July 2020: A Note from Hope — Kimberly Lee Minor has held positions such as brand president for London Fog, Rampage, Bongo and Joe Boxer, and most recently was senior vp of strategy, merchandising and operations at Bath & Body Works. Today, she is leveraging her personal insights and hard-won expertise to help women and people of color accelerate their careers by providing them inclusive communities where they can obtain exposure, support, and empowerment from accomplished experts.
It’s an honor to feature her in the July 2020 issue of Inkandescent Women magazine. Certainly, her achievements are amazing. In full disclosure, I have known this powerhouse before she was running the show at these Fortune 500 firms.
Kim and I were students together in Lafayette Hill, PA. During our senior year, Kim was president of the student council, and I was the president of the class. We both attended the University of Pennsylvania, but lost touch for decades until meeting again at our 30th high school class reunion in November 2016. There, we commiserated about how tough it is to travel back in time.
When the Black Lives Matter marches began this spring, I reached out to Kim to get her perspective, her wisdom, and her insights in what we can do together to make the world a better place. Be on the lookout for our Q&A, and be sure to follow Kimberly on YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
8 Questions for Kimberly Lee Minor, Bumbershoot LLC
1. You have had an amazing career in Corporate America. Tell us about your experience — the good, the hard.
My professional journey in corporate America, in many ways, is reflective of my academic journey in PWIs. It has been educational, fulfilling, lucrative, exhausting, painful, exciting and disappointing all at the same time. Corporate America is a microcosm of the highs and lows of humanity. The highs are learning how to impact, influence and drive. The lows are the stress of navigating corporate politics, or the uneven organizational structures that lean toward cronyism and white male dominated boardrooms.
2. What has been your experience as a black woman in that environment.
I have spent my entire career as the “only” or the “first.”
I was the only black person, of 2, in my Macy’s executive training class to go to the end of the program. I was 2 years and 2 promotions into the program before I met another woman of color. Although we had the same title, she had 12 years more experience, so I thought that I had found a mentor, a concept that I had heard of but had never met or experienced. She had no interest! She liked being the only one. No mentor there. The problem with this story is that was the last time that I saw someone in a business leadership role who looked like me. Can you imagine? That was 1992.
When you are the only or the first the burden of bringing the whole race with you is heavy. If you do a great job often times the credit it just yours, you are a unicorn. If it isn’t a good fit for whatever reason then many times the door is closed to other women of color, because “we tried that before, it didn’t work.”
When you are the only or the first you are lonely, and the farther you go and the higher levels of leadership and success you achieve you are not only dealing with loneliness but you are exhausted from navigating corporate politics or having to prove yourself time after time. I have met many people along my journey who did something early in their career that caught someone’s attention and they never had to make another successful decision in their life.
I have focused on creating opportunities for inclusion and developing talent throughout my career and proudly have been awarded several times for these efforts.
I have lead businesses from $40 mil to $4bil annual revenue, grown as a person and can walk into anyone’s boardroom with confidence and invaluable experiences because of my time in Corporate America. As result of my corporate experience I can now use my platform to insure that as many brands as possible have the tools to be responsible, purpose driven and inclusive. And most importantly, I can help women and people of color accelerate their career by providing inclusive communities for influence, support, and empowerment from me and my network of accomplished experts.
3. You are now the founder and CEO of Bumbershoot. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I have been a serial entrepreneur-dabbler since I was 12. I loved the idea of being my own boss and come up with business ideas all of the time. But I was raised by hardworking people who thought that my ideas were great “ideas” and that I should have a job and benefits – especially my dad. After 27 years in corporate I realized that somewhere along my journey, I had put my head down and forgotten to look up.
What I, and so many of the women that I met, were missing along their journey was an authentic connection to themselves and the genuine support of cohorts. So, I decided to expand my blog of flavorful stories, Spiceteria, into a community for professional women in their 40’s and 50’s whose lives would be enhanced by authentic connection, creative and informative content, unique experiences, and meaningful philanthropy to realize a more personally fulfilling next chapter. It gave me the idea for my business and Bumbershoot was created.
Bumbershoot is a multi-media company that creates community, content, events and experiences to accelerate careers and influence, support and empower the lives of women and people of color.
4. What are your goals for your company?
My goals for the company are 1) to be the go to company for corporations and brands to bring in to create supportive affinity communities for their female and poc employees, and 2) to be the preeminent expert of what an inclusively diverse, highly collaborative and productive professional culture is and how to create it.
5. Kim, tell us more about your life. What has your experience been as a black woman?
That’s a difficult question, I only know how my experience has been as a woman since I haven’t given much, if any, energy to considering how it would be as a white or other woman.
6. You are mom to very powerful kids. Talk about them, their accomplishments, their challenges, and your wish for them as adults.
My boys are amazing young men. Both are scholars, both are beautifully musically talented and couldn’t be more different. I had resolved myself to the fact that I not be a mother, and if so it would be through adoption.
Prior to my oldest, Jonathan’s birth, I had 4 miscarriages and he was then born 6 weeks early. He changed my life; it is true that the world looks new through the eyes of a child. Jonathan reminds of my dad, he resembles him, his voice sounds like his and he is gregarious and never meets a stranger, he’s musical and athletic. Then almost 3 years later his brother, Carter was born 10 days late to his due date and weighed almost 9 pounds – opposites from the beginning.
Carter is thoughtful, a brilliant math and science mind, can be a bit aloof and came into the world with a song and dance. He choreographed his first dance piece when he was 5 and was the face of the Alvin Ailey children’s dance program for several years. Jonathan is headed to Morehouse College in the fall as a Howard S. Thurman Scholar and Carter will be an Honors student at New Albany HS.
7. If you could do one thing to make the situation different for black people in America, what would it be?
Another tough question. I hate that this is my answer and quite honestly, I am exhausted from constantly having to teach people who created this system why the inequities exist. Until the justice and civil systems are reformed and white people move beyond their fear that they might lose something or an even deeper fear that black people will move beyond wanting equality. Revenge for over 400 years of blatant disregard for our humanness is frightening. When you look at other atrocities against humans, I don’t know of any that have lasted for over 400 years.
I do what I can for my sisters and brothers who don’t know their power by leading personal development and self-esteem programs for young girls and women as well as I lead tutoring programs for children in inner-city school systems and I started Spiceteria Serves to raise funds to keep small business owned by women of colors in business while providing meals to frontline human service workers who are helping the most under-served communities in Columbus.
8. Please, with all respect, tell us what we / I need to do to support you. This is the future. We are all in this together. If I have a wish, it’s that we actually do unite and move toward the future as one. What are your thoughts?
Thank you for giving me the platform to share my insights, to highlight and expand Bumbershoot, to connect with a new network of amazing women, and to grow communities. If you see opportunities for me to speak or introduce a Bumbershoot community please let me know.
I also ask that you and your readers to stand in the gap, to be anti-racist. It is not enough to just say “I am not a racist”, I need everyone to read, watch, listen and ask questions so that you can stand up for people who are not able to stand up alone. Educate everyone you talk to on the importance of voting, in every election – big change starts in our communities.