Round 2 of our #NoHoodLikeMotherhood interview series is here and we are super thrilled to have had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the mogul mom & serial entrepreneur, Ms. Kelli Coleman! Ironically, Kelli and I went to elementary school together and shared some time in New York but to candidly talk with her about the joys of being a mom, why it’s important to take time for yourself and her new business endeavors, was such a pleasure! Check out my interview with her below…
Name: Kelli Coleman
Location: Detroit, MI
Occupation/Bio: Entrepreneur, Founder/CEO – KMColeman Group, Founder – She Who Dares
Children: Dylan – 5
RW: Tell us who you are & about your background.
KC: I’m Kelli, I’m from Southfield, Michigan. I honestly had a great childhood, I grew up in a two parent household but unique in the way that my dad was entrepreneurial and my mother was the breadwinner while he was starting his business. I basically saw first hand how things grow and evolve in business and relationships, especially as you become more successful, so that was an interesting dynamic to witness and I’m sure informed both my personal and professional life as I got older & evolved as a person.
I did NOT have any plans to get pregnant by any stretch of the imagination. I always envisioned that I would be a mother later in life. I never really obsessed about getting married or things like that, it was always just something that I felt would happen whenever it was supposed to happen but the timing definitely took me by surprise. So that’s pretty much the landscape when it comes to my lack of preparation or desire at the onset to be a relatively young mom but it’s interesting how motherhood ultimately changed me. I can’t imagine myself now not being a mom to Dylan….but it definitely was not the plan!
RW: Tell us about your experience as a mother. How has life changed for you since having Dylan (both good and bad)?
KC: I always say “no one will experience joy and pain simultaneously and understand it until they become a mom”. Its one of those things that in hindsight, I realized how selfish I was. I was really focused on what I needed to do & what my personal goals were. I was able to be spontaneous. I’ve always been a planner but I didn’t necessarily have to manage my time as meticulously prior to having Dylan. So I think the biggest challenge (nothing necessarily bad because it’s ultimately made me better) was really adjusting to having to be responsible for more than just myself and having THE most important job any person can have – parenting and raising another human being. So to ultimately be 26, having lived in NY in a very fun, single, “Sex and the City”-esque life to then being 26 and looking at a newborn and thinking to myself “wow – I need to completely step my game up” was life-changing.
But I think even more than that, especially women who are more type A and are driven and capable of so much, you start to put undue pressure on yourself. That was the biggest thing that happened to me. I didn’t go through postpartum in the clinical sense but it was a self-deprecating time for me. I put a lot of undue pressure on myself and I was really hard on myself. You go through physical changes, emotional changes then you are worried about “am I doing a good enough job as a mom, as a parent”, you don’t want to make any mistakes and I just realized that I was getting in my own way when I became a mom.
BUT the both rewarding and amazing thing is what you get to have and to hold. Dylan always brought me joy just looking at her, smelling her, kissing her… you know that with this great responsibility comes this even greater reward and I think it only intensifies as they get older. I always say to moms “don’t be upset or be down on yourself if theres a period where you don’t feel happy or joyous. Allow yourself that time because theres definitely a light at the end of it all”.
RW: What excites you about motherhood?
KC: Our relationship – how it grows and changes each passing day, month, year. We have such a strong bond and it’s something that only the two of us will ever share. For example, I could have a boyfriend today and another one tomorrow. I could have thought I was in love last year and then be in love with someone else next year. Its just one of those things that isn’t a transient thing, you know that it’s a bond forever (god willing). I think the thing that’s most exciting is just how they change and grow, and thus how your relationship and interaction with them changes and evolves.
RW: What’s your biggest fear as a parent?
KC: My biggest fear is that I would not have demonstrated or guided Dylan enough to know that happiness is paramount or not support her in her endeavors in a way that lets her know that she should prioritize that. So I’m just very mindful of it now because happiness breeds self-confidence, it breeds the ability to effectively communicate and coexist with other people. Just knowing herself and knowing happiness is so important that its my biggest fear that in some way she won’t have it. But ultimately I think the fear drives me to just be very mindful of it.
RW: Do you have any mom icons, real moms you know personally or celebrity moms?
KC: Yea, my mom for sure. Outside of her, I’m really inspired by my peers. In general, when I look at you and my other friends that have kids as well as careers and other aspiration/goals that they are going after, it keeps me honest and it keeps me on track. I’m just thankful for a built-in support system. Whether they know they are inspiring me or not, its just something I can always look to and gain strength from. So generally speaking, I would say my peers and the people I know inspire me. I know what it takes to be them and know what they put into raising their families.
RW: How important is your support system? Who falls in this category for you?
KC: I’ve found a lot of women, for whatever reason, feel ashamed of needing help or don’t want to openly talk about having or needing help. For me, I’m always like “it legit takes a village” and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’ve always had hired help. I feel like if you are able and blessed enough to be able to call on other people and know that they’re going to be able to be there for your family, that can be integral for someone, as it has been for to me.
I’ve always had a nanny or au pair helping me out. I’m thankful to have my mom and the females in my family (my grandmothers, my aunts and other women) there to call on when necessary. And I do give it to him Dylan’s dad – he’s a really great father. He has a super busy schedule so he’s not here all the time but when he is, he’s very much engaged and has the extreme love of both of his daughters. That’s a true testament to who he is with as a father. But ultimately, I think it’s all about being okay with letting people in & asking for help when you need it.
RW: How did you ultimately find someone that you trusted to watch Dylan?
KC: It was a relatively long process that I started when I was pregnant. It was a week before I was set to have Dylan and all of a sudden there was some uneasiness about it for me. I was nervous at first to back out of my commitment but I told myself to go with my gut – so I ended up letting this particular woman I had already selected know that I wasn’t going to move forward. I almost felt like I needed to let Dylan get here first and I wanted to be able to be with her and observe her and understand her myself before I integrated someone else into the picture.
I waited until Dylan was 3 months before I started interviewing again (which was a struggle). I invited the candidates that I liked most into my home and looked intuitively at what they did, how the interacted with Dylan, the type of things they were interested in and the questions they asked me, and then I was able to decide on someone who was basically with us until Dylan was almost 5 (we just recently switched to a new au pair).
If you are going to go the hired route, its always great when you can have consistency with whoever you will have around but I definitely see the value in it and the value in having that person support you. Even with stay at home moms, it’s expected that they wouldn’t have help but they need a break too. I feel like it shouldn’t be a taboo option. No matter what you do or how busy you are (maybe you don’t need a full time person) but everyone needs time to themselves. How are you going to be the best mom, the best significant other, if we don’t have time to step away and get to KNOW ourselves. If you don’t take alone time to recharge, how can you expect to fulfill other roles to the best of your ability.
RW: How would you describe Dylan’s personality and interests?
KC: Dylan is such a sweet happy girl at her core, which I’m so thankful and grateful for. She’s way sweeter than her mommy ever was, which I truly appreciate. But I think she has an even stronger will than I ever had, which is a very interesting dichotomy about her but it’s so wonderful to watch. For every bit that she is sweet – she’s compassionate, she wants to know that everyone is okay, she wants everyone to be happy and harmonious – that’s definitely her core, she can also be direct and strong willed. Like “hey, this is what I would like to see happen and I’m going to need a very sound explanation as to why it can’t happen, if in fact it cannot”. I just love how curious she is, how creative she is, she’s so bright and sharp, socially capable…I mean I could talk about her all day.
Despite me loving who she is, even if there were more challenging parts about her or if she had a more challenging personality, I just think for us as moms it’s amazing to have the responsibility and desire to know someone so fully. Even when your in a relationship, or with family or friends, to me – their isn’t always that deep desire to fully know someone. I think that’s how she’s changed or almost elevated me in a way. My level of awareness of other people and trying to more deeply understand other people, she’s definitely been the catalyst for that.
RW: What’s the most important lesson(s) that you want to teach your daughter?
KC: I just want her to be self-aware. I think that’s the impetus for everything. When you know yourself, you know what you want and what you don’t want, you understand what makes you happy and what doesn’t make you happy. I think it’s an easier way to navigate life when you’ve really taken the time to be vulnerable and know yourself. So I just want her to understand the importance of that because it’s not something that’s necessarily highlighted in our society. Let’s not be worried about everyone else but focus on who we are and based on that, what should we be doing that makes us tick.
RW: Let’s talk about relationships – how has motherhood changed your relationships?
KC: With my relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs and I’m not sure what that will look like long term. For that reason I’m happy, in hindsight, about breaking up for that year. It was probably one of the most dynamic times in my life because I was forced to do a lot of that self-reflection that I now know is so critical and important. That’s why I’m okay with whatever way our relationship goes because ultimately I know what I want and I know what I don’t want. You understand your boundaries and what you’re willing to deal with and what you’re not.
With friendships though, it’s just a part of the transition – I think it’s all about perspective and your mindset. Initially its like “I haven’t seen this person, they’re going out, they’re not inviting me, they haven’t come to visit” and you start to feel bad and take it personally. Instead of realizing that, not to sound cliche but “season, reason, lifetime”. There are some friendships that aren’t meant to take you through all seasons and there are some friendships that you may need to back away from while you find your new self in the midst of this transition. Or maybe your friendship makes more sense at a different stage or period of your life. That’s definitely happened to me. In some situations, once I got a better handle on who I was as a mother and how I was managing my new life, I was more open to interacting with certain people I hadn’t seen in awhile.
I think that was the most interesting thing – in some cases I wasn’t being invited places and I took that personally and in other cases I was actually electing to retreat a little bit because at the time I didn’t know what I was doing, I don’t know who I was. I needed to get my life together before I just arbitrarily let people in on this new life. I just think friendships after motherhood are that much more meaningful because you’re more thoughtful about who you’re around and you also realize that if these are the people who are still here after this huge transition in life, the friendship means that much more.
RW: Tell us more about you personally… I know a big part of your career was at Global Hue. How did you get started there and how has it helped propel you to where you are now?
KC: Global Hue was a business my father started but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get involved in it. I went to Spelman as a Poli-Sci major with the intent on going to law school but pivoted from that plan to try my hand at working at Global Hue in my senior year at Spelman. And the rest is history as they say! I graudated in May of 2006 and was at a desk in June of 2006, exactly a month after graduation and really didn’t stop from there. As crazy as it was, the exposure to so much at a young age is why I know I have the wherewithal succeed as an entrepreneur on my own. I just reached a point working within my family business that I wasn’t able to stretch enough and I wasn’t able to ultimately accomplish there what I knew I had in my mind to do.
This was obviously a very difficult decision, especially with black culture, a legacy business – people were looking at me like I had 3 heads but at the end of the day, I took from it what I needed and I’m super grateful for the experience. I knew that it wasn’t fulfilling anymore and I had to prioritize.
RW: What are some of your passions or interests outside of motherhood?
KC: I’ve always known I wanted to be a serial entrepreneur. I know I want to run enterprises, across multiple categories – all of them in some way I feel in my heart will be built for, run by or designed for women. I love empowering women. There’s nothing in the world like knowing that the woman next to you is uplifting you and it’s not a competition. I just want to promote that type of behavior and interaction amongst women hopefully to the point where it becomes the norm and comparison & competition is just a thing of the past. That’s my ultimate goal!
RW: Tell us about your other entrepreneurial endeavors –The Ten Nair Bar & She Who Dares.
The Ten Nail Bar – I’m in partnership with Anika Jackson who is also from Detroit. We were freshman year roommates & have been best friends ever since. It’s been a really great partnership and what we’ve been able to do is fill a void. The reason why I love Detroit so much right now is because it’s really one of the only major metropolitan cities left where you can enter the market with little to no competition at the right time, in the midst of a very serious redevelopment and start your own brand from scratch with a strong chance at making a huge mark. That’s why we choose to come back to Detroit, amongst other emotionally attached reasons, to start the business. From an acumen standpoint people will understand that it’s sound to do something here right now in the right location with the right idea, and we’re blessed to have both.
We’re really just elevating the experience for Detroiters. The business is all about the idea that convenience and comfort shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Our nail bar is modern & clean – it’s just a vibe in here! We’re selling an experience in addition to providing a service. We know that we’re ahead of the curve but the pendulum is going to continue to swing in the direction of personal services that feel well done. We want to provide a more upscale atmosphere but make it accessible & affordable a la Drybar, 10 over 10, Olive & June – so we are bringing that to Detroit. Our goals is open multiple locations here in the metro area and hopefully other cities like Detroit that are in a redevelopment or newly developed urban center.
The Ten Nail Bar is located in the Capital Park area of Downtown Detroit – 1215 Griswold between Woodward and Washington on the ground floor of a residential building.
She Who Dares – is all about personal development, which is really the macro or the foundation for anything else that you’re going to do in life. I learned that through my personal journey. I probably spent a good 3-6 months with my life coach/family friend just level-setting my life. I was unhappy for a long time and was feeling really guilty about being unhappy – I had a very successful, charmed life so to speak but something was just unsettling. I played the blame game for a really long time, I was complacent and stagnant in a lot of ways. I knew I was never going to reach my full potential in the state on mind that I was in. So I took a lot of time to work on self, and a lot of the time came during my break up, which is why it was ultimately so beneficial for me. When I came out of that initial journey, I kind of had an “AH HA” moment and wanted to be able to share that with other women. I wanted to be sure that women never felt alone and wanted to provide the tools that worked for me.
Right now, She Who Dares is a speaking initiative – we travel and speak in different cities and partner with brands to facilitate our talks. We’ve partnered with Bloomingdales, Prudential, Essence, ColorCom, Ween to name a few, who have helped bring our vision to life. It is a for-profit initiative for the purpose of being able to partner with other brands/institutions/universities, etc to really make this apart of the conversation so that we can share with women that you don’t need to need to have superwoman syndrome but you need to know exactly where you’re going, why you’re going there and if its right for you.
Check out The Ten Nail Bar (@thetendetroit) at www.thetendetroit.com & She Who Dares (@swdares) at she-whodares.com. Sending lots of love to Kelli for sharing her story with us and being so open!!