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Build The Damn Thing

Jul 30, 2021

In this episode of Build The Damn Thing, Kathryn Finney opens up about the different struggles she went through on her way to success as a Black woman in business and as an innovator in technology. Learn about her business trajectory since the early 2000’s, where she was managing to create the Budget Fashionista blog, which later on became a sensation in the blogging community. However, this was not enough to succeed: with the evolution of technology Kathryn had to constantly reinvent herself and come up with new ideas and new projects that weren’t received with open arms by the white male community who had the monopoly over entrepreneurship and technology at that time.

This episode is a testimony of how Kathryn turned every rejection or project that did not work out the way she wanted into motivation to inspire other women and spark new and innovative ideas to change the game.

Kathryn Finney is known as a pioneer in the fashion blogging community thanks to her blog “The Budget Fashionista” which has helped thousands of women dress chic and cheap. Kathryn not only has built a huge blogging community but also has been featured among "America's Top 50 Women In Tech" by Forbes and is greatly recognized by books like How to be a Budget Fashionista and The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less. In fact, Kathryn is the living definition of a businesswoman who is always trying to generate new ways to share her knowledge about fashion and entrepreneurship just like she does through her platform the Genius Guild which apart from having the podcast “Build that Damn Thing”, invests in companies led by Black founders.


Insight from the Podcast

- How Kathryn became a successful black business woman.
- Details on how Kathryn had to constantly reinvent her projects according to the technology and blogging evolutions.
- Difficulties Kathryn experienced being a black woman in a work scenario mainly dominated by white men.
- How throughout the years Kathryn, with the help of other black businesswoman, found her spot in the fashion and entrepreneur industry.
- How Kathryn has always sought to support women, who like her in the early 2000´s, are looking to be successful.


Quotes from the show:

“I wasn't the first black woman, I was one of the first women period” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“Blogging was the future and I knew how influential the influencers were for their community” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“I needed to build a team because I couldn't do it all myself, I couldn't serve the amount of content that my community wanted all the time” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“I kind of knew that it was changing, I started to see that technology became easier, there were more people and more competition and the difference between me and others was not that great, people started to try to take the name of Budget Fashionista which I had trademarked” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“My agent and attorney at the time said to me: don't you ever do that again and I was like what do you mean? They were like you can't be smart like that, you let us do that” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“I don't know of any black woman that ever received the venture funding and I don't think you'll be the first” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3

“We were invisible Black Founders, Black women were invisible, the irony of it is to see how many of them are trying to get woken up” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #3


Stay Connected:

Kathryn Finney
Twitter: @KathrynFinney
Instagram: @hiiamkathryn
Facebook: Kathryn Finney

Genius Guild
Website: Genius Guild
Twitter: @GeniusGuild
Instagram: @geniusguild

Subscribe to our podcast + download each episode on Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.



Produced by Genius Guild Content Studios

Executive Producers: Kathryn Finney and Darlene Gillard Jones
Post-Production Company: Prosper Digital TV
Post-Production Manager: Joanes Prosper
Post-Production Supervisor: Jason Pierre
Post-Production Sound Editor: Evan Joseph
Co-Music Supervisors: Jason Pierre and Darlene Gillard Jones
Show Music: provided by Prosper Digital TV
Main Show Theme Music: "Self Motivated" Written & Performed by Tamara Bubble
Add’l Music: "Lil' Sumn" by Dreamadai


Season 1 Episode 3

July 30, 2021

37 mins, 50 secs (34.7MB, Audio)


BlackExcellence #Entrepreneurship #FashionBlog #BloggersUnite #Startups #BlackWomen #KathrynFinney #BlackOwned #TheBudgetFashionista #BlacksInTech #AfroTech #BlackAuthors #Discrimination #Incubators #Lissen


Full Transcript

Patrice Yursik Grell  
If you don't really know, Kathryn, you can kind of look at her as a person who is, a very knowledgeable expert.. and who has a really cool, funky fashion sense. And you see her beautiful, big hair and the cool glasses and the way she puts herself together. And…. I think that if you aren't familiar with her, it can be a little intimidating, because she just looks like she has it so together, and she does have it so together. 

She's a dynamic, amazing, knowledgeable, fierce woman, but she's friendly and she's sweet and she's approachable, and she's funny, And she does not approach things from a lofty, unfriendly, I'm better than you perspective. She's always just been... Kathryn. 

Kathryn Finney
Before Google was google, and blogging was a thing, I was The Budget Fashionista; thee expert on all things cheap and chic. From a Best Selling book to regular appearances in morning shows like The Today Show, I was one of the first women to find success in the Blogosphere. This episode explores the early days of what is now known as the Influencer Economy, and how I was able to build an extremely successful business, while no one was looking.

When I first started Budget Fashionista, this was in the early 2000s. And so I wasn't the first Black woman, I was one of the first women, period, in the space. At that time, no one really knew anything about blogging, no one knew what blogging was going to become. And in fact, I remember saying to my mom, "Hey, I'm going to do this blog." And she's like, "You went to Yale for what? Why are you doing that? A smog [inaudible 00:12:09]? What is a blog?" I'm like, "Oh, it's like a diary, but on the web, and I'm talking about shopping, and it's an outlet, and I'm going to sample sales, I'm doing all these different things." And she's like, "Oh, okay…. Well, you know, make sure you use that Yale degree for something." And so, I actually didn't leave my day job until I got my book deal. this was in 2002, I think at that time it was like less than 100,000 blogs. I mean, that was just written web blogs. 

Tobias Wright
When we first started the Budget Fashionista. It really was the wild west of blogs. The tools that you have today are not the tools that existed back then. So it was an opportunity to look at some different technologies and get things up on the web, which was a lllot harder then, than it is now. We had to get our own servers. We had to kind of maintain our own software or maintain open source software. There wasn't always the best experience.   

My name is Tobias Wright. I am a software engineer... Kathryn, is my wife.

At the time, most people who, who were using these types of things were kind of just right at the forefront.   This is back in the day when things like MySpace and Yahoo GeoCities were a big deal. When people got those, pages up, but this is opportunity to kind of get our own domain name, kind of go through that process, get the server and hosting, which was a lot harder back then. And then kind of get those things up and running for the world to see.

Kathryn Finney
we're talking about, not many things going on and virtually no women. But when I got the book deal, it was like outside validation, And it gave me knowledge I could do it.

It was a tough time because the publishing industry understood books, but they didn't understand the internet. And here I was coming from the internet. And so I remember we had this big meeting at Random House because I was doing what was called a blog book tour. And what it was, was that, I was giving the book to anybody who would write about it, as long as they post the link to this Amazon account. Didn't matter. You didn't have to write anything positive. I didn't even care what you said. You could say, "This is a piece of S-H-I-T," but as long as you link to Amazon, that's all I cared about.

I knew blogging was the future. I also knew how influential influencers were to their community. And again, this was 2004, 2005. And so, we're in this big room, it's me, my literary agent, Nicholas, and about six or seven other people, all White, from the marketing department, and they just could not believe I was doing this. Another thing that had happened was that Marshalls, had agreed to sponsor 15 city book tour for me.

They were paying for everything. When you are a new author, you rarely even get a one city book tour, let alone a 15 city book tour paid for and sponsored by a major retailer. And the publisher could not understand why Marshalls would spend this sort of money on someone like me. I mean, they actually said that, "We don't understand why Marshalls would do that." And I remember my literary agent had to get a little direct with them and said, "You will not mess this up because you don't understand." Talk amongst yourselves, and get some understanding."    

Nicholas Roman Lewis  
I remember, I think it was QVC or home shopping network. One of those places, we had a very lovely, tea or lunch. And I remember vividly, we were like, oh, this is exciting. because clearly her brand at the time, the budget fashionista, was perfect for that, but that company had a different vision of, of Kathy and it wasn't of her being front and center, but kind of like, you know, you've got a great idea here. Maybe we should like take it or do something with it, but without you, and it was just like, you don't understand that we're talking about something bigger. 

My name is Nicholas Roman Lewis, and I served as Kathy Finney's book agent on her first book deal. How to be a budget fashionista. 

So that kind of, narrative of Kathy, like, Hey, this train is going in a certain place. If you don't want to be in this destination, then get off this train and there's a vision about it. 

Kathryn Finney (00:16:21):
I started the Budget Fashionista because I was spending too much money and I had lots of student loans. And I knew I wasn't the only person in the world who was faced with that. So when the book came out, it exploded. And I went on this tour and people were like, "Oh my God, we love her. She's funny, she's different, she knows her ish about budget shopping. She's Black. We weren't expecting all of this."

And it was really awesome. And at the same time that was happening, I started to do a lot more national TV, namely The Today Show. 

The Budget Fashionista TV segment HERE] (a 30sec clip)

my anniversary party for the Budget Fashionista ended up being one of the biggest parties of fashion week of New York fashion week in 2008, which is crazy to think about, um, almost, you know, 10 plus years later I was working with agents and stuff and really wanted to get a variety of sponsors. And I was introduced to this amazing woman who at the time, her name was Kendra Bracken. Uh, it wasn't Kendra Bracken-Ferguson yet. Um, but I met Kendra and we were talking and she was so amazing- she was just like so radiant and we just like fell in love with 

Kendra Bracken Ferguson 
So I met Kathryn, this is early two thousands when she was, of course the founder, the leader of the budget fashionista.I was an account executive at Fleishman Hillard, one of the largest agencies in the world. And I'll never forget that fashion week. When, when we sponsored her event, my client NuvaRing, I got them to sponsor and I was just obsessed with Kathryn and budgetfashionista. She was such a pioneer and really one of the first, and to look at someone in that space who looked like me, who sounded like me, who was accomplished. it was really exciting. And I remember telling everyone at the agency, oh my gosh, budget fashionista is amazing.

I'm Kendra Bracken Ferguson. I'm a long time supporter friends admire of Catherine 

And at the time, I mean blogging, oh my gosh, it was the early days. Facebook was still and there just wasn't anyone doing what Kathryn was doing. She was truly a pioneer. And so for me, you know, being on this corporate agency side and going to this event and seeing her and her personality and just really how influential she was back then, it's really phenomenal because, you know, she's always been influential. She always was, she is, and she will continue to be. And so being part of those budget, fashionista days has really carried and evolved our friendship and our business relationship.

Kathryn Finney
At that time, in 2006, 2007, there were really very few ways to really monetize your content online. And one of the only ways you could at that time was through display ads, which were usually these ads that you would see on the side of your blog or at the top of the blog.  And so I was contacted by Glam Media, which was one of the first ad networks. And Glam was really entering into this lifestyle space. No one else was serving ads for lifestyle. It was only ads for Dell computers and like ya know computer chips and Intel,  which the people who are reading the Budget Fashionista were interested in fashion and lifestyle  and how to live a good life on a budget.

Denitria Lewis
I knew about Catherine for many years before she and I actually met in person. I was a fan of the budget fashionista, the agencies that I worked for as a media planner, we would buy space on her blog. really just to connect with hard to reach markets

I'm Deniitria Nyree Lewis and I am a Serial entrepreneur and digital marketer

So as an agency executive, the budget fashionista was ranked right up there with like essence honey, suede. But what really made it special is that Kathryn was one of the first, folks to take advantage of, you know, just real organic and authentic, social media and blogging. Like she's literally an OG influencer. She was one of a very small segment of like just bold black women with big hair, big curvy bodies that didn't shrink who they were. They really own their identity. And someone like Kathryn was just, you know, really just rare to see in that space and that really inspired and resonated with me. -  

Kathryn Finney
And so I remember that I was getting paid for remnant ads, Remnant Ads are the ads that nobody really wants, like the throwaway ads. Sometimes it's advertising the Glam networks, sometimes it was advertising good, low cost cookies or whatever. And I was getting paid $12 CPM for those type of ads.

For video, for more tailored ads, I was getting paid $30 CPM. And then I often would get paid even more to do sponsored posts. And sponsored posts on the Budget Fashionista at its height, which was getting over a million unique views a day, a DAY, not a year, a month, a day, would get 5k or 10k. So I was making a shit ton of money. I was doing really well for a very long time. 

Nicholas Roman Lewis
So I think the budget fashionista played, not just a solid role for Kathy, but I think it served as an example for a Black person, a Black woman in particular having a brand. And at the time, the brand was smaller, but, you know, working with the book and Katherine being able to go on a book tour and, you know, being on morning television shows, being on the Wendy Williams, back when it was a radio show, you were able to see this, young, Black woman with a vision, with a business, let's get it, correct. Like with a business and with the product.  So I think even though, the whole notion of what was the concept of the book about how to be a budget fashionista, that content was great.

It was even more, I think, important or powerful just to see this black woman doing her thing. Right. That's something she created. So I think that was a real, importance of the budget fashionista. 

Kathryn Finney
And so, I started to build a team because I couldn't do it all myself.

I couldn't serve the amount of content that my community wanted all the time. also, we were just starting to dabble in video. before iPhones, before you could actually record video on your phone, you have to do it separately. While still doing Today Show, started to do a lot of spokesperson work, and was a spokesperson for TJ Maxx and Marshalls for about four years. And it was amazing and it was great, but I kind of knew that it was changing.

I started to see, as technology became easier, there started to be more people and more competition. And the difference between me and others was you know not that great. People started to try to take the name, the Budget Fashionista, which I had trademarked. And we were always fighting, people trying to steal our trademark and I was starting to get exhausted, and also was starting to feel like it was just a little too easy. It wasn't fun anymore.

And so I started to get a little bit disenchanted. So when I started, with me and other early bloggers, we were really a community.   And it started to change the more money came in, it started to change the more television came in, and I was one of the people that was doing a lot of TV at that time. And spent a lot of time in LA… I lived in LA for a little bit. And in fact, one of the times I went to LA, I actually broke my ankle. I was wearing the most fabulous pair of four inch Jeffrey Campbell platform shoes they had gold around the platform. 

I was KILLING IT. And I was walking into the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, and I knew I looked fierce, and tripped over the carpet,... fell right on my face and broke my ankle. 

 So I go on to the TMZ office, the office you see on TV, and I actually had Tobias roll me in, in a chair, 

And I remember having this meeting with them and talking about what I was about and the Budget Fashionista and how a majority of our readers were White women because that was the majority of people who were also online at that point.  " And I started to go into all these details and stats on the Budget Fashionista... and they were just looking at me like I was speaking... I don't know... Klingon or something

And I remember leaving and my agent and my attorney at the time- they said to me, "Don't you ever do that again?" And I was like, "What do you mean?" They're like, "You can't be smart like that. You let us do that." And my attorneys and agent at the time were two White men and they were like, "You've got to let us do that. You just sit there and you'll be pretty, and you're smart, and funny, and entertaining, and let us do that sort of talk."

And I just remember being so taken aback by that

So it annoyed me and I wasn't really feeling that life. Um It just wasn't what I wanted to do even though I had a show that was in development. the show I created. We had to spend months negotiating for me to be co-creator. And I'm like, "But this is a show I created. The whole concept, the whole idea, it was me. Why am I doing this with you about that?" Even the size of the font was a whole situation,  whether yourfont is 9 point versus 12 point. And I'm like, "Are we effin serious

And so we're on this final call with someone who's a showrunner.

Nicholas Roman Lewis
one of my fondest memories is just, looking at Kathy and just knowing at that time to be able to walk into a room and, and have a vision and hold to that vision. And if people aren't with that vision to know, walk out of that room~

...every time I think of Kathy and I see all the great things that she's doing, I'm like, yep. here's, here's the other vision, here's the next level of execution. And it's just very exciting to see

Kathryn Finney
So I left LA, came back to New York, and started to think of, "How do I turn this idea into a bigger business?"

At the time I had a friend who was working in PR for one of the major consumer brands, and she was telling me how hard it was to get sampling, particularly to Black women. She also shared with me some data on how, about 40% of all hair care products bought in the United States are bought by Black women. We're only about 6% of the US population. So this small segment of the population was buying all the hair care products. So I said, "Okay, well, why don't I do a subscription service, very similar to Birchbox, which I knew the founders really well.

so I went to one of the early incubator programs. It was called The Founders Institute. And at first it was great. It was me and two other Black people and about 60 other people.

within two weeks the other two Black founders dropped out and it was just Kathyrn. And also a lot of the women dropped out. So it was about four women, and it was deeply uncomfortable. We would be in these sort of groups, once a week, we were supposed to meet, and it was just a hostile environment. And I only had like one or two friends. It was mostly young White dudes in this and it was so uncomfortable about being around a woman, and especially a Black woman. And so, one of the things that you would do in this incubator was that they would call on you at random, to go and pitch your idea.

It was a 12 week program.  In 10 weeks they never called on me, ever. They just looked at me. So week 11 I said, "I want to pitch what I'm doing." And literally the dude who ran it said, "Oh, I didn't know if you would be comfortable doing it. We didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable." And it was the first time in my life that I experienced people having no expectations of me, not just low, but no expectations. They literally didn't think I could do anything. They didn't even think I could do it bad, they didn't think I could do it poorly, they just didn't think I could do it.

So me being me, I was like, "Okay, I'm going to show you boo. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Watch."

Tobias Wright
They had cardboard tables out. It was like not the best lighting, you know, pull out chairs, just very, uh start-uppy maybe. And she went through a pitch, went to a fine, she, you know, she's a show person 

She knows when to put the show on. And so she had her, all her numbers together. She had her slides together. Anybody had any, other questions,, she had splash for those, for people that come across a question that she has not answered in her slides. And once she finished. complete silence, no one knew a question to ask. And then I think someone maybe finally broke the silence because, somebody had to,  but it wasn't, I, I suspect the silence really stemmed from, they were looking for things to knock it down with and it wasn't a lot and they didn't have enough domain knowledge in Black women,, to ask intelligent questions either. So yeah, after she did a pitch there, it was utter quiet. And then they some ask some of the standard questions, and then, um, she sat down and that was it. 

Kathryn Finney
So I was excited~I thought they were going to punch a hole in my business model. "How are you going to do this? How are you going to scale? Tell me a little bit about your anticipated MRR, your monthly recurring revenue. What do you think is going to come from..." All of that. I was prepared and excited to hear that. But the first question... was- did I know any bloggers?

Now I was, again, one of the first women bloggers. I was like the dean of women blogging. The Budget Fashionista was one of the first blogs that many people read. There's a lot of people in the blogging community who would tell you the first blog they ever read was the Budget Fashionista. And so here's this dude asking me that. And that let me know that he didn't even take a moment to Google me to find out. ‘cause if he Googled me, he would've found all that out really really really quickly. And then the second question came, and that was not really a question, but a statement. And it was from a White male who was the brother of the founder of Founder’s Institute. And he says to me, "I don't think you can relate to other Black women." 

And I was like, "Okay, do tell in this room, which there are no Black people, tell the one Black person how she doesn't relate to other Black people because you seem to know a lot." And I was like, "Well, do tell," because maybe he grew up in Harlem, I don't know. Maybe he knows something about Black people I don't know, even though I've been Black my entire life. And he said, "I don't think you can relate to other Black people and particularly Black women because you have an accountant. And I don't think a lot of Black women have accountants, and I don't think they're going to be able to relate to that." 

And like many people who are put on the spot, women, particularly Black women, Black people, I called him all sorts of words in my head. 

Umm I read him for filth, up and down in my head, and I had to do a quick mental calculation, "Do I go off on this MF right here, in front of all these people and what would happen if I did?

And in fact, somebody even said, "Well, do you have any media? And I'm like, "Dude, I was on Today Show this morning." I mean, they absolutely did not think I could do it. And that really stuck with me. It was the first time in my life that I had been invisible

so the next day, the founder of Founders Institute had office hours.

And I went to go talk to him because it just really irked me. And we're sitting there, we're talking, and he said to me, "Yeah, I understand your point, but I don't know of any Black woman who has ever received a venture funding, ever, and I don't think you'll be the first."

The hair care product market was $6 billion at that time. And nobody was applying innovation and technology to it. No one. And so you're telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about, and that this isn't a big enough market, and the VC world is not going to fund it. 

And in many ways he was right, because in 2009, there was no incentive for the VC world to fund anyone who was Black. It was actually an incentive to keep funding the same people they always funded. And that's only what they were interested in. And we were invisible, Black founders, Black women were invisible to these VCs. And the irony of it now is to see how many of them are trying to pretend like they're woke. But I remember you dude in 2009, in 2010, and how you weren't supportive, and how you really were quite racist in fact, and maybe you had awakening and I hope so, because we need you to, but I'm not sure how much you’ve awoke. I'm not sure.

Denitria Lewis
a few years after Catherine, I also attended the founder Institute. We had a class that started with like 30 to 40 people. And it ended up with just about 10 and I was in the top five. I was the only Black woman out of the two that remained.  The other woman was quite a bit older than me and even further out of her comfort zone with technology than I was. She was constantly having issues with the mentors, and her frustration showed a lot in the class. It was definitely a topic of conversation- among the entire cohort and the alumni that would pop in. Like it wasn't a secret that she was very frustrated.

So the head of the incubator comes into town and, you know, we've been granted access to this personal happy hour for him to get to know us. And as we're chatting that night, he asked each of us about the status of our companies kind of one by one. So he gets to me and he says, “you know, your problem is you gotta listen. You gotta be coachable.

We're all trying to help you, but you've got to drop the attitude.” so I can tell that he's tipsy, but I'm also kind of gobsmacked because up to that point, all of the mentors were very, positive. And they were asking me to be more bold and to show more personality. Then it kind of clicks.  the other woman, the older white woman, her name also starts with a D. And so clearly the woman with an attitude is, you know, it must be me, it must be the Black one because, you know, how could it be anyone else? So, you know, of course now I  have to do this mental trigonometry of, do I address him about this right now? -and just prove his point or do I just let it go?

And, you know, I'm upset about that because like I went home thinking about what he said the whole night. I had drafted an email, trying to figure out if I should send it or not. Meanwhile, the folks who could advocate for me in the moment, they didn't because at the end of the day, allyship with me might result in a loss of power, that their privilege provided them just by being white and male. And it's also not lost on me that a white woman was still protected at my expense, even though I hadn't done anything at all. And this was eight years ago. And what has changed.

Kathryn Finney
So after leaving the incubator, I decided that it was time for me to transition on. I wanted to do something different. I didn't know what it was that I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something different. 

Elisa Camahort Page
When I first met Kathryn, she was running the site Budget Fashionista. we're talking back more than 10 years now. Not only had she parlayed her blog into a book, into television appearances, and into a real money-making concern that she could later sell, she was one of the very few women I can think of who had reached that level, and certainly an even smaller number of women of color, and that was the whole thing when BlogHer started, was that we wanted to bring visibility and economic opportunity to all the women we knew that were blogging when it was still a very male-dominated space at that kind of elite level where the press was paying attention and publishers were paying attention, and advertisers were paying attention. Kathryn had managed to do all that without working with BlogHer before we ever came together to work together.

This is is Elisa Camahort Page, author and entrepreneur.

We brought Kathryn to work with us at BlogHer because we've always felt like if you want to make avenues into a newer community, or a community of which you are not already a really embedded part, you need to find partners that are part of that community, and we felt that one of the areas that held a lot of promise, and where a lot of women bloggers were probably waiting to find more opportunity, was in the style and beauty space. And so Kathryn was the ideal person, as someone who had been very early in the space, but also very successful in the space, to sort of help us understand the lay of the land, how this community, its unique qualities, its differentiators.

Kathryn Finney
There is nothing like a BlogHer conference. 

You had 5,000 of the most influential women in one room and everybody wanted to connect. And so I got to do a lot of amazing things as building the community. [Music naturally Fades around here] One of my first things we had was this luncheon that was just so amazing where I got to invite a lot of my friends from The Space. The other thing I got to do at BlogHer was a fashion show. And this fashion show was at ep-ic.

Elisa Camahort Page
we brought her on to understand the style and beauty space better, and then that naturally led to other ideas about how we could work in that space, including introducing a fashion show into the BlogHer Conference, and Kathryn was just the natural person to help us put that whole thing together, to not just emcee it, which she did, which was really fun, but to actually style it and help us find partners for it, so…  It started more though as a community-driven effort that Kathryn really could lead on.

Kathryn Finney
It was sponsored by a company called 6pm and I had access to thousands upon thousands of designer clothes. I'm talking Marc Jacobs, Versace, Gucci, Diane Von Furstenberg, Norma Kamali. I mean, you name it. It was amazing.    And so in doing that, I needed help. And I had met Darlene Gillard,  um through a friend. And so I had asked Darlene to help me with some of my projects at BlogHer because a lot of it was about bringing people together and building community in the fashion space. Darlene had been an editor at like some of the top public publications, including Essence and WWD. And so I was like, "I need help." 

Darlene  Gillard
I had been working with Kathryn for a few years, by the time the BlogHer fashion show came around, we had worked together on the budget fashionista. I was managing PR you know, producing events, brokering deals with brands for her. And I knew her work ethic, and I knew how much she cared about, fashion.   And so having all of this experience that I had coming from the fashion industry, working at top magazines, it was something that I could do very easily and that I wanted to do and was excited about. What I didn't expect was that I would be working harder than I've ever worked before in my life. Um, there were well over 20 women who came from all different backgrounds. They were all different ages, all different sizes. and to watch the confidence build and the transformation. It was something to behold 

I’m Darlene Gillard Jones, and Executive Producer at the Genius Guild, and a friend of Kathryn Finney.

I remember there was one model who was in a wheelchair who wanted to walk the runway. It was like a dream of hers to walk the runway and we set it up so that she could do just that. And I'll never forget she had on a gold Norma Kamali dress. And, you know  she was wheeled out to the end of the runway or the front of the runway. And, you know, the music dropped, she stood up and walked to the end of the runway and everyone lost their shit. I mean, it was like, I mean, there were tears everywhere.  Everyone was so excited and she got to live her dream and we made that possible. You can't beat an experience like that. 

Kathryn Finney
it's also amazing to see after the Budget Fashionista where people have grown and people have gone. We have, ya know some amazing friends that I made. ya know Luvie, look at where Luvie’s is at. I mean, she's like a superstar, and Patrice from Afrobella, and Claire from the Fashion Bomb, Ree Drummond from Pioneer Woman, who's like a boss as it gets.  

All of these incredible women who were friends of mine, who we came up together, and they're doing so well. They've built these amazing companies and have grown into even be a little part of their story, even to see them as they're on the come-up, it's just been such an honor 

Patrice Grell Yursik
One of the fond memories that I have of Kathryn was when she came to the Blogging While Brown Conference in Philadelphia. And that was... My goodness, even saying those words is just like a lifetime ago. There used to be this conference called Blogging While Brown, (laughs) where all of the popular well-known creators of color, Black people, would come together in different cities and get to know each other, and spend time together, and get to hear from each other. 

When Kathryn came that year, I definitely remember it was just like royalty was visiting us, because she had so much experience and so much knowledge, but she was just approachable and real and friendly and funny. And she became my friend,

My name is Patrice Grell Yursik and I am the creator of Afrobella LLC, So I am a writer. 

I really can say every project that Kathryn has gotten involved with since   The Budget Fashionista, and I will say also including The Budget Fashionista is intended to inform, uplift, celebrate, and assist other women. And she continues to do that work. I couldn't be prouder of her.