At a recent event the CEO and Founder of Her Agenda, Rhonesha Byng, sat down to talk about how her organization is working to bridge the gap between ambition and achievement among women business owners.
Kate Delaney: I'm Kate Delaney with Gregg Stebben. We're from “Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America, and we're so pleased to be here at Luminary for the 2019 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, and we have Rhonesha Byng with us. Think HerAgenda.com, wow. I scribbled that down when that was mentioned.
Rhonesha Byng: Oh wow.
Kate Delaney: Because I thought it was so interesting.
Gregg Stebben: I love the name.
Kate Delaney: I do too. So tell us about HerAgenda.com.
Rhonesha Byng: Her Agenda is the digital media platform, bridging the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women. We really believe in the concept that you can't be what you can't see. So every Monday we have a story called, “A Peak Inside Her Agenda,” where we feature a different woman in a position of power, from education to entrepreneurship to the C suite. We featured women like Arianna Huffington, Misty Copeland, Nadia Lopez, who went viral after being featured on the Humans of New York Instagram page.
So it's very diverse. We feature diverse women across industries, across backgrounds, and the idea is to give you everything that you need to achieve whatever is on your agenda. And the motto is, no one ever slows her agenda, which was a personal motto that I came up with from a nickname of mine. My name is Rhonesha. My nickname is Nesha. So that acronym it stands for No One Ever Slows Her Agenda, and that means whatever your goal is, go for it. Don't let anyone or anything stop you. And we live in this age where media has the power to shape perception and has a power to shape how we think of ourselves and how the world thinks of ourselves. And we want to change how ambitious women are seen by the world and how ambitious women have access to resources and opportunity. So we also, in addition to our articles, have a database of event panels, networking and also a private community called Her Agenda Insiders, which act as a peer mentorship community where you get access to the hidden job market and exclusive events that we can't post publicly on the website.
Gregg Stebben: Sometimes I want to be a woman.
Rhonesha Byng: Wow!
Gregg Stebben: This is so beautiful.
Rhonesha Byng: I get why you say that, but the reason we exist is because we live in a society where for a man this is easily attainable, and accessible, and for women it's not unfortunately.
Gregg Stebben: I was not diminishing what you're doing at all. It's beautiful though. And I guess I want to hear from you. What was the vision or the catalyst for you to see this idea and then that it was possible and then take the steps to do it?
Rhonesha Byng: Well, it started a long time ago, way back when I was in high school and I was one of those young women that were ambitious and, as soon as I found my purpose in life, which was journalism, I hit the ground running. So at 16-17 I was at press conferences. At the UN, I was covering funerals of major figures like Gordon Parks.
And I was really taking myself seriously as a journalist and I got all these mentors who were editors of publications. I was also modeling for Seventeen Magazine, literally, I guess you could say. The media world was just so accessible to me because I'm from New York City and I got all these mentors. Then I go to college and take a women's studies class and it was almost like a slap in the face. Like wait a second, I was in a bubble. The world does not look like that. Women are not in power, and I just could not understand why. And so for me, I knew that my talent and my superpower was media. And so I knew the influence impact media had, and so I thought if more of my peers, and more of the world could see these powerful women and they were more accessible and at the forefront, then it could change the ratio of women in power ultimately across the board.
Because like I said, you can't be what you can't see. So I literally as a college student was talking about this idea, and it was a friend that was like, you should start a website, and I said, "Oh, someone probably started something," did some market research. No one started it and looked up the URL, HerAgenda, because that was already tied to my motto I had for myself, didn't exist, created it and slowly but surely put it together and it grew into now what it is today. But it started from the fact that I was just shocked that there were not more women in positions of power because all the women I personally knew were empowered. They were in charge. They were not taking no for an answer. They were to me like how celebrities are to kids. Like if you see Beyonce, you're like, "Oh my God!"
For me back then, I would freak out to see Danielle Smith who at the time was the editor in chief of Vibe, or someone who was more behind the scenes but had the power to make decisions. That was something that I wanted to see more of and it didn't exist at the time. That was in 2008.
Kate Delaney: What's your ultimate goal for HerAgenda.com?
Rhonesha Byng: My ultimate goal is for us to be more global and just more known and to reach women. Every woman, no matter where she is. If you have internet access you know about Her Agenda in terms of if you're looking for inspiration, if you're looking for information, it's just really to continue to grow what we're doing. Reach more women and have more resources and ultimately we actually want to do is we want to use that platform as a gateway for a pipeline to leadership.
And so, we want to do more direct partnerships with companies like Twitter, like Google, like Microsoft that claim that they can't find women. Well, the women that read our website are the women that you want, and so why don't you partner with us, post your jobs with us so that you can reach those women.
Gregg Stebben: Will you make us a promise?
Rhonesha Byng: Okay.
Gregg Stebben: We need to talk to you every three or six months.
Rhonesha Byng: Okay, great.
Gregg Stebben: Because you're the beacon, first of all, but you also have your pulse on something. I think you created something that's a pulse taking environment that maybe nobody ever had a way of taking a pulse of before. I'm stunned by what you've done.
Rhonesha Byng: Can I take you everywhere with me?
Gregg Stebben: I want to take you with me everywhere I go. I'm really blown away by what you've done.
Rhonesha Byng: Thank you.
Gregg Stebben: I can't tell you how impressed I am.
Rhonesha Byng: Thank you. It has not been easy. I started out, like I said, in college, so this was built from my college dorm room, went out into the working world, I thought I was a complete failure because I had branded myself as Her Agenda. No one ever stops her agenda, so I thought I'd be doing that full time after I graduated from college, and I ended up working as a producer at NBC. Now that is not a failure. But at the time I was like, I'm not living what I said I was about, and so I did that. But that in hindsight ended up being the best thing for me because I really got more experience as a journalist and more experience within a corporation itself. Then I went on to be an editor at The Huffington Post, which was also a whole other experience in terms of seeing the digital side of media at scale.
And then at that point I got into an accelerator that allowed me to transition to full time. So that was 2015, so I started in 2008, side hustle up until 2015 and then full time in 2015 didn't make money for the first year. And then 2016, 2017 was when the transition in terms of becoming a profitable media company became more of a reality.
Kate Delaney: What do you hope happens when people get in your funnel? I mean you hear their stories and that has to get you excited when there's someone who connects to HerAgenda.com, and because of you, they get the education, they get the mentorship, they figure out what it is they need through what you've given them and what you've written. What do you hope ultimately happens for those women that get in the pipeline?
Rhonesha Byng: Simply that they achieve whatever their goal is. And then once they do that, naturally as women, our natural instinct is to give back and to pour into others. And so, that's really what the hope is, and with the insider community that we created, that private network - first you had the page to opt into that. And so that's something that's a value add service. But also in the community, we always say the mindset to get in is that you have to have the mindset of lifting as you climb. And so, really that's the idea is just to pour into others, share a resource, share an opportunity, invest in another entrepreneur once you've made your first $1 million. It's really just to pour back into the economy as a whole. And there's that statistic where if you invest in a woman, you invest in a whole community, versus if you invest in a man, you invest in that man. That's what the data says. That's not what I say.
Gregg Stebben: I feel it's getting hot in here.
Kate Delaney: Wow. Just absolutely amazing.
Gregg Stebben: Yeah. The website is HerAgenda.com and I'm telling you, this is one of the best things…I talk to a lot of small business owners, a lot of founders. This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever heard. I can't wait to hear more.
Rhonesha Byng: Well thank you. And we'll be in touch. This won't be our first conversation.
Gregg Stebben: I have a feeling we'll hear from you if you don't hear from us. Thank you.
Rhonesha Byng: Thank you.
Narrator: For more great small business tips check out Bank of America’s online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.