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Build The Damn Thing

Oct 27, 2022

Welcome to Season 2 of Build The Damn Thing!

Episode 1 - Build The Damn Thing: Leaning into your purpose


On this episode of Build the Damn Thing, Kathryn Finney and four other builders talk about how their backgrounds have influenced their sense of purpose when creating their startups. They discuss how they have taken the lessons learned from the historic, systemic obstacles their ancestors have overcome to build their own companies. And by sharing the stories of how they are succeeding and living their best lives, they are giving permission for other builders like you to do the same.


Brian Aoaeh - ReFashiond
Dr. Lisa DeRoche - Roosevelt Institute
Patrice Grell Yursik - ​​Afrobella
Felecia Hatcher - Black Ambition


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Kathryn Finney

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


Genius Guild
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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


Full Transcript

Kathryn Finney
So let me start off by saying, if you haven't listened to season one of Build a Damn Thing, run to your Spotify Apple Podcast. Wherever you listen to podcasts, and listen to season one. It's gonna give you an amazing context for what we're talking about in this new season. You’re gonna learn all about how I came to be. Also, make sure you get a copy of my book, Build a Damn Thing, How to Start a Successful Business When You're not a rich white guy in it. I give every entrepreneur who the establishment has left out a step-by-step guide on how to build a business from the ground up. In season two of my podcast, Build a Damn Thing. With a little help from some other builders, founders, and visionaries, I give listeners a shortcut to becoming a successful business owner who's ready to win. 

Brian Aoaeh
So my advice to black startup founders is really simple. Just do it. Just do it. If you're a startup founder and you are black, no matter what you're doing, you're probably playing some sort of pioneering role. And pioneers can't look at statistics and data pioneers are driven by something more basic, something more fundamental, right? It's a problem that takes a hold of you and just won't let go of your instincts and your emotions and your intellect. And so I think you should just do it. Just give it your best and do it with the knowledge that it is going to be incredibly hard, but do it with the knowledge that if you succeed, you will hopefully create something that is really valuable for the world and that a lot of people need. 

Kathryn Finney
Have you ever wanted to start a business but we're too afraid to try? Or maybe you just don't think you have what it takes. I'm here to tell you that you do. All you need is a solid idea, a little intel for me, and to put in the work. Remember, you are your ancestors'. Wildest dreams in this, the first episode of Build The Damn Thing, Season two, I and other business leaders share what it takes to build and how leaning into your purpose while standing on the shoulders of your ancestors will take you farther than you've ever imagined. 

So how am I able to build companies like what makes me so special and so different than everyone else? And it really is. I grew up with the sense that I could do anything. And it came from parents who never put restrictions on me. Um, and I came up with some pretty crazy things. So some pretty crazy ideas, but they never told me I couldn't do something. So I grew up knowing that I had infinite possibilities. My father, who was a brewery worker, who went from being a high school dropout to being a very successful engineer at Microsoft in a matter of a 10, 15 year time period, he taught me that anything was possible. That hard work can be rewarded. I think one of the big things that my parents showed me was that you can take a risk and win. When my parents moved from Milwaukee where they knew everyone, my entire family, both sides of my family lived there to Minneapolis, where we knew no one and took this enormous risk and then became enormously successful. That showed me that you can take a risk and win, and that's a gift that very few young black children get. However, I think that possibility can be nurtured in anyone. 

Dr. Lisa DeRoche
My parents took a real risk coming to the United States from Jamaica for a better life. They wanted to ensure that their children had opportunities, better opportunities in the form of education, in the form of career, in the form of lifestyle. Even though they really didn't have a vision for what that might look like in the us, the understanding was that here you could get the white picket fence and have a larger home and be able to live in an environment where it was more amenable to success. I mean, really, it, it taught me a lot about the importance of responsibility. I would say the risk truly paid off. My name is Lisa de Roche. I'm a doctor of business and HR executive and author and chair of the Board of Girls Inc. Of Long Island. And every day I am learning, even, you know, at the ripe age that I am today, I continue to be in a place where I am measuring and recognizing my purpose, my passion, and my value, which is way above what I had given and measured myself to be, you know, as a, as a young person. And every day I think I'm growing in that regard. And individually, we're all unique. We all bring, um, something different to the table. And the time for us to recognize and utilize those skills is today. It's not next week, it's not next month. We have to know daily, you know, the importance of our intrinsic value and, you know, utilize that on a Regular basis. 

Kathryn Finney
I'm always several steps ahead, and that's one of the challenges for me, is being an innovator and a builder and being in this identity as a black woman. We're usually not given the space to do that. We're not supposed to do that. We're supposed to play on position, stay in the very small, tiny lane they give us. But I was always a big thinker and always a visionary, and I couldn't even contain it, even if I wanted to. And I found myself doing things, um, because they felt right and growing up, um, I saw the power of technology to transform life. I witnessed it. I lived the power of technology to transform someone's life. 

Patrice Grell Yursik
So I worked for a newspaper called The Miami New Times, and I would go to work and meet all my deadlines and write everything. And then, you know, still feel this pang of, well, where's the material that fits into my interests and my life. So I felt this void in terms of the crop, the copy I was creating for others. And then online as well. There was a beginning of a natural hair scene, but it wasn't a fully developed scene yet. 

My name is Patrice Grell Yursik, and I am the creator of Afro Bella llc. I started Afro Bella in August of 2006 because I didn't find enough representation of my kind of beauty. And I wanted to see more women who look like me being who they were and expressing themselves and being celebrated on our terms and finding products that worked for us and clothes that worked for us, and makeup that worked for us, and all of the things. So that is truly where it began for me as a mission of self-discovery. In 2006, that became an online journey. 

Kathryn Finney
My great grandparents, George and Florence Woods had a grocery store and restaurant in the Greenwood section of Tulsa. Um, and lost everything during the Tulsa murders and riots. I mean, literally lost everything. Yet they moved to the border of Oklahoma and Kansas, and my great-grandparents sent every last one of their children, six to college. Now, this was in the 1930s, forties that didn't happen, that didn't happen in black families. And they had every reason to give up after it was stolen from them, right after their livelihood was stolen from them. They had every reason to just say, You know what? I can't do this. I'm not gonna build. And they had every reason and every right to put that on their children. And they did not. And my grandmother and her siblings, um, became very successful in their own right. One of my uncles, he became one of the first editors that's Associated Press in the 1950s and sixties. My other uncle who lived in Portland, um, owned a whole construction company and owned a ton of houses. 

My grandmother became a teacher. Um, she married my grandfather who was the highest ranking symbol, um, employee at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, a black man. Um, and I remember my mother telling me stories about how she would go visit my dad or my granddad. Um, and he had white men calling him. Sir, this is the 1950s and sixties. Um, so I, I come from this stock, this genetic stock of people who were builders, who are visionary, who commanded respect even in the face of being disrespected, even when people would take things away from them. 

So Imagine how much easier it would've been for my grandparents if they didn't have these systems that held them back. 

Felecia Hatcher
Block Ambition is an organization that was founded by Pharrell Williams, um, back in 2020, uh, with the premise of creating unprecedented access to resources, um, and funding for Black Latinx and H B C U students Inside the organization, we have this question that we ask of all the founders, the partners we've been asking internally, Who are you uninterrupted? My name is Felicia Hatcher, and I am the CEO of Black Ambition and the co-founder of the Center for Black Innovation Give nothing ever got in the way of you achieving success. What would your life look like and what would your business look like? And then we take that a step further and ask that same question of the black community, right? And black entrepreneurs and startup founders, like who would they be if their businesses were completely uninterrupted from like racism and systemic BS and bias and all the things that have stood in the way of them to succeeding success with their business? 

Kathryn Finney
One of my favorite quotes is from Maryanne Williamson. And not many people know her as the kinky, uh, presidential candidate, but she's actually a brilliant spiritualist. And one of the things she talks about is that you do a disservice. I'm paraphrasing, but it's, you do a disservice to the world when you live small. You do the world a disservice. You have no right to be small. You must, the world needs you to be the best you can possibly be. The world needs you to stand up. They need you to stand firm. That is what we need. 

If there's anything you come away from listening to my podcast with, is this, The universe is conspiring for your greatness. Truly, the universe is conspiring for your greatness. Don't limit yourself. There's no reason to limit yourself. And I know fear and, and uncertainty. It's difficult to work through those things. I know I've had to work through them a lot. However, I truly believe that the universe wants you to be the best person you can be, that things are conspiring for your greatness, and all you have to do is listen and pay attention. 

Brian Aoaeh
When I was leaving home at 12, uh, my parents lived in Nigeria. They were sending me back home to Ghana to go to boarding school. On the night before I left, my dad and my mom were having a conversation with me and they said, Brian, you always have to keep your wits about you. And over time, initially I didn't really understand. I was like, Okay, I have to keep my wits about me. I 12 years old, 12 years old. My name is Brian Long Aware. I am a co-founder and general partner of Fashioned Ventures, and I am the co-founder of the Worldwide Supply Chain Federation. 

But over time, what, what's I have come to interpret it to mean is that you have to be the hero of your own story. That no one is going to come and create the future for you. That you want, that no one is going to save you. When things get really rough, when things are, when things are going well, when it's smooth sailing, you'll have a lot of friends. There'll be all sorts of people who want to hang out with you, to be seen with you, to talk about how you have a great time when they hang out with you, and so on and so forth. When things get really difficult, uh, when you're going through dark times, you have to be prepared to be the hero of your own story. 

Kathryn Finney
Our success is already paid for our ancestors, paid for our success. Our great-grandparents, our grandparents, our parents are aunt and uncles. They paid for our success. It's already written. It's already written. And who are you not to claim it? Who are you not to live in your full light? By you being your best self, by you thriving and succeeding and building your company and doing the things that you need to do, you are giving people permission to do the same. I am a living example of that. The fact that I've built these companies and have had successes, and I'm able to talk with you and share what I've learned is a perfect example of by me living in my true greatness, I'm giving you permission to do the same.