In Conversation with Teneshia Warner of EGAMI Group & The Dream Project
Describe your business in a few words:
EGAMI Group is an award-winning integrated brand marketing communications consultancy that connects brands and companies with diverse and multicultural audiences in an increasingly multicultural world.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Searching for Fulfillment, Meaning and Purpose. After working at a corporate job for around five years, I realized that I was not fulfilled. I had an aha moment that made me realize I chose a career based on earning potential only, with little to no regard for passion. I made a decision, future forward – I would follow my passions.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Corporate Experience: Prior to starting my business, I worked at IBM Global Services for five years as a Project Manager.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No, being an entrepreneur was not aspiration for me.
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 originally launched the business, I already had my first client – Rush Communications. So no marketing. Years later when I incorporated again and established EGAMI Group as an agency, shortly after launching, we established a strategic partnership alliance that served as a new business driver. No marketing.
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?
Among one of my biggest mistakes was tied to my lack of understanding the importance of payment terms and cash flow. I failed to negotiate aggressive payment terms that could sustain healthy cash flow. This was a big learning moment that led to the hiring of our first CFO/COO.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Being the best granddaughter that I could possibly be to my grandmother, Noretha ’Sweeny’ Hearns.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Among one of my ‘go to’ questions is always – “Why EGAMI Group?” This gives me an idea of why the candidate is interested in our firm versus others. The best hiring tips that I can provide:
- Take Your Time: When possible, take your time to show diligence
- Be Specific: Be clear on your needs, the role, and expectations
- Enlist Talent in Your Vision: It’s key to enlist and enroll them beyond the job and into your company’s long-term vision.
- Find a Win/Win: Seek to find a reciprocal ‘win/win’ in which the potential employee is provided the opportunity to grow and contribute their individual gifts/skills to the collective vision. Note: It must be a ‘WIN’ for the talent. You cannot solely think about what’s in it for you (your company), you must also think about what’s in it for them.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Early on during the pandemic, we received losses in several contracts and pauses placed on others. Additionally, we were required to pivot our business strategy/plan in real time, such as moving our business operations 100% virtually.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are scaling our business significantly year after year. You can expect to see healthy growth and a scale in the following areas: Increased staffing, integration of new technologies, enhanced capabilities, and growth in our client portfolio. Ultimately, we are on a mission to become the leading minority owned, purpose-driven agency delivering marketing/communications solutions across our core focus pillars – Culture. Community. Cause.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
- Write Your Plans in Pencil: It’s important we write our plans in pencil, so that we can erase and map new ways forward in the midst of change.
- Expect the Unexpected: 2020 taught the world that ‘unexpected’ things will occur. If you ‘expect the unexpected’ you will never be totally surprised or halted.
- Unleashing the Dream Warrior Within is a MUST: A pivotal part of survival in 2021 for all leaders was a willingness to continuously fight the unexpected obstacles that stood between them and their dreams and visions.
- You are Stronger than You KNOW: 2020 also taught me that we (me, my leadership team, and our company) were stronger than we knew. We battled many obstacles and not only survived, but we thrived.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Take the first step. It’s okay to LEARN as you go. There is no perfect ‘manual’ and/or ‘set of credentials’ that will be fully prepared to do everything that will be required. What is most important is just getting started and taking a small step at a time along the way. Every small step is a learning experience along your journey.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Through spiritual practices of prayer and meditation.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I’ve come to learn that there is never a perfect ‘work/life balance’ formula. I encourage others to simply do the work to know what is truly important to you based on the season of life you are in at the time. Then, strive to ‘align’ your actions, behaviors and time to match what is most important to you in this season. Note: That changes over time. So, my goal is that I strive towards ‘alignment’ of what matters versus ‘work/life balance’.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to dance! Sometimes, I put on imaginary ‘Beyonce’ concert performances in front of my bathroom mirror.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Make a Monthly, Weekly and Daily Goal Achievement List: I’m the queen of lists. Make a list of all things you need to achieve in one day.
- Elevate and Delegate: Look for ways to ‘elevate’ by delegating some of the things on your list.
- Use of Technology: Incorporate technology into day-to-day operations to help enhance efficiency. Among one of my favorite tools is Evernote.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being a tenacious, courageous and empathetic leader that lives and works ‘On Purpose.’ By that, I mean being guided by my personal and professional purpose in all that we do.