Zach speaks with Kori Hale, CEO of CultureBanx, about CultureBanx itself and her personal career journey. They also discuss the concept of producing content, particularly while other, and Kori offers some great advice for professionals who are afraid to make a jump or do something new in their career.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and we are here again. More fire for your head top, more content, more real discussions with black and brown people or people that affirm the identities and experiences of black and brown people to center–that’s right–black and brown people. And today is no different, ’cause, you know, we’re coming to y’all with really good conversations, often times with a special guest, and we have such a guest today – Kori Hale. Kori, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Kori: Hi, Zach. I’m great. How are you?
Zach: I’m doing really, really well. I appreciate the fact that you were able to take the time to be on the show. For those of us who don’t know you, could you talk a little bit about yourself?
Kori: Yes, I can, but before I do, I noticed in the opening you said this show is also for people who affirm the identities of black and brown people, and I was wondering if that included Rachel Dolezal. [laughs]
Zach: Oh, goodness. You know what? If Rachel wants to–here’s the thing about Rachel. I–it’s so confusing, ’cause she could have done so much more as an actual white woman and, you know, given and used her privilege as–you know, and given it away. Instead she chose to, I don’t know, handicap herself, but then also take a bunch of, like, praise? I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t know. What do you think? You tell me.
Kori: Yeah, I don’t know. It is a tough one. However, homegirl can definitely braid some hair based on that Netflix documentary that I saw, ’cause I’m like, “Yo.” I mean, normally white people just have less-textured hair, so it’s much harder to actually, you know, braid in extensions, and I ain’t ever even seen anyone iron some hair like that before. [both laugh] She was teaching me some stuff! So I was like, “Oh, girl, I didn’t even know you could do all that.”
Zach: That’s so funny. But you know what? I think this is a really good segue into what you do and your platform, but I’d love to hear more about your journey and kind of–so let’s just get it out there. You’re the CEO and founder of CultureBanx, which is a media platform for black folks, for black and brown–I’m gonna say black folks, and I’ll let you kind of get into it, but let’s talk a little bit about your journey and kind of how you got there and then really more about what CultureBanx is.
Kori: Yes. So my journey is–well, as I like to say, the path that we’re all on in life is not easy, nor is it paved in gold, and that’s a lot like my story. I started out as an investment banker, first internationally at a Swiss bank in London, and then I moved back to the States and I was with Goldman Sachs for several years and just really realized, right, that there wasn’t anyone that looked like me delivering high-level business financial news in a way that really would resonate with my community, with my core values, and so I was like, you know, “If I can’t figure this out, let me maybe try and go work at some of the big networks,” specifically business news networks, right, and figure out how can I maybe inject some diversity, because I think that a lot of us, when you work in corporate America, the main thing that you want to do is feel like–and I really actually hate when people use the word “safe places” or “safe space.” Like, there’s no safe space when you get up and you go to work for somebody else every day, right? Because it’s their company. So, like, that doesn’t exist, even if they want to create some employee resource group or whatever. Like, the head of the employee resource group still reports to somebody that doesn’t look like them, [?] like, up to the CEO of the company. And so I thought I was gonna be able to inject diversity at networks like Bloomberg and CNBC, and even when I was a news anchor down on the floor of the Stock Exchange and actually didn’t even know until I was down there that I was the first African-American woman to ever anchor a daily news show from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in its 200+-year history, and I thought, “Well, that’s odd.” Like, “What’s going on here? Why has that never been a thing until I worked at this media startup?” But through that transition of investment banking to then getting into media, what I really realized was that there was no outlet, broadcast, print, or digital, that was gonna deliver the type of content that I was looking for. So if a former investment banker journalist can’t create this sort of company for communities that need it the most, then no one else is gonna go out there and do it, and that really brings us more to the present day and CultureBanx, the media company, and what we do is create business news for hip hop culture, and essentially all of our articles have music attached to it that then spins out into different curated Spotify playlists. So it’s pretty dope if I do say so myself, because I–
Zach: Aye. [laughs]
Kori: I mean, it is. I look at music as that sort of underlying theme throughout all communities. It’s an easy way to engage, an easy way to see a reflection of yourself, and what if we took that same approach to information and content and not keep pushing just entertainment and sports and celebrity and that sort of stuff to minority communities? Because we think–and by we, the people that are actually even pushing the content towards these communities aren’t even from those communities, but they’re trying to say, “Oh, this is what they want. This is the only thing they care about,” but that’s not true. It’s just that you’re putting it in a, as I like to say, razzle-dazzle sort of way. If you did the same thing but you talked about stocks and mergers and acquisitions, what a difference you might see in those communities.
Zach: No, you’re absolutely. And I mean, I think the other piece is, like, also acknowledging the work that those communities are already doing, right? So there’s more and more black tech spaces that are coming up organically, right? Like, you think about–there’s multiple of these types of pods, like, within the coastal cities, the DMV, LA, Oakland, Houston, the Midwest and Chicago. Like, there’s all types of just organic things happening. Healthy living co-ops. There’s all types of activities that are happening in these–again, like, in these black and brown communities, but there are larger, I think, like–I don’t know, just larger narratives and systems in place that minimize those stories. And also there’s a lack of funding, right, and marketing awareness for those organizations that are already in place. What I think I hear you talking about is really exciting because you’re pushing more content, and then I also believe CultureBanx provides opportunities, or at least opens up a lens to what is actually happening today in those spaces, right?
Kori: Yes. We definitely provide people with what we call the culturally-attuned perspective in those spaces. I mean, it’s easy to see a headline–to your point–about minority maybe co-working spaces or different companies or organizations, institutions, that are focusing in the STEM fields as it relates to minorities. What we really try to push over at CultureBanx are the everyday stories though. So not just [whatever?] falls in the minority bucket ’cause it mentioned something about the Latinx or Asian or black community, but this story is the headline on all of these platforms, and this is information you need to know, but they’re not gonna tell you exactly why it’s relevant to your community, why you should personally care about something like that. And Zach, can I go ahead and give your listeners a quick example here?
Zach: Come on.
Kori: So last year, Michael Kors–the company, the retail brand–bought Versace, a very famous Italian luxury retail brand, for $3 billion. You would think on the surface, “Okay, well, that’s interesting I guess, if you’re into fashion,” or even if you’re not into fashion, but no one is telling you why that deal is really a play on urban culture. And the reason that Michael Kors really wants a bigger stake in Versace is because of Versace’s long-standing love affair with hip-hop, hip-hop and the community, and hip-hop of course being the #1 genre of music for the past decade.
Zach: In the world.
Kori: Right. Hip-hop leads these trends, and the majority of hip-hop artists are African-American. We’ve seen a huge rise, right, with Latinx performers in the hip-hop community as well, but still all in that, you know, minority category, and just that spending power alone of African-Americans is currently at $1.3 trillion, making the spending power of this community larger than the economy of Mexico.
Zach: Come on, now. [Flex bomb sfx]
Kori: Y’all gotta feel me when I say we have more spending power than the entire country of Mexico just as an African-American community, a subset of the bigger U.S. population, but it’s more powerful than entire countries. And so to get in front of that audience, right, is something that most brands want, and no one is gonna talk about that the way we’re gonna tell you “This is why this is important,” right? This market move by Michael Kors to acquire Versace is much bigger than them trying to perhaps get into more of the luxury business and much bigger than Versace trying to figure out how it can get into more stores. It’s like, “Hey, we know their main audience, the people that are spending money.” I mean, think of all of the free advertisement that Versace gets in hip hop songs?
Zach: Oh, no, 100%. ‘Cause part of me–I was talking to my wife about this. I was like, “Dang, I wonder if any of these rappers–like, do they have deals that they don’t talk about?” Right? Like, when Migos made that song “Versace,” right, like, did they have some secret deal, like, a marketing agreement, and, like, did Drake get a piece of that? ‘Cause, like, it’s just wild that–like, we do that though. Like, we’ll talk about Polo, Versace, Gucci. Like, we love high-end brands. We talk about Pateks. Like, we talk about–anything that’s, like, European and very expensive, like, they end up in rap songs, and I just ask myself–and maybe I’m a little bit more conspiratorial than I should be. I’m always thinking about, like, there’s just some grander scheme here–like, I just wonder, like, is there some, like, larger agreement that maybe even some of these record labels have with these European brands to then create this content? ‘Cause you’re absolutely right. Like, we promote it at crazy levels. Like, I wouldn’t have wore Polos when I was in middle school like I did if it wasn’t for Kanye, and I wouldn’t have wore–like, there’s just a bunch of clothes that I just wouldn’t have purchased without–like, without rap influence, you know what I mean?
Kori: No, I completely understand what you’re saying. I think that that’s what makes this so fascinating and so interesting, that other businesses, industries, sectors, they really value, right, the trendsetting and the taste-makers that come from minority communities moreso than we will value our own, you know, power, and that’s the problem, because sometimes I don’t think that we really immensely understand the power that we have. So when things are not going right, let’s say on the negative side–racism, sexism, those sort of things–like, how valuable withholding your dollars from certain brands can be to move the needle.
Zach: Yes, you’re absolutely right. And, you know, it’s interesting because, you know, these insights that you’re having around media production–like, the business insights that you’re having and that you’re bringing to this space, I mean, I think it comes from your business journey, right? Like, you’ve had a few different jobs, and you don’t really give the impression of someone who’s afraid to change. So, like, can we talk a little bit about where you started, and then, you know, what advice you would give to professionals who are wherever they are for whatever reason and they’re afraid to make a jump and to do something new?
Kori: Yes. I actually really love kind of telling this particular part of my journey, but I’ma take it back a little bit before I actually started working and shout-out my undergrad university, Hampton University, out there in the Hampton Roads area right outside of Virginia Beach. And going to an HBCU is a very great experience, but for me personally, growing up in Houston, Texas, I grew up knowing and being around affluent African-Americans, so that wasn’t, like, a stretch for me, to see black people that had real money, not the–you know, the kind of clout money as they say. That wasn’t really a stretch for me, but going to Hampton University and really getting a full scope and breadth of black people from across the country, like, that was very eye-opening for me, and what it instilled was really the value of appreciating what we can do as a community and, you know, us being a part of that talented [?] and what that would mean for the future of our community. And after Hampton, when I moved to London and started investment banking at the Swiss bank UBS, I was like, “Huh. Well, this is also odd, because now I’m back in this super minority–” I call it a double-minority status, because I’m not just, like, a black person living abroad–I’m a black person and I’m also an American, so it was just a lot of things to have to work through. But coming back to the States from London and working at Goldman, I kind of got a better sense of the way that corporate America worked, and I wanted–at the time I thought the ultimate goal was to become a partner, right? That’s what you kind of train for, that’s what you kind of work up–“what you should be,” as the company will tell you, should be aspiring towards. [cha-ching sfx] And I’m like, “Okay, so let me sort out this path.” And I figured out what that path was about two years after I started at Goldman. I stayed another couple of years, but after those first two years when I figured it out, I also got into the mindset of “Okay, I pretty much know what it’s gonna take and how long it’s gonna take me to get there.” Like, “That can’t be the mountaintop,” so to speak, because there’s got to be more to life than this. And I really just took those next two years where I was at the firm to kind of navigate what I wanted to do. Like, if you would have told me at the time that I started at Goldman that I would one day be running my own media company, like, I would have laughed at you, because I had no aspirations to be in media. I didn’t know anything about journalism. Matter of fact, the day I left Goldman Sachs, I did not know one person that worked in media. I’m talking about not even an assistant, even a doorman at a building, security officer at a news room, nothing. Like, I literally knew no one that actually worked in any news corporation, but I felt like God spoke to me when I was at Goldman and said that this is what I should be doing. I just kind of decided to stick with it, and some of the partners that were mentors and sponsors for me, I ran this idea by them, that I, you know, was gonna leave Goldman and go to journalism school and try and become a business news journalist–they were very supportive, and they told me basically, like, you’re young–I was around 26 at the time–and if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here. Like, “You can always come back to GS if it doesn’t work out,” but a lot of them were basically like, “Don’t be like us.” Like, “Don’t buy into,” essentially drinking the company corporate Kool-Aid, so to speak, and stay here because you’ve figured out the path and it seems safe and secure, because you’ll always look back and say, “But if I would have given this other thing a shot, even if I failed, at least I would have known I tried.” And going back to a respectable organization like GS isn’t a terrible fallback plan for anyone. Luckily I haven’t had to tap into that fallback plan, but you never know what the future holds. [laughs] So we can always see, but that’s kind of how that transition happened.
Zach: You know, it’s just incredible because–I’ll speak for myself, right? Like, you know, I didn’t think that I would get here, where I am, in my job, you know? I didn’t think that I would be–I didn’t think I’d be working here. Like, I remember when I was in high school I said, “I think I want to be a consultant one day,” and my high school counselor said, “You’re not gonna be a consultant,” right? You know? And then after that, before I became a consultant I was trying to pursue a career in HR. I had folks who look like me saying, “You’re not gonna be an HR manager,” right? So, you know, for me, because of that and not having a lot of people that look like me in these spaces, getting to one of these jobs seemed to be the mountaintop, right? But the reality is that there’s more to life than just working for somebody else. And, you know, no shame to anybody who wants–like, who wants to be a career… career person, but there’s more than that. You know, how did you navigate some of the–like, the fear and anxiety that came with, like, making that jump? So you came–I’m not gonna get into your pockets, but I would presume, I could be wrong, that perhaps your career at Goldman Sachs gave you a little bit more financial flexibility to, like, make certain moves and take certain risks that other people couldn’t take. Is that a wrong assumption, or is that–you know, did any of that come into play in terms of, like–do you feel like, because of your job, you were able to–you had more space to kind of take that leap?
Kori: I think my job gave me–and, like, the money I made while I was there, it definitely gave me the flexibility to be able to go to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communication and figure out, like, “Could I make this journalism career a thing?” I think it definitely gave me that because I had the confidence to know that if, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out, I would be able to go back and have, you know, a very good-paying job, but also, like, enough money, for the most part, to help me at least get through, like, the schooling part.
Zach: So then–so let’s talk a little bit about the concept of producing, right? So you’re a content creator. You’re a producer. It’s a term though that’s thrown around quite a bit, right? Especially, like, in today’s digital age. What does it really mean in your mind to be a producer in the media space today?
Kori: I look at content producers in general as people that are creating new original, authentic shows, articles, media content in general. So not the companies that are aggregators of information. Like, there are a lot of companies out there that are basically just pulling stuff from other people’s websites, but they’re not actually holistically creating something that was not there before, and that’s really a major differentiator in the space, because–to your point about a lot of different, like, black and brown minority-based concepts popping up, you’ve got to be able to stand out on your own and be creating in a space that no one else is already creating in. I think that we definitely need minority spaces, but we shouldn’t divide and conquer, right? We’re stronger together. We don’t necessarily need 50 different versions of co-working spaces for people of color. I’m not saying that we only need one, but would it make more sense to pool our efforts together in order to create something bigger?
Zach: No, you’re absolutely right. It’s interesting though because it’s–like, so kind of going on the co-working space thing and, like, other ideas, one, because, like, our networks–I don’t know, our networks are just different, and also, like, because sometimes we come into spaces late, or we–and when I say come into spaces, I mean we don’t have the same amount of support to, like, be early adopters in the spaces that we may see our white counterparts do. So, like, we’ll come into a space, and we’ll come into the space at the same time, and so it looks oversaturated, right? But I actually–like, I don’t know. So talk to me more about–so you zoomed in on co-working spaces twice now. Like, talk to me a little bit more about what you’re seeing in that space and why–like, what’s your point of view on it? ‘Cause, like, I think they’re really cool. I’m a consultant, so I have a co-working space all of the time because of, like, just the nature of my job. Like, I can just go to any home office, like, through the firm that I work at, but I think that they’re a pretty cool idea, and they seem to be used, but, like, I’m not really as plugged in. So, like, I’d be open to you educating me on it.
Kori: Yeah. So, I mean, I don’t–I have a co-working space as well, but I don’t really use it that much, and it’s not a co-working space at a place for people of color, but specifically on that front, like, I do know a couple of founders that are trying to launch their own versions of, like, specifically of women of color, others specifically for founders of color in a particular sector, like, that sort of thing. I actually feel like that is a very fragmented marketplace, almost much in the way of The Wing, which is a very popular all-female co-working space that WeWork has actually invested in, and I definitely think there’s a space where, you know, women want to be, but one of the main issues with the WeWork is that there are no men allowed, which, if you’re a smaller business–which most people that use co-working spaces tend to be–you don’t always want to have to go outside of your co-working space for a meeting. And I think that there are other ones that have popped up along the way. Like, there’s one for women executives, right, where it’s also fragmenting the market, but it’s fragmenting the market in a way that makes people feel like they’re being part of an elite club, if you know what I mean. Like, “Oh, you have to be at a certain level at whatever your organization is to be invited to be a member here.” I think that sort of way of strategically planning out how you roll out different co-working spaces for people of color is a better strategic roadmap to success than just saying, “We’re opening up a place for people of color.”
Zach: What is the–what would you recommend as the approach to, like, unify and desegment that space?
Kori: Right. I think the best way to look at it is like, “This is the community that we’re trying to get in front of,” or that we’re trying to help, and really pinpointing “What are the most important things to those people?” And I can actually liken that back to CultureBanx, like, and going into roadmapping out how do you deliver content to this so-called new woke generation in a way that they can actually identify with and see a reflection of themselves and their community with? And when you think of co-working spaces, like, what is it that’s most important to the community of potential co-working clients and users that makes the most sense? And back to CultureBanx, for us it was everything that tends to be pushed that does really well in front of minority audiences has something to do around entertainment, music, celebrity. So it’s how do we bring that to what we do so that it doesn’t seem like it’s such a far off leap for people to be interested?
Zach: So then what does it look like–you know, let’s talk about, like, the professional who–maybe they’re not looking to start their own company, they’re not looking to–they’re just trying to survive at their job, right? Let’s talk about, like, the concept of producing and, like, bringing these–and, like, the principles that you’re talking about with CultureBanx, and how do you think those principles can be applied to a black and brown professional at work? Because ultimately there seems to be a certain level of purposefulness and intentionality. That’s the better word. A certain level of intentionality and strategy that it comes to really producing effectively and really kind of managing brand. Do you think any of that could be effectively leveraged, utilized, for folks in their 9-to-5 jobs?
Kori: Yes, but I think it always starts with figuring out–like, knowing your end goal and working backwards. So as I mentioned earlier, when I thought my end goal was to become a partner at Goldman, it was “Okay, well, I want to become a partner. I’m only a senior analyst now.” Like, “Let’s scale back from partner and work our way backwards and see what it takes to get there,” to your point, like, your own self brand management at work every day. And funny enough, this is something that a lot of people don’t know about me, I actually left Goldman about two months after I got promoted, which is–but I had already been–but this is when I talk about the planning. I had already been planning, like, my strategic, like, exit. As you all know, I’m sure, that are listening right now, you know, you apply to a school, you have to wait to get in, that sort of thing. You know, take the tests or whatever tests you need to be admitted to these universities. So, like, I had already been strategically planning that, but I had also still been working on that plan of “If I do stay and try to navigate my way to someday becoming partner–” I was still working that plan too and, you know, just came to that crossroads of “Huh, do I–” Even after I got promoted I almost decided that I was gonna stay and not even pursue this whole journalism path. I’m like, “Oh, this happened sooner than expected.” So, you know, I was on the high-performing track as they call it at some companies, the fast track to moving up. Like, there was no real reason for me to want to leave other than I felt like my life’s purpose and calling was greater than what I was currently doing. And when you are constantly in this strategic mode of planning out “What does it look like in my 9-to-5 every day to be able to push to the next level?” Everything about what you do has to be very heavily managed, as a person of color especially, and I know that in corporate America people try to heavily, like, push this whole concept of mentorship and sponsorship. I will tell you I’m not a huge fan of mentors, and every time I say that people will, like, give me their pushback, which is fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. But especially in corporate America, sponsorship is significantly more powerful than mentors, because mentors, they can also be sponsors, but you know how much more effective it is if you come to somebody with a game plan already and say, “Would you be willing to help me navigate executing this plan or this strategy?” As opposed to going to a mentor and being like, “You know, I’m really trying to figure out what role I want,” or “I’m moving to the next department and thinking through–” Like, show up with some skin in the game already. Like, “I’ve already done X, Y, and Z, and it would be great if you could help facilitate.” Now, obviously most people don’t want to–I shouldn’t say they don’t want to. Most people want to feel like they’re imparting their wisdom and knowledge on you, but if you’re in a position where you can make that person look good by helping them or by them getting you to the next level, that only sets you up for more success.
Zach: No, you’re absolutely right. I also do think that there’s a certain level–I don’t know. I’m not trying to, like, pathologize nobody, and I’m not a psychologist, [but] I do believe that there is a meta-narrative of, like, non-minorities paternalistically trying to tell black and brown folks what to do, and they kind of revel in, you know, putting people in their place or just raising them in some way. [laughs] So I 100% agree with you. I think a lot of that stuff is often, like, self-aggrandizing and ego-centric. To your point around–like, I think it’s more about the relationships you can build and what value you can directly say that you helped somebody else with to help them be successful. That’s the way that I’ve seen people really climb up, right? It’s not necessarily being like, “Oh, this person pulls me aside and gives me things to work on, and that’s how I got promoted so fast.” That’s not really the case, ’cause you and I both have seen folks, you know, in an industry who have no business being in the position that they’re in, and yet, you know, they’re there, you know?
Kori: Yeah. I mean, I think we all see that in this country, starting at the very top at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Zach: Oh, wait a minute. Hold on now. [and i oop sfx]
Kori: Not getting deeply into politics, but just saying, like it or hate it, if you agree with his politics or not–’cause people could say the same thing about 44, President Obama. Like him or hate him, you could argue one way or another and say maybe he didn’t deserve–purely based on a resume, not basing on anything else. Purely basing it on so-called skills and qualifications for the role, you could make a case that he wasn’t necessarily qualified, and it could be justified. You could make the same case for the current president, that he is not qualified for some of the same on the opposite end of the spectrum. I look at Barack and I say–excuse me, let me put some respect on that man’s name. I look at President Obama–
Zach: Come on, now.
Kori: [laughs] And say that–it would be easier for people to say, you know, he doesn’t actually have any business experience. He hasn’t been serving in public office for any lengthy amount of time. Like, things that you would call into question for someone who would be taking the office of president. And on the other end of the spectrum you have president Trump, and you can say, “Yeah, he’s run some corporations.” They, on the outside, seem successful, but as we all know, when you dig in there are lots of question marks and, you know, missing documents, but you would say, “But he’s never served in public office. What does he know about actually serving people essentially that aren’t, you know, paying customers in that way?” Outside of the taxes that we pay. And you would question whether or not that someone is fit for that position. So yes, to your point, we all find that. “Why is this person in this position?” Well, most of the time it comes down to a likability factor. It doesn’t come down to skill sets. And that’s really my point, is that it’s proven at the highest level. Like, something that my mom would always say to my older brother Kenan and I–primarily it started when we were in college–she would tell us, “You can either network or not work.” Like, you going into work every day and doing your job that you’re hired for, that’s only 50% of your job. The other 50% needs to be you networking with people, because you don’t know where your next opportunity is gonna come from, and your next opportunity, the likelihood that it comes from what you’re doing sitting at your desk every day is very slim. It mostly comes from that person that you got coffee with once every two or three months.
Zach: And I think this is the–so I don’t know. I feel like you and I should actually have, like, another conversation. This isn’t, like–you know, we don’t typically do, like, in-depth conversations about different points of view on, like, whiteness or just, like, privilege, but, like, I’m curious to get your point of view on, like, even that. Like, that right there, the idea that you’re building relationships off of the people that you’re getting coffee with. Like, there are barriers to making sure that you even get that coffee, you know what I mean? Like, there are certain people that get invited to get coffee and then some people who don’t, right? And then there’s–and then as you even get to, like, the executive levels, you know, so many sales relationships are built on historical relationship equity that black and brown people just don’t have ’cause they haven’t been in these spaces. And so, like, I’m curious as to, like, your point of view on what does it look like–when you talk about relationships, when you talk about, like, navigating–and we kind of strayed away from the concept of producing, but I still think we’re there. Like, what does it look like to use those tools to then, like, create those connections as much as you can?
Kori: Yeah, getting invited to coffee versus, you know, kind of pushing your way in, I think that as a minority myself and other minorities especially working in corporate America need to take that ownership of organizing, of basically being like, “I’m gonna set up this sort of coffee situation.” And I can give you all an example of my own personal story. So I worked at a media startup called Cheddar before I launched CultureBanx, and I actually knew the founder of Cheddar for a year or so before he ever even launched that company because he used to be the president of BuzzFeed, and then after that he was the CEO of The Daily Mail, and I knew him because I would book him as a guest to come on this show I used to produce for called Squawk Alley on CNBC. [owww sfx] And I used to just, you know, book him, and you kind of just build relationships, right, from being a producer, with different people, and that is essentially how I got that next role. So it had nothing to do with the fact of what I got up and went into work to do every day.
Zach: Right. And again, what I continue to hear is just the willingness to put yourself out there. It’s just so interesting, because, like, with non-whiteness I believe comes a certain level of unfamiliarity, right? So, like, you have the–if you don’t look like somebody, even if–so let’s just say there’s two white people, right? They may have completely different backgrounds. Like, they may have completely different religious, socio-economic, even, like, cultural backgrounds, but that, like–the benefit of looking like somebody, there’s certain grace that’s given and space that’s made to, like, more easily build relationships, where as if you’re a person of color, like, what I’m hearing a lot–even though you’re not saying it explicitly, Kori–is, like, you had to put yourself out there. You had to be enterprising. You had to connect the dots. You had to be much more strategic and intentional with your time and with, like, even how you present yourself and the things that you’re doing and what you offer, right? Like, you had to really come–you had to really be thinking of a position of value creation, and that’s great for you. Like, you’re clearly a beast, right? Like, you’ve been–you’ve made moves moves, but what does it look like for–like, teaching that to somebody who isn’t wired that way. Right? That could be challenging.
Kori: It definitely is, and I am in no way a master of teaching it to other people. I know I have personal friends that say, “Kori, you’re really great at public speaking,” or “You’re really great at going in and selling yourself or whatever it is that you’re doing to other people.” This is what I will say – it’s a learned skill. Like, I didn’t come out of the womb, like, doing this. There’s definitely certain personality traits that are more akin to being able to just pick up these sort of things and these sort of characteristics, but it’s a learned skill day in and day out, and it can start very basic. Going back to the coffee thing. Like, getting comfortable–which I know this is overused–with the uncomfortable, with making yourself uncomfortable. And if you’re not the type who’s gonna send a random email–which I love when people say to me, “Well, I mean, what am I gonna say?” I’m like–to your point about it kind of being a bit narcissistic with mentorship and that, people do love to talk about themselves. So just put it out there that, “Hey, you know, I’d like to talk to you. I’d like to learn more about what you do.” And make it more about them. Normally, like, if you’re in a relationship and you break up with somebody, you give them the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. In business, give them the “It’s not about me, it’s all about you” speech. Like, when you send the email, like, “Hey, this whole thing is about you,” right, “’cause you’re so great, you’re so fantastic. I just want to know about what you’re doing.” As a way to soften the introduction or the awkwardness that you think lies there, because you might not really know someone, even though that’s something that you eventually might want to do or an area that you might want to move into. You have to do more, because you didn’t go to boarding school with So-and-so, you know what I mean? You probably didn’t go to all of the right Ivys, and even black people that have gone to Ivys, like–
Zach: Listen, I’ve heard. Yeah, I’ve heard the experiences are different.
Kori: Yeah. Like, if you didn’t grow up in that world, like, you’re still not necessarily accepted. So I think it’s just you have to put yourself out there because they’re not gonna know to contact you. Like, your parents, you know what I’m saying, y’all don’t go sell off, you know, Martha’s vineyard [?]. You didn’t grow up going to summer camp for two months after you left boarding school, so basically you only saw your parents on holidays, and you’re not even in college. You’re only in the seventh grade.
Zach: Right. You didn’t go to Vermont to make artisanal pickles, you know what I’m saying?
Kori: No, you didn’t do any of that. So they already have 10–and that’s just, like, at your level. Now you’ve got to think about how connected these parents are. Like, you’re fighting a major uphill battle, and you can’t go in every day and say, “I’m heads down. I’m gonna do a great job,” which is something that they try to preach to you, right? Like, “Just go in. Work hard. Excel at your role.” Like, “That’s how you’re gonna see opportunities.”
Zach: That’s not true. Like–[laughs]
Kori: You know why you’re not gonna see any opportunities? Because your head is down at your desk or on the computer screen.
Zach: And meanwhile we’re upset. We’re over here like [what more do you want from me? sfx] You know? It’s just like–we’re doing everything we can. So I 100% hear you and I agree with you, right? And not that I need to agree with you – this is a space of open ideas, you know? So diversity of thought is not real, but we do appreciate diversity of thought as it pertains or intersects with lived experiences of black and brown folks. So this has been super cool. Look, we’ve talked about CultureBanx, we’ve talked around CultureBanx. One thing we haven’t done is talk about where people can learn more about CultureBanx, so please drop the info in here. We’ll make sure to put it in the podcast notes and everything, but please let us know.
Kori: Yes. Check us out at CultureBanx.com. You can find all of the content on our website. Sign up for our newsletter, daily newsletter, bringing you the latest, greatest, most important business news for the culture, as we say, every single day. You can also listen to the CultureBanx daily news briefing on any smart speaker device and also on Spotify. Everything is @CultureBanx on social media. Luckily we got in. There’s no other company called CultureBanx, so it’s the same–
Zach: Aye. People underestimate how powerful that is. If you have the only name and you’ve got the domains–’cause let me tell you something. I’ve got–no, keep going. I’m messing your plug up. Keep going.
Kori: [laughs] No, you’re not, but it is important. Like, everything is literally just @CultureBanx. With an X, people. Don’t forget.
Zach: Please say the X, you know what I’m saying? Hold on. [Flex bomb sfx, both laugh] Oh, my goodness. Well, look, this has been super dope, and, you know, we just really appreciate you. Before we let you go, any parting words or shout-outs?
Kori: Parting words? I think the main parting words I would have is something that we say on our show, which is just keep building for the culture.
Zach: Come on, now.
Kori: We gotta do it for each other.
Zach: [straight up sfx] You’re absolutely right. Now, look, this has been a dope conversation. Thank you all for listening to the Living Corporate podcast. Now, look, y’all know–I wasn’t trying to mess up Kori’s plug, but y’all know we got all the Living Corporates, okay? We got livingcorporate.co, livingcorporate.org, livingcorporate.net, livingcorporate.us. We don’t have livingcorporate.com. We have living-corporate–please say the dash–dot com, but we don’t have livingcorporate.com. Australia has livingcorporate.com. Believe it or not, Kori, Australia, and they’re selling corporate stuff. But see, the SEO looking kind of brolic out here, ’cause now when you type in Living Corporate–they used to be at the top. Now they’re like, you know, in 8th or 9th. You know what I’m saying? Like, we applying pressure, you feel me? One day the brand will be brolic enough where we’re gonna go to Australia and we will politely, respectfully, yank that domain right on back, and we’re gonna have all the livingcorporates, and we’re gonna just sit on a mountain of domains, you know what I’m saying?
Kori: Which is not a bad idea. I’m actually helping out this other startup that’s trying to modernize central banks, and the name of the company–which I won’t throw out there right now–is so generic, and the person, the founder, has been using, like, different versions of the name of the company to try and set up, you know, different social accounts, and they have–even the website’s name is not what she calls the actual name of the company, and I’m like, “This is too confusing. Like, people don’t know where to go.”
Zach: 100%. People be having, like, the dopest ideas and be like, “Oh, we’re gonna launch Bread.com.” Like, yo, fam, you gotta figure out something else. Like–
Kori: Right. You had to launch Bread.com when the internet first started. Like, the late ’80s, mid-to-late ’80s. Like, that’s when you needed to launch that, but at this point no.
Zach: Straight up. Man, this is funny. This is, like, the first, like, interrupted outro we’ve done, but it’s really good. I like it, and we might have to start doing this moving forward. All right, y’all. Look, you can check us out. We’re everywhere. In fact, just Google Living Corporate at this point. That’s right. Stunt. That’s right. Lowkey flex, but it’s an honest flex. So Google Living Corporate. We out here. If you have questions you want to email us, check us out at LivingCorporatePodcast@gmail.com. Hit us up on the DMs. Twitter is @LivingCorp_Pod, Instagram is @LivingCorporate, and until next time, this has been Zach, and you have been talking to Kori Hale, CEO and founder of CultureBanx. Peace.