Our SistahBiz spotlight for this week is Toi Massey. This inspiring sistah is a mechanical engineer, nuclear physicist, and black belt! She does not play!
Toi Massey is well known for her efforts to help children from all backgrounds gain access to resources through her STEAM education program at the JEKL Foundation.
Her consulting agency, ANM Innovative Solutions, is a full service consulting team that specializes in optimizing business outcomes through strategy, risk & opportnity planning.
We were honored to get a lot of insight from her interview below:
What’s The #1 Piece Of Advice You Have For Black Women Starting New Businesses?
YOUR OBEDIENCE MUST BE GREATER THAN YOUR SACRIFICE. My advice would be that each woman clearly understand the difference between the required sacrifice she makes for her dream and the obedience required to achieve it. Sacrifice suggests a known receivable in exchange for giving something up or delaying gratification; obedience declares she press on and persevere through the challenges even when victory appears to be nowhere in sight.
What Is Your Morning Routine?
The consistent part of my morning starts about 4 am with meditation, prayers of gratitude, and usually a request that God move some perceived mountain or make available to me whatever or whomever it is I need to be successful in my purpose according to His will and my faith. I will then check my calendar for a review of scheduled appointments and meetings, open my email and prioritize their response, possibly post to multiple social media sites as applicable, and finally review the day’s goals as set the evening before.
Has Your Product/Service Gone Through Iterations And Changes? What Was Your Strategy For Learning From Customers And Improving The Product?
My product/service has indeed gone through multiple iterations and changes, all in an attempt to narrow, or in some cases broaden, offerings or expand reach pursuant to the customer. One of the greatest tools I learned to embrace as a trained and certified Six Sigma Black Belt is the “Voice of The Customer” (VOC); it is the single most critical growth and sustainability component for any business, in my opinion, and when incorporated can provide the greatest return on any organization’s investment. As a result, I have been able to reduce waste and rework, two things that are no friend to business capital or business budget. From the input afforded me by my own customers as well as from the input captured from the voice of customers supporting organizations and/or suppliers in similar businesses, I’ve been able to identify opportunities and create disruptive business strategies across multiple industries. In my consultant capacity I am able to support other women in business to master the art of doing the same.
How Did You Acquire The Necessary Capital Required To Scale Your Business And Get To This Level?
Both of my organizations launched with personal capital.
What Area Of Your Business Did You Have The Least Experience In When You Started? How Did You Handle The Learning Curve And Ensure The Business Succeeded In That Area?
Closing the deal! I am a master at making the data-driven business case complete with competitive intelligence, projected financials, and return on investment, but I have historically struggled with closing the deal, getting the signature on the contract. It was actually one of my dear sister friends who is doing well in business who pointed it out to me when I complained one time too many about how I would have these repeat meetings to discuss a proposed opportunity with the client without compensation and still no contract to secure the proposed business. She responded with painful candor: “Toi, with all your business acumen, you are not ‘a closer’!” It was a reality check that refocused everything for me. From that moment on I chanted daily “I am a CLOSER!” LOL! I would write affirmations to myself around this matter that consisted of four words and one powerful statement only: “I AM A CLOSER!”
What Advice Do You Have For Women Trying To Cross Cultural Lines To Grow Their Business? Can You Speak To This From Both A Race And Class Perspective?
It is imperative for women in business to understand that we limit the power of our impact if we limit the expansion of our reach. While the desired primary end user may be of a particular race, ethnicity, or gender, unless our services and or products can only be used by a particular race, ethnicity, or gender, then as businesswomen we lack the luxury of economic discrimination with respect to sustainability in business. In fact, the only variant regarding the capital we generate in global business must be the color of the currency itself and not the color of the currency holder.
When referencing “class” I’m wondering if you’re actually referencing socio-economics as a demographic. I’ve learned that we might better serve our brand and it’s reach if we focus on 1) exceptional quality, 2) price points that reflect a fair market value, and 3) the voice of the customer as we commit to continuously improve our service and our product. If we focus on these three things without compromise, then whatever our price point, customers seeking quality will pursue and obtain our brand as needed and independent of their defined socioeconomic class with little exception.
Tell Us About Your First Big Deal And How You Achieved It? (This Can Be A Retail Distribution Deal, Large-Scale Contract, Sponsorship Or Funding Round)
My first big contract for the JEKL Foundation for STEAM Education was when we were contracted to both hire and train a staff in order to introduce our first 100 urban youth to code via scalable video game design. We had a commitment that we would continuously scale and from there we have impacted 400 youth, teaching them how to code and making them aware of multiple disciplines in computer technology.
My first big deal for ANM INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS, LLC (ANMIS) was when another black woman-owned business, who was herself launching, contracted me to support a state-level collective impact project focused on targeting disparities and inequities in education and health access across the state of Colorado.
If You Can Share One Message To Inspire Black Women In Business, What Would It Be?
There will advance from among our sisters one who will successfully launch, navigate, and grow a business founded out of a passion to support and to serve, a business that will change communities while changing lives, and there is absolutely no reason why that sister should not be you. She might as well be YOU!
How Have Relationships Impacted Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Entrepreneurs About How To Manage Business Relationships? What Relationship Skills Are Most Important For Business Success?
It is imperative to know who the players, the decision maker(s), and the power brokers are at all levels within an organization’s structure. Develop, build, and leverage social capital capacity across networks with a selfless willingness to equally share and offer access as applicable. Ultimately people connect to that which they are familiar with and yield access to those with whom they believe a “win-win” relationship opportunity may exist. Business relationships are introduced where there is an authentically shared interest and they are strengthened with integrity and full transparency around expectation and purpose. It’s the littlest things that make the largest impact; a phone call in addition to the convenience of texting and email to say thank you and express appreciation goes a long way in the business relationship space.
Can You Tell Us About A Great Failure Or Disappointment That You Learned Or Benefited Greatly From In Your Business?
Continuously update and maintain financial records and common application templates. Maintaining financial P&L data and up-to-date tax records, both of which can be easily and quickly accessed, is critical for presenting business acumen and process maturity. Further, when applying for grant opportunities, it is imperative to begin as early as possible. It’s advantageous to maintain a common application that can be easily and quickly tailored for specific opportunities as they present themselves.
Talk about an avoidable fail. Early in this business journey my failure to have either of the above in place cost me opportunities that would have been easily awarded to me except I applied near deadline, leaving no room for error and no time to satisfy requirements. When you are a small organization with no staff, maintaining administrative documents is non-negotiable. Choose a standing date every month to devote to your business administration needs.
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