ESSENCE Network: Kathryn Finney On How to Turn Your Dream Into Dollars

Kathryn Finney expanded her tech impact from a blogger spotting deals to a business owner making million dollar deals as the creator of Digital Undivided. See how she helps women turn their creativity into cash.

Name: Kathryn Finney

Age: 30s

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Title: Founder and Managing Director of Digital Undivided

Location: New York, NY

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Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Twitter: @KathrynFinney

The gig: I expose Black women and underrepresented groups to the endless opportunities to be creative and make money in tech, through events throughout the year, our annual FOCUS conference coming soon and our FOCUS fellows, which help startups develop their business ideas and secure funding. 2012, we’ve had over 325 million impression – one hit for ever person in the United States. Our fellows have raised more than $5 million in funding.

The journey: I started my blog The Budget Fashionista because I was shopping too much and needed to find deals. It led me to The Today Show and a book deal. While developing a television show, I realized they wanted to stereotype me a certain way on the show and decided not to do it. I became an editor at BlogHer and learned the business side of digital. I saw Black people involved in startups but not reaping the rewards. Very few people made money off of Twitter’s IPO yet we are a significant driving force on the platform. I want to change that reality.

Her tech awakening: My family’s financial status changed dramatically when my father received stock while working at Microsoft. When that stock went up, our stock went up. It’s really important from an economic standpoint that we get more African American’s into the beginning stages of start-ups. Tech touches everything we do. It’s not a choice to be a part of and it’s not enough to leave it to the next generation.

Her biggest lesson learned: Not listening to my gut. Black women have crazy instincts. There is no other group of people who I’ve met who’ve had that intuition like we do. The biggest mistake I’ve made has been when I’ve ignored that.

Entrepreneurship 101: The best way to know if your idea is good is to do a very simple version of the idea and put it out there and get feedback. We’re often told that you don’t put something out that’s not perfect, right? But that feedback is what will guide you and let you know if you have a valid market before you spend a lot of time and money. You have to make sure you have a market that pays.

Her career highlight: Recently we worked really hard on an event in Detroit with MC Hammer who is a friend and a major player in tech. He agreed to spend the day talking to the community about tech and coding. There was a group of women who were part of Empowerment Clan, which makes jackets that double as sleeping bags for homeless people. Many of these women were formerly homeless and they were all Black. When they saw Hammer come in, they literally lost their damn minds and some started doing the running man. One woman told me the experience made her life. It made all the work worth it.

Her secret superpower: I can talk to anyone. If you’re a redneck or from the mountains of the Himalayas, we could sit down and have a really awesome talk.

Her mantra: When you were born the world rejoiced and you cried. Live your life as such that when you pass, you rejoice and the world cries. At my father’s funeral, there were 1,000 people in January in Minnesota. All of these people came to the coldest place in the world to celebrate his life. It was such a powerful lesson on living.

Her power style accessory: Bold necklace, a headwrap and my many pairs of funky glasses. My husband says my whole aura is a production.

Her beauty secret: Water is my biggest beauty product. If you drink water and limit your sugar it totally changes your skin’s composition. I also love artisanal soaps.

Her theme song: “Started from the Bottom” by Drake & “Living my Life” by T.I.

For more information on Digitial Undivived and to register for FOCUS, visit digitalundivided.com

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