Q&A with Tiana Starks, Director of Communications at We the People of Detroit

Q&A with Tiana Starks, Director of Communications at We the People of Detroit

In an inspiring Q&A session, Tiana Starks shares her entrepreneurial journey that began in 2015 after a job layoff led her to reassess her career path. Overcoming various challenges and transformations, Tiana is now focused on a new venture aimed at supporting mompreneurs. She highlights the scarcity of resources tailored to the unique needs of mothers in business and expresses her commitment to being a role model for resilience and adaptability in entrepreneurship. Tiana's story is not just about building a business; it's about breaking free from self-imposed limitations and demonstrating the power of starting anew, with a specific emphasis on empowering women who juggle the dual roles of motherhood and business ownership.

Q: What motivated you to enter the world of entrepreneurship, especially after your job layoff in 2015?

In 2012, I left a rather large ad agency for a smaller, more boutique agency. It was there that I started dreaming of starting my own advertising business. I knew that I'd had training from the industry's best at my previous corporate job, and the men running the new company I was at had no advertising experience before starting their company. I honestly just felt like I could do it better, so I started putting the pieces together to build my own thing.

I left that company for another smaller agency that worked exclusively with big brands and Fortune 500 companies. Unfortunately, the company culture at this new agency was very toxic. It was like walking into the movie Mean Girls every day. One day in 2015, I was randomly laid off, and I didn't realize it, but it was a blessing in disguise. I left with tears in my eyes and went straight to a friend's home. This friend was in sales, and I said to him, "I need you to help me sell five $500 websites." And that's really when my journey as an entrepreneur started. Selling those $500 websites helped me develop the confidence I needed to pursue creating my own agency.

Q: How has being a mother influenced your entrepreneurial ventures, particularly with your focus on creating a platform for mompreneurs?

I love this question because it allows me to be very honest. As women in our society, we're expected to relish motherhood and all things domestic, which is also a part of the reason I'm creating this platform for mompreneurs. But, honestly, motherhood is hard, and starting a business while being a mom is harder. At the beginning, when I was beginning to see success selling $500 sites, I became pregnant with my son, and honestly, I was devastated. I was just starting to create the momentum I needed. Because of what I was taught and thought motherhood should be, I felt like my dream of becoming a business owner was halted before it could take off. I remember sleeping and crying a lot. I had a lot of anxiety about becoming a mother of two. My daughter was five at the time.

But after I got over the initial anxiousness, I realized that with intentionality, I could take control of the situation and create a flexible life that worked for my family. The company that had laid me off, called me back to work. I negotiated going back part-time as a contractor. At the same time, I continued to pursue my business. I was able to create the flexibility and financial stability that I needed to get adequate childcare when I was working and sufficient time with my children in their pre-school years, especially immediately after the birth of my son.

Q: Can you share more about the success of your marketing consultancy and ad agency, including the key strategies that contributed to their growth and recognition?

So, after my son was born, I had to be very strategic about how I spent my time and focus on actions that would have the biggest impact both at home and in my business. I became intentional about developing a morning routine supporting the mindset I needed to reach my goals. I put in place strategies to stay on top of my long-term and short-term goals, which I call Laddering Up. I leaned into my strengths. I'm very introverted and had real concerns about developing the relationships I needed to be a successful business person. Posting on social media was not my thing. However, I've learned that everything becomes easier when you filter things through your own lens and your own strengths and create a plan. I attended networking events once a week for months when I first started. Instead of being timid, I decided to take an active interest in the people I met, to not focus on the quantity of people I met, but on the quality of the conversations I could have and build upon. Soon after that, I landed my first 5-figure contract, and it was up from there. By my second full year as a business owner, I had built my consultancy into a 6-figure company... And it was overwhelming! That's when I knew that I needed support beyond project-based contractors.

I then began the process of getting to know my soon-to-be business partner. We merged and created Brandhrt Evolution and a whole new set of successes and challenges came with that. But we were able to do some great work with well-known brands like Converse and win industry awards for our work.

Q: In what ways has your role at We the People of Detroit allowed you to make a difference, and why is this work meaningful to you?

My relationship We the People of Detroit started with them as a client. They were a small nonprofit, gaining local, regional, and national momentum in the fight for water justice. The founders needed a website and some guidance on how to brand the organization, and I was there to support them. I fell in love with the organization, their approach to the work they were taking on and their mission! After working in the ad industry for ten years at that point, working with WPD reinvigorated me. The work is meaningful, and we are doing advertising to make a real difference for people in our communities and people across the nation who really need help. I've been a part of coordinating Webinars with Vice President Kamala Harris. I've gone to Capitol Hill to advocate for legislative changes and the creation of policies that will determine whether a family has water in their homes. Working with WPD has helped me to gain perspective on what really matters and the ways in which I want to use my skills to impact change and make the world better, which is also why I'm pursuing building a platform to support mothers who want to be successful entrepreneurs on their own terms. There are only a few resources out there that are directly and specifically for us. I want to be a beacon, to create a reliable place that supports these moms.

Q: How do you balance your professional aspirations with your personal interests and family life, especially given your diverse roles and commitments?

I won't lie, it's hard. I try not to focus on "balancing" as much as realizing that I cannot compartmentalize. I am a whole person. I deserve grace, and I have to integrate all of the components of my life together to create the work-life "harmony" that I desire. I know there will be some weeks that I perform better in my work-life, and some weeks, I'll perform better in my mom-life, but in the end, it all balances out.

In a more practical sense, I'm a planner. I do a lot of work to determine the goals I want to reach, and I build milestones into my year to help me focus and measure where I am in terms of achieving those goals. I revisit my quarterly goals daily, including professional and personal ones. I write my to-do list daily to maintain a sense of control over what needs to be done. And I can't say this enough: I grant myself grace. If I don't accomplish a thing today, it gets moved to tomorrow's list.

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