An Interview with Kathy Brooks -
Recently i was asked to answer questions about my experience as the Director of 2nd Story Goods. It took a bit of time, but i was kind of surprised by my answers. I'm going to share it here....WARNING..it is long and might be boring if you're not into this sort of thing. But if you are, here is my 2 cents worth!
- How did your career path lead you to owning 2nd Story Goods?
I think owning your own business is a beautiful, faith filled endeavor! A sacred calling! But i don’t actually own 2nd Story Goods. 2nd Story Goods is an enterprise under the Non-profit MUCH ministries. Meaning that all profits are used to further the mission of MUCH. Which is to help individuals, families and communities to move out of poverty to a place of thriving, freedom and dignity through education, business incubations and leadership development.
- If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing you wish you would have known when you started, what would it be?
"You're on the right path, this is not a quick fix, but a slow and steady everyday journey" Don’t stop.
- What education or experience did you receive to prepare you for owning your business?
Funny, but raising a family was great preparation for this work! It's all about the team you gather and how you nurture each one, see their potential and trust them to grow what they have inside them. Having kids taught me that. It's a beautiful thing!
We started a tiny home art business in Georgia when our kids were young teenagers. We built and painted furniture and sign pieces and had to learn the business side as we went. It is helpful now that we had that tiny bit of business experience, but 2nd Story is a much larger and a more broad endeavor!
My education background is in Public Speaking and Education. Not Art or Business! Most of my business school consists of listening to A LOT of podcasts while i ride my bike and do the long three hour drive to and from Port Au Prince.
It also seems like most business skill comes down to reading, writing and getting the math right. Also helps if you can hire brilliant people that are smarter than you! (Brandon Brooks)
- What has been the biggest challenge for you as a business owner, and how have you tried to tackle that challenge?
The biggest challenge is developing myself. I realized fairly early on that this endeavor would only grow to the point that i myself grow. The greatest challenge as a leader of anything is to recognize that and to do the self work ( let God have his way! ) and decide to change and grow!
- Looking back, what experience helped you prepare the best for being a business owner in a developing country?
I am prone to adventure and have made a million small unseen decisions in life to not let fear be the boss of me. Also, being a mom is a huge heart altering experience. You really don't know how ferocious you are until you have a child (or six) to protect and nurture. I feel like being a mom created that capacity in me. And now it is applied to the community of women and men that we are honored to work among here in Haiti.
- If you had the opportunity to do anything differently, what would it be? Or why not?
I have made 10,000 mistakes ( at least!) But most were probably necessary steps to learning and eventually getting it right. Out of humiliation, i'd love a re-do on some of those, but again, probably a school i needed to experience.
- What tools do you utilize to communicate effectively with your team?
Once a week Full Staff meeting. We use Google Hangout to cross the space barriers and we use Slack ( inter-business communication tool ) constantly all day long. I try to do one on one with my direct reports each 3 months. Some more often.
- What has been the most rewarding experience for you while owning your business?
By far MOST rewarding experience, and it blows my heart up every day, is watching the team of people i work with thrive in the right seats on the bus, so to speak, and experiencing this amazing synergy between us all. Also watching the change in the way we carry ourselves. Seeing dignity and humility grow up together. We’re operating out of love and respect for one another. We have hard days and conflict and misunderstanding, those days are not so fun, but this aspect of growing a company, having the brave conversations, it is truly the GOLD of this whole thing. Blows my mind.
- Do you have any last advice for aspiring business owners and traveling entrepreneurs?
Do the self work. Ask God to go after everything in you that is not healthy and straight / honest. Getting ourselves solid, open and healthy creates an atmosphere for the whole thing. Stay curious and humble and clear about what you want to do.
RESPECT the people around you, or let them go. If you made a bad decision about someone, thinking they were part of your team and clearly they aren't a good fit, let them go. They need to move on to their next gig and you need to find the right people that are waiting to join you.
Traveling entrepreneurs. Go Slow and develop relationships while you start doing stuff. Ask Wisdom to speak clearly to you. Listen to the local people that are respected. HINT: It might not be the young kid who has some english skills and who you are naturally drawn to because of that one thing! Hire a good interpreter who is professional about their work. ( if there is a language barrier) Use them to have important conversations so you really understand. Study people! It doesn't take long to see the real leaders in the crowd. Watch. Stay curious. Ask questions. LISTEN more than talk.