The Phoenix Rising Collective

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She Makes It Beautiful – An Interview with Entrepreneur, Dr. Melissa Crum – Mosaic Education Network

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She Makes It Beautiful (SMIB) encourages and inspires women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams by interviewing and sharing the phenomenal stories of women entrepreneurs who’ve already taken that courageous leap and soared.

I asked entrepreneurs in diverse creative professions to participate, and they were more than willing to pay it forward. So, from opening a dance studio to starting a bakery to grooming pets and everything in between, you’ll read the unique and empowering stories about how these women decided to just make it happen!

Don’t forget! Download your free SMIB Bonus Materials below. Use them as your personal toolkit to help get that dream off the ground. All bonus materials complement the advice and tips given by each of the entrepreneurs.

MelissaCrum_SMIB[thephoenixrisingcollective]This SMIB interview is with the vibrant and passionate, Dr. Melissa Crum, Founder, Education Consultant, and Diversity Practitioner of Mosaic Education Network.

I was happy that I had the opportunity to connect with Melissa, and our conversation was just as I’d hoped it would be – engaging, thought provoking, and full of “light-bulb” moments! (Or as Oprah would say, “Ah-ha moments”) Now, before I share her Q&A, I have to tell you that I am (and have been for a long time) on a mission to find, connect with, and share the entrepreneurial paths and processes of women with a profound purpose to make a difference, to work as love made visible. Melissa is most certainly one of these women.

So, of course, there’s no coincidence at all that her name just seemed to jump off the page at me while I was perusing the YWCA Columbus’s website. I was on the hunt for something totally different; my mind was not on researching entrepreneurs for She Makes It Beautiful. But that’s usually how it happens, right? Looking for one thing, find another; and in this case, for great reason! Her workshop presentation topic, listed among others for a monthly women’s leadership series, piqued my interest; then I saw the name of her business and that was equally as interesting (and creative), so I wanted to know more. I had to know more. I clicked the link to her site, and Wow! Great mission. Innovative work. Purposeful vision. My first thought, “Contact her. Reach out now.” My second thought, “What if she doesn’t respond?” My third: “Do it anyway!” Following my intuition paid off (as it usually does), and the rest I’d say is most certainly magnificent.

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Mosaic Education Network’s mission is to use art, community, and diversity for curriculum development for educators and diversity training for non-profit organizations and businesses. They use contemporary art and action-oriented conversations to facilitate self-reflection and critical thinking for participants in order to establish inclusive learning and working environments.

When and why did you start Mosaic Education Network? What sparked the inspiration?

I was always interested in social justice and teaching, and just learning in general. And I was always involved in art. I knew that I did not want to be in the academy as a professor [in the traditional sense], and people kept telling me that I should do my own thing – working with kids, nonprofits, artists, and teachers. So, I asked myself, “What would doing something on my own look like?” Consulting. And as a consultant the questions became (1) what are the price of my thoughts? (2) How does art make you a better teacher? How can critical thinking and cultural diversity help your nonprofit or business? As a business owner I also asked myself, “How do I pass this down to my children?”

How did you know this is what you are meant to do with your life?

I’m not sure. I continued to insert myself into the academy, and it wasn’t working. I do know, however, that a defining moment was becoming an Imagining America Fellow. Being a part of a national consortium with a focus on arts and humanities and connecting with the community in Buffalo, NY (artists, scholars, and organizers) – people from all walks of life collaborating and discussing how to leverage their connections to do something else – I knew I wasn’t alone!

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What was the process like getting started?

I’m still learning. I’m nowhere close to being a guru. I take advantage of professional development. The Small Business Association has free resources, workshops, and mentors that support the process –  creating a business plan, a marketing plan, filing taxes as a business owner. The road isn’t the same for everyone.

What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from the process?

Ask for help. There will always be people who know more than you. Wise people know they’re not the smartest people in the room. You don’t know everything, so actively ask people! Don’t be afraid to ask, “Can you tell me about this?” Seek out information regardless of what level you think you’re on. Be humble. Just ask. Humble yourself and be willing to receive information.

Was there a pivotal moment when you recognized what you were doing would be successful?

The response to the Network, teachers are responding to it so positively. A colleague and I wrote an academic book chapter and submitted a proposal that received lots of great feedback; we’ve presented in several places. The Network started officially in January, and the response has been very positive.

I’ll be a presenter at TEDxColumbus on May 28th. I’m looking forward to that as well; I’m excited about it.

[Melissa presented A Tale of Two Teachers: Educating on Racism Through Art at TEDxColumbus Women 2015 – The Power in Our Story: Own It. Take a look at the video of her presentation below. You can also check out TEDxColumbus’s blog, Follow This, to read Melissa’s first steps to what’s next on her presentation topic. Here’s the link: Inspiration Good. Action Better. What Next?]

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[Photo Credit: TEDxColumbus]

What do you love most about what you do?

Flexibility and control – I get to decide with whom I want to work with. Education – I want to work with those who want to learn. I did not want to work within the constraints of education in certain aspects. I enjoy learning, and the business provides that platform for learning new things. I am also gaining more self-confidence in negotiation, and it’s important to have assertiveness in owning who you are and what you bring to the table.

How do you maintain a healthy balance in your personal and professional life?

I have a son, and he comes wherever I go.

I also connect with women/friends who have or want to start their own businesses; people who can hold me accountable – my accountability partners. (I particularly need this when it comes to social media marketing. We check in with each other: “OK, what did you post today?”)

Every other week I meet with like-minded business partners.

Whenever I need to do something different, to step outside my comfort zone, I just do it!

I also have a sister circle, and I meet with them to have brunch/lunch to decompress.

Lastly, what advice can you give to women seeking to fulfill their own entrepreneurial dreams?

Don’t be afraid. And don’t expect others to validate your dreams because they won’t be able to. You’ll keep yourself from the possibilities by trying to gain the approval of others. Seek out like-minded people.

Melissa further explained why it’s dangerous to continuously seek validation from others and the importance of building like-minded support systems by offering an inspiring analogy about the Giraffe and the Turtle from Bishop TD Jakes, “When you are a giraffe and you receive criticism from turtles, they are reporting the view from the level they are on.”  She also expressed, unfortunately, this may include family and friends who just don’t understand. “It’s not that the giraffes are better than the turtle at all, it’s just that they can only see things from their own perspective or experience.”

For more on Melissa and the trailblazing work she’s doing in her community, please visit Mosaic Education Network; and by all means, follow her social network, HERE.

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Remember, you’re building your SMIB Entrepreneurial Toolkit! Didn’t get your bonus materials from the last interview? Well, go back, recap, and download it HERE.

Tell us what you think, Phoenix!

We want to hear about how you are inspired by Dr. Melissa Crum, as well as your experience building your Accountability Partnerships and Professional Development/Resources for your own business in the comment section below. You can also share a snapshot of how you used the SMIB bonus materials on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag: #SMIB #thephoenixrisingcollective

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About the Contributing Writer:

ayanna_sidebar[photo]Ayanna Jordan is founder and self-esteem education consultant of The Phoenix Rising Collective; she is also the editor-in-chief for Phoenix Shine, The PRC’s blog and spirit-affirming online community. She has always had a passion for inspiring others through writing, coaching, and teaching. Her diverse career experiences have positively shaped her overall perspective on what it truly means to be a change agent: “I believe a change agent is someone who is in alignment with what she loves to do, and then connects, utilizes, and shares that love to make a difference and transform lives.” Learn more about Ayanna HERE.


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She Makes It Beautiful – An Interview with Entrepreneur, Suzan Bradford Kounta

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She Makes It Beautiful (SMIB) encourages and inspires women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams by interviewing and sharing the phenomenal stories of women entrepreneurs who’ve already taken that courageous leap and soared.

We’ve asked entrepreneurs in diverse, creative professions to participate, and they were more than willing to pay it forward. From opening a dance studio to starting a bakery to grooming pets and everything in between, you’ll read the unique and empowering stories about how these women decided to just go for it.

Don’t forget! Download your free SMIB Bonus Materials below. Use them as your personal toolkit to help get that dream off the ground. All bonus materials complement the advice and tips give by the entrepreneurs.

 

PhotoGrid_1425438086959This SMIB interview is with Suzan Bradford Kounta, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Thiossane West African Dance Institute.

When and why did you start the Thiossane West African Dance Institute?

Thiossane was conceived in 2000. However, I had been working toward its birth since 1990. My life experiences encouraged me to become a CEO, Chief Executive of Opportunity; I was directed to manage businesses in a creative and innovative way that blended the past and present.

What sparked the inspiration?

I wanted to create a career from my passion. I am fueled when I can provide or create opportunities that allow people to grow through their creativity.

How did you know this is what you are meant to do with your life?

When I learned about whom I belong to and who I am, it was very clear what I was supposed to do. My ancestors and mother were always an example of my purpose. My lineage found through my mother’s DNA reiterated my character, values, and beliefs. Everyday, I am reminded of my purpose on this earth. Everyday I am faced with challenges that propel me forward, even when it is a struggle. I was planted to prosper, and nurtured to endure and witness my accomplishments. I am humble and grateful always to be a vehicle for the greater good of people.

What was the process like getting started?

It was a struggle. My business was rooted in social services and the not-for-profit art world. It was not popular and people shunned the activity and were ignorant to the significance of the art form. I taught myself the nature of the business and learned through my jobs how best to grow it through the skills I acquired and the knowledge gained over the years.

What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from the process?

I learned several, but the one that has provided longevity for me is to measure and evaluate from my own statistics. If I were to measure the success of The Institute to that of larger companies, I would have and should have failed along time ago. I believe wholeheartedly in what the Institute has provided for children, young adults, families, single moms, single dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, families who adopt outside their race, and people with special needs.

Was there a pivotal moment when you recognized what you were doing would be successful?

Because I have been nurturing this passion for 25 years all the while having an awesome supporting cast and great friends who are intelligent, passionate, and share in my likeness, I was able to align the mission and vision of the Institute into a place of upward mobility that is steady and strong. That coupled with nostalgia and innovation allowed multiple opportunities to grow our audiences and increase our revenue. Yes, by business standards, profits, profits, profits are the measure of success, but for the Institute, the number of people who are impacted by participating, engaging, or performing within Thiossane is and will always be our greatest success.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love that we empower young people through a set of values to govern themselves not only on the dance floor, but also, specifically, in their lives. These values will encourage and support their endeavors and will strengthen and provide resilience in their challenges. I love that people can dance and play music as if no one is watching, and I love the richness of the African Diaspora and how it is threaded through our daily lives – giving peace, harmony, and overall good feelings to one’s soul, to one’s spirit.

How do you maintain a healthy balance in your personal and professional life?

My maternal grandmother’s adage was “A Healthy Body is A Healthy Mind.” I was taught early to take care and manage myself, to exercise all my beings – mental, physical, emotional, and most importantly, my spiritual being. I taught myself to be selfish about my time and the energy I receive from others.

Lastly, what advice can you give to women seeking to fulfill their own entrepreneurial dreams?

  1. Stay true to your vision.
  2. Be confident in what you know.
  3. Take risks.
  4. Seek knowledge.
  5. Be creative.
  6. Have your own measuring stick.
  7. Create a welcoming space for yourself – personally and professionally.
  8. Demonstrate due diligence in all that you do.
  9. Travel the world.
  10. Speak another language.
  11. Manage only what you can; slow growth is good growth.
  12. Don’t be greedy.
  13. Protect your passion and ideas.
  14. Potentiate those around.
  15. Make money.
  16. Be happy in all that you do.

 

Learn more about Suzan Bradford Kounta HERE.

Tell us what you think, Phoenix!

We want to hear about how you are inspired by Suzan Bradford Kounta, as well as your experience goal-setting and planning for your business in the comment section below. You can also share a snapshot of how you used the SMIB bonus materials on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag: #SMIB 

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Are You Aware of Your Breathing?

The Phoenix Rising Collective

Sometimes (well, most of the time) all you need is a deep breath to bring clarity to a situation and/or to lighten the load. Whether it’s a big decision you have to make or a matter of seeing things from a different perspective, don’t hold your breath in the process of figuring it out. Breathe.

Release anxiety and worry by slowly and consciously inhaling and exhaling your way through it. Surrender. And with each exhale visualize what letting go looks like for you.

Lastly, repeat an affirmation that supports this intentional breathing practice; here are a few of my favorite:

  • I am easily and divinely guided to solve my challenges. All is well.
  • I let go and the universe lovingly takes care of me.
  • I am light and love; it exudes from me and is part of all that I do.
  • I commit to peace within myself and to peace with others.

Take a breath! Be self-love in action. Happy Sunday, Phoenix! Create a positive week.

 

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ayanna_sidebar[photo]Ayanna Jordan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Phoenix Rising Collective. She has always had a passion for inspiring others, particularly women, and especially through writing, coaching, and teaching. She is happy The PRC provides an opportunity for her to write about one of her favorite topics: self-care, as she believes that true wellness begins within – healing old wounds, forgiving others (and yourself), letting go of the past, eating healthy foods, making room for change, sustaining a positive attitude, and taking time for spiritual practice, are all a part of the journey to authenticity. Right now, she is most inspired by Love Yourself First! Friday. Learn more about it HERE.


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Make a Declaration, Not a Resolution! Be Self-Love in Action.

HEY, PHOENIX! What’s on your agenda for New Year’s Eve? Whatever you’re planning our hope is that it involves some reflection on 2012. The word, Sankofa, in the Akan language, means to ‘go back and fetch it.’ In other words, know your past, to understand your future. Have you examined your personal past? Are you conscious of your actions and decisions? Your habits (great, good, bad, ugly)? What are you manifesting?
185562447117757956_5pYNiRSK_cLet’s be clear, DON’T dwell; that isn’t healthy (and for goodness sake, forgive yourself for mistakes). However, DO gain some understanding as to why you do what you do. Right? Go back and fetch it! In order to break old patterns and for positive change to occur, self-reflection is necessary. So, instead of making another ‘tired’ resolution (yes, we said it!), have the courage to make a promise, a real declaration for some part of your life. What do you really want? Are you willing to do the work to bring it to fruition?

Reflect. Visualize. Declare. Act.

Go ahead, I love myself; therefore, I promise to___________________. I declare that I will_____________________.

And so it is!

Happy 2013, Phoenix! Be self-love in action.