could. If I was getting team-members food, my question was: how do I do this the best? When it was a VP asking me to clean his office, how do I do this the best? Something as simple as cleaning, I took that to a whole new level of creating a spreadsheet for the files and coding everything. To me, it was: this is my moment, my assignment, and how do I do this the best that I can? What I try to do is bring that ‘keep your head down’ spirit into my life every single day. Even now.
What are the tips you have for young dreamers to prosper in 2016?
Tip number one would be to attend the Dream Project on April 21st and 22nd in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquee. The Dream Project consists of keynotes from aspiring dreamers that share their journey, lessons learned, failures and successes.
Other things that we discuss are understanding the business you’re in. In order to understand that, you have to be focused. You have to know your core services. Do the work, so that you know who you are today and who you may need to become in the future. Also, knowing that if you’re going to sign up for an entrepreneur journey, you are signing up to wear multiple hats. Sleepless nights, being stretched beyond your comfort zone, potentially being radical. I think great visionaries are radical and they’re not afraid to be called crazy. So you’re signing up for all that comes with it, the good and the bad. But never quit.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Teneshia Warner