I recently interviewed fellow Harvard graduate and my best friend Kaneisha Grayson, for my latest podcast Building a Million Dollar Business That Matches Your Dream Lifestyle. Kaneisha has overcome personal challenges and loss to build The Art of Applying® the largest black-owned graduate admissions consulting firm in the world. She’s helped over 1,000 nontraditional applicants get into the top business, policy, and law schools, with over US$20 million in scholarships to pay for it. Kaneisha is also the reason Soul Career® exists. She visited me in 2018 and inspired me to chart my path in helping others through entrepreneurship.
Kaneisha founded The Art of Applying® 11 years ago. The most popular program is ‘Application Accelerator’. A boot camp where participants learn everything they need to know to get into graduate school and secure as much money as possible to pay for it. The course costs $27,000 and can last anywhere from 15 to 18 months. Most applicants are successful, over 60% secure $70,000 worth of scholarships per school. Participants can also re-enrol in the program free of charge if they do not secure admission to the graduate school(s) of their choice.
At one point, her business boasted a staff of 8 full-time sales employees, a million dollars in revenue, and costs of roughly $85,000 per month. But, Kaneisha decided to slow her life down, cut her business costs, and make more time for her friends and family. She was successful. Last year the business made less revenue at $600,000, but her profit margin soared to 50%.
Kaneisha experienced several traumatic experiences throughout 2018. Her mother succumbed to cancer and her husband filed for divorce four days after they moved from Texas to New York. She also lost contact with a close friend and laid off some of her staff to cut business costs. Healthwise Kaneisha struggled with exhaustion related to hypothyroidism and overwork. All these experiences led her to question the reasons behind her motivation to succeed. After reflecting, she found that she valued her health and spending time with her friends and family more than fame or a high salary.
While Kaneisha did not grow up in a low-income household, she did live in a low-income neighbourhood. She worked hard at school and one of her teachers suggested that she attend a small liberal arts college and then go to Harvard for graduate school. Kaneisha received a scholarship to attend Pomona College. A small, prestigious liberal arts college where she majored in Black Studies. She then attended both Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. It was there that we met and the rest is history.
Kaneisha believes her decision to start her own business was natural. She didn’t like the restrictive, hierarchical nature of the corporate world. She also approached the prospect of entrepreneurship from a place of possibility and expansion.
Kaneisha’s first piece of advice is that a transition to full-time entrepreneurship does not have to be all or nothing. She suggests starting your venture on the side while you keep your job. And that you consider a full-time transition once your side income is roughly 40% of your full-time income. She also believes that entrepreneurship is about grit, experimentation and learning. So it’s important to be persistent and keep showing up. And lastly, consistency is crucial when engaging with your audience. Her advice is to choose your platform, decide on a publishing schedule, and commit to it. Doing this will enable you to establish yourself as an expert.
I had a blast recording this episode. Kaneisha’s life shows us that you can design a life and business that fits your personality and lifestyle. And that we don’t have to live in a specific way to find and succeed in our Soul Career®.