Colors of Her Success

This conversation introduces Mia, the founder of Colors of Her Success, a media company that highlights high-powered women of color and helps Black women navigate careers. Mia discusses starting the company to promote representation and share professional development advice she learned. She talks about hosting networking events and plans to launch a private membership club called Colors Connect for Black women navigating corporate America. 

You currently run a successful media company called Colors of Her Success. It has everything from podcasts to a newsletter to events. Tell me how it started.

Yeah, so The Colors of Her Success started as a platform for me to highlight high-powered women of color. I became obsessed with the concept of representation ever since I was in high school and introduced to Olivia Pope. She changed my life. I want a platform that highlights the real Olivia Popes that give a young woman confidence. I want something that makes them feel like they can own the room, be the boss, and be fly and elegant while they’re doing it. Over the years, though, I became sort of a professional development nerd. I was very interested in how to help young professionals navigate their careers; how can I get them into six-figure jobs? How can I make them feel like they’re getting quality career advancement? At the same time, I’m navigating corporate America for the first time. I’m seeing that there is a need specifically to help Black women because corporate America is not designed for us. It is not set up for us to win. And it’s like playing a game without the rules, right? For me, it became important to not only highlight the women in powerful positions but to also help women get there themselves.

Did you have mentors or people guiding you that gave you all this information? And now you’re passing it on? Or did you just essentially do it through trial and error? And you’re like, hey, I don’t want anybody else to have to figure it out the hard way like I did. Where did all of this come from?

Yeah, very much my experience. I want to share my experience with somebody else. I’m from Prince George’s County, Maryland. I don’t know if too many people are familiar with it, but it is one of the wealthiest predominantly Black counties in the United States. I think they may have moved down to like three, but while I was growing up, we were number one. So, I grew up in sort of a Black utopia with successful Black people all around me. When I saw my teachers and my neighbors in my community members all being well-off and well-to-do, it inspired me to show the world.

College must’ve been a lot different from where you grew up. Was there a culture shock? How was that experience?

So, I grew up in Prince George’s County in this sort of Black utopia. But then I go to a PWI, intentionally. I needed to see what the world was like outside of this bubble. And so that’s what I did. My love for professional development started on campus when I worked at the Career Center my entire time throughout college. I was helping over 1200 students a year work on their resumes, cover letters, and prepare their interview skills. I noticed a trend that nobody is making this information relatable. But this is what gets you the six-figure jobs, this is what gets you into the room, and I don’t think people paid enough attention. I decided I was going to make this as cool as possible. That became a facet of Colors of Her Success. I’m going to teach this in the most relatable way.

Colors of her success is a digital thing in the digital world. But you’ve also done events. I’m not sure if you started initially wanting to do events, or if that’s something that came on over time. Tell me about the transition from a website to your first event.

I did not plan on doing events at all. I was very nervous to do them. It’s kind of like the fear of when you’re a kid throwing a birthday party. You feel like no one’s going to come. I know that the girls liked the brand. I know that they’re getting a lot from the brand. Will they show up for the brand? And so for me, I know that there is a subset of like 20 to 30 girls who are moving and shaking in corporate in their own way. I want to bring them together and just have an experience with each other. We’ll keep it small. We’ll keep it intimate. It’ll be free for everybody. I secured a few small sponsors, but primarily paid for it out of my pocket because I wanted to provide that experience. And what was so important about it was the data I got after it. I got to see what the women were looking for in networking events. Why does networking typically feel so overwhelming, but when you do it in a controlled environment, it feels a little bit better? I got to see how our generation interacts with corporate executives. We had two executive C-suite Executive Women at the event, doing a fireside chat, and I moderated it. I got to understand the bridge between where we are in corporate right now at this level, and where they are. It was beautiful to see them be able to, in a very relaxed setting, give the game. The young women had the opportunity to ask and pick their brains. That evolved into me throwing an event twice a year just to see how I could mold and shape this. Some of the things that I’ve understood to be very successful with the events are having it intimately and having some sort of networking activity. I’m very intentional about giving people opportunities to connect on a deeper level. But without the sort of fluff in the conversations. Then finally, there’ll be some sort of fireside chat from an executive. That’s where you can have that moment of transparency and vulnerability and get put on.

In these rooms, there are two, probably three generations of women. There are the executives, which is an older generation, and then there are the people who are coming to network trying to figure out how to get there. What do you think is the biggest disconnect in the generations?

I don’t see that much of a disconnect. I think, when we get into these rooms together, young women can see the experiences that they’re going through today, in fellow future selves in the executive women, and the executives are seeing their past selves in the young professionals. We see each other in every way. Their journey is my journey. My journey is your journey. The way we are moving as young professionals and as Black women in corporate today, we are striving to get to the top. These executives also have had this level of hunger at some point in their careers, but they recognize that our hunger needs to be tamed a little bit. It needs to be tamed, shaped, and molded.

If I had to name a disconnect it’s how young people tend to rush the process. Whenever I ask executives what would be your advice to Gen Z? What should we be doing differently? What should we be doing better? They’re always like, you must take your time. Like, I think we are so hungry, that we expect everything to come very quickly. We’re used to this society of instant gratification. The executives are trying to teach us we’re not there yet. Take your time, learn your lessons, and don’t try to rush the process. So I would say if there’s a disconnect, that would be the one that I’ve noticed.

You plan on having a membership situation. I’m not sure if it’s digital or in person, but where people pay a subscription fee. In exchange they have access to networking events as well as other things. It seems like you’re moving further and further into the in-person stuff. And a certain level of exclusivity. You mentioned the word intimate before, meaning that you’re not thinking about serving everyone, this is a small and select group. What’s the story with that?

I am launching a private networking membership for Black women called The Color Connect. This is the first of its kind because we are the only membership club that is specifically focused on entry to mid-level Black women. With this club, my goal is to really mobilize the next generation of C-suite executives. How can we take that exclusive element that we’ve had at my events before where there is an executive in the room and then there are high-achieving young professionals in the room and allow for constant teaching and coaching? It’s going to be an application-based membership subscription that you subscribe to quarterly. The application process is so critical and I want to do that because I need to make sure your intentions for being in this club are pure. Many people want to join things just because they look good, but I want to make sure you are willing to put in what it takes to get to the next level. There’s so much importance in having like-minded women around you. I want to make sure every member is on the same page, otherwise there won’t be a connection.

The reason I wanted to move to a membership model is because though the Colors of Her Success started as a resource, it turned into a community. I privately launched a pilot mastermind group as an experiment to see what would happen if I created this space for young Black women in corporate America to talk about our experiences. That experiment, which grew only by word of mouth, which was a group chat, ended up blossoming into 130 members happening over a year. We were having very specific and nuanced career conversations, having coffee chats with executives, and then chapters naturally started forming. I started seeing “hubs” pop up. We have a hub in the DMV, we have a hub in Charlotte, and we now have a hub in Dallas, where those girls are getting together for dinner or happy hours without me having to be there. So the next step was, I started doing events for them. How can I take this to the next level and monetize it so that I can offer more to members?

We were having very specific and nuanced career conversations. Being a part of The Color Connect, you will be connected to a community of high-powered executives, receive 1:1 career coaching, and be able to participate in bi-weekly masterclasses. You’ll be with women who you would have never been connected to on any given day unless you were a part of this club. It spread solely by word of mouth. It’s this secret community that we’re going to take to the next level and offer more. One of the big offerings of Color Connect is going to be the speakers. We’re bringing in high-powered executives who are ready to share insider secrets to put these women on to the things you need to know to get ahead: Promotion, salary negotiation, building your board of directors, all those things. I’m excited. I’m also absolutely terrified. But one thing I know is that there’s absolutely a need for space like this.

A website is one thing, zoom is another, and a group chat is another, but getting people to leave their homes is a whole other game.

Yeah. Often, people don’t know how to lead a gathering. They don’t want to make rules. They don’t want to set a specific intention for the gathering. And then you get all these people together and they’re not doing much and they’re not connecting. It becomes a who’s who. So as the host, I’ve mastered the art of throwing any events that are meaningful and that build connection. We’re leaving here with something. Either I’m leaving with a friend, I’m leaving with an executive connection, or I’m leaving here with advice on what actionable steps I need to take.

Is this going to be a separate company from Colors of Her Success? Or is this the next phase of colors for success?

It’s a part of The Colors of Her Success. The way I would describe it is that the Colors of Her Success is the resource. This is open to everybody who wants to learn. That is what that is. But the Color Connect is the service. This is the community that you strive to be a part of.

Are we looking at a summer launch?

June 1 if all things go right. I’m hoping things go well. I’m almost preparing for something to throw me off. But I’m trying to stick to the June 1 schedule so we can open membership again in September. But that’s the thing about these things, right? We create these deadlines. We’re so hard on ourselves if we miss them, but we created them. It’s all made up. Ideally, I would like the first group to come in on June 1, then do that for a quarter, and then open it back up in September.

Will you be opening and closing it quarterly or this is just how you want to roll it out?

It’s a quarterly commitment. The women who are in the club will be paying quarterly, but they have to recommit every quarter. Every quarter new girls come in, and then old girls recommit if they so choose. I didn’t want to be too strict with the annual model. I also didn’t want to do a biannual model. I want them to have time to determine if this is for them and 3 months feels like an appropriate amount of time to do that.

You’re giving them a few months to see what It does for them.

Yeah, it may not be for you and that’s okay..

That’s real. So now you’re moving into full event mode. And you’re taking everything you’re doing to the next level. As you mentioned, when you first started, this probably wasn’t the plan. In the life of an entrepreneur, sometimes you start something and then ideas take a mind of their own, and then they turn into something else. Right now, when you look back at everything you did to get to this point, does it feel like everything was leading to this?

Yeah. Everything. Everything led to this. Every failure. Every moment of uncertainty. Every moment where I was knocked up against this wall. I can only say that now that I’m here. But at the moment, there was no way I would have known what this could have been. At one point I was sure we were going to be a media platform highlighting high-powered women’s journey to success.  I was thinking it’s going to be a media platform and creating content. My embarking on my career journey and learning that corporate America is a space where Black women need more support – helped me define the audience I wanted to serve. Being able to be fearless in making a career mistake and recovering quickly. I’m not afraid to network with executives and shoot my shot via LinkedIn and see if they want to talk to me or be part of the brand. And now that I’ve built that level of executive connection, I’m able to get the speakers to come, participate, drive this, and champion it with their networks. I also was named LinkedIn’s top voice of 2022. I’m just posting career content for Colors of Her Success. I was building our brand the best way I knew how to talk to my audience, and LinkedIn took notice. LinkedIn is telling the world that out of all the creators, they told me I was one of the top voices for job searching and careers for 2022. For me, that was so validating and a reminder that I’m not an imposter. I know what I’m talking about. And I don’t know so much that I needed their validation, but I valued that it was credibility for my personal brand and Colors.

It was nice to be recognized. All these moments built up into launching The Color Connect. Launching could have been a big impostor syndrome moment. But I’m reminding myself you’ve been doing this girl. You’ve been doing it.

You’ve been doing this for a few years.

I’m just ready. The past year has been so much data collecting. It’s so much learning and just experiencing that I’m able to come into 2024 this year and really go for it. I haven’t talked about it. And I haven’t really reflected on it. I’m doing it in real-time with you. The brand is evolving right before my eyes. I’m trying to catch up with it.

Now that we’re here, and you’ve done all these things, I’m sure the road wasn’t smooth. Tell me about some of the obstacles that you find yourself dealing with that you may not have planned on. You’ve pivoted two or three times. Were you pivoting because of obstacles or because of opportunity? And if it was obstacles, tell us about a couple.

I think I pivoted a lot because of the obstacles. Everything that didn’t work out taught me the direction I should have been going. Another huge thing I had to learn was that I think the way I would describe it is that your gifts will only take you as far as your healing. And I had so much personal healing to do that I was getting in my own way. Being Me being a founder, I had such an insecurity in putting myself out there that it showed up in the business. I would put the content out there and be uncomfortable about it. The way I would talk about the brand to people was belittling. Like “Oh that? It’s just this small thing I do on the side.” I just didn’t have the confidence to really say, “This is my brand, this is what I’m doing, and this is why it matters.” I just couldn’t do that. I realized this year, and this is the fifth year that I’ve run this platform, that my hesitancy or lack of confidence is hindering the brand. I was getting in my own way because, at this point, the brand is bigger than you. People know the brand before they know you. You must learn how to speak about this brand as if it is the most popping thing ever. There was a level of evolving that I had to do personally. Additionally, when moments of failure happened, I would take it personally. I would take it as I’m a failure and I attached my worth and my identity to the business doing well or not doing well. Another moment of personal work and healing that I had to do in order like, “You need to fix that. You have to have a separation. You have to work through this personally, to show up better for the brand. ” I think people don’t sit with themselves a lot. Meditation as a founder has been big for me, like being able to observe my thoughts and be able to observe how I’m feeling. That really helped shift my perspective as a business owner.

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