Original Article by Demee Koch
Tonya McKenzie is a California native with over 20 years in sales, marketing, and public relations. Her first job out of college was with an agency and she later went on to work for a YMCA with a very small marketing budget with big needs. Public relations became her primary tool to increase brand awareness for the organization and it’s programming. Later in her career, after becoming a director for the Chamber of Commerce, she worked for a publication in Los Angeles.
Understanding that advertising clients needed a combination of marketing, PR and advertising, Tonya became an entrepreneur which also allowed for her to have the flexibility to increase her leadership through multiple appointments and elections. Tonya is currently the president of North Redondo Beach Business Association, Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce Board Member, holds an appointed city position, holds a seat on the police engagement committee, and is vice president of the Black Public Relations Society, Los Angeles. Tonya founded and runs Sand & Shores, a niche PR firm that caters to civic organizations, law enforcement, and other nonprofits.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
Conscious Entrepreneurship is a holistic approach to purposeful businesses with soulful perseverance as the fuel for growth. A business minded individual that gives weight to factors other than profit but still manages to grow and be successful is my definition of a conscience entrepreneur. Purpose, mission, good will, and the concept of leaving this world better than they got it drives these savvy businesspeople. They make decisions with their mind, body and soul.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Tim Byrd, my old YMCA boss was an incredible mentor to me as I tried to navigate my way through the YMCA organization. No matter what I knew about business or marketing, understanding how an organization with decades of branding and tradition operated was essential to being able to pull off the kind of accomplishment that we were aiming for. Finance, budgeting, fundraising, and programming was something that helped me through while putting me in the position of leadership. One thing that I have learned is that when people of authority put you in a position to shine, they are trusting you to do well, excel, and represent them and their decision-making. They are trusting you with their reputation. Your job is to maximize your opportunity. Take all of the passion and heart that you have to push through, be a thought leader, and contribute to advancing the cause.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
Thriving for me isn’t just the ability to help others, it’s the action of helping others. True success is when I am doing well and building teams to do the same by extending their success to others. If I have not communicated the necessity of mentoring and extending success, I am not doing my job completely. Thriving is doing well for self while up helping others. It’s about legacy. How are you leaving the world better than you got it? That should be our charge everyday. That is the real measure of success. Those are the metrics that should be measured.
CAUSE— What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I am a child gun violence survivor. I have spent the last decade of my life speaking out and contributing to causes that support post trauma recovery, youth leadership and policy change for better gun safety laws. I finally took the step to chronicle my experiences in my first memoir, A Child’s Memories of Cartoons & Murder. This book has given me a path to speak to other groups and get involved in various other organizations. I spent time at juvenile hall speaking with the kids. I continue to look for opportunities to connect with organization that do the work to leave this world better than they got it for trauma survivors.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
Entrepreneurship is a consistent field. It will always require a high level of dedication, consistency, and diligence. The only thing that seems to change is technology. Based on this Covid crisis that has been global, understanding that “good will” being a part of your brand will be more recognized. The companies and organizations that have done well throughout this have been the ones that infuse a high level of humanity in their company’s mission. Have great products and services that connect with your target audience and contribute to the greater good. It has become much more obvious that this is no longer optional. It is a necessity.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
Aspiring entrepreneurs need to know that they must be all-in on their mission, understand their purpose, and always look to provide amazing customer service. Following this train of thought will lead to raving fans, a thriving business and great public relations activities. When you touch one person at a time with your services and products, essentially solving a problem for them, you gain credibility and a person in the public to sing your praises and bring you new business. Quality over quantity will ensure success. Just make sure that you always tell your story and use the success in a positive way. Find a mentor in your genre. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Take what works and customize it for your business. It’s not easy but it’s a formula that works, especially for new entrepreneurs.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
I never feel bad about wanting more out of life because I am a giver. The more I accomplish, the more I can give to others and bring attention to causes that I care about. My desire to accomplish more may come from the fact that I am daily happy to still be alive. I have never understood why the offender in during my childhood left me alive as a witness. However, I am glad that he did and show my gratitude every single day by working hard, giving make, and enjoying every moment of this life. Taking a risk on myself by starting my own business is something to be applauded every day. Having a business doing something that I enjoy and is clearly needed to help businesses, civic organizations, and nonprofits pushes me through the tough moments. If Sand & Shores was not in existence, there would be a gap in the industry. Knowing that the work that I do makes a difference is a motivating factor. Being able to use my success to help others is a major driver in my business and personal life.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
Laughter and wine is my coping mechanism when things get touch. I am really driven and focused. When things are not operating by design, I can get frustrated and very intense. A great cabernet and something funny can fix just about any tough moment. First, I loosen up and pull my shoulders out of my ears and then I find something funny to watch, a funny podcast to listen to, or crack a joke. The best part is that I am not afraid to laugh at myself. That is a skill. I encourage everybody to adopt it.
I had a branding awareness presentation for a company that I was doing work for. I had been having some technical issues customizing the presentation. The program kept crashing. When I went to log on an hour early for a tech-check, I realized that our time difference was not on my calendar. So, I did not get a practice run. I poured a small glass of wine, calmed my nerves and knocked the presentation out. Later, I shared with the group that I had got the time wrong. One of them told me that they were trying to figure out why I was sweating when I first got on camera. We all had a good laugh about it and others shared their stories of having time zone issues.
Telling your story always brings down barriers and brings up the comfort level and stories for others. It makes for great team building and comradery. There are always laughs to be had.
YOU — Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?
I recently started a group on Facebook and LinkedIn to help other women succeed in business, embrace conscience entrepreneurship, and social selling. Lady Boss is free and open to every women that needs to bounce ideas off of each other, find solutions to business problems, and celebrate wins. We must celebrate each other.
Follow Tonya McKenzie on Instagram.