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Build The Damn Thing

Jul 30, 2021

In this episode of Build The Damn Thing, Kathryn Finney talks to those people who were present at the beginning of her journey as a young builder and what led her to become one of the most influential women in tech. All the people in Kathryn’s life speak of how they always knew she was “different” from a young age -- and that’s a good thing. They also share that she had the unique ability to bring people around to her way of thinking to impact change. But it wasn’t easy: Kathryn shares a painful and transformative childhood experience when she ran for school president against a white kid and the hate that she endured during her campaign.

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 cheap and chic. 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.


Insights from the Podcast
- How her entrepreneurial family background impacted her to build against all odds
- Strategies on monetizing your skills and ideas
- How to build, grow and make things bigger and how to do good in this world
- Understanding how to fight against the entitled
- Strategies to getting people to come to your way of thinking
- Understanding how to create your own identity


Quotes from the show:
“I challenge each and every one of you to be your full self and to give others a space to do the same and to know that you, in all your imperfect imperfections, are more than enough for this world” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“Maybe my work ethic is genetic, I may not be as smart as you, I may not as good as you, but you will not outwork me” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“People misunderstand that I have this incredible work ethic that you might not even see” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“Money allowed me to have the life that I wanted to live, and I saw that very early: the options that it gave me” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“When I joined high school, I was different, I tried to figure out how to fit in and not realizing as that 14/15-year-olds that you will never fit in when you are the type of person that I am” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“Sometimes there is a price to pay when you go against the entitles” -Kathryn Finney, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2

“I really think I wouldn’t have dreamed as far as I did, or gone as far as I did or had the initiative to prepare for college if it weren’t for Kathryn” -Ann McCarthy, Guest Speaker, Build The Damn Thing Episode #2


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
"Walk" by Saucy Santana
Audio Sample Courtesy of: the Minnesota Historical Society's Black History, Black Voices Initiative; Washburn High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Season 1 Episode 2

July 30, 2021

36 mins, 34 secs (34.1MB, Audio)

BlackExcellence #Entrepreneurship #DreamBig #Startups #BlackWomen #KathrynFinney #BlackOwned #Minnesota #Minneapolis #BlacksInTech #AfroTech #Yale #Rutgers #Ghana


Full Transcript

Pam Olson
Kathryn does not... It's difficult to describe her in one word. But I would say that she is driven,

She sees what she wants to do. She knows what she wants to do, and she has that inner drive to just go after what it is that she wants. Not everyone has that”

Washburn High School 2019 graduation Kathryn Keynote (40:41 - 41:14), (42:21 - 42:51)    (44:31 - 44:55) min mark  NOTE: THERE IS NO TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS BUT THERE ARE A FEW GOOD QUOTES IN HERE IF YOU LISTEN TO EPISODE)

In this episode of build a thing, we talked to those who were there at the beginning of my journey as a young builder. And what led me here 

I believe, that this sort of vision and ability to build against insurmountable odds really comes from my family. I believe it's actually genetic. My family has a long history of entrepreneurship. My great-grandparents, George and Florence Woods, had a grocery store and restaurant in the Greenwood section of Tulsa and lost everything during the Tulsa murders and riots, literally lost everything and didn't even get insurance payouts from it and had to move heir family to Kansas, the Kansas, Oklahoma border. And I often think and wonder how much has that impacted me, this drive to build... and to build against the odds.

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Home of the Packers, home of the Brewers. When people think of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee especially, they think of like the old TV show Happy Days where you have Richie Cunningham and it's all white and everyone has this great house. 

The Milwaukee I grew up in was different.

In the early eighties, you didn't have to have a college degree to have a good life. And it was while as a child living in Milwaukee where my father was a brewery worker and my mother who came from a very upper middle class black family, went to college, was also working as an HR manager. I was living there when the breweries left. 

Robert Finney
When the brewery system in Milwaukee shut down, you had a couple of different breweries there. You had Joseph Schlitz brewery. You had Pabst and you had Miller, Miller, which is still there. But the fabric of the community, the blue collar portion of Milwaukee was based upon those types of industries..., 

When that shut down, it tore up the community. It tore people apart. Families tore apart because the men had to make decisions for their family, "Do you leave Milwaukee and move to Memphis, where the jobs are moving to?" And not everyone was promised a job in that transfer. "Or did you stay in Milwaukee and try to find something different?"   I think for our father, having grown up and being born and raised in Milwaukee, moving to Memphis and being a part of Memphis in that community and being part of that blue collar community wasn't something that he had envisioned for Kathy and I.

Kathryn Finney
My father did not graduate from high school until he was 30. He had a 4.0 GPA with two kids and a wife, which I still don't know how he did that. so, my father took a course taught by a gentleman from IBM who just was like, "I'm going to teach displaced factory workers how to code." And he fell in love. 

As a result of this, the person teaching the class saw how incredible he was and offered an internship. This was an unpaid internship at 36. If you can imagine that. And my dad said yes. And as a result got an entry-level position at a place called Digital Equipment, which was one of the early personal computing companies. Except this position was in Minneapolis. And so, let me tell you the difference between Minneapolis and Milwaukee is vast.  Milwaukee is working class factory. Everyone we know there was working class factory. Minneapolis is very much so not. 

It was vastly, vastly different culturally 

Even weather. They're both cold, but Minneapolis is a special kind of cold.

My dad was like the ultimate hustler. I mean, just the most brilliant person I ever met in my entire life. And he was just doing all sorts of things he could do to take care of his family.He saw the future. He saw that computers were going to be the future, even though no one around him saw it except for my mother.

Karen Finney
Mr. Finney went to school and he went to OIC and learned coding. Had a gentleman that was very much of a major mentor to him. A gentleman who worked for IBM, one thing led to another. And he was offered, Mr. Finney was offered a job in the Twin Cities.

I'm Karen Finney, Kathryn Finney's mother.

And it was not a very hard decision in one respect to leave Milwaukee, And we made a decision, a family decision. Well, Mr. Finney, and I did, that it would be worth our while to move to the Twin Cities. And he had been given such a wonderful job opportunity to start in a new career. And we don't regret having made that decision.

Kathryn Finney
And it was in high school that he had the opportunity to work for Microsoft. and it changed the trajectory of my life and my family's life. 

Karen Finney
We lived in an apartment complex, which was several buildings, not just one high rise building. And Kathryn came to us, to me and mentioned the newsletter. She was going to do a newsletter. And I think she charged, I don't know, something less than a nickel or something less to share this newsletter with kids in the complex. 

And I'm not sure of how lucrative it was, but for a busy mom, when you have a child that has an activity for which limited supervision is needed, it was like okay, Kathryn.. that was one of her earliest endeavors. 

Kathryn Finney
I've always tried to explain like, "How did I know I could do this?"

And the only answer I could say, is Growing up, my parents gave me probably the best gift a parent could give a child, which is unlimited possibilities. It didn't matter how crazy or how out there or how outside the norm, my parents never told me, "Kathryn, you can't do that."

So In the fourth grade, it was my first real lucrative business. And it was a friendship bracelet business. I think they first became popular in the 60s and 70s. They were coming back in 1980s Minnesota 

I enlisted my brother,  really in his first sales job. Now he's a big sales executive. I like to think I gave him his first sales job. And I would give him a small cut, ya know, 10, 20% commission, something- something that he can at least get a soda with ya know.

Wasn't going to give him too much because that would eat into my margins. And at fourth grade, I was concerned about my margins. 

Robert Finney
Some of the things that Kathy had as early entrepreneurial endeavors, I remember such things as friendship bracelets. I remember a newsletter but probably the very genesis of all of this came from her trying to loan me money. I mean, as the older brother, I was the spendthrift. I was the one trying to go to play video games, just trying to buy all the treats from the store and all those things. So as soon as my parents gave us money, I’d blow through it. And Kathy, I think at an early age, had developed the intellect to know like, "If I can get him to buy me stuff with his money and blow to his money, I can loan him my money back and then he'll buy me the same stuff, but then I can say charge an interest of what he loaned me."

I think Kathy was one of the very first people to figure out try how to monetize just about anything and everything a person could do. She was trying to figure out a way to make money on that at a very early age, five, six, seven years old. She was trying to figure those things out. 

Kathryn Finney
I think it's something about growing up in the family in which we will do what it takes to survive and to eat. And that work mentality, that work ethic that was really instilled from my parents, especially from my father, like never left me. It was always there. Actually, it was there from the beginning. Maybe my work ethic is genetic but I may not be as smart as you. I may not be as cute as you but you will not outwork me. You will just not. Like and I think that's one of the things that now as an adult, that people misunderstand about me.

People misunderstand that I have this incredible work ethic that you may not even see but I'm doing it. And I'm always thinking. And I'm always thinking about how to build and how to make things grow and how to make them bigger and how to even be bigger myself. And then how to also do good and do well in this world. So this was my first company. It then translated into a babysitting business. I was a primary babysitter. I had three or four other babysitters that were working with me and for me. I would help arrange their babysitting gigs. I would take a small cut. Again we take a small cut because margins. And did really, really so at 16, I had a checkbook.

I had a credit card at 17. That was mostly because money allowed me to have the life that I wanted to live. And I saw that very, very early, the options that it gave me. And it was really powerful. In high school, I was always working. I was class president, played sports, did theater. And I also worked 20 hours a week.

Julie Munger
Kathy was always very driven in high school, and so she always had her eye on the prize, and she knew she was headed for bigger things than Minnesota. I think everyone could see that in her at a young age that she just had a special spark about her at a young age. And that's something that I remember a lot of teachers would think that too at the time, that she was just very special and unique. And she was at the very top of her class too,  which unfortunately I can't say the same for myself, but hey, some of that smartness got to rub off on me in high school, so that's nice.

My name is Julie Munger, and I am a high school friend of Kathy Finney.

Kathryn Finney
High school was a situation. It was a very interesting experience for me. And it was the first place that I really encountered what I call the Entitleds. These are mostly white, rich, affluent people for whom the world is just given to them.

So when I first came into high school, people were really mean. I was awkward. I wasn't the cutest. I had a wave nouveau, which was a dry jheri curl. There was no such thing as a dry jheri curl. You either got a jheri curl or you don't.

I came in awkward, braces, a very quirky fashion sense that no one can understand in the GAP land that was Minneapolis and it was really, really hard. And so the first thing I did was just try to figure out how to fit in and not really realizing as most 14, 15 year olds, that you'll never fit in when you're the type of person I am. Me having this sense to build, I thought I'm going to run for student council president  I ran against this upper-class woman. There were posters trashing me. People were talking all sorts of ish. This is high school. Okay? She was a, entitled, wealthy, white person who had everything constructed for her comfort.

And here comes this smart, black chick making her very, very uncomfortable. And that was like a no-no. I got up and I gave this speech which  quieted down this auditorium of 2,000 kids and I talked in my speech about how there's a school that is 50% black but yet none of the officers up here are black. I said it. I called it. I spoke truth to Minnesota power and people were shocked. And at the end of it I got a standing ovation from at least half the school. The other half was like, "Huh!" But I got a standing ovation. and I'll never forget the student council advisor, Mr. Herb Chambers, said as I was sitting down at the end of the speech.

He said, "That girl is got spunk." I'll never forget that. ….. But there was a price to pay for that and this is something that I learned quite early of when you go against the Entitleds, that there was sometimes a price to pay and that price was my entire high school year it was a campaign to hate me. 

And that followed me throughout high school but at the same time everyone respected me. I won every award. I won my class award for service and academics. I became my class president in my senior year. I 

Ann Lentz
One thing that Katherine and I have always discussed as a common experience, we had growing up. A lot of it had to do with our adolescence in high school and what it was like to grow up here in Minneapolis and be a person of color and be someone who was more prone to being a sort of outsider group of kids. And you know so those social years of adolescence in high school can be trying times for everyone and they were definitely trying times, where ya know high school especially sort of felt like a bit of a battlefield. 

My name is Ann Lentz.I have known Kathryn since the fourth grade and ever since then, she has remained one of my closest and dearest friends. 

I have always been so thankful to Kathryn because she was a cheerleader to all of her friends. She was also someone who was friends with all different kinds of people. She didn't confine herself to just one group. so she had friends who were athletes, who were in student government, who were the theater kids, who were the brainy geeky kids. I mean she she got around and in a genuine way

Kathryn Finney
almost 25 years to the date that I gave that class speech, I gave the commencement speech at my high school

I had great support in high school. I had a number of teachers who were just always there and that really, really helped me.

Ms. McCarthy who had my brother and then myself in Japanese class. And Japanese class was one of the most fun classes.  We did a lot of cultural things and she was a young teacher so it wasn't like she was all stodgy and stuff. We took field trips and it was really, really important and it became a safe haven because it was the one class where I felt I could have fun and that people weren't necessarily judging me

Ann McCarthy:
She always had fun. Sometimes you look to those kinds of students to kind of spark the rest of the kids ya know. You just need a few students to grab onto whatever dorky thing I'm going to do. Aaand they can kind of pull along the rest of the class. And Catherine was one of those kids....

I'm Ann McCarthy. Catherine knows me as “Ma-kah-shii Sensei.” My last name is McCarthy and that's how they pronounce it in Japanese

She was involved in a lot of activities I know in the school. she did some sports and band and a student council. So she was really active in the school itself. But in my class, she added energy to the class and that's important to a teacher to know you can count on certain kids to get the other kids going. 

We've all been teenagers so. Sometimes they're not the most willing people to do what you want them to do. Catherine was able to motivate her classmates, but in a good way. I think it's because she was engaged too.

Kathryn Finney
Another amazing support was Mrs. Olson. Pam Olson, was really another amazing light. She was the student  activities advisor for all of Minneapolis public schools. She was also the advisor for the city-wide student council as well as other things. 

Pam Olson 

Kathryn just had people skills, and she knew how to bring people to her way of thinking. It wasn't always exactly the way she wanted it, but I think she learned, over time, how to actually get people to come to her way of thinking, 

My name is Pam Olson. before I retired, I was a student activities director for Minneapolis public schools, 

Kathryn Finney
When I was 16 I got a full scholarship to go to Phillips Academy Andover. Phillips Andover is one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.

And going there I was allowed to be me. I met my first love. I was encouraged to be smart. Everyone was smart. Black, white where you go everybody was smart. Everybody was doing something. It was the first time in my life where I was in this community of other young builders like myself. Those sort of outlets became so crucially and important for me because it allowed me to see that the world was bigger than where I was at. And as a young black woman that was incredibly important. 

Anne Lentz
the social times were really fun. Just the goofy hangout. Tons of laughs, tons of jokes. But I always think about that time in my life and I'm so grateful to Katherine for her assertiveness in looking ahead towards our futures 

Katherine was ready to go. She was like, "We're going to take these prep classes. We're going to study for our PISA tests." And she got all of the guidebooks about colleges. She marked some pages for me and showed them to me and said, "Anne, you should look at these colleges, you are a dancer, you need to go to a liberal arts college." And I really don't think I would have dreamed as far as I did or gone where I went or had the initiative to prepare myself for college if it weren't for Katherine.

Kathryn Finney
College for me was like going to Mars. It was the complete opposite of where I had been. I went from Minneapolis to New Brunswick, New Jersey. It's like two completely different worlds. People often ask me, "Why did you go to Rutgers?" I went to Rutgers because it was free. I had a full scholarship. My parents again being pragmatic Midwesterners was like, "Look. LookK. It is free. We like free. You need to go." And so I went and coming into college and just looking like the Black Lori engles wilder. I really did. I can only imagine what I looked like and friends have explained me what I looked like when I showed up. 

Sira Maliphol
I met Kathy. We actually lived in a special interest dorm named Demarest Hall.During moving,I bumped into her in another friend's room and we just got somehow started talking about black hair product of all things, but that's the kind of place that Demarest was

I'm Sira Maliphol. I have known Kathy since college and we've been best friends ever since. 

She was coming from Minnesota and I think that she may have thought that it was an issue in terms of how she presented herself. but this is back when we were coming out of that grunge era so it was an affliction that affected the entire country and I think we were just a little bit more tolerant. Also, subject to the same, types of trends that were going on. I don't think that, that was such a big deal except for when we were going out. That was also the Velvet Rope era um you had to present in a certain way and you just had to be aware. But Kathy was aware so it wasn't that big of a problem. 

Kathryn Finney
college was just crazy. Everyone who's ever existed was at Rutgers. I mean every group. You had the Rocky Horror Picture Show group, the Young Muslims group, the Republican group, the Democrat group, the Anarchists group. You had like every one. The libertarian group. To come from Minnesota where everyone was the same. Everyone kind of strived to be the same. To this environment where everyone strived NOT to be the same was incredible for me. I had a friend who would wear drag to class. Never experienced that in Minneapolis, and she would wear it to class and be like, "what? Say..."

And nobody said anything. Nobody cared. It was just this sense of being there and also being so close to New York meant we clubbed all the time.  

And so my first year in college was that and student government.  and became a representative on the Rutgers University Student Government.

And while I was there and as a representative at the same time we had a crisis. The president of the University said that Black students were genetically inferior and couldn't not do well on ACTs and SATs and was recorded saying that. 

Dale Russakoff 
the comment was made at a faculty meeting, where he was advocating de-emphasizing the S.A.T. as a tool in undergraduate admissions on the grounds that students of color did way more poorly on average than white students. And he said, why, why would we use something that's so limits the entrance of talented people of all races. and he said, and then he said the words, “just because, black kids don't have the genetic hereditary background that it takes to Excel on the test.”

My name is Dale Russakoff.  I'm a freelance journalist and I spent most of my career at the Washington post.

And then at some point someone, it may have been anonymous sent a recording of his speech to the Newark newspaper, the star ledger, and pointed out that phrase and they wrote it and it led to this tremendous outpouring of anger and, disappointment and rage from the undergraduates… they had an open mic for students, faculty, anyone to say what they felt. And one student after the next talked about, they felt like they couldn't go to this university anymore.

Kathryn Finney
And so we were on TV. We were protesting. The Today Show was at our school. Jesse Jackson was at our school. Rev. Al Sharpton was there. It was madness. And here I am 18 year old, fresh off the Northwest airline flight from Minneapolis right dab in the middle of this.

By the time I was at the end of my sophomore year I could graduate if I wanted to. I at 20 was not moving back to Minneapolis. Come on now. After being in New York at the height of hip-hop's reemer gence, right?

We're talking Puffy shiny suits. Biggie at Nells. I used to go to Nellls and see Biggie and Puffy. I had friends that were in stuff. We were in a Kool G Rap video. Being a part of this how could I go back to Minneapolis? Like For real. For reals. How could I go to Minneapolis after that?    And one of my advisors said, "Hey, why don't you apply for a fellowship to go abroad?" I was like, "Okay. That sounds cool." I applied for a fellowship from the US government and got it. 

And so I went to Ghana for a year. Within about two months of being there I became very sick. I got malaria and I won't say that I almost died but I was very, very, very, very sick.

Ghana is the reason why I became an epidemiologist

Kofi Owusu-Ansah
about her getting malaria, you know, what one thing I do recall it hit a very hard...

my name is Kofi I'm a good old friend of Kathryn from Ghana. 

I guess it was a very first time she endured that, um, illness, which for anyone who has had malaria for the very first time, it will hit you pretty bad and it's unlike any other, 

But I do recall, I mean, she just weathered the whole thing, very bravely. And, uh, in a matter of days, she was back to her old self

one of my fondest memories of Kathryn, she was, she was because of the fact that she was always, willing to share her experiences. It was always good to just just Hangouts chat with her for hours upon end. 

Kathryn Finney
And so when I came back I was at Rutgers for another year. Went to Spain for like three weeks. And I remember my parents again... My dad asking, "One, how much is this going to cost me?" "Dad, nothing." I was working. I saved some money.

And then the second question was like, "How are you going to take three, four weeks off to go to just go Spain." 

Listen, please believe we’re coming back to this Spain story. I won’t get into all that happened on that trip  but trust- we partied our - asses - OFF, and were living La Vida Loca, but you’ll have to check out the bonus footage for that onnne So let’s continue… After Spain, I graduate from Rutgers…

Now, even though I was traveling and clubbing, I somehow managed to graduate like at the top of my class. And so it's was [inaudible 01:42:52] I was going to do next and being ill and it had big impact on me and decided I was going to go into health. Really, I was going to go into medicine and, but first was really interested in public health and epidemiology, particularly from an international standpoint. So I applied for public health schools and got into Johns Hopkins, Yale and Harvard  

So I decided to go to Yale and Yale's like, it was like, again, going from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, the difference between Rutgers and Yale. One was this community that had all sorts of people in it. It was very, very diverse to a real privileged institution. But here's the thing about Yale that I didn't expect even going there. I had the best time of my life. 

Ironically enough, you wouldn't think this traditionally white institution would do that. But that sort of thing of like, "We expect great things from you," and having that expectation was quite amazing.

Lamont Tillery
I think one of the things that impressed me about the institution was its endowment at the time Yale had a 17- $20 billion endowment,And the name carried a lot of weight, the further you were from the institution. And Catherine was one of those people who could use it just right.  I found her to be incredibly selfless. And even though she was at this Ivy league institution, she was still very much concerned with the social justice and doing the right thing instead of exploiting the privilege for herself. She was trying to use that privilege to help other people. 

My name is Lamont Tillery,I am currently a human resource director in Ontario, Canada. Kat and I met Kat in grad school. we will both go into Yale for our master's in public health. 

when we were in grad school Kathy and I both found ourselves in Ghana at the same time we'd meet up for dinner or we'd go hanging out or go clubbing because it's Kathy, right? So you have to find the party. 

Everybody who met her, wanted to know more about her and she had natural leadership and people would follow her. And even if you thought that she might not be right, you had to follow her to see where she's going. Cause you know, what's going to still end up someplace fabulous.

Kathryn Finney
I always had a gig, meaning I always worked. I will do whatever it takes. I will never not have a job. I will never not have money because I have no problem working wherever. When I was in Ghana, I learned how to braid hair. So I braided hair when I was at Yale to make some extra dough.

And people are like, "Well, when you're at Yale, you had scholarship. You had money. Like, why were you doing that?" I'm like, "Listen, I will always have a gig. I will always have money in my pocket. I'm not going to ever just rest on my laurels. I always have skillsets. I have 10 or 15 different things I can do. If one thing doesn't work, I can do something else." So if this whole Yale epidemiologist thing didn't work, I could always start my own hair braiding shop. And when I left Yale, I had a fellowship with USA ID to go back to Ghana. And I was going back to Ghana to work on maternal child health and STDs and [inaudible 01:52:00] with women. And 

I finished Yale and was back in Ghana when I had to come back because I had a sick parent. My dad had stage four liver cancer and he metastasized. It was like, "My parent is dying and I'm 8,000 miles away. I got to go." 

And I frankly had no idea what I was going to do. So I came back home for about four months and helped my dad.

Kathryn Finney (01:58:30):
And I remember about two months or three months after he had gotten out of the hospital and he was on the mend and a little bit better, we were in the car and he said to me, "You need to go." And I was like, "what do you mean? Like go out the car. What do you mean?" He was like, "I appreciate what you've done for me. I want you to know that. I love you. And I appreciate what you've done for me. But your life is not here. Your life is not in Minnesota." And he said, "I've lived my life. I've had a great life. I've had a wonderful life. You need to go live yours. So I want you to go. Not because I want you to go, but I want you to go and live your life." And again, of the many gifts my parents gave me this sort of gift of like, "I'm good. No matter what happens. You go on and live your life. You are young. You are 23, 24 years old. I am 50 something years old. And I'm good. So you can go out and live your life."

Woo! (sniffle) Brought me to a moment. I always wonder, and I've said this to my mum, "What would Dad have thought about me now?"

Robert Finney
When I take a step back and try to peel back the onion and look at Kathy and who Kathy happens to be and why Kathy happens to be, I think for me, the biggest challenge was moving from the known to the unknown.  So what she knew, from grandparents being around and positive black female influences around her, that changed when you came to Minnesota, because the positive black influence that you had around you was just your mom now.

You didn't have the extended family. You didn't have those, the aunts and the grandparents and the uncle. You didn't have that stuff.  So she really had to get into creating who her identity happened to be.

The fashion aspect coming from another positive black female she had in her life- our grandmother, who was a very early fashion designer in Milwaukee and fashion icon in Milwaukee.  So if we take it all back to that very beginning, I can see the genesis to where she is today.