by De’Juan Galloway
Meet Felicia Joy, a corporate executive turned entrepreneur, who uses her experience from both worlds to assist small businesses and self-starters nationwide. In 2008, the Georgia native started two companies, Ms. CEO Inc. and Joy Group International, which specialize in content delivery and brand consulting, respectively. Most notably, Ms. CEO Inc. produces The Ms. CEO Show, an online radio show that reaches 1.5 million monthly listeners.
Joy provides insight and resources for entrepreneurs to turbocharge their businesses on each broadcast through lessons she draws from her own experience. Her book “Hybrid Entrepreneurship“, presents readers with a strategy on how to work full-time and build a part-time business—a practice she considers a pathway to beating the slow economy. TAP caught up with Joy to discuss the landscape of hybrid entrepreneurship, the social dimensions of business and her journey to becoming Ms.CEO.
How did you make the transition from a corporate executive, as a crisis management and communications executive, to running your own business?
The transition happened over a period of time because I made the commitment in my mind to do it. I began making changes in my lifestyle and launched my business part time while I was still working. I made the transition around the time the company was cutting cost and jobs and I actually volunteered [to be laid off].
What’s the difference between your two companies?
Ms. CEO Inc. is a media, merchandise, and event company focused on women entrepreneurs. Joy Group International is a business development and consulting firm.
Is there a main focus for the two companies?
That continues to be a challenge for me; Ms. CEO Inc. is the better known brand because that is what I have been focused on more in the last year. However, Joy Group International is beginning to take off, so I am focusing more on it and adding more people to my team to run Ms. CEO on a daily basis. This will give me the opportunity to build up Joy Group International.
What are the different components of Ms. CEO Inc.?
The media division includes our online radio show and content. We are also in the process of pitching women entrepreneur-focused content to different television programs. Additionally, we have merchandise—a very classic black t-shirt that say ‘Ms.CEO’. We did market testing in boutiques in Atlanta and there is a real interest in them. We are gearing up to sell those in stores nationwide. Our event division produces events that are one of a kind.
What makes your events unique?
Our goal with our events is to give women entrepreneurs very specific information on how to grow their business and make it more profitable. For example, we are organizing an event called ‘Shop, Show and Tell’ and it’s merging shopping with social media. Women vendors will sell their merchandise and we will have a social media station set up, so that shoppers who buy from the vendors can use Facebook, Twitter and recorded video to talk about their experience with the vendor. What this does is drives the vendors’ businesses both on and offline.
Why would an investor invest in your company?
I actually don’t look for investors because I don’t want my company controlled by someone else. Hypothetically answering that question, an investor would want to invest because I am one of the leaders out here helping small businesses grow. Small business and entrepreneurship is the number one trend worldwide. The economy is based on experts and information right now and I dare say that I am one of the front-runners as an expert in building businesses today.
Can you tell us about your book “Hybrid Entrepreneurship“?
Hybrid entrepreneurship is merging the concepts of employment and entrepreneurship, two ways of earning income. In the past, employment and entrepreneurship have had contention between each other. If you were an entrepreneur, people would look like at you as an outlier, thinking you started a business because you can’t get a job. Entrepreneurs have been kind of snobby about the fact that they could go out on their own and make it– the two looked down on each other. Entrepreneurs felt if you had to get a job you were too weak to survive off of your own work and you had to rely on someone else for income.
I feel like where the economy is now, it is smart for people to use the best of both worlds and that’s what the book is about. It is about having a full time job because even though unemployment is high right now, ten percent in most places, 90% of America is working. So my advice is to keep your full time job and start a business part time because your job is not guaranteed to be around and you will get the benefits from both.
The evolution of new digital media and technology has been responsible for producing many new forms of entrepreneurship. Have these technologies had an effect on you as an entrepreneur?
Absolutely, these new technologies have created the avenues for a lot of people to get into business. It has lowered the cost of starting a business, enabled you to do business from anywhere and given people access to information they didn’t have before. This gives them the ability to compete with companies who may be larger in scale or more deep-pocketed in terms of financial resources. New technology has definitely been a boom for entrepreneurship.
What kind of research do you conduct to perform competition analysis?
I look at their sites, read trade journals and look into companies’ social media accounts to see what they’re doing. To be honest with you, I look at that up front, put my plan together and execute. I know a lot of people advocate for keeping a constant eye on competitors but that’s not my personal strategy. When you do that it’s running a race and continuing to look back, you slow yourself down and tie yourself to your competitor’s standards. My approach is, ‘I am always going to be number one’ and while I read press and stay in the know of the marketplace, I do not tie myself to other’s standards because I am going set the standard for whatever stage I am in.
Do you have any favorites in the current pool of small businesses?
I love Propser.com because small businesses and entrepreneurship are exploding across the globe and Prosper.com lets everyday people fund each other’s businesses. We know what’s going on in the credit markets and with Wall Street reform but there is no shortage of money in America. The money is there, it just depends on what we want to do with it, so a small business like Propser.com is helping other small businesses survive and I enjoy that. Another small business concept that I like is AClothesEncounterOnline.com. It was started by a woman who organizes parties where people can sell clothes to each other. One person’s junk is another’s treasure—this is perfect for those who want to be fabulous and fashionable but do it for less.