Monday, 07 June 2021
A finalist for the 2020 NatWest everywoman Artemis award, Khaleelah Jones set up Careful Feet Digital to serve start-ups and small businesses in all aspects of their digital marketing journey. She is also the host of the Dark Feminine podcast, where she discusses subjects important to women of colour entrepreneurs and business owners. In this month’s Seven Ways I Make It Happen, she talks about how entrepreneurialism is often borne from necessity and the power of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations deliberately in order to teach yourself things fast.
What in your routine is essential for success?
Setting goals. If I set a goal for myself, I will then go back constantly to check in on where I am in the process towards meeting it and whether that is the goal that I still want to reach. Every year I put together a plan that usually has to do with revenue and hiring, but also the personal side of my professional life, essentially how much I want to work and in what ways and where? I tend to be very specific in what I want and to use a mix of digital and non-digital ways to track things. In the end though, I always set goals that come back to what makes me fulfilled, and what makes me fulfilled is to serve people. So, my goals are to help me not to get distracted but also to constantly check in with myself and ask, ‘am I feeling fulfilled?’ and ‘is what I'm doing driving me towards that bigger stamp I want to leave on this earth?’
Where or from whom did you get your entrepreneurial spirit, and what did they teach you?
Growing up, I didn't really have entrepreneurial role models, as it were, although my dad was a very hard worker, so I really looked up to him in terms of providing a blueprint of how hard work gets good results in life. My entrepreneurial spirit came to me as a necessity, borne out of a situation I was in at the time. I am from Denver in the US, and I wanted to move to London to get a master's degree and then a PhD. I needed to have something to earn money that was flexible and would allow me to study in between work and that's really what set me off on this journey. My entrepreneurial success was the child of necessity. A lot of people get worried about starting out on their own entrepreneurial journey and they have all these internal questions — ‘Will I make enough money?’, ‘Am I quitting this stable situation for something unstable?’ and so on. But doing this has really taught me that it is possible, and that you should never doubt that your intuition is telling you to do the right thing — take the leap and make a move.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur and as a businesswoman?
I put myself in a lot of uncomfortable situations deliberately — from pitching cold to talking to angel investors. A lot of my growth is around being open to the fact that I'm going to do things in a way that forces me to relate to new situations quickly and teach myself things fast. If I left some of those ‘harder’ things to other people or waited until I was ‘ready’, I never would be. I think it’s good to get used to putting yourself in uncomfortable situations because they will come up at some point whether you want them or not. By doing this it means I can feel slightly more like I'm in control of it.
What are the three websites or apps that you can't do without, and why?
Gmail is where I pretty much run my business, I use Calendly to schedule things with people — I am a big fan of automating as much as I can — and Slack is the channel through which that we internally communicate as a team. As the company is remote and asynchronous, it's a tool I couldn't live without. We call Slack ‘the watercooler’ and it takes the place of us all six of my team sitting in the same office — it’s like being able to like peek over the metaphorical cubicle and say, ‘Hey, did you know this?’ or ‘did you do that?’, rather than us having to have meetings all the time, which would kind of negate the purpose of having an asynchronous remote kind of company — and we're able to get a lot done that way by just having these conversations.
Is there a winning formula for being a successful entrepreneur and if so, what's yours?
Every person is different, but for me it comes back to my goals, really understanding why I'm here and going back to the big picture. Asking what my purpose is and what am I here to do has helped me through everything from working out what kind of business I want to run and what kind of culture I want to have in it to what kind of people I want to work with. It’s also a mindset that I can hold on to on a hard day or a great day, remembering it is all temporary and asking how do I come back to what is actually essential. Which is why I think success can be so subjective, because I feel very successful that I was even able to identify — it took a lot of deep thought and self-work.
What's your top tip for staying on top of finances, practically, emotionally or strategically?
I love the phrase ‘speak your truth, fast’ and I think that can be applied to financial situations. A lot of people tend to push things under the carpet either because they kind of ‘know where things are’ and it's not good, or they think, ‘I actually feel uncomfortable talking about this with other people, but it is really standing in my value of the work I offer and the services that I provide’. You need to be unapologetically clear with yourself about your finances and also with other people, particularly in conversations about remuneration. For some reason, as women we often tend to make allowances rather than standing in our own value. So, stay in your truth and stay clear and that in turn will also help free other women up too because if you go into financial negotiations in a wishy-washy way that sets a precedent that makes it harder for the women coming behind you.
What sacrifices have you had to make to become a successful entrepreneur?
One of the biggest things that I had to give up with this business is being close to my family and that's been difficult. But I probably wouldn’t have started my business if I were living in the US because of the different cultural context and things such as health insurance which would have been a big operation. On a daily basis, as an entrepreneur, what I put into my business correlates to what I get out and that comes with stress, nights where I'm working until 2.30am and doing things that are outside of my comfort zone. The sacrifices are worth it though — there's no better feeling than looking at my business and knowing I’ve generated revenue of half a million pounds on my own. There are obviously times when I have thought ‘Why am I doing this?’, but I have clear vision of what it is that I am doing and why — and that’s essential.