In Conversation with Rhonesha Byng of Her Agenda
Describe your business in a few words?
Her Agenda provides access to content and community giving millennial women information and inspiration, helping them to get started or move to the next level of their career.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I saw a need to create a digital media platform tasked with bridging the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women. My philosophy in life has always been represented by the acronym of my name N.E.S.H.A. – No one Ever Slows Her Agenda, which was also the inspiration for the company – HerAgenda.com.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
When I started Her Agenda in 2008, I was working as a field producer with WNBC-TV in New York City. I was lucky to win an Emmy as part of a breaking news team and learn about creating newsworthy content.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
It’s not something I initially saw for myself. I’m the first person in my family to become an entrepreneur. It was scary to tell my family at first that I was leaving a corporate job to start a venture.
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?
When I first launched, I was told by VC investors that my business was just a lifestyle business and not a scaleable, investable business venture. This forced me to bootstrap and grow slow vs. scale with an infusion of capital or funding which I could use for marketing. I tapped into my own network of friends in media and started growing my newsletter database. We hosted a number of in-person events to grow our audience organically. I went on to be named to the 2017 Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list. ESSENCE Magazine also named me among 50 Founders To Watch. Those have been key marketing benchmarks for Her Agenda.
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?
Well, when I first went after investors for funding I was declined by investors for reasons rooted in bias. Platforms like Her Agenda, which are owned and operated by Black leadership, are vital. In turn, it’s also important for corporations to invest in and partner with Black-owned media, so they can reach underserved populations. I’ve since co-created the Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute. We encourage corporations to make a 15% spend commitment to Black-owned media. It has a ripple effect by increasing revenue, strengthening the ecosystem of Black-led publishing as a whole.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
First and foremost the fact that Her Agenda provides access to content and community giving millennial women information and inspiration, helping them to get started or move to the next level of their career. But also, Her Agenda has successfully partnered with many top brands such as: Google, Dove, AT&T, Go Daddy, and Dropbox. Right now, Her Agenda is using its platform, in partnership with Bank of America, to help educate millennial women about homeownership. We have a series called “Property and Power: The Millennial Woman’s Guide To Homeownership —- What Every Woman Needs On Her Agenda To Make Smart Decisions.”
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I’m an alumna Posse Scholar and attended Depauw University on a full-tuition leadership scholarship. One of my recruiting tips is to tap into the network your college provides. Leadership is key to me. I always ask candidates about the various leadership roles they’ve held in their respective communities.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Her Agenda typically does several, highly curated, in-person events throughout the calendar year. We’ve had to pivot with our partners to make all our event offerings virtual for the foreseeable future.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
You can expect to see my and Her Agenda continuing to push for increased revenue for Black-owned media, so we can hire more, produce greater quality storytelling, and boost resources.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I’ve had lessons reinforced. For me, I’ve seen the power in pushing forward in spite of the obstacles. This idea is rooted in my motto of No one Ever Slows Her Agenda. This mantra means simply whatever your goal is, go for it, and don’t let anyone or anything stop you. In the beginning of the pandemic everything stopped. I lost family members. And the revenue was no longer coming in. Even through that, I still did what I could. I researched grants, I connected with our readers and our past clients to see how we could best serve them. At my own pace I slowly but surely kept putting one foot in front of the other, and made a way.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
This year has been very humbling. I stay grounded through conversations with my family, friends and fellow founders.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe that when it comes to work and life the goal is to aim for harmony instead of balance. There are some days where the hours will be long, some days where you have to order takeout because you don’t have time to cook and others where you actually close the laptop at 5pm. The key is to not feel guilty and let go of what you think it should be. Take it for what it is, as long as you are happy and healthy and getting rest you are doing just fine.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I love adventure. I love to rock climb, and the adrenaline of being in the first row of the rollercoaster ride. I am the one who jumps off a cliff into the ocean and loves to go snuba diving 15 feet deep in the ocean and swim with sea turtles. If I wasn’t an entrepreneur, I would have been a marine biologist.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Set your intention and center yourself. I do this through meditation, palo santo, and lighting candles before sitting down at my desk. It takes 5 mins.
- Bulk schedule. I bulk my tasks together example if I have meetings I schedule them on the same day. I also have days I absolutely do not put meetings on my calendar.
- Write things down. I spend so much time on screens when it comes to my to do list I have to write it out.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means tapping into the courage to start, to take risks, and make an impact on the world through what you create.