Being bold has paid off for Teneshia Jackson Warner, who pitched her services to Russell Simmons when they bumped into each other, then faxed him her resume for 30 days in a row. Her persistence led to working for Simmons, launching her own thriving marketing company Egami consulting and being a business author. With clients including Procter and Gamble, Target and Hennessey, she has discovered how to connect brands with communities of color. The innovative entrepreneur shares her boss secrets.
The gig: I am the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Egami Consulting Group, an award-winning marketing company that helps brands connect with multicultural consumers. I am also the author of Profit with Purpose, a book on making money with meaningful engagement.
The journey: I was a project manager at IBM Global Services while obtaining my master’s degree. I wasn’t fulfilled in my job. One of my school assignments was to determine the motivating decision behind my choices. I learned money had been my motivating factor but after that assignment, I decided my new determining factor would be passion. That changed the game because then I had to decide what exactly I was passionate about.
Working for free: You have to give in order to get. To discover my next career move, I offered my services for no charge. Every person I asked to volunteer for never told me no. I had a strong interest in shopping, so I volunteered with a fashion stylist, and quickly realized I didn’t want to shop for other people. After reading Russell Simmon’s book Life and Def, I realized I had an interest in pop culture and its impact on the way we experience brands. It made me want to volunteer for someone who had mastered this and I prepared a one-minute pitch on how I could be of service.
When opportunity knocks: I was at the MAGIC convention in Las Vegas when I saw Russell Simmons. He literally bumped into me as I was leaving the restroom and I knew that was the moment. I pitched myself and told him I was willing to volunteer in exchange for an opportunity to learn from him. He gave me a fax number and for 30 days I persistently faxed him every day with no response. I attended another conference where he was speaking and pitched myself one more time in front of the whole room. He’s like, “Oh my God. It’s that girl again.” He said that it was a long time since he had a chance to see that type of persistence and he wanted to know, “If I give you a chance, what are you going to do with it?” I worked for him for free at first and realized this was my calling. Some of my early assignments were tied to giving back, like the Get Out The Vote campaign. I found the formula to work with urban and pop culture and also being intentional to create opportunities that would give to the community.
Launching her own enterprise: I don’t wait for a moment that will qualify me as prepared. It’s getting in the game. In the game, the preparation is happening. I dig in and do, as I’m learning. In 2004 Russell wanted to hire me, and I told him to hire my company. I didn’t have a company yet, but while he was away in Europe, I figured out how to incorporate Egami, which is image backwards. I didn’t know what it was going to be but I knew I had a very good first client. What I love about our company is we got to do it in a different way with each client and each campaign. We have to create. You can write on the walls in my office.
Her biggest lesson learned: Not allowing myself to get so bogged down that I don’t keep myself open to hear and receive from God. When that happens, I start to make decisions on my own, without that higher connection and that’s when I fumble.
Her career highlight: Launching The Dream Project, my annual conference, was a really big moment. Fast forward to 2014, we had an opportunity to work with Procter and Gamble and support their activation of the “Oprah Live the Life You Want” tour. I enjoyed being able to work with the brand to create and empower women to live their best life and watch Oprah at the same time.
Juggling love and career: My husband Mike Warner is also my business partner. We work together so we schedule time to just be a couple. We set the goal of of what time we leave the office at this time and we have a no laptops rule for our bedroom.
Her boss accessory: My shoe game needs to be right. You’re walking in confidence.
Her beauty products: I love a red lip.
Her favorite tech gadgets: I love all things Apple. I feel a connection to Steve Jobs because he was such a visionary.
Her superpower: Keeping a clear connection with God, the higher source.
Her mantra: “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”
Her theme song: “My First Song” by Jay Z. It’s a reminder to stay hungry.