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Using Branding to Empower Women of Color for Success in the Workplace with Minda Harts

Using Branding to Empower Women of Color for Success in the Workplace with Minda Harts
Using Branding to Empower Women of Color for Success in the Workplace with Minda Harts

Your voice is a significant part of your brand. But what is the impact of not having a voice in the workplace?

Many Black and Brown women feel unheard and undervalued at work. Their stories of experiencing unfriendly, biased, and/or disadvantageous environments are often ignored or discredited.

As someone who was never the most boisterous in the room, Minda Harts used to feel like she lacked a voice. Her profound brand has continued to grow and evolve as a workplace and equity consultant, bestselling author, and speaker.  

Now, through her books and consultations, she’s helping Black and Brown women figure out how to empower themselves for success in the workplace. And she’s on the show to talk about the experiences of women of color at work and what can be done about it.

In this episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, you’ll learn about how Minda built her brand to showcase the workplace traumas experienced by women of color and help facilitate the healing process. You’ll also hear about what it means to be an ally and a better leader, the need for authenticity in your branding and work environment, the importance of building more equity in inequitable spaces, and how it all leads to the elevation and evolution of brands (both personally and professionally).

1:39 – Part of Minda’s personal brand, her three-word description for herself and Beyonce, and what might be at the root of slander against Beyonce 

5:04 – How Minda realized she had a voice and a brand 

7:32 – How the disconnect with the brand of Black women in the workplace ties into Minda’s brand and her first book, The Memo

13:22 – The Audre Lorde quote that’s Minda’s go-to mantra, why her second book Right Within made me cry, and why it was hard for her to write it

19:20 – How Beyonce and Drake pick up and energize Minda and the space that women of color have to enter to know that they’re enough

22:09 – The journey Minda took to build her brand and the necessity to elevate and evolve your brand over time

26:34 – How those who want to advance equity can use their understanding of women of color to be better leaders with better brands

30:18 – The branding mistake everybody made after George Floyd’s murder and why identity doesn’t equal having expertise

34:58 – The audacious expectation that Black and Brown women speakers (especially those early in their careers) must be careful of

39:14 – Why working with a brand consultant was the best thing Minda did when she started (despite having fewer resources at the time)

41:54 – What Minda does for fun that not many people know about, the core value she’ll never compromise on, and the secret sauce to her magic with others

Connect With Minda Harts

Minda Harts is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table as well as Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace, and her first YA book, You Are More Than Magic. 

She is a highly sought-after speaker and thought-leader, frequently presenting on the topics of advancing women of color, leadership, diversity, and management at companies like Nike, Google, JP Morgan, Aspen Ideas Festival, Dreamforce, The Atlantic Festival, Forbes Inclusion in The Workplace, and DraftKings to name a few. 

Minda is an assistant professor of public service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company. In 2020, Minda was named by LinkedIn as the #1 Top Voice for Equity in the Workplace. In 2022, She was named by Business Insider as one of the top 100 People Transforming Business. She has a weekly career podcast for women of color, titled Secure the Seat.

Minda Harts

The Memo, Right Within, and You Are More Than Magic by Minda Harts

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Paula Edgar: Welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Hi everyone and welcome to The Branding Room. It’s your host, Paula Edgar. We’re talking to the Branding Room about how leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. I am super excited to have with me someone who, although she probably doesn’t know, is my friend in my head, real good friend too, Minda Harts.

She is a workplace and equity consultant and the bestselling and award-winning author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, as well as Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace, and her first young adult book, You Are More Than Magic.

She’s a highly sought-after speaker and thought leader and she frequently presents topics on advancing women of color, leadership, diversity, and management at many companies, all of which you probably wear and visit all the time. In addition, she is an Assistant Professor of Public Service at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School. She’s award-winning, she’s all the things, and Minda, Welcome to The Branding Room.

Minda Harts: Thank you, Paula, happy to be here and you’re making me smile, the colors. Thank you.

Paula Edgar: Well, thank you. All of those who are on YouTube, well, they always say I have to make it, I like to feel like it’s summertime at all times and then it’s happy so I do what I can. For those of you listening, jump on over to YouTube to see if you can just to check out my outfit, OOTD.

Alright, speaking of branding, Minda, tell me, I just said a whole bunch about you and what you’ve done but tell me how do you define the concept of a personal brand?

Minda Harts: That’s a great question. For those who may not know my work, I root everything in pop culture. Branding really is your straight with no chaser, whatever that might mean to you. For me, branding is all about who you want people to see, who you want people to experience, whether it’s your brand or a product, and the experience that you want people to walk away from.

To your point, you said that I’m a good friend in your head, that’s part of the brand. My brand is to make it feel like we’ve had several conversations in the living room. I’m your workplace best friend. I think that authenticity also leads to intentionality when we’re creating our brands.

Paula Edgar: Oh, I love that. I love that. I love that. Obviously, the concepts of branding and authenticity always overlap if done well. I think that when you are inauthentic, your brand doesn’t resonate in the same way. But to the point about pop culture, you brought it up without me even saying anything.

Minda and I have a lot in common. Number one, I love Beyonce. I really go a day without bringing up the Queen B Beyonce, and so you just made me smile thinking about that piece. Tell me this, I’m going to ask you something I never ask anybody else because I think that, I don’t know, I told you we’re best friends, one is this: describe yourself in three words or phrases and then describe Beyonce in three words or phrases.

Minda Harts: Oh, my God. You’re speaking my love language. I get to talk about Beyonce on the podcast? Thank you. Describing myself, I would say introvert, extrovert, genuine.

Paula Edgar: Oh, I love that. I love that. So you’re an ambivert. Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay, so what about Beyonce?

Minda Harts: Fierce, dedicated, intentional.

Paula Edgar: Yes, yes, yes. All of that. For those of you who are listening and who are watching, just know that you should just take a moment of quick silence to think about how fabulous Beyonce is because she is. I have not yet seen the movie, have you seen the movie yet?

Minda Harts: I just saw it on Sunday night or earlier a couple of days ago. This is probably for off-topic Paula conversation but I’m like, “In all this Beyonce slander, what is going on here?”

Paula Edgar: Oh, it is absolutely on topic because I believe that everything I love, everybody else should too, so yeah.

Minda Harts: Like leave her alone and let her be great.

Paula Edgar: One thing about brands that I find that a lot of people don’t necessarily connect is when you have a really strong brand and your brand is unwaverable if you stick to the core of your values, people tend to push back on that when they themselves are unable to be that authentic or to be that dedicated.

I see that happening a lot where you have folks who are masters of their craft and that is how I would describe her because they’re haters. Anyway, now getting back online, tell me about your story. Give me a quick one minute, we’re jumping in the car in a moment and we got to blast music after this so we won’t be able to talk. What is that story?

Minda Harts: Yeah. I was one of those people, Paula, that because I wasn’t the loudest in the room, the most boisterous, or I didn’t necessarily walk in a room and everybody’s like, “Who is that girl?” I thought that I couldn’t have a brand, I thought that I didn’t have a voice. Once I realized that branding isn’t just for entrepreneurs, branding is for every human, we see pets on TikTok that have a brand, so never discount yourself.

What I found for me is going through corporate America for 15 years, I used to think I didn’t have a voice. But what I realized was I always had a voice, I just had to decide how I wanted to use it. That’s how I think about branding. We all have a brand, we just have to decide how we want to use it, how do we want to brag about ourselves in those ways.

For me, my brand was, I didn’t realize that I had one even in my nine-to-five, but it really was around how do we advance women of color in the workplace. I started to lean into my stories, telling my stories, thinking that really I was the only one so it was therapeutic for me.

I just wanted to make the workplace better than I found it and then I started writing, then I started podcasting, and then I started speaking on these topics. But I did it in a way that was authentic to me. Yes, there are tons of public speakers, there are people who come before me that have written about gender, identity, and race in the workplace but nobody was doing it like Minda can do it.

Once I owned how I do it and sharing my story through vulnerability and using pop culture to break down really tough topics, I found that there were others. I found my people. For me, it allowed me to really think bigger. I didn’t have to be like so and so. I get to be like Minda.

Paula Edgar: Yep, no, that is such a wonderful way of reflecting because even if you tried to be like so and so, you couldn’t. Nobody can be you. It’s why I tell people that their brand is their magic. You could have the exact same resume as somebody else but the way you deliver the magic of you, nobody can duplicate. They can try and fail miserably but they cannot do it in that way.

You talking about how you brought your own special Mindaism, Mindaness, essence of Minda to conversations around this has me reflecting and remembering some of the times in which I’ve seen you speak, whether virtually or in person, about the importance of why The Memo was your first book, why you had to bring that conversation to the masses.

You, in those conversations about Black women and their experience of trauma within workplaces, you catalyzed so many other people. I was in conversations where I saw you speak and then conversations where we were speaking about what you spoke about. It was in, still is, a movement where Black women are so often silenced or gaslighted and marginalized in continuous ways, and yet we are relied on to do so many other things, particularly when things are bad, that there’s this disconnect in terms of the brand of the Black woman.

It’s like, “Please do everything to make it better. Also, please, we’re not going to give you the value that you deserve and we’re going to act as if the things that you’re saying happened to you did not.” Tell me some of the things that maybe that brings up in terms of that reflection about Black women in the workplace in particular and how our brands are built up and brought down.

Minda Harts: It’s like a teeter-totter. It really is. I think we’ve seen that in the last couple of years even in 2023 really heavy. When I first started this journey, Paula, I never set out to be a brand. Actually, because I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, I wanted to be able to tell these stories but I didn’t really want to be the face of them because it wasn’t my comfortable space because, again, I thought that a brand, I had to be like tap dancing all across these stages and that just wasn’t my personality because I didn’t see it in other ways.

What I realized was what people liked most about me was me, the way I story tell, the way that I bring in practical tools. I realized that my brand wasn’t just about me, it was about the ecosystem. Once I was able to say, “Okay, this isn’t just about what I’m doing, this is about how do we make it better for the next Black woman, the next author, the next speaker.”

Once I realized that, I’m like, “My brand is connected to Paula. My brand is connected to these other women.” I was able to look at branding as not just a one-time thing or Monday, Wednesday, Friday but it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle of commitment.”

Even when I sold my first book, The Memo, at the time, there were five major publishers, four of them said no because they thought that these situations were isolated. They weren’t happening. Again, I’m like, “Wait a second. I am Black last time I checked and these things are happening. But they’re also happening to a lot of other people in different spaces but we could all work at the same place and experience that workplace differently.”

It doesn’t mean these things are not happening, they’re just not happening to you. Again, for me, I was already met with all these different things being an early adapter in many spaces opening up the door even with Right Within, our own trauma, but now we hear about healing and trauma so much, about healing in those ways.

For me, I realize again, my brand isn’t just for me, it’s to crack the door open, it’s to expand the conversation. What I’ve realized was timing is everything. My book got pushed back, a lot of people don’t know, a year further than what it should have been based off of because the powers that be didn’t believe that this was real.

Again, constantly trying to convince people but as I often say, don’t focus on who doesn’t get your brand, focus on the who that do, and if you lean into the who that do, you get to the places you need to get to because that’s the energy, those are the people you want around you.

Paula Edgar: Come on, bars. I see it, it’s the “who that do.” I’ve read a quote, somebody shared their favorite quote today, which I’m going to ask you about in a moment, but their quote was “Focus on the donut, not the hole.”

Minda Harts: I like that.

Paula Edgar: Right? I was like, “You know what, number one, I’m hungry, number two, it’s exactly that, we often have this negativity bias where we think about the bad things as opposed to the things that are good or beneficial or the doors that were closed that were actually open windows.”

Speaking of which, next two questions, tell me do you have a favorite quote, hip-hop lyric, or mantra that you like to use or to be inspired by?

Minda Harts: Yeah, so many of it. One quick thing that you said that hit my spirit was we’re all building. Brands sometimes evolve, they stay the same, but at some point, brands do have to evolve. Look at any said brand that is no longer here but they could have evolved but they missed the train and somebody else took that.

But when people didn’t get my brand of advancing women of color in the workplace, AKA equity in the workplace, when people weren’t really on that train, one of those four that said no to The Memo said yes to the book I’m writing right now. Just, again, people may not get it today but it doesn’t mean they don’t get it. Yesterday’s price was not today’s price when that happened.

Paula Edgar: That part.

Minda Harts: That was me answering your question of [inaudible]. Audre Lorde, she said, “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing,” and that is where I gain my energy, that is my day-to-day mantra because this work isn’t easy, being a mouthpiece when it’s not popular or speaking for those, allowing my voice to be tied to someone else’s freedom, that can be tough at times.

Paula Edgar: Ooh, I just got a chill.

Minda Harts: That’s part of the brand. For me, I have to be deliberate and I have to be unapologetic and unafraid because, again, I know that I am a beneficiary of so many other people’s brand and courage so who’s going to be a beneficiary of mine?

Paula Edgar: Ugh, I’m tearing up. But it is my secret word at all times. Every year, I do a vision board, I do a goal-setting session. For anybody who wants to do it, then a vision board. I have a secret word in my word that is the focus of my vision and it’s always impact.

What you just said is literally impact. How are we impacting the world if we only stay siloed and just in our own spaces? What’s the legacy that we are going to use if we’re only thinking about our own experience? Also, our success is connected to other people’s success. We are a collective.

Even though COVID had me questioning that because people are wild out there but the point is it is so true so I think that resonates deeply. Alright, Audre Lorde’s quote is one of my favorite quotes too so you catalyzed me, I was like, “Exactly.” Yesterday, I was telling somebody that I was going to be interviewing, I’m so excited, and I could not remember the name of Right Within and this is what happened so I go, “It’s the hip-hop lyric. I know it. It’s Lauryn Hill. I’m sure.”

You should have seen this on the table, people were like every other Lauryn Hill lyric, except this one, and then I sat there like, “It’s Right Within. How are you going to win if you ain’t right within?” We all laughed because we literally did hip-hop karaoke just trying to figure out what that lyric was and of the books I’ve read, The Memo and Right Within, I’ll have to say two parts, number one, Right Within made me cry.

Of course, it’s talking about Black women’s trauma so obviously, I’m not separated from that but so often, I’m a lawyer, I’m very much, “I’m reading this. This is very literal,” but it was so on point. You can tell that the research you did, the experiences you have, they were pulling from that heart space of Black women and women of color, not just Black women, so I want to be thoughtful about that.

To that end, and I know I’m skipping around a little bit but just give me a minute, I’m having a little fan-girl moment, when you were writing that, was it hard for you to write it? It was hard for me to read, was it hard for you to write it? Like a labor pain, like, “I’m giving the world this thing but it’s hard.”

Minda Harts: A thousand percent, that was the hardest book I’ve ever had to write and it’s actually my favorite book because The Memo was fun and light compared to Right Within. When I hear people go email me or they’ll say, “Ooh, I started Right Within, I had to put it down for a minute and then revisit it because it’s a process.”

Just yesterday, I received a message from someone that said, “Right Within saved my life,” and that is the healing journey. For me, it was hard because, for a long time, I didn’t even know that I needed to heal, that this was trauma because I normalized this inequity in the workplace.

It started to impact my authentic self because I didn’t know who that was anymore. When we have to revisit those pieces and mourn those pieces of our careers, that’s painful. Oftentimes, as those on the margins, we don’t get the space to be able to reflect, we just have to sweep it under the rug, move on to the next job.

Right Within really is a soft place for us to land and be free. For me, I’m so proud of that work because freedom is what we should all be aspiring to. The Memo was acknowledging that these things exist. Now that we aren’t crazy, we know that they happened, what are we going to do about it now? It’s the answer to, “Okay, girl, I know. But now, let’s do the work.”

Paula Edgar: Yeah. It is exactly that. You just hit it right in the head. It was like, “Yes, woo! Woo!” Lots of woo, and then also now, what are we going to do? Now what’s the next step? What I loved about that book is that a lot of people were like, “Hey, boss, hey, people who are in leadership, here’s a book you might want to read. I’m just going to leave it by your door, casually read it.”

What I saw was people were actually reading it to be able to tap in and understand this enigma who is Black women that they make sound like if we’re something like aliens. We’re not. It’s not hard to know that we want to be treated fairly and treated as if we matter because we do, thank you for letting me go down that path a little because I just remembered, I just got that feeling because I listen to both your book, I read it and I listen on audiobook because for me, as someone with ADHD, it helps me to ingest the information faster but you could hear, I was like, “Ooh, I feel like she just got a little–” when you were reading it.

Minda Harts: Yeah. Fun fact, when I was recording the audiobook for Right Within, there were a couple of parts where I had to tell the engineers, “Okay, I need a minute. I thought we were past this but I guess not,” so yes, healing is a lifestyle.

Paula Edgar: All of that. Therapist on demand, hello, I need you. Okay, speaking of healing, music brings healing. I ask all of my guests what is your hype song, and this is what people can expect when Minda’s about to come and talk to them, what’s playing in your head? Or if you’re having a terrible day, what song do you need to play to get you back into that space of being in a better space? They could be different songs or the same one.

Minda Harts: Two things, and going back to Beyonce, there’s always a Beyonce song that either makes me feel like I could climb on top of the roof and fly or if I’m having a hard day, then it brings my spirit back up. That’s albums the Four, that’s Renaissance, it’s Bonnie and Clyde, [inaudible], like gotta Get My Swagger Back, those things energize me.

Then also I know he’s toxic to some but Drake. There’s a particular song called Under Ground Kings and there’s a line that says, “I was great before I knew I was,” or before they said I was. I knew it. Even if there are moments where other people don’t get what I’m doing, they don’t understand the vision, they don’t see it, I know what’s possible for me and speak that life into ourselves. Those songs like that bars, really hard-hitting bars, I call the AKA hood scriptures, I really appreciate it.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I love that you have to be your biggest fan piece of it because speaking of Beyonce, even though I always say she was Star Search, her mama knew, she was all those things. I do feel like there were people who were like, “Okay, but she still ain’t all that,” so she still had to tap into her own space.

When we get to the promised land, whenever that is, and however that is, Black woman will be able to say that I don’t need that outside. I want it but I don’t need it. I can say that I myself am enough and then not be in places where they don’t feel like you’re enough. That part.

Minda Harts: Period. I often tell people that because it’s the energy that you bring with you, you belong in every room that you enter but not every room deserves to have you. I think for so long, we have been trying to like, “Hey, look at me, I deserve this.” It’s like, “Okay, once we’ve advocated for ourselves and if we’re keep being met with this resistance, then at some point, know that you still are enough, but this space, you can’t grow and be planted here.”

Paula Edgar: Yes, and that is also relationship advice, ladies and gentlemen, just in case. All of that. Do not go where nobody is watering your plants. Thank you very much. Okay, tell me, you’ve dipped into it a little bit talking about going from being in the business space to writing to having The Memo platform, all of that, can you weave it together for us how have you built your brand from going from not understanding that you had one and realizing that you do, tell me a little bit about that journey.

Minda Harts: Yeah. I like to say, Paula, that I’m like the girl next door. If I can do it, you can do it type of thing. I didn’t, and I still don’t to this day, I didn’t know a lot of celebrities, I didn’t know a lot of influencers, but I said I have my voice and I have my point of view. I picked a platform where I could be consistent.

For me at the time in 2015, it was Twitter. Twitter was the space where I said, “I’m going to commit to tweeting every single day talking about what it’s like to be a Black woman, women of color in the workplace, ways that can be helpful.” I know these things are happening but here’s how we move forward.

I just double downed on that and I just kept doing that. Eventually, I started a podcast and I continued to talk about the same things I talked on Twitter but in a larger way. I broke things down that were conducive to my space because I was still at my nine-to-five so I couldn’t be filming content all day long like the young kids on TikTok.

I didn’t have that space I wish that I had but I had to do it at what made sense to me. Then the next part of that was where is my audience. Then I started, I said, “Okay, Twitter is still very good but LinkedIn, that’s where my people are because they’re in the workforce so I’m going to create more content that focuses on women of color in the workplace.”

I really just did that for several years. But I must say in 2015, I launched a newsletter. I kept that newsletter up for years and years and years so eventually, all the content that I had written through Twitter, the newsletters, LinkedIn became my first book where the things that people booked me for to speak on, I was consistent and I still, if you come to my pages, I try to stay consistent.

I might add other topics to it because at the end of the day, right now I’m writing a book on trust, some people might say, “Well, do you still talk about women of color?” Yes, now, I’m about everybody because nobody’s going to survive the workplace without trust. It’s yes-and. I think that some people say, “Well, is it a new brand? Are you doing something different?” No, equity is equity. I’m taking the group I had in 2015, they’re coming with me as we elevate the conversation.

I think that that’s part of building brand. You want to elevate. You think of brands like Sears, JCPenney, and Kmart, some of those brands that they had everything at the palm of their hands. Some were able to transition and build and some weren’t.

Or good brands like even Walmart, they, during the pandemic, realized, “We better have some things that people can shop online.” No brand gets it right every time but realizing that you have to elevate and evolution has to occur. Now I protect my brand by any means necessary and I realize how important that is, again, not just for me but for the group who started with me.

I often say when I left corporate America in 2019, I jumped and Black women caught me so I am forever grateful to women of color. I would not be talking to you right now if that wasn’t the case. I’m always true to where I started but taking people with me.

Paula Edgar: That in a nutshell, the Black women, and you’re catching me on the tail end of having been to the African-American Museum of History and Culture in DC so I’m feeling very much close to my ancestors at this time, but Black women have always been the foundation of elevation for other people.

So to be in spaces where Black women are saying, “We are going to be the foundation for elevation for ourselves, our collective selves” is so important and that’s the movement that you continue to build. In thinking about that piece, you talked about trust being your next space.

When I think about branding and I think about the corporate world, I think about the experiences of Black women, I think about leaders. Talk to me about some of the ways in which leaders, who truly want to advance equity, can use their understanding of women of color and they want to be better of women of color to be better leaders with better brands.

Minda Harts: Yeah. I think that branding should really be a whole course inside the workplace because we each come with a brand or our authentic selves but they all need to come together for that shared goal and purpose.

Whenever I’m speaking to a group of leaders, I’ll say, “Don’t you want to make the workplace better than you found it? Don’t you want your seat of influence to help somebody else? Don’t you want to speak someone else’s name in the room that’s not here right now? Or do you only want to advance people who look and talk like you?”

The other part of it is allyship. We talk about that a lot in the workplace but part of being an ally is who’s benefiting from your allyship. Going back to leadership, who’s benefiting from your leadership? Can the people that trust you as their manager, is it that they trust you or did you just assume because you’re the boss, trust is automatic? What have we done to build trust, what have we done to restore it, and what have we done to create it?

I want to give people the tools because last Friday, if we all did a team retreat and now Monday layoffs come down, it’s hard, that’s a low-trust environment. I can’t trust that I’m going to even be here by the end of the week. But when we have leaders who are willing to be transparent, who are willing to be vulnerable, who are humanizing the experiences of every single person on the team, then we can get to a more productive workplace, a more inclusive, a more equitable.

If we provide trust as the foundation, the bedrock of any institution, then Black women feel heard and seen, then LGBTQ, anyone over 60, disability, anything, we all have that core pillar of trust. I don’t think we can have equity without trust, we can’t have safety without trust.

I’m asking, “Okay, let’s everybody get back to the basics. Trust is not a soft skill but it’s a leadership skill.” I think all of the work that you do, I do, it’s leadership development. People are side-eying each other left and right at work and I feel like it’s time that we have the conversation and give people the tools they need to speak the same language again.

Paula Edgar: That part, the side-eyeing each other, I’m laughing because thinking about the time that I’ve side-eyed people and also continuing to hear about people side-eyeing folks because what they’re saying is not who they are and what they’re showing, if there’s no alignment in who you say you are, showing that vulnerability, don’t ask for belonging if you’re not going to put some vulnerability on the table so that people can feel safe, to your point, in that space. It doesn’t matter what letters you throw out there. All the letters don’t matter if what you’re actually doing doesn’t align with what you’re saying.

Minda Harts: Yeah, exactly. I think that the future of work can’t be sustained without trust.

Paula Edgar: Yes, especially if we go into an election year.

Minda Harts: It’s going to be even more imperative.

Paula Edgar: Yes, yes. I am doing pre-therapy just to get myself involved like just talk about something that might happen. Tell me, when you think about folks’s brands that you maybe interact with or seen, etc, what are some mistakes that you might have seen people make when it comes to building their brand?

Minda Harts: What I love about this question is I might not have been able to answer it a few years ago but I can distinctly understand it now because of the unfortunate murder of George Floyd. After that, everybody was a DEI practitioner.

Paula Edgar: Okay, yep, continue.

Minda Harts: “Wait a second, two months ago, that wasn’t what she was talking about.” Okay, cool. I feel like the biggest mistake that people can make, and I think all of us if we’re not careful can fall subject to this, but is bandwagon branding, hopping on things because you think it’s cool, because you think it’s sexy, because you think it’s just going to get you paid. That’s not sustainable.

Yes, a lot of people got some checks in 2020, 2021 but some of those people are not employed today or they’re now thinking, “Ooh, what happened?” It’s like okay, real ones know. This work ebbs and flows and what are you in it for? So I think that the biggest mistake is bandwagon branding.

You see, just because someone else is doing a course doesn’t mean you have to do a course too. It might mean that but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. If everybody’s doing a podcast, and that’s not really your ministry, don’t think that that’s something you have to do to be part of the brand.

Often, people who follow will say, “I want to write a book. I want to write a book,” and I’ll have a call with them and I’m like, “Is it that you really want to write a book or do you just want some press? Is it just a newsletter?” Sometimes it is and I think people get caught up in just because it might be working for someone else, that must be the thing that I have to do.

Paula Edgar: Right. There are so many vehicles that you can brand yourself with that it doesn’t make sense that you have to copy somebody else’s path because that’s not your path. To your point, it may well be your path but vet it and so those of you who are watching on video, you will see that I just did a little a moment because when you said about folks, everybody being a DEI person after George Floyd’s murder, it was frustrating from a brand perspective for multiple things.

One, when you are actually somebody who has been working in equity and talking about leadership and culture way before that, to have people who align themselves with your same skill set and knowledge was just for me very frustrating.

But on the flip side, it was organizations who were not vetting people properly who weren’t looking for folks who had a long breath of having been impactful in this work because they just wanted their brand to be that they cared. There was on both sides like do the work, people, do the work.

If somebody can’t say, “Hey, talk to this person about the impact I’ve had,” that’s problematic. This is why I tell people when they’re wanting to start new in someplace, align with someone else, do something with them so you can say, “I’ve worked on this project with this person who is an expert,” as opposed to coming out there and nobody is there to be like, “Yay, squad,” because you’ve not done anything. Another piece is that because you occupy an identity does not mean you occupy expertise in the space.

Minda Harts: Preach, preach, preach. People will come to me and say, “Do you think you can do this unconscious bias training?” I’m like, “I could but you know who is better at it? I could if I had to but it’s not my lane.” I think that that’s a mature part of branding. I think when you get to the point to say, “You know what, that’s not what I do but I do know who does.”

Paula Edgar: Yeah, and when you’re everywhere, you’re kind of nowhere. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow and expand but it does mean that if somebody’s coming to you, they’re like, “You are a dog lawyer,” and all of a sudden, they want you to do the whole animal kingdom, that’s probably not going to work because you know dogs.

It’s something I don’t think that we have yet talked about on the podcast. I’m really excited in that particular piece of it where people have just got to be better at not trying to feel a need with whoever is the flashiest or who is the most recent, who has done the work, and who is going to be impactful in this space, which brings me to something that I saw, it might have been you or somebody else posted this the other day.

We both are speakers, we both speak at organizations and the decline, I would say, of engagement and investment in spaces given the further we get away from George Floyd’s murder and also the shenanigans of the Supreme Court have made people a little bit less committed in their spaces someplace.

I always say not everything is for everybody and not everybody’s going to always be in a space of wanting to advance. That being said, what I will not abide by and you will always hear me talk about this is where you have people who want our skill set and don’t want to value our time and energy in the way that they should and in the way that they value other people.

I’m talking about opportunity and financially, all of those other spaces. When you think about branding, I’m like, “You get what you pay for and if you try to discount what you pay for, you’re going to get that discount as well in what is delivered.” You will have to understand that because don’t you find that there’s this expectation that we should take less and do more?

Minda Harts: Yeah. It’s audacity really because it’s like, “Wait a second, this is my job, put some respect on that.” At first, it really used to irritate me and still does but when someone asks, I think recently, I had someone ask me to do a 90-minute workshop for free at a major company, they’re like, “But we know you love doing things for women of color,” I’m like, “Ma’am, yes, but I have a house and I can’t pay my bills off, the mortgage off of exposure and kindness, although I do a lot of pro bono work throughout the year.”

But I think that we just have to do better and that’s part of the equity. That’s part of the trust being a small business. Can I trust that the client is going to pay me in 30, 60, 90 days? These are all important pieces of the journey. I think that for those listening who hire talent, speakers, or facilitators, honoring that because there are some that you would pay $100,000 so you would never ask Brené Brown to come and do a 90-minute workshop for free and be sober.

Paula Edgar: And not be like psych, just kidding.

Minda Harts: Hey, April fools, and I feel like especially for Black and Brown women, and again, anyone on the margins, speakers, oftentimes, if you don’t have a certain title behind your name, then people think that you can do these things for free. I think that is, again, participating in the oppression of inequitable spaces.

If you don’t have the payment, then make it work for everybody if you don’t have the budget. But again, going back to trust, be transparent. Let’s have transparent conversations. If you’re going to do this for me, then also make sure that you’re being equitable when Paula comes and says this too.

Part of that is that we have to have these conversations so that people are aware of them because I know some speakers who are early in their career, they’re doing a lot of things for free because they think they have to.

Paula Edgar: Right. Let us clarify it for you real quick. You don’t have to. You may want to and there may be some reasons why you should do something but you don’t have to. In fact, I just feel like if we are truly talking about creating equitable spaces, we have to start with it’s not equity for you to ask for me for the discount as I come into your multi-billion dollar work organization because I know breakfast cost $10,000 so let’s stop playing and stop playing with my time. They used to say back in day, “Don’t play on my phone.”

Minda Harts: My grandmother used to say, “Are you playing on my line?” Yes.

Paula Edgar: Yes. That part. Don’t play on my dial, don’t do that. Alright, any advice that you might have for anybody who is currently trying to build a brand or thinking about re-imagining their brand?

Minda Harts: Yeah. The best thing that I could have done was I started working with a brand consultant, I know that might sound very pricey and at the time, I had fewer resources to do it, but I invested in some boot camps and some workshops to help me get my brand logo, what workshop, if I’m wanting people to hire me or consider me as a facilitator, buy my book, then I need a functioning website.

There are just certain things that I need even if it’s just a landing page or a logo. Think about those things. Invest in yourself. Invest in your future. There are a lot of things that you can do on some of these sites but it does sometimes require those who have expertise.

One gentleman in particular who helped me, his name is Stephen A. Hart, you can find him on LinkedIn, but he really helped me with my branding and he has branding courses and they’re affordable. That really set me on the road to success to really think about, “Oh, there’s a lot that goes into a brand. It’s not just saying that I’m the brand.” There are other pieces of the puzzle. I think for you to understand if you want the best puzzle piece, find your squad to help you get there.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I’ve seen Stephen speak before and I will be asking him to be on my podcast. So Stephen, in case you hear this, welcome.

Minda Harts: Please. My brother from another mother, okay.

Paula Edgar: Come on down, Stephen. I think that’s great advice for anybody and no matter where that phase is, I find so often people just, like you were saying at the beginning, like, “I don’t have a brand,” and I’m like, “Okay, even if you don’t feel like you have a brand, you still do.” That’s actually even worse because you’re not actually putting thought into it and then there are the people who do too much where it’s only about their branding.

You got to find your space along that authenticity spectrum to decide what makes sense for you. Sometimes people will message me and say, “Oh, I listen to the podcast but that person is blah-blah-blah,” I’m like, “But you are your own brand.” Just thinking about what you want to be out there and how you show up, whether that’s just your LinkedIn or that’s your website or both of those things, just down to how you show up and what you wear, it’s still important.

Throwing it to the side is not something that I will never say is not important, how you show up, it always is and in all the different spaces, but not so much that it becomes a burden but that it becomes and shows up as a natural space for you.

Minda Harts: Yeah, well said.

Paula Edgar: So tell me, I know the answer to this already because again, we’re best friends in my head, what do you do for fun?

Minda Harts: That’s a great question. For those who don’t know, my fur baby Boston Harts, he passed away a little over a month ago, so my fun was really playing with him and giving him his best a bougie dog life. Now I’m in this phase, Paula, where I’m rediscovering pieces of myself that I hope to have new hobbies. I’m working on what that looks like.

But I like to, a lot of people don’t know this and this is a first that I’m going to tell you since we are friends, but what I like to do for fun is because I like rap so much, I always have, when I have time, I go into the studio, I rent studio space and I just rap and freestyle and do things. I like that. No CDs coming out.

Paula Edgar: I’m like, “Buy her mixtape right now.”

Minda Harts: That is where I just unleash. That’s where I find inspiration. So for fun, I do like to rap pretend and it’s just a space for me to be silly and fun and hard when I want to be.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I love that. Bars Minda MC Harts. That is fantastic and thanks for giving me a Branding Room Only exclusive. New drop. Hilarious. Okay, but this might go into that space because it is about authenticity. I ask everybody in my podcast two of the same questions which is this: stand by your brand, what is the aspect of your brand that you will never compromise on?

Minda Harts: I really love this because I think for me, it’s generosity. No matter what I’m doing, how “people” might see my brand elevate, I always want to be generous, generous with information, generous with my time, generous with giving. Being generous is a privilege so that is part of my core values is generosity. I put that in my books. I’m generous with who I am, vulnerability, so generosity I feel has always served me well because people have been generous to me.

Paula Edgar: I love that. Like some of my other guests, you go into rooms all the time but The Branding Room Only is a play on standing room only, when you would be going to a concert, maybe it’s Drake and it’s only standing room because everybody wants to be there, my question for you is what is the magic of Minda that people would go into a room, standing room only to see you do or experience from you?

Minda Harts: I would say, I love this so much, is my vulnerability. I think that that is my secret sauce that it connects, people see their story, my story is her story.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. I think that you’re absolutely right because you’re like all of our best friends, either our workplace and also on weekends and my just friend just generally, and I am so grateful for you spending some time with me and with my audience to give us some of your vulnerability. Tell me how can people find you, connect with you, tell the people how they should connect.

Minda Harts: Well, thank you so much, Paula, for having me. Thank you for always supporting me through my journey so when you asked, it was an easy yes so thank you, thank you. Find me at and from there, you can find me on your favorite social platform.

Paula Edgar: Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. Everybody, make sure you share this with your colleagues. Tell them to buy the books. We will link all of the books on the show notes page. You know what, next time you listen to your favorite hip-hop bar, remember, MC Minda’s back there somewhere doing the same thing but we’re not going to get the mixtape. Have a wonderful day and I will see y’all soon in The Branding Room.