We are thrilled to be connecting with Chinua Joi Ivey, MAOM, MA again. Chinua Joi is a Business Owner, Adjunct Professor, & Author and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Chinua Joi below.
Hi Chinua Joi, thank you so much for sitting down with us again. For folks who might have missed our initial interview, can you start by briefly introducing yourself?
I am passionate about storytelling; it is a conduit for social change. My worldview was shaped by my upbringing as a foster child in Washington, DC. I look at issues with great compassion and a desire for mutual respect, understanding, and justice. Storytelling gets a bad rap because of how it was perceived in our childhood as “telling lies.” However, in many cultures, storytelling is how we build trust in relationships. Recently, I took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to visit my birth mother’s only surviving sibling – my aunt is nearly 90. The stories she shared with me filled my heart and helped me to understand who I am, and the responsibility I have to uplift the next generation. So, when I sit down with an entrepreneur to map out a communication plan for their business, I start with “What’s your story?” Oftentimes, the response is “I don’t have one.” That’s when I smile because I know that there is always a story to tell and that story is probably the missing link with the brand connecting with their stakeholders.
How did your upbringing in SW Washington, DC influence your worldview?
I can look at it in two ways. SW DC is a very special place. I would bike ride to the Smithsonian Museums or the National Zoo and spend hours being inspired by the art, science, technology, and cultural exhibits. I never realized that it was my “safe space,” but looking back it was where I went to escape. I’m thankful that I had a free place to go that both welcomed and enlightened my point of view about the world. There’s one particular movie at the Air and Space Museum that I basically know by heart! And yes, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be an astronaut. But, I later discovered that wasn’t my calling. I took after my birth parents, who were both communicators by trade.
The other was a sense of community that I am sure is echoed in other Black neighborhoods across America in the 80s. We looked out for one another, we found an extended family in our neighbors, we had culture and great pride. We attended the same churches, shopped at the same department stores, and rode the same buses. All of this happened while we saw an uptick in substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, as I was graduating from Jr. High, I was also entering foster care. Today, the area has dramatically changed. I get it; nothing lasts forever. But I know how it was back in the day, and although the landscape changed, my memories will always be cherished. I do, however, believe there is a way to introduce urban redevelopment without erasing the past – but that’s a different conversation.
As a former foster child, you wrote the IRIS (Incredible Resilience & Inner Strength) Book Series. Why are these attributes important to you?
One day, I was reading the newspaper (the print version), and the words resilience and strength jumped off of the page. I realized that was what I leaned on to overcome the trauma of my childhood. My birth parents were charged with physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. It was the emotional scars that affected me the most.
Resilience is that bounce-back ability we must have to begin again. This isn’t a time-bound action. It’s a realization, when you’re ready, that you woke up and have another chance to live and heal and be a survivor. I shifted from being a victim to being a survivor and that was an act of resilience. For me, inner strength prompted me to live. It’s a combination of faith, determination, and a deep knowing that you define who you are – not what happens to you. Currently, there are two books in the series. IRIS Devotional, 2nd Ed. is for women, and IRIS Diary, 2nd Ed. is for teen girls and young adults. I’m wrapping up my workbook, IRIS Identity, and will start a mentoring program in the very near future. I also conduct workshops and IRIS PROMise events. All books are available on Amazon.
How do you make time for your business as a doctoral student and adjunct professor?
What is sleep? Ha! This may sound cliche, but I stay organized. I not only schedule my day ( which is time management), but I also am cognizant of when my attention breaks (attention management). Notifications – Alexa, social media, email, text, etc. – are easy ways to break my focus. Some days and weeks I feel like I really have everything under control, and then there are times when I’m using my under-desk bike because I’m doing a marathon typing session. My sanity check is that I won’t always be a doctoral student and that I love everything I am doing. If I didn’t, it would be tedious. Right now, I am in training for my first class that will begin next spring. I’m certified to teach six courses. It’s a really surreal moment to have the opportunity to teach some of the same courses I took when I was an undergrad student at my beloved alma mater Bethune-Cookman University – Hail Wildcats!
As a communication practitioner, what is one tip that you would recommend to entrepreneurs in today’s quickly changing marketplace?
Lead with your story because it is what differentiates you from a competitive standpoint. There are multiples of the same business model flooding the marketplace – all competing for your attention and loyalty. Look at cell phone providers, fried chicken restaurants, or clothing. Part of your brand story is how the customer feels when they interact with your products and services. Make sure you understand your target audience so that you can convey those feelings and maintain a connection with your followers. Another part of your brand story is how you live up to the promises your brand makes, be honest, and do what you do well. Communicate your value!
What do you like best about working in Metro Atlanta?
I love the diversity of opportunity. There are Fortune 100 companies, grassroots organizations, Federal Government, and entrepreneurs alike all thriving in the same area. Of course, the people are great to work with as well. I find it hard to not be ambitious in Atlanta, whether you work for yourself or someone else.
Alright, so before we go, how can our readers connect with you to learn more and show support?
Yes! To find my books on amazon, visit my author page at amazon.com/author/chinuajoiivey.
All other updates pertaining to my speaking events, initiatives, and business can be found on Instagram @iveymediaagency or on my site at iveymediaagency.com.
Kreed Celisse Photography