Shinika McKiever, The McKiever Group Creative Company
Dr. Shinika McKiever is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of The McKiever Group Creative Company, an agency that provides organizations with creative business solutions, including leadership development, non-profit management, and entrepreneurial solutions. Sanjay and Shinika discuss quitting your full-time job to take on entrepreneurship, setting boundaries, and rebuilding and rebranding your business.
Episode 24 – Shinika McKiever, The McKiever Group Creative Company
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Today's guest is Dr. Shinika McKiever, the founder and CEO of The McKiever Group Creative Company, an agency that provides organizations with creative business solutions, including leadership development, nonprofit management, and entrepreneurial solutions. Shinika is joining us from High Point, North Carolina.
Shinika, welcome to the show.
[00:01:16] Shinika McKiever: Hey, Sanjay. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
[00:01:19] Sanjay Parekh: I'm excited to have you on because I love talking about leadership and figuring out how people should actually lead organizations. But before we get into all of that, I'd love for you to give us like a minute or two about your background and how you got to where you are right now.
[00:01:33] Shinika McKiever: Sure. So, I am Dr. Shinika McKiever, the Chief Creative Officer of The McKiever Group Creative Company. And I would say I have been in this space for a little over a year. I took my leap of faith into full-time entrepreneurship on June 24th, and so my background that kind of led me here was just having, the experience of being in philanthropy for over 15 years, working in the grant making space, working in the fiduciary and banking side of that business, and then moving over to the fundraising side gave me a lot of transferable skills in business and entrepreneurship.
Then having the opportunity to go back, get a PhD in leadership studies, my research focused on how women entrepreneurs develop as adaptive leaders, and that's where I found my passion in leadership. Developing disadvantaged populations like women and people of color and really helping them utilize their lived experience and how they see themselves as leaders. And so, I have the research that shows these services are needed. So, that's where a lot of my business stems from, is trying to respond and create safe spaces for women and people that look like me to be able to show up as their most authentic self and in purpose. And so, that's how I started my business.
It started out as a side hustle that I was doing for a few years while I was working full time. And then just got into a space of where I really thought I was going to transition to a learning and development career. And it just didn't happen like that. And so, after being a little frustrated with the role that I was in and the person I was reporting to, I was like, you know what? We're just going to see how this works. And sometimes, that leap or that bet on yourself is the biggest risk that you take, but it's the one that's most well worth it. So, here I am a year and about a month and a half later.
[00:03:09] Sanjay Parekh: So, what's funny about your story is you did all of this schooling to learn about entrepreneurship. And then ended up having to use it basically on yourself to launch your own thing. And so, I love that. Was this your first time starting a company on your own? Did you do anything when you were younger? Like side hustles, entrepreneurship? Tell me about them.
[00:03:31] Shinika McKiever: Sure. So, I was the side hustle queen. And a fun fact for me is I actually went back to school to get the PhD to be able to organize my thoughts, to do the work that I'm doing now. Like I never really had intentions on going into kind of into that tenure track academia space, but really wanted to be like, okay, how do I be an entrepreneur? How do I do these things? But what I would say, my younger moments, my mom has always, my mom's a crafter, so, we always made things coming up and her girlfriends had their side hustles, and they would go to these craft festivals. So, growing up I was just always making something with my hands. So, one of my first hot hustles was, I don't know, us millennials, we used to have these bandanas we used to wear back in the day, and so, my mom taught me how to sew. I knew how to sew, and so, I had a sewing machine.
And so, I started hustling these little bandanas that you tie on your air to all my friends and the people that went to church with, or I would sell cookies and cakes to my siblings because I love to bake. So, that's kind of where some of my initial side hustles started and then as I went into adulthood, I was always, making something on the side for someone, some type of handmade item. And then when I was working on my PhD program, I knew that I wanted to start a business, but I didn't have the capacity to launch my consulting firm.
And so, I loved making things, that was kind of like my stress reliever and I had taught myself how to make these beautiful satin bonnets. And so, I launched my side hustle with my handmade products business in 2017 because I was, that was my stress relief from my PhD, but it also gave me a way to make a few dollars on the side. So, I started hustling on bonnets. And then stationery and that led to me and my sister doing a t-shirt business. And now I do a little bit of everything in addition to my actual consulting firm. And yeah, I would say, I guess I'm a serial entrepreneur in that aspect, but did a lot of sole proprietorship things in my younger years or people just paying me off to the side to do their resume or write a paper, those type things. So, I think it's something that's always been in me that I just knew that I wanted to do at some point, but it happened a lot sooner than I expected.
[00:05:40] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Did you have did you have any entrepreneurs in the family that you saw as you were growing up? Like parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, anybody like that?
[00:05:50] Shinika McKiever: Yeah, I mean I had a few, but mostly it was like most of the people, they had their jobs and then they just had their side hustles as well. And seeing that you could do both. And I encourage people to keep your job until you're financially set to go into full-time entrepreneurship. I'm not a proponent of go quit your job and you haven't made the proper preparation. No, don't do that. Work as long as you can and as long as it makes sense, especially if, you know, you're trying to have a brick and mortar or something that's going to take a little bit more long-term to build. But my family, I would say it was more so side hustles, and then my dad had a business venture here and there, but yeah.
[00:06:28] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, it sounds like you were working and then you had some frustration at work because you weren't getting to the right place and then decided to launch this. Did you go, so, you already were running it as a side hustle, or did you start from scratch right then when you were like, okay, I'm unhappy with work and I need to do something else. How did you go about that?
[00:06:50] Shinika McKiever: So, I would say I was running it as a side hustle. It really was not up and running. And so, when I decided I was going to do it, I had an idea of things I wanted to do. And so, when I put my notice in, I had just clients appear, right? So, I guess that's how you know things are aligned. And so, one of my clients was around helping do some dissertation edits and works. And then I had a like nonprofit client do some coaching. And so, those were kind of like my first two, but they were enough to get through those first initial months and being probably a year or so in, I'm going to be honest, like I burnt my whole business model down in March and used from like May to right now to kind of relaunch and rebuild, because after doing it a year, you get really clear on what you enjoy doing, what you don't necessarily want to do because you can, or let's just pivot because this isn't working, or the messaging isn't clear. And so, for me it was just, now I'm probably in a completely different space than I was a year ago, but I'm also very clear on the services that I want to provide. But yeah, I had to build that all out from scratch. And I felt like, without having some of the foundational pieces, it felt like I was constantly in that reactive mode.
[00:07:59] Sanjay Parekh: So, it sounds like those first clients that you took were just basically, whoever showed up, not necessarily it was the thing that you wanted to do. Is that an accurate description there?
[00:08:10] Shinika McKiever: I'd say that's probably super accurate. It's yeah, I make some money. I can do this. But now I think I'm a lot more clear and I have clarity around what I want to do. I've turned some things down. With me having a background in philanthropy, a lot of people assume that I write grants and I'm like, no, I don't write grants for organizations because I teach organizations how to build out a fundraising strategy or have a development plan so that it's more sustainable and long-term versus paying a grant writer. People are like, aren't you leaving money on the table? Yeah. But just because I can do it, that's not what I'm passionate about and that's not, the intention that I need to be doing in my work. I can recommend you a grant writer, but that's not what I do.
[00:08:53] Sanjay Parekh: So, when you were starting up and you're having to just basically scrape together everything, did that make you nervous or was there anything else that was making you nervous about starting this and launching it yourself?
[00:09:05] Shinika McKiever: Yeah, I was super nervous. Like I'll never forget, my last day at my job was like on a Friday, and so, that Monday I was literally like sitting there, like, what the hell did I just do? Like I can't, it was almost surreal. And I'm not even going to lie, like entrepreneurship is hard. Sometimes you have your really peak seasons. And sometimes you have some, it's some downtime and you're just kind of like, how do I make this work?
So, I think that's why having some savings, being very clear, having some things that bring in residual income are important. But it was just really yeah, this is scary. And it's still scary. Like I've never done this before and I'm one of the first people in my family that's doing it on this scale. So, it's like sometimes you're building the boat as you're going along. And you don't necessarily have this blue, you have the blueprint, which you're like, oh, it may work, it may not. But I think that's when it's important to have like your entrepreneurial community around you or people that understand what you're going through, so that when you feel like giving up or like I'm going back to work. You’re reminded of the why and the purpose behind why you started your business, and that's why I think that you have to have a purpose in your business, and not just to make money, because if it's just to make money, what's meaningful behind that?
[00:10:27] Sanjay Parekh: Right, right. I've not really asked this question of most guests, but I think it's interesting with you. Did you get any kind of pushback from family when you did this? Because it's like, Shinika, you've got this PhD, you had this good job, and you've quit. What is happening? Because that was running through your mind of, oh my God, what did I just do, the Monday after the last day of work? Did you feel any of that from family and them asking like, are you sure about this? And how did you deal with that if you did?
[00:10:56] Shinika McKiever: So, my family was super supportive before I even decided I was going to take this step, we had that conversation. So, for me, like I figured out like March 2022, that I was going to stop job searching and that if I didn't have a job by like the end of June, I was going to quit my job. And so, when I decided that, I had a conversation with my family and my mom. I'm really close to my mom and my sisters, and my mom was like, you can do anything you put your mind to. You heard what your mentor said. The easy thing about all of this is you can always go back and get another job. Like you have talent, but I think that you trust in yourself. This is something you need to do for yourself to follow your dreams.
My sisters were like, oh yeah, you'll be fine. And even when there's been times where I'm like, I don't know how I'm going to make it. And my mom's like, you have people, you have resources, use your support. And tapping into them and having them like believe in my vision, even when sometimes I didn't necessarily believe in myself has been priceless because, my mom, she doesn't allow me to sit on my pot as we call it. She's okay, you have your moment, but you got to get up. Like you can't stay there. And so, I think having those people behind you, from having that family support, it makes it a lot easier. But no, they were on board with it, and even today, I tell people, I'm really fortunate because I feel like I'm living the dream. Like it really feels like I'm living a dream. Because every day I get to wake up and do the work that I love to do and help people. Yeah, I was fortunate that I have supportive people around me that believe in my vision.
[00:12:28] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I love that philosophy because it's funny, I had that same philosophy when I quit my job for my first company. Of the belief of look, if this doesn't work, somebody's going to hire me and I'm probably going to be a better employee after it, because I've learned so much in between now and then. And I think a lot of people have this fear that oh, who's going to hire, there are no jobs or whatever, and there are jobs and you’ve just got to search around and find the right thing that's a fit for you. And so, if you decide to do this and something doesn't work out, like people get laid off, people get fired, they find new jobs. It's not like they're unemployed for the rest of their lives. That's a thing. So, I love that philosophy that you've got there and that view that you had.
Okay. Let's shift gears just a little bit. I want to talk about the stress of owning a business and, for a while you were doing a full-time thing, either school or whatever, and doing a side hustle. How do you think about the stress and manage the stress of doing those things at the same time for yourself?
[00:13:30] Shinika McKiever: I think part of it is having boundaries and even boundaries with yourself because being an entrepreneur, sometimes I'll work all the time and you don't cut at all. So, I have to be very intentional okay, I'm going to probably start my workday around 10, but I'm also know I'm a 7-12 worker so, I need to make sure that I take time to eat, or I take time with my family. Because they'll ask me, are you resting? Like, when are you resting? Because you seem like you're doing a lot. So, I think it's just knowing when you tend to overdo it and recognizing that you've got to set boundaries or you're going to burn out. And what that looks like, is saying no. So, one of the things I had to get, I would overcommit, and it was like overcommitting because I felt obligated, not necessarily because it was something I wanted to do. So, now in the things that I take on, it has to align again with purpose. Is it aligning with the bigger picture for my business, my personal and professional goals? Or am I just doing this because I want to be busy for the sake of being busy? So, it's some getting the courage to say no when it doesn't make sense for you, or your business, is number one.
I think number two is time blocks. If you are working full-time, it's really easy to say, oh, I'm tired. I can't work on this. But if you don't make the time for your business, nobody else will. And I think it's also making that investment in your business. So, if you know that, you're working full-time, you don't really have time or you don't know how to move forward with your business, like invest in a coach, invest in a course, making that investment in yourself. Because if you don't take the time to invest in yourself, who will? So, I think it's just setting those boundaries.
Also having emotional intelligence and awareness of kind of, what happens when I overextend myself? I'm usually short, my family feels it. I don't show up for them. So, it's like doing that constant inner work of, how am I showing up? And if I'm not showing up in the way that I need to show up, we've got to pivot, reset, and make some changes. And that may be canceling some appointments. Like one of the things I just did, I just came back from going to this thing called Getaway Houses, and it's like a little tiny cabin up in the woods just to reset, get some things done, or I like water, so, I go to the lake or the beach. So, just take that time to reset and know your triggers to when you need to look within and pause, because that's going to be most important.
[00:15:54] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I find this interesting, this Getaway House. How long of a time do you go away for and how often are you doing that?
[00:16:01] Shinika McKiever: Honestly, this was the first time I did it, and so, we just went, me and one of my clients went, and did kind of like a strategic retreat. So, we did it for a day. The place where we went, it's about 45 minutes from where I live. But after going and just being able to be in the woods with nature and all this quietness I think it's something I'm probably going to start doing quarterly. Because sometimes I think you just need to check out to plan, because running your own business, and especially if you're a solopreneur, you may not be in the space where you're making enough money to hire an assistant or hire some extra help. So, you're doing everything. And so, sometimes that can get overwhelming, to a point where like you're really stressed out, so, sometimes you got to just check out and, what's the priority for right now? And so, for me it was, I'm going to go away and I'm going to go away from not having, we're not going to have internet. I'm going to take some paper and we're just going to plan out what the rest of the year looks like. And it was so beneficial. And now I have a clear vision on what I need to do. So, I think it's just, blocking that time and holding yourself accountable to make sure that you make the time to plan and strategize in your business. Because if you don't have those foundational pieces, your house is going to collapse.
[00:17:10] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Around these same lines of kind of health and wellness and stuff, how do you account for things like sleep and wellness as you're building this business? You kind of mentioned it. It's really easy for us entrepreneurs to let work fill 24 hours of the day and not do anything other than work. So, how do you fit that into the schedule and make sure that you're taking care of you?
[00:17:36] Shinika McKiever: Yeah. So, for me, I am a napper. And that's one of the things I love most about working for myself is, if I get overwhelmed in the middle of the day, I'm going to go on and take a nap. And what a nap does for me, it's an instant reset. I feel better. I'm in a different head space. Like I probably had a snack, so, I just take a nap and I think sleep is important. So, I try to get, I know I can function off of six hours, but that's not healthy, so I would prefer at least seven. But I know, if I spend all night up on a project like. I'm probably going to sleep in the next day, and that's okay. So, I think it's just, again, making time and knowing yourself because I know if I get in a good groove, I might be up till two o'clock in the morning and my clock goes off at six. You know what, I'm going to just cut it off. And if I get up at nine, that's fine. As long as I don't have meetings. I think blocking the time.
And then if you have family or a husband, I'm single, I have a dog, so, she's pretty, self-sufficient. But if you got kids like cutting things off on the weekend and I try to, make sure that I always have dinner with my family if they call. And just being aware of when I'm doing too much because I can usually feel it. I usually get a sinus infection. So, I slow down just to make sure I'm taking care of myself and recognizing that. If you run yourself until you’re on ‘E,’ you can't refuel from an empty cup. So, you got to take time to re-energize, whether that's resting, making sure you're eating right, getting your exercise in. So, I like to get up in the mornings and take a walk, and that's just my time to get my thoughts together. But I feel better, and my day usually runs a lot smoother on the days that I do that.
[00:19:18] Sanjay Parekh: I think, Shinika, I think you've just identified the biggest benefit of being an entrepreneur is being able to take naps whenever you want, right? Right there, right? Like you work for somebody, you can't take naps in the middle of the day. There you go. So, that's number one reason for being an entrepreneur. Naps whenever you want. Love it.
[00:19:35] Shinika McKiever: From the napping queen.
[00:19:39] Sanjay Parekh: I love it. I love it. I might be taking a nap after this. Because I didn't really even think about that. Nobody's here to tell me no. So, I'm just going to take a nap.
[00:19:50] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:20:08] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about all the things that you have to manage to run a business. Is there technology or apps or systems that you've implemented that you'd recommend to others to be able to run their businesses more effectively or easily?
[00:20:30] Shinika McKiever: Yes. So, one of the things I recommend to business owners, especially if you provide a service, is implementing your own system or process. So, what's your signature methodology? So, for me, my signature methodology that I use with my clients and that what I apply to my business is the IA3E methodology, which is where you identify your strategic priorities, where you're feeling stuck, where you're having challenges, you gain awareness of where change needs to occur. You align that in that passion and purpose, and then you adapt using adaptive leadership, which is made up of cultural competency, ability to manage knowledge, critical creating synergy and adaptive vision, and then you execute those things. So, t breaking it down in actionable steps that are attainable. So, that's how I do it.
But I encourage people to really think through that. One of the things that I've also used recently that has been a game changer is ChatGPT. And I know a lot of people are against AI, but it's with anything else. It's if you use it responsibly, and I don't necessarily use it to do things for me. What I use it for is to organize my own thoughts and doing data dumps and one of the things that I found to be most helpful in ChatGPT is first of all, it's a language system, so, the more you interact, the more you feed an information, the more you are specific in your prompts, the better information you're going to generate out.
So, if you find yourself not being able to hire an assistant, like you can use ChatGPT to help you generate social media content, to help you create templates for your business, like emails, help you automate systems. If you have a chatbot, you can use it to interact like that. So, that has been a game changer for me because it helps me work a lot more efficiently and effectively. I am also a big proponent of lists, whether it's virtual or I'm old school, I like notebooks, so, I keep a to-do list. I have like my master to-do list. I have my priority to-do list, and then I have my, the things that need to happen today to-do list. Physical planners.
Some other tools that I think have been really helpful is email marketing. So, I use ConvertaKit to manage my email list, to automate and send out automated emails. Create sequences so that you can have segments set up to automatically communicate with your email list. And then that kind of takes you off of social media because again, if social media went down tomorrow, you don't own that data. I think social media tools would be scheduling apps, planning out your content. I've used Buffer in the past. I really enjoy, lately, I use CapCut to do some edits. WeTransfer to transfer large files. Let's see, what others? Those are a few of the good ones. And then I use Dubsado as my CRM system, and it has a lot of functionality within it. And then I think Calendly and Canva are tools I use quite frequently.
[00:23:27] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, I got to ask you about the list. Since you're old school with the paper lists. Do you do them every day? To figure out, what do I need to do today? Is this a daily thing? First thing in the morning?
[00:23:40] Shinika McKiever: First thing in the morning. And my preference is I have a Day Design planner. have three planners, but my Day Design is my daily planner. And what I love about this planner is how the pages are laid out. It has like your eight-to-eight schedule, so you can schedule out your day. Then it has your top three things that need to happen today, and then it has kind of like your to-do list for the day. And then it has a side section with notes. That would be the stuff that I know I'm not getting to today, but it needs to happen within a week or so. Those go over there. And then it has a gratitude so, that you can, say what you're thankful for. It has a great inspirational quote, and then it just has a little section for tonight.
I use that to manage my day because if I don't write it down, I'm going to forget. And sometimes, you have good intentions to go back and type it into an app or put it in a note, but I like to just jot things down because if I don't write it down, I'm going to forget. But I like the Day Design planner because it has the capability to break it out in different lists. Like I knew today I had to submit something, I needed to get an email out and, let's see, what else was on that list? I'm working on a grant proposal from one of my clients. So, those are three things I have to have today. If nothing else on that list gets done, I've got to do those three things. And then I think action planning notebooks are also very helpful in that. Because you can just do the running tool and mark it off.
[00:25:03] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Okay. That is a great set. You've got a clear system set up there. I love that. One last kind of piece of advice from you and then I want to ask you one more question about the work that you do. But if you had somebody that's thinking about taking their leap and starting a side hustle or taking their side hustle and making a full-time business like you did, what would you tell them?
[00:25:28] Shinika McKiever: There is no guidebook to entrepreneurship, and you have to give yourself grace in the process and recognize that there is no guidebook to it. And so, sometimes you don't know what you don't know until you get into it. But that shouldn't stop you from trying because you got to try things to see what's going to work. And I think in entrepreneurship, failure gets such a bad rap, but if you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough, because one of my biggest epiphanies came from a failure in my business where I had this great product that I spent a lot of time with. I thought it was going to be a sellout and it flopped and nobody bought it. But I realized my messaging wasn't clear.
I think, you'll hear a lot of people say you need to niche down. I think you just need to be very clear about who you serve, how you serve them, and what makes them different, so, that when you come into your market, you really understand what your competitive advantage is and how you stand out from everybody else. Like you can be doing the same thing someone else is doing. The world still needs your talent. So, don't have that tunnel vision when it comes to entrepreneurship. And don't compare yourself to everyone else's journey because it's like an iceberg. You don't know what they went through to get there. So, just focus on you, what's in front of you, what you need to do for your business, and then quiet the noise. And you'd be surprised how much you're able to get accomplished when you're not in that constant comparison mode or competing with other people because you are the competition.
[00:26:54] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. That is great advice. Okay, here's my last question for you. Okay. You've done a lot of stuff on leadership, studied leadership. What's like that one thing that our listeners could do to become better leaders? Just one thing. Like the worst thing that you see, like, oh man, people would just fix this.
[00:27:15] Shinika McKiever: Be the one, be the leader that you wish you had. Be the leader that you wish you had, and lead by the golden rule. If you do unto others as you do unto yourself. And the only thing I would add to that is that leadership is not about you as an individual. Leadership is about the people that follow. So, people have to be willing to buy into the vision of what it is that you're selling in order to get behind you. So, leadership is about your followers and if you always keep that in front of you and lead how you want to be led, everything works out. We never do unto others as we would do unto ourselves. So, that's why the world's such a crazy place. But think if you be the leader that you wish you had, at different parts of your career or in your business, and then you'll start to show up for other people in that same way.
[00:28:02] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. That is super insightful. I've always done that as well. I've seen leaders and had people above me and seen the things that I like and I don't like, that they do, and I try to make sure I do the things that I like. And not do the things that I didn't like. Because yeah, there there's definitely a lot of bosses out there and they're not always great.
[00:28:27] Shinika McKiever: It's the difference between leadership and management. Management's about authority, leadership's about influence.
[00:28:34] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, you're right. And your other part of it too is correct. You can't be a leader without any followers, so it's about the followers. It's not about you. Shinika, this was fantastic. This was a great conversation. I loved it. Where can our listeners find and connect with you online?
[00:28:51] Shinika McKiever: So, they can find, you can find me online. I'm on Instagram, Facebook, and I think TikTok at Dr. Shinika McKiever. Or you can find me on my website at www.TheMcKieverGroup.com, and we just redid our beautiful website, so, really excited about that.
[00:29:10] Sanjay Parekh: So, go visit it. That's great.
[00:29:12] Shinika McKiever: Yes, go visit it. Send us a message, follow us. I'm always dropping different gems and tips and send me a message. I respond back. Very responsive and also super willing to help.
[00:29:23] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Thanks again for coming on the show today.
[00:29:24] Shinika McKiever: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
[00:29:29] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit www.hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find out more about me on my website, www.sanjayparekh.com.