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 and executives are spending time off the clock to refuel, recenter and to remember their north stars.
Meet Keia Clarke, CEO of the New York Liberty, New Jersey, 40
Since playing as a student-athlete, basketball has been a part of Keia Clarke’s life. She turned her interest in basketball as a former Division I point guard to a career in sports to holding the most senior business executive position for the New York Liberty. Clarke is the Liberty’s first-ever CEO and one of few Black women business leaders within the WNBA.
She began her career with the organization as a marketing manager and rose through the ranks. Clarke was promoted from COO to CEO during the team’s 2020 “wubble” season. As CEO, she leads and manages all business aspects of the organization, including strategic planning, revenue, P&L and operations. “I love everything about the women that we represent. Along with my team, we just want to put them in the best light, especially because we’re a league, as you may know, of over 80 percent, Black women,” she shared.
With the intersection of sports and amplifying Black women, Clarke gets to blend both of her interests in her work. Discover what tools she uses to lead her organization meet her personal needs while managing motherhood and home life.
She makes the most of her commute
Clarke and her family live around 45 minutes outside of New York City, but every day looks different from how she spends her commute to work. Some days she has to take work calls, but other times she veg out or listens to music. “It’s gospel. It’s an equal balance between R & B and Oldies. My third is old school hip hop,” she shared her music listening. But what Clarke enjoys most about those rides is her phone calls with family members, particularly her mother. “I’m an only child, and my mom lives in nearby Connecticut, but we don’t see each other as often, but we talk every single day,” she explained. That commute is her time to check in.
She has a toolkit to refuel her spirit.
When Clarke feels like she needs to be refueled or feel a sense of self, she goes to her toolkit of things that bring her joy. “If I’m getting to that limit or it’s been too many days of straight working through or 10 hour days, there’s kind of a bag that I go into,” she shared. Things that she pulls from her toolkit range from retail therapy at HomeGoods or HomeSense to getting a massage and salon visit. “My mother actually gave me that advice. She’s like, ‘Don’t work, you know, be pampered, enjoy that moment, enjoy that quiet time to yourself,'” Clarke shared. Both are times when she can be alone.
Another thing that she needs to do for herself each week is attending church, and it’s a must for her and her family to be on time for praise and worship. “I need that. I want it. I honor that time. I think from a spirituality standpoint; it’s very important,” Clarke said.
Her hobbies are essential to her.
“I really get lost in music,” Clarke said. A few years ago, she decided to learn the art of DJing. She goes to her basement when she feels like she needs to pull from her toolkit and spend hours on the turntable to “dibble and dabble and mix and crossfade music.” She DJ’d the family functions over Zoom, but her first public-facing event was with 200 to 300 people for the virtual New York Liberty holiday party for season ticket holders in 2020. “I wasn’t scratching that much, but I did crossfade some Christmas carols,” she shared with a giggle.
Annual family vacations are a must.
The WNBA season happens during the summer, and during that time, Clarke’s days are long and busy. She attends every home game, and sometimes travels during the summer to attend a game. “Because I’ve worked in the league for so long, I’ve always been incredibly diligent about taking a vacation as soon as the season’s over,” she said. The Clarke family annual trip is to Jamaica in October or another Caribbean island. Her husband is Jamaican, and they use the time to visit extended family and relax at a resort up until the pandemic. The family is ready to make their trip again, but during this time, she and her husband take drivable getaways, and the family will do staycations at hotels in New York City.
Being off-the-clock time is integral to happiness.
Clarke believes that you can’t fully enjoy your professional life if the other parts of you are lacking. “I think it’s integral to ultimately being happy,” she said. When it’s hard to show up and be great and show up for the people and the things that need you, she says it’s essential, to be honest about the ability to do what you need to feel good.