In Conversation with Kisha Howell of The Harambee Collective

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Describe your business in a few words?

The Harambee Collective, is a membership community organization that creates the conditions for Womxn of Color to have the tools and knowledge to enhance their holistic well being in community with other WOC.

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

At the peak of the pandemic I felt extremely isolated from friends and community. I’m an extrovert and so I need people to thrive. I was in a space where I wanted to be nurtured by other Womxn of Color. It was from that sense of frustration that I asked myself, “You can either stay this way or create the conditions where you and other WOC can be supported”. I chose the latter!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

For the past decade I have been an educator. I started teaching 2nd grade, then middle school, and for the past 5 years I’ve coached pre-service and in-service teachers. I am also a 5 year doctoral student.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Honestly, no. My father was an entrepreneur (that’s a different story for another day), but I never recognized the entrepreneur skill set that was brewing in me until recently. 

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?

I went to my friends first! I knew that we had been separated, people were struggling to adjust to the social isolation the pandemic forced on us, so they were my first target audience. From there it was purely word of mouth. Sisters telling sisters, cousins telling cousins, friends telling friends.

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?

Whew! My first mistake was not making a clear business plan. I fell into this business (it was initially supposed to be one virtual retreat) so I did not have a clear vision for its growth. As a result I felt that I was making it up as I went. The basic infrastructure of a business along with a team was not something I was even aware that I needed.

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

Every time a new member joins our community I am proud! However, one of my proudest moments was crowdfunding over $10,000 in three weeks to officially launch our community. For someone who did not have a huge following to raise that much in such a short time was stunning! I still grin extremely hard when I remember the moment I hit $10,000!

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

I am still in the process of clarifying how my team will look. However, one question that I am always interested in is this: What gifts do you want to offer our community? I find that if someone can first see their talents or skill set as an actual gift than their belief system aligns with our community. We are not a space for celebrities or influencers. We are a group of lovely Womxn of Color who are willing to share our gifts with each other to ensure that we are all growing, healing, and feeling seen (especially during this pandemic).

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

Because we were created during the pandemic we actually have been able to establish systems of existing that adapt to the complexity of this pandemic.

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

Our goal is to increase our visibility. We will be hosting more public facing events (most of our events are for members only) that will be designed to bring WOC together in solidarity and joy! We are also planning to launch our merchandise line in April along with a subscription box that directly supports small businesses owned by WOC.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

It’s important to shed what no longer serves you. Whether that be habits, mindsets, a job, or a person. You cannot thrive in conditions where you are surrounded with what is no longer for you.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

How much money is needed to run a business! Whew! I feel like every time I think I have a solid number in my head it triples!

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

This year I have worked to establish my morning routines to stay connected to myself and the Universe. I meditate, read, sit in silence (when I can. There’s construction next door), I juice at least twice a day, journal, and surround myself with people that truly want to see me win.

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

I absolutely believe in a work/life balance! I am still mostly working from home and my apartment is extremely small. One way that I separate work and the rest of my life is by creating “end of work day” rituals. If it’s warm, that means I take a walk through Central Park. On most days its watching an episode of CSI or Sponge Bob! Breaking my work and life up has been something I’ve had to learn how to do. At the beginning of the pandemic there was no such thing as a work/life balance for me. It was all work!

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

This is a hard one. I’m very transparent so there’s very little that people don’t know about me. I will say that one thing that might surprise people is that I love being fashionable, I am covered in tattoos, but my ears aren’t pierced! I get earrings as gifts all the time from people who have known me for years and every time I share that with them they are surprised!

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

  • Use a planner! Every morning I use my planner to map out my day in a to-do list format. 
  • Time yourself. There are moments when we aren’t aware of how much time we waste. 
  • Listen to your body. When it’s time to take a break you should. Your

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

To me being an Entreprenista means boldly staying aligned to your calling. It requires you to stay committed to constantly outgrowing yourself while also remaining grounded in your core values and purpose.

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