One to Watch: Kandia Johnson, Founder of The Kandid Agency

One to Watch: Kandia Johnson, Founder of The Kandid Agency

Kandia Johnson
Kandia Johnson

You ever meet a person and instantly feel a connection with them, like they’re a kindred spirit? That’s how I felt about Kandia Johnson, freelance writer and founder of The Kandid Agency, a strategic communications firm.

Not only did I feel good vibes from Kandia, but I was also impressed with her work and her mission to spotlight Black women entrepreneurs and executives. You can tell she doesn’t do it just because it’s trending; you can feel her passion through every profile she writes and every project she works on.

On the heels of her recent (and first!) eBook launch, I thought it was appropriate to turn the tables and spotlight Kandia. Not only as one to watch, but someone to learn from, collaborate with and cheer on.

Here, you’ll learn more about Kandia’s new book, the work she does and hopefully get a sense of why I think she’s just so damn awesome.

Hashtags + Stilettos (H+S): Congrats are in order! You recently released your first e-book “Wake Up. Slay. Repeat. The 7 Step Guide to Quitting Your Job and Creating a Life on Your Own Terms.” I’m so proud of you! What was the catalyst or inspiration behind you writing this book?
Kandia Johnson (KJ): Thank You! In 2012, while I was on vacation with friends and family in South Africa, I decided to quit my 6 figure corporate job. We were playing a game of ‘truths’ that pushed me to reveal how I really felt about my life—I was unhappy, unfulfilled and tired of hiding behind titles, roles and materialist things. So, I turned my frustration into my inspiration—ten days later, I returned to the US and gave my employer 3 weeks notice.

H+S: The book is a candid guide to anyone looking to quit their job and redirect their life in a more fulfilling and purposeful way. While writing it, did any of your tips reignite a fire in you or make you think about things that you could be doing differently in your own life right now?
KJ: Absolutely. I have to remind myself daily to trust my journey—my life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s life. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparison and feelings of “I should be doing more.” I pray a lot, schedule positive affirmations in my smartphone and unplug from social media often. In chapter 1-“Own Your BS. Clarify & Proceed,” there’s a worksheet, which helps readers write the vision and rules for their life—I saved my statement to my phone and read it daily as a reminder to stay focused on my gifts.

H+S: I know you had been wanting to write an ebook for a long time, do you remember the moment when you decided to get out of your own way and actually get to it?
KJ: Yes! I would say there were 2 moments. First, I published an article “Why Quitting my Six Figure Job Was the Best Move for My Career” and that article received the most traffic on my blog. People from all over the country, email me about wanting to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur, but for many reasons they’re stuck—mostly in fear. Secondly, one day I was telling a friend about my desire to write a book, they reminded me that I keep talking about it but I had no book or release date. I felt under pressure, so I committed to a date—and they reminded me each week to get the sh*t done!

H+S: So many of us have books we want to write or projects we want to launch, what processes did you put in place in order for you to start writing this ebook and more importantly get it done and out into the world?
KJ: Throughout each week, I scheduled about 8 hours to work on my book. I also hired an editor (very early on) so that I had dates locked in for reviews.

H+S: Ooo! Hiring an editor. That’s a great tip! What about the person who has unfinished business in the form of ideas or project desires that never seem to move out of the vision phase?
KJ: I believe most of us get stuck in the idea phase for two reasons: 1. We get caught up consuming too much information. I’m all for learning new things, but at some point you have to stop attending empowerment conferences, reading books and living vicariously through your 500+ followers on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Consuming too much information keeps you stuck in fear, comparison, and bad habits—unplug, get serious and take action on your ideas. And, 2. We don’t break down our vision into a realistic plan that includes goals, strategy, and action. Within that plan you should also have resources (people and/or business applications) as well as systems identified that can help you succeed. Overall, look at what you do daily because success is found in your daily habits.

H+S: I had the pleasure of being a guest panelist at your ‘Kandid Conversations’ event series last Summer focused on entrepreneurship. One of the things you asked all of us was when/what was our ‘f**k it’ moment. Can you tell me a little more about the f**k it moment that steered you toward entrepreneurship?
KJ: Yes! My journey from employee to entrepreneur was like being in an “it’s complicated relationship” with someone for many years. You tolerate a bunch of crap from this person until they do one more thing and you say to yourself: “Eff this I’m out.”  I worked as a Communications and Learning Consultant for a Management Consultant firm for many years. I was required to travel to client sites in cities around the US and Canada, weekly, Monday-Thursday. Mostly, I stayed in hotels. But in 2012, my client, who was based in Detroit, required (and paid for) me to live in a corporate apartment with a roommate, a colleague from my team, so that they could cut cost. I said to myself: “I work with my team 12-14 hours a day, we have lunch together and we even share a car to commute to the client site—living with them was out of the damn question. That was my f**k it moment.

H+S: You run a strategic communications business called the Kandid Agency. What does that entail?
KJ: Yes, the Kandid Agency is my baby. Typically, my clients hire me to help them spread awareness about their business, convert ideas into services and/or communicate more effectively with their employees or target audience. My schedule varies week to week, so I’ll take you through a recent busy day:

> 6:30 am – 11 am: Review client feedback and incorporate changes to a media kit, sponsorship deck and executive presentation.

> 1:30 pm: Conduct a strategy session via Google video with my client a Culinary Talent Agency— in 3 weeks we’re launching a social media campaign with chefs across the country, redesigning the website and planning a culinary pop up style event to spotlight minority chefs. We’ll review our plan, assess what’s working, what’s not and adjust as needed.

> 3:30 pm: In person meeting with my client, a transplant foundation, to discuss a plan for me to train C-level and senior sales executives on Mastering the Art of Communication.

> 7:30 pm: Touch base with my client—a co-host on a TV show—we’re discussing some ways we can work around her “shooting schedule” while creating a video campaign to bring awareness to her non-profit organization. Before landing the TV show, I created her website and media kit, which ultimately landed her in front of the shows casting agents—the rest is history.

H+S: You’re also a freelance writer who frequently contributes to What inspired you to want to write? And more specifically, to focus on women entrepreneurs as your main subject?
KJ: I describe myself as an accidental freelance writer. When I left my corporate job, I didn’t have any visibility online. So when I came across an opportunity on Twitter to write for BE—I pitched a series to them about women around the world so that I could build my brand online. At that time, I was still trying to figure out how to navigate the entrepreneurial journey, so I figured interviewing these women would give me some insight. Later, I realized from reading the article comments that there were many other women like me, at a crossroads in life. They were also inspired by these entrepreneurial stories of setbacks, struggles and triumphs.

H+S: In your coverage of women executives and entrepreneurs, what would you say stands out as a common thread or link between all of them?
KJ: I’ve interviewed everyone from the second Female President in Africa to a Self-Taught Celebrity Chef, they are all relentless in the pursuit of their goals, but they also understand they can’t do it alone.

H+S: The way we work has changed. Your ebook especially touches on this nerve and desire for independence that many people, especially millennials are beginning to feel. What outcome or result are you hoping will come out of people reading your book?
KJ: Too many people are playing it safe by society’s rules and going along with someone else’s vision for their life (e.g, go to college, get a good job, get married, have kids, etc). So I want people to understand that there are many different examples of success. I want them to feel inspired to own their truth, write their own story and create a life on their own terms.

H+S: What section of the book is your favorite or do you think will be the most popular amongst readers?
KJ: There are 2 chapters where I get really “kandid” about my struggles and sacrifices: Chapter 1, Own Your BS. Clarify & Proceed and Chapter 2—Get Your Mind Right.

H+S: If you could do it all over, it being quit your job to start your business, what if anything would you do differently?
KJ: Hmm…this is a tough one because I love the person I have become. Changing anything from my past might remove the amazing opportunities I’ve experienced or the people I’ve met on my journey. But, on the other hand as I mention in my eBook—I did a poor job at building a network outside of my employer—so I should have focused on creating a network of badassery –—both men and women who dream big, take risks and constantly challenge you to think beyond your current situation.

Rapid Fire Round:

Favorite inspirational quote?  “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them,” – Madam CJ Walker.

Currently reading?  I’m currently reading… #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness.

Favorite book?  “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

I had the most fun writing or working onGirls Going Global, a non profit organization which helps expose girls in underserved areas to the cultures of the world.

I’m most proud of… taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur and carving my own lane for success.

My dream interview would be with… Michelle Obama.

iPhone, Android or Blackberry? Android.

My 3 favorite mobile apps are… Evernote, Instagram and Google Drive.

A fun fact about me is… I’m a classy girl with a little (maybe a lot) of hood in her; I love hip-hop music and take pride in finding a happy hour anywhere around the world.

Want to keep up with Kandia? Follow her on Twitter @KandiaJohnson and Instagram @KandiJ. You can also purchase her new eBook here.