In Conversation with Cheryl Ingram of Inclusology and Diverse City

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Describe your business in a few words?

Inclusology is a tech company and Diverse City is a consulting firm. Inclusology is a powerful SaaS platform using demographic data to conduct DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) assessments to analyze, report, benchmark, and recommend solutions for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The company produces/provides the following products/services: DEI question banks, analytics assessments, benchmarking page, automated strategic planning and direct access to industry professionals.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, Diverse City LLC is a DEI consulting firm and content creation studio specializing in DEI assessments, training, coaching, and consulting. Diverse City offers its clients a solutions oriented approach to helping companies assess and solve issues of growth and development in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Diverse City also has a location in Seattle WA and consultants in New Mexico and Austin who service the southeast.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

About 5 years ago, I started to feel an extreme heaviness from personally  experiencing and witnessing the struggles of marginalized populations, especially within young adults who were facing the same struggles in the world I have/had been enduring. My response was to solve it and this was my way of identifying how such discrimination existed in the world. 

I started looking at numbers and letting them tell me a story. A story that identified trends that showed the impact of inequality on our workplaces performance broken down by gender identity and race. I used this data to change the approach of our team and admissions process into our program. Within months we saw an increase of who was getting in the door, specifically more students of Color, Women, individuals with disabilities andI remember the results helped me to regain a love of science, specifically numbers that tell a story into the issues of inequities that are created by systems, both human and computerized. 

In our program and working with teams we were able to build processes that supported these populations all the way to graduation of our technical program and I knew I had something here. I remember the first time I created a system that evaluated trends by demographics, and created assessments that allowed for more equitable practices. To see the outcomes change helped me to realize I was onto something and since then I’ve been building methodologies that have improved this process in both my businesses for our clients. I realized that awareness leads to action and informed awareness increases equitable outcomes.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I worked in Diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, non profit, and enterprise companies.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes. I remember writing our my future in the 6th grade and I literally had CEO of my own company in the description.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

It was mostly word of mouth and client referrals. I literally had no idea what I was doing in the area of marketing but it was working! I was building partnerships with industry changemakers, I was speaking at conferences, hosting lunch and learns at different locations, and I was producing content for our YouTube channel in order to gain traction and it worked.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I recently had to part ways with two other Black executives that I hired. It really hurt to lose them both but it was hurting us more to keep them. I was trying to make it work, but it just didn’t.  I learned more deeply that systems aren’t always set up to ensure the success of underrepresented business owners, especially if you are Black, and that leadership requires a lot of self awareness. If you are not working on that, you’re not ready for a leadership position.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

That my company has hit 1m in revenue after only making 10,000 in our first year. The scale and growth of my company has required a lot of blood, sweat, and skill and I am proud of that!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

What’s it like to be you in the workplace? When you are hiring people be intentional about understanding their needs including but not limited to accomodations, and many other areas. Work hard to build support systems quickly and efficiently. It’s expensive to hire good talent, it’s also more expensive to hire amateurs, setup systems that support them both.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, we lost 100k in Q1 and 41,000 in Q2 worth of contracts due to covid. It caused us to shift our business and plan ahead for future challenges. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We are launching a tech platform that is going to lead the industry in diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings, assessments, and we are working to grow it  nationally and then internationally.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

  • You never know how strong you are until you have to be.
  • Meet people where they are and know when to leave them there.
  • The most important part of starting a business is first understanding why you do it, because that shit will keep you going when it gets hard.
  • Manifestation does not work until you do.
  • The opinions of others matters as much as I allow it to.
  • Don’t take everything personal, everybody’s behavior is not always about you.
  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
  • The system is not set up for your success, so build your own. Find your space of protection from other people’s projections. Loving yourself will teach you how to love others.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

A few ways, first was amplifying my authenticity and voice in a way that made me feel whole and safe. So I started creating more content. I created new shows on our YouTube channel, I produced a documentary about racism in America, and I stopped doing less of the things I hate and more of the things I love (exercise, meditation, journaling, reading, watching shows I like) and supporting other underrepresented business owners. I helped 5 people start their own businesses during 2020 and it was one of the most rewarding feelings ever!

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

No, fuck work life balance! Find work life integration. Balance makes you think that it’s not ok to juggle, but what if you’re built to enjoy juggling. I believe that some days you have 80-20, 70-30, 60-40 and 50-50 and vice versa about how much of you you want to give to work and personal. It’s not always an even split and it doesn’t have to be. Create and apply healthy boundaries instead. Don’t try something because it’s trendy, try something because it works for you and makes you feel outer peace and or inner peace that doesn’t require harm to others. Once you’ve found that, keep doing it until you find something else that works just as efficiently and know that you can have multiple strategies you can practice and don’t just hold yourself to one.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I love being near the ocean. It helps to calm me.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Read everyday.
  • Exercise some parts of your mind, body, and soul everyday.
  • Limit people’s access to you, not everybody deserves your time so normalize no.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Entreprenista is a powerful word. It adds background, culture, and diversity to the word entrepreneur that is often a default for White males. It’s a statement of solidarity, femininity, and empowerment really need help closing my seed round. If you know any investors willing to support our business please let us know!

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