Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown is the Founder/Principal of KMB, but most of all, she is an Equity Strategist and Cultural Architect. Her background in organizational development and social justice advocacy is the foundation for her work with individuals, organizations, and corporations. Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown has specialized expertise in evaluating and executing holistic cultural change in organizations focused on realizing sustainable transformation through strategic interventions.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I am a scholar-practitioner with 20+ years of supporting executive leaders and organizations to solve complex organizational and people challenges that interfere with strong, sustainable results and long-term organizational health. I facilitate discussions and group learning within progressive, social justice, non-profit, higher education, and Fortune 100 organizations about sensitive topics, such as the intersections of race/racism, gender/sexism, and economic privilege/class, as well as politics, democracy, and other social justice issues.
Q: What motivated you to get started as an equity strategist?
As far back as high school, I was committed to understanding the world and developed a deep commitment to putting social justice into practice through an intersectional approach to race, gender, and class. This approach ultimately became a specific area of study, scholarship, and practice for me, including my doctoral research. These, coupled with my life experience in communities on the margins, set the foundation for my trajectory to specialize in the practice of transforming organizations through equity.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your company?
Put simply, through relationships. When my company first started, like many organizations in the nascent stage of development, I received most of my work through referrals. I continue to receive some of my most challenging and exciting work through collaborative partnerships and projects.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
In general, an initial engagement with my company is for a particular project. For those engagements, I charge a single project fee for my work instead of charging by units of time. There is never a “meter running.” I don’t want to place any client in the position of making an investment decision every time my strategic support may be required. In this manner, they know their investment from the outset and can tightly control expenses. Once an initial project is complete, I transition to an annual retainer model to continue with supportive organizational enhancements or implementation of the recommended processes, tools, and systems.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
My future goals are to continue to work with extraordinary leaders who are doing very important work to realize the unfulfilled promise of their organization and support Black women in building their collective power and uncover the leadership required to meet the moment and beyond.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
Overcoming self-doubt. I’ve had to work through doubts about what is possible for me in life and my work with(in) organizations. Organizations often recruited me because I brought particular expertise. Yet, as a Black woman, I have experienced being pigeonholed into particular work or, in some instances feeling that my expertise was resisted or questioned. Thus, I started having doubts about what I brought to the table and losing sight of why an organization hired me. I forgot that everything that I’ve experienced and done up to that point had prepared me for the present and what was ahead. As Black women, we have to work at silencing the noise that society and the world tells us about who we should be.
The way I’ve gotten through was tapping into and holding my belief that I got this and redefined for myself what my success is. This minimized other people’s projections of success onto me,—also therapy, lots and lots of played a role important in overcoming big challenges and obstacles.
Q: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve found it particularly helpful to work collectively and not take on all the work alone. With that grounding, in my engagements with organizations, I center the principles and practices of belonging, value, and high levels of respect. These are the basic needs for human engagement. Being intentional about centering these principles generates positive results and eliminates the risk of predictable casualties along the way. It is important to me not to reinforce the inequities I’m helping organizations and social change.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
There is no one way to do anything. Find what brings you the most joy. Spend time doing the things that are in your areas of expertise, and delegate the rest. Keep at it, even when it’s raggedy, because raggedy is often the precursor to something gorgeous.