Exclusive: CEO & Founder of Hey Awesome Girl Tivi Jones on the Power of EntrepreneurshipJun 14, 2022
Season 1: Episode 18
Tivi Jones is the founder & CEO of the seven-figure creative agency, Hey Awesome Girl. She works with a variety of clients and has a social mission to empower women, especially women from marginalized communities. Tivi began her professional communications career in 2004 and has since led marketing projects for non-profit, government, and commercial companies such as Disney, Boeing, the US Department of Defense, and more. She’s grown businesses and audiences, managed million-dollar budgets, led large marketing teams, and generated seven-figure contracts.
The charm, humor, and wit of Tivi Jones, CEO & Founder of Hey Awesome Girl, will disarm you the minute you meet her. It’s not entirely clear when “having a beer with” became America’s go-to measure for choosing a presidential candidate, but if Tivi were to run for office, I bet she’d fit the criteria. Tivi is not running for office any time soon, but she is someone to follow and be inspired by– especially if you’re a woman in business. Tivi’s mission is to empower women, especially women of color, in digital entrepreneurship. She believes digital entrepreneurship is a resource to increase confidence, close the racial and gender wealth gaps, and provide means for freedom for women around the world.
Through her creative agency, Hey Awesome Girl, weekly web-show of the same name, and custom content management software, she inspires thousands of women to make their mark on the world. Tivi delivers advice on building a scalable consulting practice using effortless actions, marketing and communications for equitable impact, and personal development—helping consultants go from building “busyness” to building a “business.”
Tivi has been a professional consultant since 2010. She’s been featured on PBS, Time.com, People en Español, and has built her successful consulting company around the mission to empower women and help them find more “pleasure, ease, and abundance.”
Tivi is not someone who dumped a sizeable amount of her trust fund to start Hey Awesome Girl and she doesn’t have the privilege of a white cis man to open the doors for her. Whatever she has achieved, she had to work twice as hard for, knock on every door, and believe in herself to create the life that she now has.
When we talk about successful people, we tend to only focus on their wins and we skip the middle, the most challenging part, where the majority of the lessons lie. Tivi doesn’t sugarcoat her story. She tells you the truth.
She shares that in June 2010, she was sitting on the floor of her tiny apartment, crying her eyes out. She was alone because she had just separated from her husband and moved from their swanky new place to a $500 per month apartment–all she could afford on her $33,000 per year salary. It was a hot summer in North Carolina and her electricity was turned off because she was months behind on the bill. She didn’t know then yet that hitting rock bottom would be a turning point for her to change her entire life. How did she do that? Let’s find out.
Tivi grew up in a town called Rocky Mount, in the Eastern part of North Carolina. She’s always loved books, magazines, and TV shows. Growing up, she realized there weren’t many people who looked like her in some of the popular magazines. So in elementary school, she created her own. It was an inspirational magazine for her best friend and had articles to inspire her.
Tivi’s childhood was emotionally fraught and challenging, but it gave her an appreciation of self-worth and inspired her to learn more about herself, and become the best person she could be. In high school, she would wake up at 5 am to work out and prepare for her day.
“I’d think my mom doesn’t love me yet. I haven’t made her happy enough yet so I have to be better. I grew up on the foundation of feeling unworthy of feeling love in your home. In my little kid brain, I couldn't process that my mom was going through something.”
Her mom did love her and her siblings, she just wasn’t telling them everything because she was shielding them from trauma. Through years of therapy, Tivi has had to unpack things she learned as a kid and realize they’re not true. “But sometimes you get so used to living with that lie, it becomes the foundation of how you act and behave. I had to unroll a lot of those truths,” Tivi says.
After high school, Tivi ended up attending the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in entrepreneurship– a perfect combination for her journey to come.
The overachiever that she is, Tivi was already working in college– at a lighting technology company. When she graduated, she worked there full time as their marketing lead. A year later, however, she wanted to transition to working in media. She found a local magazine called Carolina Parent Magazine. It seemed like a great fit for her.
“My Capricorn brain was like, ‘I’ll get a job and also learn how to be a parent someday at the same time,” she says.
They didn’t have any job openings but she requested an informational interview, which then led her to be considered for a part-time sales associate role. Tivi came to the interview overprepared– with a whole presentation that she was making until 4 am the night before and her printed-out portfolio. She wrote all the ways she could help the magazine based on the job description and related it back to her experience. She pitched them so well, that they created a full-time marketing role for her.
She took a $10,00 pay cut to work at the magazine and was earning $30,000 a year. She was still consulting the lighting technology company after her full-time job in the evenings. In 2010, she left the magazine to start consulting full-time and they became her second client.
At the magazine, Tivi was bringing in readers, subscribers and launching new initiatives, but $30,000 was just too low of a salary. So she asked for a well-deserved raise and they could only offer her a $3,000 yearly increase. “It’s fine, I get it. Budgets are budgets, the margins can be tight,’ she says. But then she had a realization.
“I realized–if I work harder, I’m not going to get paid more unless I work for myself,” Tivi says.
Tivi still remembers what it felt like to work for herself the first month. She launched an online branding boot camp and brought in over 200 leads for her business. “I felt like I worked in my zone,” she says. For the next 2-3 months, she leaned into creating the type of company that she wanted to create.
“I wanted to be able to show up as a Southern Black woman who is candid, who talks about really complicated issues but does so in her own voice. I was really finding a market there,” Tivi says.
Not everyone fits that market though. Tivi shares how in February 2011, her mentor from the magazine pulled her into her office. “She was complaining that there were curse words on my website. She told me that she refers people to me so I represent her and I can’t have curse words on my website.”
“And that really affected me,” Tivi says. “It made me second guess everything– my voice, the type of business that I wanted to build.”
She shut down her website for months.
Tivi says that interaction with her mentor triggered a wounded child in her, who used to be told how to behave, how to feel, and how to show up. “And that’s something that I had to work through for many years in my business– my voice.”
At Hey Awesome Girl, Tivi lets her employees show up as themselves. “If you buy into working with Hey Awesome Girl, you buy into the mission, you buy into who I am and how I run the business. But I don’t want a whole bunch of mini Tivis,” she says.
She provides her employees with client feedback but says she would never shame them for being themselves. Even though her mentor’s words really affected her, Tivi still keeps in mind that “my parents are people, my mentors are people, and sometimes they have unprocessed trauma themselves,” she says.
HEY AWESOME GIRL
One of the clients in Tivi’s consulting career was PBS. That gig led her to be hired as their Director of Marketing. “Six months into the job, I knew it wasn’t for me,’ Tivi says.
Tivi’s brain was already cooking ideas for her own business. She was inspired by a number of influencers and podcasters, like Franceska Medina, who goes by Hey Fran Hey, and by actress Issa Rae.
October 15 2016 is the date Tivi remembers just like yesterday because it was the day she got an idea for Hey Awesome Girl.
“I remember thinking I really want to write letters to these amazing women and celebrate them because I’m going through a really tough time. And the phrase Hey Awesome Girl popped into my head as a start to the letter,” Tivi says.
She immediately purchased the “Hey Awesome Girl” domain. In the beginning, Tivi wanted to start a media company, where they would write letters to women who inspire them to create more positivity in the ecosystem.
She thought Hey Awesome Girl was just going to be a media company but by 2018 she knew she wanted to lean into marketing and communications.
Hey Awesome Girl is now a 12-person– 70% person of color, 90% female — seven-figure creative agency. The agency works with a variety of clients, supports equitable communications campaigns, and has software that works as a tool to help others share their stories.
Tivi has always wanted to have a publishing arm and the company is still growing, but she just wrapped up the first season of a talk show Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones.
Every week Tivi interviews amazing women from every walk of life to discover how they can increase confidence, close racial and gender wealth gaps, and provide a means of true freedom for all women around the world.
“My mission is to empower the most marginalized, celebrate women – all women! – and amplify BIPOC and Queer voices,” Tivi says.
Tivi was really inspired by her mentor Rachel Rodgers, a business coach, lawyer, and author of the best-selling book We Should All Be Millionaires.
“Rachel’s mission is very similar to mine– to help historically marginalized people be millionaires, to succeed in business.” Tivi says.
Tivi wants to eliminate money as a barrier in her life and use it as a resource, but she also wants to inspire and empower women. The word “empower” is really important to her because she’s seen her mom, grandma, aunt, and other women in her community hold their families together and speak up when something is wrong.
“Studies show that when we invest in women, communities are better, children are better. Women reinvest in their communities. And I have personally seen, on the consulting side, how me being a consultant and my journey has helped me find my voice, has helped me gain my confidence, has helped me–with therapy and coaching– to get out of depression,” Tivi says.
THE POWER OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Four years ago, Tivi lost her younger brother, who was 30 at the time and suffered from depression. She has been able to talk about the loss publicly, advocate for mental health, and invest in herself.
She says the power of entrepreneurship has played a big part in who she is today and how she copes and talks about grief, among other things.
“I know the power of entrepreneurship. I know the power of making means, living for yourself by using your mind and skills, and the power of hiring people and saying hey, I really value your expertise, I really value your opinion,” Tivi says, and continues, “That does something to young girls, to people who identify as women because society tells anyone who identifies as a woman that you’re less than, that your opinion matters less, and that you should just sit there and be pretty. So whenever we can take our power back, our world is better for it.”
For someone who radiates so much positive energy, you could never tell how much Tivi has been through. “You can’t compare your suffering to other people. Grief isn’t linear,” she says. “I can talk about my brother passing right now but there are some days when I’m really torn up about it and I’m ugly crying about it. I’m always sad,” she says.
She doesn’t want people to feel like coping with grief means they have to talk about it, not cry, be positive and channel it into doing something. “Sometimes you just need to be in bed, eating ice cream, under the covers, crying your eyes out because you miss your brother, or your mom, or your dad, or your best friend — it's okay but it’s hard,” Tivi says.
SUCCESS & FREEDOM
Tivi says success is fluid for her, but for an overachiever that she is whose days are packed with meetings, she’s aiming for more “spaciousness.” Spaciousness in financial resources and being able to invest, but also spaciousness of time that she says she doesn’t think she’s ever experienced in her life.
“I’m curious to see what life looks like with significantly fewer obligations on my calendar while also having more financial resources to invest in other things. So that’s what I’m aiming for.
It’s a moving target. Sometimes I get really close to it and maybe hit it and then a new definition of success springs off from it,” she says.
Being free to her also means having more spaciousness. “I’m also really curious what life looks like when you think and act from your center and your voice versus all the voices that are representative and controls that are put on you,” she says. “As kids, I think we are ourselves and as we grow and experience Earth, there are layers that are put upon us that frame our identity. I think freedom is peeling back a lot of those layers and seeing what’s at the center and operating from that center.”
Tivi says that one of the biggest wins for her is that several people from her company have been with her for over a year. “It’s also a win for me because I don’t expect to hold on and hoard their talents. I always say, whenever you want to move or it’s not the right situation, I get it– because when you’re early in your career, your world is your oyster.”
The second win is the show. “I needed a reminder that work can be fun and I can lean into doing things that I really enjoy and maybe am naturally good at in some ways and provide value to people,” she says.
In the next five years, Tivi is excited for Hey Awesome Girl to become a multimillion-dollar company. She also wants to build a little house and have a farm and envisions having a family. She also wants to travel and see the world.
When it comes to giving advice to her wounded, younger self, Tivi says, “I’d tell her two things. One– that magic is real and you create your own magic. And two- trust your gut, always.”
Enjoy the full episode on:
Every week Tivi interviews amazing Boss Babes in tech, medicine, law, entrepreneurship, entertainment, parenting, and more about their lives, goals, and how every day, they are working to add more Pleasure, Ease, and Abundance in their orbit.
This show is part business advice, part life coaching, and part real talk with girlfriends. If you’re looking for a show that’s real and relatable but also inspiring at the same time, Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones is the one for you!
Learn more about Monèt Noelle Marshall:
Tivi Jones website: tivijones.com
Tivi Jones Instagram: @tivijones
Hey Awesome Girl Instagram: @heyawesomegirls
Featured in this episode:
Demi Vitkute is a Media Manager & Producer at Hey Awesome. She’s a passionate storyteller, fashion aficionado + crazy cat mom trying to change the world. She’s a journalist, editor, and media consultant. Demi is the founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. You can follow her on IG and Twitter @demiivit.