Name: Chris Stevens
Alma Mater: Delaware State University, Class of 2007
Business Name & Description: Stevens Communications & Consulting (stevenscommcons.com), a multi-media business specializing in assistance with writing/editing, social media management and consulting for small businesses, as well as producing an internet radio show/podcast, “All Subjects Everything.” We also have advertising space open on the show, which is $10 per week or $40 per month for anyone who wants to advertise their business/organization/event on our show.
What year did you found your company? 2012
What was the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? Actually just getting started. It’s been an ongoing process these first 9 months as I’ve had to re-assess everything I thought I knew about the media industry and most important of all, myself. A social introvert starting a business that thrives on interpersonal communication has been a harrowing experience, but a necessary step.
What made you want to start your own company? I worked as a sports reporter for community newspapers for 5 years and I didn’t like the direction the business was going in as well as I wanted to do my own thing and not have to answer to anyone but myself and my clients/customers. So I took the things I knew best (social media, writing, editing) and decided to strike out on my own.
Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Two professors for different reasons. Dr. Yohuru Williams, who is now at Fairfield University, and DeWayne Wickham, a syndicated columnist with USA Today, who was a scholar-in-residence at DSU for a while. Dr. Williams gave me the courage and confidence to be a student of life, just to keep learning and incorporate what you’ve learned into whatever you’re doing in life while Professor Wickham showed me how vital networking is and I’m still putting those lessons about “who you know” into practice.
How do you handle complex problems? For me, asking questions is vital. You never want to have misunderstanding or miscommunication with a client or customer, so you always ask questions to make sure you have everything tailored to their needs and if you fall short, keep trying until you get it right. My first client, I did some serious re-writing for and it was a fun and challenging experience that let me know that this wasn’t going to be easy, but it would be rewarding.
What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? Never a good idea to start cold. If you’re starting a business, be sure to save some money and be in a position to weather some rough times. I left my job thinking I could apply my knowledge and start off well. I’ve had some lean periods because of that, but I wouldn’t change the journey because I get to share that experience now and hopefully someone else will learn from the mistakes I’ve made.
What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? Certainly one way is to show them the perils of traditional employment. You can see it everyday – people who give their all to improve someone else’s bottom line can find themselves jobless at the drop of a hat. Depending on someone else signing your check to live life is so overrated. Also, HBCUs can draw on their own history as self-starters and self-reliant institutions to foster that spirit of entrepreneurship, that it’s “in the blood,” so to speak.
How do you deal with rejection? I hate rejection in ALL facets of my life, but surprisingly, business rejection is much easier to take because I know it’s not personal. It bothers me, but the key is to keep trying. The no’s are plentiful, but the one or two acceptances you get are your chance to make an impression and set yourself up for something bigger. The key is to keep plugging away. If you believe in your vision and what you’re offering, sooner or later, people will see that and will be willing to help and take a chance on you and your business.
When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I’m always reading, I just finished up “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson which is a phenomenal book about the Great Migration of Blacks from the South to the Midwest, East and West Coasts. I love music also, I blog about music on my personal website (chrisstevenssite.com) from time to time and I love discussing/arguing sports with just about anyone.
What was your most memorable HBCU memory? It’s hard to pinpoint just one because I’ve had so many, so I’ll just say the experience of being a part of the HBCU experience. My own good times at Del State, visiting other HBCUs while working for the Hornet newspaper, it was a special time for me and I’m proud to be a part of HBCU tradition and I will stand for Black Colleges until I can’t stand up anymore. And even then I’ll be shouting for them from my bed or wheelchair.
In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? A few things to note: Have a vision, be confident in that vision and go for it. You never want to spend the rest of your life wondering “Woulda, coulda, shoulda.” My mother always tells me “nothing beats a failure but a try,” so go for it. If there’s an idea that you have that you think people can benefit from and that you can execute for them, float it out there, prepare yourself for the road ahead and make it happen.