Equity and Justice - Cultures Connecting
Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Caprice Hollins, Co-Founder of Cultures Connecting, LLC., located in Renton, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cultures Connecting, LLC provides workshops, trainings, keynotes, consulting, and coaching on race, racism, and race relations. Our customers are very professionally diverse. We work with cities, counties, states, k-12 and higher education, law enforcement, firefighters, architects, lawyers, banks, small and large community-based organizations, and even those in the sporting industry. Basically, any organization seeking to improve their ability to engage across cultures and dismantle institutional isms. We engage organizations in race conversations, using this approach as a model to help them think about other areas, i.e., class, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age, etc.
Tell us about yourself
This is a big question. It’s hard to know where to begin. I was the first Director of Equity and Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools. The superintendent and School Board developed the position. Once they left and new leadership came in, the department was dismantled. I was devastated. I was truly committed to making an impact in the lives of Students and Staff of Color. I spent countless hours working on weekends and in the evenings, sometimes at the expense of my family and my own health. And just like that, one day, I was told by the Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer that the position was no longer needed. It hit me so hard that I told my husband I wasn't ready to go back to being employed by another organization. Instead I wanted to start my own diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) consulting firm. We talked about it and made a one-year plan. He supported me, and I went for it. It didn't take long to realize being let go of was the best thing that could have happened to me. I believe God placed me there for four short years so I could gain more knowledge and skills because He had bigger plans for me.
DEIB is not something I do, it’s a part of who I am. At my core, I believe that opportunity and access to a good education, healthcare, legal representation, pay equity, and other issues of justice is a human right. At an early age, my mom modeled care and concern for the well-being of all people regardless of their differences.
What motivates me each day? My doctorate is in Clinical Psychology. I minored in Multicultural Psychology. Graduate school was the first place I ever had formal conversations about race. It changed my life. I come from a very diverse family. I know many people say that, but I really did. My mom and older brothers and sister are White. My younger sister and I are Black and White. My stepmother is from Thailand. My brother was Miss Gay Seattle for one year. My mom worked at a gay bar, R Place, which used to be on Capitol Hill. My grandparents, a Black couple who didn't have children of their own, legally adopted my mother at the age of 41. They were taking care of us while she worked on the Alaskan pipeline and volunteered as a firefighter. My point is that I thought I didn't have work to do because of the diversity in my family. I thought I didn't have privilege or bias. My family became proof that I was different from everyone else. In many ways, that's true, but not when it comes to having been socialized around race. Unpacking the messages I received from society and reconstructing a new way of showing up in cross-cultural interactions has been challenging but liberating in so many ways. I want others to have the same opportunity to be freed from their fears of making mistakes and getting them wrong. My heart sings with joy when people in my workshops have an ah-ha moment or when they trust me enough to risk sharing their stories so we can have courageous conversations about race. We have a lot of work to do in this country. There is a lot of hurt, pain, and fear due to our ongoing legacy of institutional and systemic racism.
We can be a better nation. I do have hope. But I also realize we need people who are willing to lead the conversation, and quite frankly, I love being an instrument of change.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Starting my own business, for one. It felt like jumping out of an airplane. You wouldn't jump if you thought your parachute wasn't going to open, but in the back of your mind, there is this fear, what if it doesn't work? I jumped, and my parachute opened wide. (FYI, I’ve never jumped from an airplane and doubt it’s something I will ever do). I always wanted to do a TEDx Talk. That's something I'm extremely proud of. Another is my book that's coming out in October, Inside Out: The Equity Leader's Guide to Undoing Institutional Racism. I will also have my podcast, Rated Racism, released sometime in late September. Being a business owner has led to more opportunities than I could have imagined. I have found the possibilities to be endless. I get to decide what new things I want to try. Some work, others don't. But no matter what, I learn and grow from the experiences. I hope to never have to go back to being employed at someone else's company. I love the freedom that owning my own brings.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It's 6:00p.m right now on a Friday night. It's not a 9:00 - 5:00 job. For the most part, I get to set my own schedule by blocking off days I don't want to work, or when I need some vacation time. However, the work needs to get done. So, if that means working late on a Friday, I work late on Friday, and often on the weekends. But it doesn't feel the same when I'm doing it for my own company. Because I love what I do, and feel like I'm making a difference in the lives of those most marginalized, this work isn’t really work in the traditional sense of the word.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Don't try to figure out what will make you money. Figure out what you would love doing. If you love it, if it makes your heart sing, you will be so invested in your business's success, you'll enjoy doing what you do and end up making money because you'll have so many amazing ideas.
Be the best at what you do. Don't start a dry cleaner’s business that also sells donuts and makes burgers. Decide you want to make burgers and make the best burgers in town. You can always expand later. Focus all your energy and time on being the best at that one thing.
Don't forget about your friends and family. What is your life about if you are not in a relationship with people you love and care about?
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have a business partner Ilsa Govan who co-founded this company with me. For those of you out there contemplating starting your own business, I wish you all the success.
Where can people find you and your business?