Small Business Interview: Kristi Jackson, Women CEO Project
Today's amazing interview is with the very successful Kristi Jackson, a business strategist and founder of Women CEO Project, a global business development firm for female entrepreneurs. Kristi has many accomplishments under her belt including her own business magazine, several successful entrepreneur events & summits, working with multiple clients globally and even being recognized for her work to improve the lives of female entrepreneurs by the White House. I'm honored to have Kristi share her knowledge with us. She shares a wealth of tips and advice so get ready to take some notes - Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services and products do you offer?
I’m Kristi Jackson, founder of Women CEO Project. Women CEO Project is a global business development firm built specifically for women entrepreneurs although we have many men who come to our classes and events. We offer business lessons, online & live classes and workshops and we also have a business events center in Houston TX called Behind The Grind, where other business owners can rent out space for events, workshops, and meetings in order to expand their own businesses.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I had been in real estate for about 13 years and I was finding it hard to find events that offered real tangible business training and not just pep talks or empowerment. I attended several events in Houston and in other states to see if I could find events that would help me gain business information, the do and don’ts, specific guidelines etc but there was nothing.
So I started what I needed. Women CEO Project will be 5 years in August and I’m very proud to say we’ve worked with thousands of businesses all over the world providing them with that tangible business information.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
One of my biggest accomplishments was being invited to the White House in 2012 to be recognized for Women CEO Project and for my work to better the lives of women entrepreneurs. Before being invited to the White House, Women CEO Project was my side business while my real estate business was my main business as it paid all the bills. Once I got recognized by the White House i took the two days that i was there in DC to do some serious thinking and when I got back home I decided to put in my best efforts to turn Women CEO Project into a full time business.
Another big accomplishment of mine was starting the Women of Power Virtual Summit which I started in 2012 as well. This summit was the first of its kind featuring 15 business women from around the world on a virtual streaming platform teaching for one hour each. The first year it had over 1300 attendees, the second year it had over 3000 attendees.
The event went over really well. I’m very proud because it hadn’t been done before but I did it and it was this event that got me recognized to go to the White House. My first full pledged serious marketing plan was based off of this event and i used social media heavily and I heard some people from the White house had seen this.
My third big accomplishment would be Power Culture Magazine, a digital magazine for women entrepreneurs which I created without knowing how to create a magazine. We ran the magazine for two years and we are actually planning to relaunch it this year with new features.
Each issue averaged about 450,000 readers and it was an amazing teaching product for women and men that was being read all over the world. The cover of our second issue was actually Barbara Cochran of the tv show Shark Tank. I’m very excited about the women that will be in our upcoming issues.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
I didn't see profits until the third year of Women CEO Project. For the first couple of years, it was my real estate business that paid for everything. It wasn’t until my accountant did my taxes and told me how much I had spent on Women CEO Project and once I saw that very large number that I realized I needed to turn Women CEO Project into a full-time business and start charging.
One bit of advice I would give here is that you should start charging at the beginning and then plan to increase your prices as you grow and gain more experience because you will get many people who will come to you at the beginning because you are free but they might not be the type of client that will grow with you.
If you are in business and you have a product that costs money you are going to need to start charging for it and you are going to want to have clients that want to pay for your goods and services.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
A lot of people who call themselves business coaches have no formal training. I don’t think you necessarily need to have any formal training to call yourself a coach although it helps. It depends on what level you want to teach. One thing that separates me is that I have a mastery level degree in business so it isn’t just what I’ve learned on my feet. In addition to my degree I also started learning and reading at the age of 19 and I’m 36 now so I’ve been working on this for a very long time even before the degree.
I have read over 400 business books and when I started grad school I had already read every book we were being asked to read. These are some of the things I bring to the table and as a result, I charge for that mastery level degree and I charge for my experience. Each year I learn more and create more and my experience grows I charge more.
For instance, now I am very well versed in creating a global business plan because I have taken my business global and have traveled several times this year already and so with each level of experience I gain, I change my prices. The more companies I work with, the more clients I get under my belt, I change my prices.
What mistakes, if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
One big thing was not charging for my services. When I started charging two years into my business, I lost a lot of people and it was very stressful and also an interesting transition. Before I started charging, people would say I was offering gold nuggets but when I started charging (and I started charging as low as $12 to attend an event) people started questioning everything and it was really very hurtful but it was also very interesting to see.
It wasn’t a smooth transition because it went from having 100 people at an event to having 40 and I had to question what I was doing wrong but I realized I am a business owner who sells products services, events and consulting and I have to charge. It also helped me realize who was really interested in what I had to offer.
Another mistake would be leaving money on the table. If you were to look at our social media like Instagram, Facebook etc. it looks like we don’t leave any money on the table and for the most part we don’t but it is something I cautiously work on every month because even with all our experience we still leave money on the table. For instance by not leveraging technology the way that we should all the time, we don’t use all the resources available to us as much as possible. If we sat down and picked two or three resources to really focus on it would be amazing what we could create.
Also one of the biggest mistakes is asking for permission and many of my clients come to me with this issue. It was one of my own biggest mistakes that I went to my coach with (I keep a coach and I believe all coaches should have a coach). I didn’t start seeing amazing changes in my life and in my business until I stopped asking for permission. Asking if I could do a magazine, be an author, have a conference, when I should have just done it and learnt it along the way.
One of the biggest ways I bounce back is to give myself time to fail. As a black woman, I can tell you that sometimes we are treated like boys. You are not supposed to cry, you are supposed to be tough and be strong and we get so caught up in not feeling and not experiencing the pain, grief and frustration we need to feel. I remember watching Iyanla Vanzant a few years ago and one thing she said that stuck with me was to just “feel it” and it really affected me because I wasn’t allowing myself to do that. Going through the feeling is one of the best things you can do for yourself not matter how bad it is. It will help you both on a personal and business level.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
One of the most important elements is to take yourself seriously. This is another area that many of my clients come to me with – they are superstars with their 9 to 5 jobs – there early staying late - but when it comes to their own business, it’s always optional. But your own business, your livelihood, cannot be optional. When you take yourself seriously, just like you would when you work for someone else, its amazing what can happen.
I get up every morning at a particular time and if I were to wake up at 8 am I feel like I’m up late. I hold all my independent contractors accountable, it’s really really serious and it one of the most important elements of running a successful small business. You also want to make sure you are charging your worth and that you are worth every penny that you charge.
Coming out and saying “I am a business coach” will mean nothing to you reading this but what means something to you is if I put out information and content that actually shows I am worth your money. In addition to that, I honor and respect my business by charging what I’m worth.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
- Make sure you charge your worth
- Charge from the beginning
- Put time energy and effort into your marketing and branding
- Become an advanced study in your area of business in order to be able to compete in 2016. You can't just dibble and dabble, you have to be advanced in marketing. Read books study marketing.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
I use waveapps.com – it keeps up with all of my invoices for my consulting clients. If you pay for consulting on my website or my events center it goes through Wave Apps, It helps me know how much I've made so far for the year. You definitely want to keep up with how much is coming in and how much is going out from the very beginning.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
This has been a challenge for me and I think that balance is going to look different for everyone because you have different responsibilities and a different life so it's hard to compare your version of balance to someone else’s or you will be very frustrated. My version of balance is to work work work work and then take a vacation but not everyone is able to work this way but to me, that’s balance.
I would just seek balance daily, what needs to happen for your personal life, for your business, and for your family today this way you are less liable to get frustrated. I usually have to do lists for every day that help me determine what needs to be handled first. I balance my day, day by day by day.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I’ll have an even stronger foothold in Women'sCEO Project global. We started going global a couple years ago but are really focused on it this year and beyond. We also have other business interests in some countries in Africa and there are a couple new exclusive products we will be offering here in the United States and in Africa. So you will see me more on TV, you’ll see more books, more products, more of me on planes and working with women entrepreneurs all over the world.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I listen to just about every genre of music but I listen to rap constantly. I love rap, reggae, Nigerian music, pop, heavy metal - the only music i don’t really run to is country music. I listen to rap the most though which surprises people because when they look at me they see the dresses and the heels.
I’ve even written a few articles comparing rap artists to business men. You can google the "3 business lessons I learnt from Little Wayne", it was very popular article that I wrote. I just love rap!
For getting through this interview I’d like to give you all a free 10 lesson self guided course that has now been taken by more than 11,000 entrepreneurs since December 4th of 2015, it’s goalsettingprocourse.com and includes 9 worksheets for to set focused goals and get them done and I encourage everyone to take his course!
Thank you so much for an AMAZING interview Kristi.
You can keep with all the amazing work Kristi is doing via her website at womenceoproject.com