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0:00:03.0 Melissa Bradley: From New Majority Ventures and Kinetic Energy Entertainment, this is Founder Hustle.


0:00:16.2 MB: Welcome to Founder Hustle, a podcast series by, for and about the New Majority entrepreneur. I’m your host, Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures and co founder of New Majority Ventures. The road from found to the CEO can be both hard and rewarding. So on each episode of Founder Hustle, I interview a New Majority entrepreneur to find out what their journey really looks like. As a CEO, founder, professor, and general partner of a venture fund, I know how valuable good information and resources are for the New Majority. Through shared tools, strategies, and life lessons, we’re here to enlighten, uplift, and educate anyone interested in this entrepreneurial ecosystem so that you too, can go from founder to CEO.

0:01:00.9 MB: Hey, good people. It’s Melissa Bradley. Welcome to season two of Founder Hustle. The first episode of the season drops on Tuesday, May 23rd, but before then, I wanted to give you a preview of the conversations coming up in the weeks ahead. This season I want to showcase New Majority faces in unexpected places. New Majority entrepreneurs are following their dreams into all kinds of industries, not just hair care or beauty products. My guests this season are no exception. For our first guest, Barbara Jones-Brown, breaking into the tech industry was the spark that lit the path for her to become the founder and CEO of Freeing Returns. How did you get into technology?

0:01:40.7 Barbara Jones-Brown: Well, I got into tech in high school, I took my first computer programming class. All right, so it was like basic Fortran. That’s the kind of stuff I was learning. And so I took my first programming class, and I fell in love, Melissa and I was like, “You know what? This is what I want to do.” One, I was an introvert, so I was like, man, I can sit on my computer in the corner.

0:01:57.3 MB: Nobody bothers you.

0:01:58.3 BJ: I can code. I don’t have to talk to anybody. And so I was like, I’m an introvert. Then I had just learned how to type. So I was like, man, I could use my typing skills too. Programming is what I wanted to do. But when I went home to kind of tell my mother, I want to be a computer programmer, so my mother was like, “Computer programmer? I thought you were going to be an engineer.” So I was like, okay. So I ended up going to school for electrical engineering. And that’s what I did in college. And so I took a few classes, I remember being on the ground, soldering cables together, and I was like, you know what?

0:02:26.7 MB: This is not it.

0:02:26.8 BJ: Let me go back to that programming class. [chuckle] Took another class, and then I switched my major to computer science.

0:02:32.4 MB: Oh my gosh.

0:02:32.4 BJ: So that’s how I got into technology. It’s just computer programming class.

0:02:36.5 MB: Now, did you come out of college and say, hey, I’m going to start my own business?

0:02:42.1 BJ: Almost. Yeah, I came out of college. I had been a cashier all through college. And a little bit actually in high school, too. I started…

0:02:47.3 MB: So you really understand this market because you were in it.

0:02:48.8 BJ: Exactly.

0:02:50.1 MB: Got it.

0:02:51.9 BJ: And I got recruited by a startup in Austin, Texas. That’s where I’m from, hook them horns. Long horns. Austin, Texas. Got to throw that in but… So I was in, I was a cashier since like 16.

0:03:01.8 MB: Wow.

0:03:02.6 BJ: And when I got recruited, fresh out of college, this startup that was recruiting me was building cash register software. So I was like, wow, understand it. I knew what tills were. They were like, “You know what a till is?” Yes.

0:03:14.0 MB: Bring her on. Come on. She’s hired.

0:03:17.2 BJ: She’s hired.

0:03:17.9 MB: She’s hired.

0:03:19.5 BJ: And I was their first Java programmer because Java was a brand new language back then. And so once I joined that startup, that’s when I got bit by that entrepreneurial bug, because I saw this company grow from I was like, employee 25.

0:03:30.9 MB: Wow.

0:03:31.0 BJ: And I saw us grow to 200, get acquired by Oracle.

0:03:34.6 MB: Okay now.

0:03:35.8 BJ: I see people getting cash even a little bit for me as one of the first developers, and I was like, “You know what? I can do this,” because I watched that whole process.

0:03:41.7 MB: Yes.

0:03:41.8 BJ: And I was like, man, I could do this one day.


0:03:49.9 MB: Listen to episode one to hear all about Barbara’s journey and vision for her company and the community she’s building within it. Our next guest, KJ Hughes, knows all about community, and his vision led him to become the founder of Manifest, a cultural destination and an expression of excellence. So I’ve had the privilege to come to Manifest many times. I am a member.

0:04:10.9 KJ Hughes: You’re amazing.

0:04:12.5 MB: But when I first met you, it was all walls, all white. We were on phone, you were showing me around, and you had this idea of having the safe space that people could manifest whatever their dreams allowed. But you were pretty intentional about the components that were in there. So talk about each of the components, and I would say not just why they manifested, but why they had history and meaning for you, particularly being from DC.

0:04:36.9 KH: Yeah. I was born in the ’80s.

0:04:40.7 MB: Lucky you.

0:04:43.9 KH: My dad has been incarcerated my entire life since ’82. And my mom was a hairstylist. Coming up in the ’80s, she worked at a really popular salon called Shelton’s Hair Gallery.

0:04:57.6 MB: Oh, yeah. We know Shelton’s, all right.

0:05:00.9 KH: On Connecticut Avenue. So she had an opportunity to… It was the upscale.

0:05:07.0 MB: Right. It was the spot if you could afford it.

0:05:07.8 KH: Absolutely. So she had the privilege of being a hairstylist to football players’ wives and girlfriends and entertainment.

0:05:15.5 MB: People on TV.

0:05:16.2 KH: Exactly.

0:05:17.7 MB: Yeah.

0:05:18.8 KH: And I grew up in that salon. I earned my first bucks sweeping hair. Then I graduated to washing hair and got tips and got compliments on how cute I was. I learned a lot in that salon. Self confidence. It was filled with a different type of person than what I grew up around and where I lived. Right? Gay and lesbian folk, black elite. And then every, I think Thursday and Friday you had people who came in and sold goods, right? Ek glasses.

0:05:54.3 MB: That’s right.

0:05:55.0 KH: MCM bags. I got all my school polo from there. It was…

0:06:02.9 MB: It was all delivery services way ahead of time.

0:06:03.8 KH: Oh, man, it was amazing. It was Amazon Prime before prime. And so I learned a lot in there, I saw a lot. And I think that’s where the entrepreneurial roots really start is when you see that service and money exchange, like immediacy of that, it’s something that’s like, oh shit, I got to get it. And I think that’s where the blood was printed in me, running errands. Hey, go to the store for me or do whatever, and I knew I was going to get a… I knew I was going to get some cash that day. Right? And so…

0:06:38.2 MB: And it was safer than selling drugs which was the other alternative for many young folks here in DC at that time. Yeah.

0:06:43.3 KH: Absolutely. And so my mom was intentional about me being in that environment. And she would always say a devils… I’m sorry, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. And so she would leave out the house or be on her way out the house and she’s like, what you got today? If it wasn’t an articulate sentence, you’re coming with me.

0:07:02.8 MB: I like that. [laughter] A forced field trip.

0:07:06.2 KH: Absolutely. And so to go from uptown Bryan Street, Ward One, to now go to work with my mom in Ward One on Connecticut Avenue to now own a piece of real estate and a business in Ward One. That’s a barber shop. I mean, it seems like God’s plan. You know?

0:07:27.7 MB: Yeah.

0:07:29.7 KH: And so I didn’t shy away from it.


0:07:36.8 MB: KJ’s mother spoke life to her son and our next guest, Terri-Nichelle Bradley, the founder of Brown Toy Box, is speaking life to a whole generation. When her life came crashing down around her, she found herself rising to meet not only her own needs, but the needs of her community and the next generation. Terri was such a fun guest to have on, and I’m excited to share some of her story with you.

0:08:00.6 Terri Bradley: So many things inspired me to get started, right? So I always talk about this mountain top moment that I had. It was after my mom had died.

0:08:08.9 MB: Okay.

0:08:10.2 TB: And so I was going around Stone Mountain where I work out, and I was really just kind of dragging myself around the mountain. And I was asking, God, I’m like, there’s got to be something else, right? What is my purpose in life? Like, clearly I’m not anybody’s wife anymore. I’m not this, I’m not that. What am I? And what I heard was, look at your life. And so that’s what I do. And so I started writing it down and jotting like I was… It was almost obsessive about trying to figure out, okay, what does he mean look at your life? What does that mean? And I just started thinking about all the different things, right? I thought, of course, as me being a mom myself. What is it? That is the grounding thing in my life, right?

0:08:51.8 MB: Sure.

0:08:52.3 TB: It’s me being a mother. And so I said, it’s got to have something to do with that. It’s got to have something to do with me. I was really obsessed at that time, too. I was reading TechCrunch and Mashable about this leaky pipeline and Stem, and I was like, that sounds like some BS to me. But it’s not a talent issue. It’s an access issue, right? And then I really started even thinking about earlier when I was in college, and the most pivotal thing happened was, I love… Whenever somebody says, that little boy is bad, I’m like, give him to me.

0:09:27.3 MB: Oh, boy.

0:09:27.3 TB: If the little girl is sassy, give her to me. Right?

0:09:30.8 MB: Got you.

0:09:31.8 TB: Because I know I can, I love those kids. I love the challenge kids, right? But there was one when I was in college that they labeled as the bad kid. Right? And so I worked at a REC center to pay for school. Unlike my child, I worked full time to pay for school.

0:09:45.7 MB: The goal is for us to do better so they don’t have to do what we did. That’s what they said.

0:09:49.4 TB: Amen. Okay. And so, [laughter] but he used to always talk about bridges, right? Like, I would spend all the time talking about bridges, all this kind of stuff with him. But I had to leave because my classes weren’t… I had to take classes that didn’t work with that schedule. And so I gave him a book on bridges.

0:10:06.9 MB: Oh, wow.

0:10:07.8 TB: And so his mom was like, “Thank you. But you know he’s not really going to be building and bridges, right?” And I was like, “Why do you say that?”

0:10:19.2 MB: Wow.

0:10:19.9 TB: Right? And she was like, “How many N’s do you know that build bridges?” I was so mad. I was so angry with her at the time.

0:10:30.4 MB: That’s unfortunate. Yeah.

0:10:31.1 TB: But the truth is that was in ’91, ’92, it was like 2.6% civil engineers black, ’64, in 1964, it was like 2.1 civil engineers black.

0:10:43.3 MB: Wow.

0:10:43.9 TB: All that time, it hadn’t changed. To this date, it’s less than 3%.

0:10:47.8 MB: Wow.

0:10:48.4 TB: Right? Black civil engineer. So she wasn’t wrong.

0:10:50.7 MB: Right, right.

0:10:51.4 TB: But she was wrong because she spoke death…

0:10:53.3 MB: Her expectations and data spoke to that, but she didn’t create opportunity.

0:10:56.2 TB: Absolutely. And you spoke death to your son.

0:10:58.3 MB: Yeah. Wow.

0:11:00.2 TB: You spoke death to his dreams. And so I thought about that. How many kids in my life had I experienced who had had death spoken to their dreams? Right? And so that’s another reason why when I talk about getting the parents on board, it’s so important so that they can see it, and so they can speak life to their children’s dreams. And so I just… Toys came to me.

0:11:21.1 MB: What was the young man’s name?

0:11:22.7 TB: His name was Marcus.

0:11:23.8 MB: Where’s Marcus now?

0:11:25.5 TB: So Marcus did 15 years in Nebraska State Penitentiary. So I don’t know where he is now.

0:11:31.5 MB: Wow. I bet you he thought about bridges while he was in there, though.

0:11:34.6 TB: I bet he thought about bridges. And I bet his mom probably thought about, “What if I had done something?”

0:11:39.8 MB: Right.

0:11:40.1 TB: I hope she thought about, “What if I had done this instead of that?”


0:11:48.5 MB: Terri saw a need and founded Brown Toy Box. Seeing a need and creating a solution is a driving force for so many entrepreneurs. Our next guest, Naza Shelley, is doing just that. The founder of CarpeDM, Naza is using technology to bring people together. So Naza Shelley, founder and CEO of CarpeDM. What is CarpeDM?

0:12:13.5 Naza Shelley: CarpeDM is a dating service and matchmaking service designed for singles interested in dating professional black women.

0:12:21.0 MB: So, that’s not usually where you expect black founders to be. Usually we’re starting hair care products or we’re starting some food products. Or maybe we’re trying to build some little tinker tech. So where did this idea come from to have a dating site?

0:12:36.6 NS: You know that they say what? Necessity is the Mother of invention.

0:12:39.3 MB: Oh, okay. Alright.

0:12:40.3 NS: So just being single, working, living in DC, I was trying all the apps, on all the apps, trying to find love, trying to find my person and just struggling. And I didn’t think that apps were actually built to help me succeed. And so when I was looking for a service or anything, at that point I was an attorney making six figures.

0:12:58.1 MB: Alright then.

0:12:58.5 NS: And I was like, I could put a little bit of money behind this.

0:13:00.5 MB: First of all you shouldn’t have needed a service. [laughter] You were an attorney making six figures. Come on.

0:13:03.6 NS: I know. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?

0:13:04.7 MB: But you gotta leave the office though to find a mate.

0:13:06.8 NS: It’s very hard [laughter] to leave the office, then leave the house. But I feel like I was relatively social and it wasn’t that I couldn’t find good dates, it just wasn’t the right connections. So I felt like dating apps give you access to a lot of people, but the quality isn’t what it’s designed for. So…

0:13:23.8 MB: Gotcha.

0:13:25.0 NS: I was like, well, maybe I should try a matchmaking service or do something different and then getting turned away by those, because they don’t actually service and have clientele that look like me and that I would wanna be connected with.

0:13:36.8 MB: Gotcha.

0:13:37.3 NS: And just being like, so where are black women supposed to turn? And then talking to my black female friends like, “What are you guys doing?” Struggling just like you [laughter], where are you going? Nowhere. I’m giving up on dating and I’m just like, this shouldn’t be this way. We’re dope, amazing.

0:13:51.4 MB: Absolutely.

0:13:53.3 NS: Beautiful. So many things that make us desirable.

0:13:55.6 MB: Queens.

0:13:55.9 NS: Queens, right?

0:13:56.8 MB: Yes.

0:13:57.0 NS: And so I just thought, well, I could either resolve that there’s nothing for us [laughter], and just be like, all right, well, or make something. And so I say that I’m a founder by happenstance. I stumbled into it not even knowing what a tech founder was. Not knowing anything about startup life or venture. I just had an idea and I was like, well, how do people go about making ideas reality?

0:14:21.5 MB: Yeah.

0:14:21.9 NS: And then one thing I can say about law school is they don’t… They say that they don’t teach you what to think. They teach you how to think.

0:14:27.2 MB: So that helped.

0:14:28.0 NS: Yeah. So that…

0:14:28.1 MB: That and engineering.

0:14:28.2 NS: Yeah. So that’s really how things got started and how I stumbled into becoming a tech founder.


0:14:42.0 MB: Building our best lives looks different for different people, but that experience of excellence and joy of discovering something wonderful is universal. Our guest, Deidre Mathis, found that wonder and joy in her travels. Now she brings that experience to her guests at Wanderstay. Deidre Mathis.

0:15:00.1 Deidre Mathis: Yes.

0:15:00.4 MB: Founder and CEO of Wanderstay Hospitality group.

0:15:03.0 DM: Yes.

0:15:03.4 MB: How the hell did you get in hospitality?

0:15:04.3 DM: [laughter] So, yeah. So there’s a very small percentage of black and brown people who are even in hotel management, hotel GMs and hotel owners. So there’s not a lot of us. And so I’m really happy to be adding some much needed diversity in the industry. But I tell people I fell into hospitality because I merged two of my passions. I love traveling. I’ve been to 46 countries on all seven continents, and I love people. I received both of my degrees undergrad and graduate in journalism so I thought I would become the next Barbara Walters or Katie Couric.

0:15:36.1 MB: I can see that.

0:15:36.9 DM: [laughter] But instead one year, I embarked on a travel gap year. I was living in Australia and at that time I was a young broke, recent college graduate. Didn’t have much money but traveling through Australia, I stayed at a bunch of hostels and boutique hotels and I just fell in love. I fell in love with the idea that I can meet people from all around the world. I fell in love about the community that I had at these places. I fell in love with the fact that these places made travel more accessible because I didn’t have $200 a night to stay in a hotel room. And that’s just how I fell into hospitality. It just kinda fell in my lap.

0:16:12.2 MB: Yeah. And so how do you go from Wanderlust to Wanderstay? What’s in those names? What’s in the name?

0:16:18.2 DM: So a lawsuit.

0:16:21.1 MB: Oh. [laughter] Okay.

0:16:21.2 DM: Let’s get… Yeah, we could talk about that. So Wanderlust, the definition of Wanderlust is a person who is essentially addicted to traveling. You have the Wanderlust spirit, the wanderlust bug. You’re addicted to travel. And so when I heard the word, it just stuck on me like white on rice. I just, I was like, this is who I am, what I am. This is my brand. So of course I wrote the book Wanderlust for the young, broke Professional. And then the business I had incorporated as Wanderlust Hospitality.

0:16:45.8 MB: Okay.

0:16:46.4 DM: Well, literally a month before we were supposed to open the first location, 30 days. I’ll never forget I was at a conference. I had my name badge on. I was… You know, you’re feeling good when you first start going to conferences with your company name badge?

0:16:57.6 MB: That’s right.

0:16:58.3 DM: I’m feeling good and I’m going into the sessions and my business is opening in 30 days and I’m just on fire. I get an email, now the subject line says cease and desist.

0:17:08.2 MB: Oh Lord.

0:17:08.7 DM: And so I’m like, okay. And all my business classes I hear about suits and everything, but I’m not even open yet. So I’m like, what is this? So I read the email and I’m like, it was attachment to it. It was attorney’s office saying that you can no longer use the company Wanderlust because you’re getting too much media attention. And our consumers might start to confuse the two brands. But essentially, so when I had an attorney, which is a key thing, I told entrepreneurs, you can save on a lot of things. Don’t save on your attorney.

0:17:34.6 MB: Amen.

0:17:35.1 DM: You need to have an attorney on day one.

0:17:37.0 MB: Amen.

0:17:37.6 DM: Day one. Even if you have to have a retainer where you pay one, two, $3000 up front and they eat at it as you go by, you need an attorney. So I reached out to the attorney and she essentially said, yeah, Deidre, cease and desist. They’re a big company Deidre, they have attorneys, they have money. And she just straight up told me, you can’t.

0:17:56.8 MB: You’re not gonna win this one.

0:17:57.4 DM: You’re not gonna win this one. And I was sad, Melissa, I had spent thousands of dollars on branding.

0:18:02.7 MB: I was about to say, you’re 30 days old, you gotta change everything.

0:18:05.8 DM: Oh, talk about a form of depression. I was just…

0:18:09.8 MB: Wow.

0:18:10.3 DM: Depressed. And I was having a pow wow with one of my friends and I was just like, what can we do? And then she just came up and she said Wanderstay. And I was like, wait.

0:18:18.3 MB: Just like that?

0:18:18.9 DM: Yeah. Oh, we were talking different…

0:18:21.4 MB: Okay.

0:18:21.6 DM: She was throwing out different business names.

0:18:22.1 MB: Okay.

0:18:22.3 DM: And one of the ones she said was Wanderstay. And I said, oh my gosh, that is perfect. So at first it was Wander Stay two different words.

0:18:29.1 MB: Okay.

0:18:29.4 DM: And then I was like, well how would it look if I merged it together, Wanderstay, and I put it out there and people just ate it up. And then when you think about it in hindsight, Wanderstay is so much more fitting for my brand.

0:18:38.6 MB: Than Wanderlust.

0:18:39.2 DM: Yes. And so it’s like…

0:18:40.0 MB: Because then I’m gonna keep my hostile impression of people hooking up in there. They don’t know each other. So I actually like Wanderstay. Yes. That makes sense.

0:18:47.6 DM: Yeah. [laughter]

0:18:48.1 MB: That resonates with the brand just a little bit more.

0:18:50.4 DM: Yes. So it was a blessing in disguise, but I tell folks, please don’t… I use one of those services that you pay $200 and they check and see if your business name is available. And they do all your paperwork. I use one of those. And I tell people don’t use that. Don’t try to save money when you’re formatting your company. That is when you need to work with an attorney, or at least somebody that you know has done this is gonna do a fair job.

0:19:11.5 MB: Yeah.

0:19:12.6 DM: That organization didn’t look up the name because my attorney, she, with the stroke of, I don’t know a few words. She found that, she said, Deidre, if you would’ve came to me, I would’ve told you no, you can’t use that. But because she was charging me 4000 and you’re charging me 300, of course I’m gonna go with the 300. But in the end, I ended up losing 10, $15,000 for it. So it’s not worth the headache. Spend the money, get the attorney right away.

0:19:33.9 MB: You verified. You get what you pay for.

0:19:36.1 DM: You literally get what you pay for. [laughter]

0:19:38.3 MB: Get What you pay for. That’s for sure.

0:19:39.0 DM: Literally. [laughter]

0:19:40.9 MB: Thanks for joining me for this sneak peak of season two of Founder Hustle. Episode one airs Tuesday, May 23rd. Mark it on your calendar. You can catch up on all the episodes from season one of Founder Hustle wherever you get your podcast. Thank you for listening to Founder Hustle. If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe and tell a friend. For more information about our guests, check out our website. There you’ll find all kinds of information, tools, and resources for the New Majority Entrepreneur. To stay connected, follow us on social media at We Are NMV or Search hashtag Founder Hustle. Founder Hustle is a production of Kinetic Energy Entertainment and New Majority Ventures. Our producer is Ann Kane. Our social media producer is Misako Envela, and the show is mixed by Sonya Harris. The intro theme is Vuelta al Sol by Tomas Novoa. The credit theme is Glide by Columbia Nights, and the Yays are from Ratata by Curtis Cole. I’m Melissa Bradley. See you next time.

Melissa Bradley

Melissa Bradley

Melissa L. Bradley is the Founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth and Co-founder of New Majority Ventures, a purpose-driven media brand featuring content that is entertaining, inspirational and actionable so that these entrepreneurs and their businesses survive and thrive.