Before we begin, let's set the stage. The purpose of this interview series is to inspire and encourage millennials to take the leap into entrepreneurship or give advice to those currently on the journey.
This series will highlight millennial entrepreneurs in a wide range of industries who are offering services, products and resources to their audiences.
Throughout the next couple of weeks you will have the chance to read the stories of millennial trailblazers who are designers, social ambassadors, photographers, and more. I hope you are inspired!
In this Mindshift Interview, I have Brianna Alexander of Detroit Speaks Inc. During this interview, we deep dived into all things business, influencing the future and more. Brianna is a light in every meaning of the sense. And her energy can instantly brighten any room. She genuinely has a heart to serve others. So much so, she was compelled to start her own non profit and begin the journey of entrepreneurship. Here, she shares the gems she's discovered while navigating the world of non profits. Get your journal out or open up the notes app because Brianna isn't holding back. Check out our interview, below.
Behind the Person
Tell a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Hey Mindshifters! My name is Brianna Alexander, and I am Detroit, Michigan native currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science from Howard University, and became a Master of Public Administration at Georgia State University.
I currently serve as the Community Volunteer Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta where I manage large-scale volunteer projects and service initiatives for 13 counties in Georgia. Outside of my work at United Way, I am a philanthropic consultant, the co-founder of a rising nonprofit organization named Detroit Speaks, and I have recently joined the blogging world with my website BriannaAlexander.com.
What is one quote you live by? Give an example of how you’ve applied this quote in your journey.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what the next person doing, and compare ourselves to others and their respective journeys. We all are guilty of this! When you are walking in your purpose, what’s yours is YOURS. We are all born with purpose, and no two people are here for the same reason. I wake up every day knowing that I am competing with NO ONE, and that alone keeps me strong throughout my journey.
What’s one habit you have developed that you feel as though has aided in your overall journey?
Really believing, and trusting that God’s timing is perfect, is HARD…okay? But I have so much proof that God is always right on time, that I can’t throw anymore side-eye when I hear someone say “Trust God’s timing”. Every setback, heartbreak, disappointment, or shortcoming is all a part of your journey. All things are always working for your good. I began to look at personal journey totally different when I realized that I am always in good hands, despite all.
All Things Business
How did Detroit Speaks Inc come to form? What was the idea that started it all?
About three years ago, I was up late one night thinking about all of the service projects that I have completed in both Washington, D.C and Atlanta, and I instantly felt like I was neglecting my hometown! Detroit Speaks actually started as a one-day workshop that I wanted to complete for youth in Detroit that aspire to attend college, start businesses, and be more involved with service projects. I called two of my close friends, Danielle Hughes and Jasmine Swain, and asked if they would help me and Detroit Speaks was born.
What’s the purpose of the Detroit Speaks Inc? What problems or pain points are you looking to solve through this platform?
Detroit Speaks seeks to give young people the opportunity to find their voice, amidst all of the pressures that comes along with making college and/or career decisions.
Detroit Speaks also provides individuals like me that no longer live in Detroit the opportunity to give back from wherever they are located. We offer virtual mentorship, networking opportunities, and offer opportunities to participate in our speaker series online.
There are so many questions that many of us needed answered before graduating high school that our parents were not able to answer. From determining whether to take the ACT or SAT, to ordering transcripts, Detroit Speaks would like to be a source to anyone who is looking pursue higher education or ready to jump into the workforce.
There are a lot of misconceptions about running a nonprofit based business, like lack of funding or difficulty obtaining partnerships. What’s the biggest myth you’ve learned to be untrue?
What?! Why not. Just because you have similar missions, doesn’t mean that you have the same resources. Don’t miss your blessings. Yes, it is true that nonprofit organizations are always competing for funding, but most granters prefer to know that you are leveraging all of your resources and are seeking strategic partnerships in order to sustain your programming.
Side Note: Realize now that you are not to accept every offer to collaborate. Determine how both parties will benefit from partnering and potential cons. Know your worth and your “why”.
Did you always have a passion for nonprofits or philanthropy? What sparked your interest?
I have always loved participating in service projects and helping others, but I never thought of making a career of it. While pursuing my B.A in Political Science, I was sure that I wanted to work on Capitol Hill and eventually become a big time government official. After having the opportunity to intern for Ford Motor Company’s Business and Governmental Affairs division in D.C, I decided that life wasn’t for me. I wanted to be able to see the impact that I was making on the community with my own two eyes. I’m forever grateful for that internship because it helped me realize the importance of listening to my spirit and following my passion.
As an entrepreneur, often you are required to make tough decisions. On the topic of: Competition vs Collaboration. What is the biggest myth you’ve learned to be untrue?
Give an example of how collaboration has benefited the Detroit Speaks Inc.
Without collaboration, Detroit Speaks would not exist. Our organization has had the opportunity to collaborate with schools, nonprofits, individuals, and businesses in order to execute volunteer projects and events for the community. These collaborations have allowed us to push our mission, and make greater impact. At the end of the day, choosing not to collaborate (especially as a nonprofit) can potentially hurt you more than it’ll help you.
For a business to thrive the leader must thrive as well. What self – care routines or rituals are a necessity for keeping you sane while growing your business or brand?
Let me take this as an opportunity to shout out my friends, family, and co-workers. Hey y’all! There is nothing that I can’t do with them by my side. Those close to me know how much I love what I do, but they certainly keep me balanced and remind me to celebrate every win!
But what’s even more important is that those around me know that when I am in work-mode, I’m in my zone and not to take it personal. When it comes to self-care and rituals, I am always sure to start and end my day by talking and listening to God.
What marketing strategies have you used to attract and find new leads for business growth?
Our team has been able to locate and connect with so many other nonprofit agencies, corporations, and individuals that would like to give back simply by staying connected to Facebook and Instagram.
We like to keep everyone in the loop with what’s going on with our organization, and have no problem with communicating our needs! Close mouths don’t get fed. Partnerships and collaboration opportunities will never just appear in your e-mail inbox because you have your fingers crossed.
Customer Service or the customer’s overall experience is crucial when it comes to brand longevity. What experiences have you created for your clientele or audience?
When it comes to Detroit Speaks, my priority clientele is the community, specifically high-school aged students. We listen to their questions, concerns, and needs. From the information that we gather, we are able to create sound programming and events that cater to those who we are serving.
What tools or systems are a necessity for running your business smoothly?
My team and I love using Zoho for e-mail communications!
- Not only does this application allow you to create e-mail addresses using your domain name (for FREE!), we are able to share calendars, and documents with ease.
What are some accomplishments of Detroit Speaks Inc? And where do you see its future?
Detroit Speaks, Inc. blows my mind. Seriously. Like I previously mentioned, this organization started off as a one day workshop but has turned into so much more! We have hosted service projects with local nonprofit agencies, hosted workshops related to S.T.E.M education, back-to-school drives, launched a mentorship program, and hosted several webinars answering common questions of the youth that we work with. In the future we would like to complete college tours, travel to schools and college readiness workshops, increase the number of webinars that we host, and create more impactful service projects in the community.
I describe a Mindshift as a moment in time, where one realizes, there is more to life than what society has told. Can you describe your Mindshift moment?
I’m a first generation college student, so those close to me believed that getting a Bachelor’s degree would instantly lead to this epic career at a Fortune 100 company. But that wasn’t my dream, and it certainly wasn’t my passion. I decided that if I was going to take my nonprofit career to the next level, I needed to pursue my MPA in Nonprofit Management. There was so much confusion around why I would need to complete more school in order to work in “non” profit, but I decided to take a chance on myself!
What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs?
Why did you start your organization? Managing a nonprofit organization can be absolutely draining. You are always going to be seeking funding, planning events, and looking for new ways to positively impact the lives of the population that you serve. Collaboration is not only imperative for making the greatest impact, but for finding a dependable support system.
Lastly, think about what living life on your own terms means to you. Describe your ideal situation.
As of late, I have really been learning to master being PRESENT in my own life. There is so much going on around us, we are always working rigorously to check things off of our to-do list, and we simply forget to live in the moment. Living in the moment does not mean making spontaneous or terrible financial decisions, or jumping off of a building. It means being present in your daily interactions with people, realizing the relevancy of the conversations that you have, and just being grateful for another day of seeing the sunrise. Living life on my own terms means that I am present.