Digital Pioneer: Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, 35, Co-Founder and COO of Digital Brand Architects (DBA). If you’re truly in the business of fashion and beauty, you would have heard of DBA, a global social media agency engaging brands for content marketing, influencer relations and media market strategy. Bracken-Ferguson has been riding the digital wave since her post at PR firm Fleishman-Hillard and Polo Ralph Lauren where she headed digital media and corporate communications. She was named Mobile Marketer’s “Mobile Women to Watch in 2010”, one of the 28 most influential African-American women in Essence magazine on October 2011, and was one of the winning executives in 2013 Mashable-WiCi awards. Here she talks to Vanity & Trade about motherhood, entrepreneurship and why all women must own a little black dress.
You took a leap of faith leaving Polo Ralph Lauren when you decided to start your own agency. What were your fears then and what do those fears mean to you now?
One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a colleague when I was still at Ralph Lauren and struggling with leaving who said, “Your last name isn’t Lauren, go forward with your own thing and don’t have regrets. If it doesn’t work, you’re a smart girl and will always be able to jump into something else.”
Failure was not an option for me and I never let defeat enter my thoughts or vernacular. It never occurred to me that it might not work.
You’ve talked about how having a daughter anchored you in such a positive way. Talk about how motherhood has influenced you in ways you’ve never imagined.
Motherhood has made me more patient with others and myself. I’ve always had empathy for others but my daughter has given me a more heightened sense of what’s happening around me, and the experiences and challenges that others face. I’m truly blessed and grateful for the honor I’ve been given to be Tierra’s mom. I’m also more aware of the importance of community, self-identity and fighting for what you believe in. I want Tierra to be a global citizen, culturally aware, kind, and compassionate.
Talk about your experience in being “a women in power”? Do you see a lot of women supporting other women?
I do see a lot of women supporting each other but I also see those that don’t. It is important that you surround yourself with women who will champion you, fight with you and support you. I’m fortunate that I have an amazing group of female peers, coaches and friends that I cultivated over the years that keep me grounded and remind me daily that #WomenRunTheWorld… LOL!
Talk about your views as a women in power.
Keeping a power center is very important and very hard in business. Power comes in many different forms and true power is found in those that understand and respect what that power represents. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
This lesson actually came to me via text message from my mom last week about a business issue I was dealing with and extremely upset about… “Don’t let anyone steal your joy. What God has for you he has for you. Bigger than we can imagine.”
What advice would you give someone who is looking for a mentor in your space? How would you advise someone who is looking for a mentor?
I personally feel the word “mentor” holds a lot of pressure, so for me, I prefer the word “coach”. I am good at giving others advice and being a champion for their endeavors. I believe if you add value to each other, share lessons, tips and experiences, that’s the best form of mentorship. It’s more two-way, organic, and thoughtful.
I was recently invited to join the advisory board of Purdue University (my alma mater) and I’m extremely excited to be a resource for others as they begin their careers and seek advice, suggestions and recommendations.
What do you think makes you unique and has attributed to your success?
Instead of me telling you about what I think makes me unique, I asked a few people for their thoughts and I’ll share with you the words they used to describe me: Charismatic, Inspiring, Smart, Leader, Innovative, Powerhouse, Personable, Influencer
What mistakes have you made in business?
Wasting time and energy on things and people that aren’t healthy or beneficial to what I want to accomplish.
What mistakes do you see other women making in business?
Letting others dictate what their future and direction will be vs. deciding and pushing for themselves. Be your own biggest cheerleader and don’t let anyone steal your joy or ambition.
What was a career defining moment for you?
When we moved into our office… We would creep into the office when it was under construction and it was amazing to see the space transformed into DBA! The energy when we first moved in and the feeling that “Oh my gosh we are a real company” — in that moment, I instantly remembered feeling an overwhelming amount of responsibility, excitement and sheer terror at what was to come. It was and still is a career defining moment.
List 3 mantras you think all women entrepreneurs can benefit from?
-Don’t sweat the small stuff.
-Remember that it’s business, not personal. Try to keep your emotions in check.
What makes you feel empowered at work meetings?
A little black dress! My dream when I lived in NY was to have a closet full of LBDs. It was my “boss lady” uniform! Ha ha!
What are on your top 5 fashion must-have items?
- Leather jacket
- Black stilettos
- Wedding ring
- Shellac manicure
Talk about your skincare and beauty routine.
I am very particular about my skin and only use three products on a daily basis. Emu soap and Emu oil purchased directly from this Emu ranch in Texas so everything is 100% pure from the Emu. However, my night routine is completely different, I am addicted to Neutrogena Wipes. I keep it very simple!
Craziest thing you’ve ever done at a meeting.
Pumped in one meeting and breastfed in another! I was thinking to myself, “this is so inappropriate,” but everyone understood and I didn’t offend anyone. One of the women on my team actually told me she was, “inspired by my whole baby feeding and working thing.” LOL #WorkingMom
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