Off the Clock With Stefanie Brown James, Co-Founder Of The Collective PAC
Getty Images

We’ve often heard from founders that running a business can be a 24-hour experience. Still, recently, many of us are denouncing hustle culture for a balance of our own. As women who wear multiple hats, how we spend each moment of the day matters. For Black women, time is precious, but often we forget that the time we spend outside of building our empires is just as important. 

In this ESSENCE.com series, we’ll get the scoop on how some of your favorite entrepreneurs are spending time off the clock to refuel, recenter and to remember their north stars. 

Stefanie Brown James, Co-Founder & Senior Advisor of The Collective PAC, Cleveland, OH, 40

Brown James has used her civic engagement strategist experience working for organizations like EMILY’s List, Obama for America Campaign and NAACP to lead The Collective PAC as a co-founder and senior advisor. 

Brown James works alongside her husband to run the nation’s largest organization dedicated to building Black political power that has raised more than $25 million to directly increase the representation of Black leaders in political office at the local, state, and federal levels. Together they have helped elect over 250 Black candidates. Brown James does this work from her home office that allows her to multitask with house chores and caring for her two sons. 

Setting boundaries with her husband and business partner.

Brown James ensures that she is off the clock by setting boundaries with her husband, Quentin James, co-founder of The Collective PAC. She works from home while he works in the organization’s office space. “It’s a separation, which I think is important for a couple to be separated and have some time away from each other,” she said. Brown James also credits the different workspace options reflecting their productivity as leaders and allowing them to feel like co-workers during work hours and a couple in their home. “I like to be flexible. I wanna be able to take a call from the office, send the email, go upstairs, put a load of laundry in, and come back. I like to be able to get a lot of multitasking done,” she explained.

How she describes her “me time.”

Loading the player...

Weekly she has lunch with her friends who are also working from home. They prioritize seeing each other, connecting, and having a glass of wine. “If we’re lucky we can get two in a week, but we basically order the same thing. I know what each one of them orders, and we just talk about everything under the sun,” she said. 

One thing she has to do each week that makes her feel good.

“This is gonna sound so weird but, every week, I have to make macaroni and cheese,” she said. When she has a challenging day, mac and cheese are her go-to comfort food. She keeps the variety of cheeses in her fridge, ready to recreate an old family recipe. Cooking is therapeutic for her. “I will sometimes put my headphones on while I’m cooking or while I’m cleaning the kitchen,” Brown James added. Her go-to Pandora stations include Jill Scott, Eric Roberson and Anderson .Paak.

Why she prioritizes date night.

As co-workers and parents, Brown James shared she must have a date night with her husband weekly to make sure they are in sync. “We went a long time without having it, and I can definitely say it negatively affected our relationship because we weren’t being intentional about just Stefanie and Quentin,” she explained. Daily when they put the children to bed, Brown James ensures they spend time together. “We’ll watch one of our shows that we love, like Insecure, Family Feud, Billions and Succession,” she shared. 

Why being off the clock is important.

Brown James is fortunate enough to live close to her extended family, which reminds her of most matters. “It gives me perspective on why I do the work that I do, why it’s important to continue to fight for the issues I care about and that my family cares about,” she explained. Brown James admits that she is not striving for balance but focused on her wellbeing. “I am striving for a greater perspective and appreciation about life and how I spend my time, how I spend my energy, what I’m allowing to enter like my mental, emotional and physical health,” she added.