March brings a new month and a new look for Launch DFW. While the revamping is finally finished, there’s some catching up to do with posts from February. Launch wants to take this moment to continue the Black History Month Startup Profiles that were featured during the month of February.
Black History Month was created and is observed annually for remembrance and appreciation of notable people and events in the history of descendants of the African diaspora or people of African ancestry. This month gives us a chance to highlight what these notable people and events not only mean to Black history but to general history at large. Within the startup and entrepreneurial community, black men and women are increasing their contributions but are still behind other racial groups in owning their own business or creating a product. Less than 1 percent of Black Americans receive the venture capital necessary to get their business or product off the ground. Despite those setbacks, there are Black men and women, especially in North Texas, who have been successful. Here are some of their stories.
Could you give a summary of what your company does and the idea or inspiration behind it?
King Creative Arts Expressions is a company that has to do with the arts and music therapy. It’s a music therapy direct service and consultation company, as well as a general music-based programming services. I have been making music, singing and interested in the arts and participating in it for a number of years now and it’s only been in the last seven years that I’ve come across music therapy.
While my degree is in music and I double minored in psychology and broadcast communications for radio during undergrad, once I figured out that there was a field called music therapy where it’s all about working on the non-musical goals, whether it be physical, cognitive, emotional, or social, I can use music in a very strategic way to work on those non-musical goals that really peaked my interest. That’s where, I wouldn’t call it a career change completely, but that sparked the thought what about music therapy?
I used to work for the Dallas Regional Chamber in education, so career wise, I’ve always been at a university or worked at an educational capacity or with youth but I’ve always had this passion for music. With music therapy, my original intent was I wanted to work with the special needs population and students and use music as one of those learning tools and I found out music therapy could really be so much more. To fast forward a bit, I pursued the route through SMU’s equivalency program in music therapy to become board certified.
Once I finished that I said this is something I’m really serious about pursuing, so that’s when I made the career shift and decided that a company that housed both the music therapy and arts-based programming so it could be sort of merge my background of program development, as well as my direct service skills into one and eventually, I would like to have other people that work with and/or for me. That’s sort of the genesis of the first iteration of King Creative Arts Expressions.
It [the creation of King Creative] slowly unfolded as to what the path and directionality would be. On the music side of things, for instance, I do a lot of songwriting for different non-profits in the community looking for theme songs or have special events. So, I’ll get an idea of what is the central theme, what is the message that you’re trying to convey, or who’s you’re audience and it’s really a great opportunity to be able to do something I love, write songs, but have such a great impact on what my client is trying to accomplish.
What got you into entrepreneurship?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I’ve always enjoyed different types of things and feel blessed and fortunate to have multiple gifts along different domains and hone those skills. Back in the day when my interest was originally sparked with working with the special needs population, I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher because I said well then I’ll just have a classroom of 20 to 30 kids for 30 years and that would be the scope of my impact. I knew I wanted more than that. Then from there, I thought with music therapy I could work with all these different populations and take it from there, and that’s a bigger scope. Then again, through a series of events, I realized that not just the music therapy but the musical aspects of who I am and what I contribute to society called for an even greater scope.
So you have your music therapy work, the class that you come in contact there, but also now on the music side, as a singer-songwriter and as a person who holds workshops, that gives me an opportunity to reach a greater body of people. I’ve never been the type of people who could sit in one place for x amount of working years and be done with that. I like a lot different things and that’s why I love entrepreneurship in terms of having this startup where I can meld along the create arts continuum to fulfill what sort of boosts, energizes and motivates me.
As an entrepreneur who is Black and a woman, how have those intersections affected how you do business or how you approach your market?
When I wake up every day, yes, there’s this awareness that I’m Black and I’m a woman but it’s not necessarily something that charges me where I’m like, ‘I’m waking up to do business today, I’m Black and I’m a woman.’ Inherently, there are certain situations that I feel like in terms of the clientele that I work with that along the music therapy spectrum, maybe I look like my client population so perhaps that’s something that, in addition to my qualifications, has made me a good candidate for some of the facilities that I work with. When we’re talking about therapy and the rapport that needs to be built, anyone can build rapport with anyone but there’s something to be said when there’s some type of familiarity, so I think that can definitely make a difference.
I’m pretty open in terms of who I do business with. One of the neat things I could say on the flip side is that I have had some potential clients in terms of, not necessarily companies but people that have someone that would like to talk to me about getting them enrolled in music therapy. I have had some people of color sometimes if I don’t have space within our schedule or program capacity, I would refer them to a couple of people that specialize in the area but I’ve heard other people ask me if I knew other African American groups in this space [music therapy], I would love to do business with another African American, I would love to do business with someone of color.
That’s been something that was really eye-opening to me and over time, I’ve seen how I’ve also taken interest in being able to support minority and women-owned businesses because sometimes I do feel we have to do a little more work to be seen or have to really put ourselves out there to be taken seriously, so part of that that has kind of helped me as I was first starting up in to now was just owning and knowing this is who I am, this is what I do, this is who we are as a company and this is what we do and it’s no different in terms of quality from anyone else’s business could or would be.
Do you feel that it’s important to have people of color, especially Black people, in the entrepreneurial/startup field?
Absolutely, because it’s just essential to have people and variety. When we look at what makes the world go round and who makes up our society, that’s people of all different backgrounds, creeds or races, so that’s essential in business and specifically, the entrepreneurship space, to have a diverse body of representation. I think when we have such a diverse body of people in society, we need a diversity body of people to meet those needs. So as a Black person and as a woman, I’m contributing in meeting the needs specifically of people that are like me but really society in general.
What advice would you give anyone about becoming an entrepreneur?
Just go for it. If you have the passion and a purpose, you have to go for it. With the gifts that we’ve been given and the talent we all have or with the way I feel, I have a duty to utilize the gifts that I’ve been given to give back and create things and to hold space because, I don’t know, maybe what I do will inspire someone else. Maybe I’m the one who can change the world or maybe what I do is going to inspire the person who can change the world, so it’s absolutely important.
It’s a lot of work but if you have that entrepreneurial spirit, it can be extremely gratifying as well. You can let fear hold you back, because it’s easy, you don’t have the comfort of a 9-to-5 and a place you go to everyday and that’s it, when I’m off work, I’m off work or for many people when I’m off work, I’m still working. You don’t have that but the tradeoff is that you can create what you want and that is invaluable and you can either come along side something that’s already there but how beautiful is it when you can completely create something that was not there before.