Throughout the years, Kandi Burruss has proven herself to be much more than an award-winning, multi-platinum selling songwriter and entertainer. By now we all know of her role on the highly successful Bravo TV reality show Real Housewives of Atlanta, her ever-growing adult product line Bedroom Kandi, her retail store franchise Tags, and recent ventures into stage production with her husband Todd Tucker. We also know her as the active mother of daughter Riley, and as a woman who seems to balance her hectic life with ease.
Thankfully, Kandi has decided to take her expertise to the masses with her upcoming conference, Empower: The Businesswoman MasterClass. This one-day course will feature TV Producer and entertainment professional Mona Scott-Young, Curlbox founder Myleik Teele, real estate consultant Brandi Hunter, Miss Jessie’s haircare co-founder Miko Branch, Hip Hop professional Shanti Das, Camicakes founder Andra Hall, and motivational speaker Dr. Kimberly Ventus-Darks. Kandi’s RHOA co-star and Rickey Smiley Show co-host Claudia Jordan will act as host and moderator for the event.
Although she didn’t mention it during our talk, it was announced recently that Kandi and Todd are slated to star in their own show Meet The Tuckers on Bravo, adding yet another layer to her busy life. Despite a crazy schedule, Kandi took some time out to tell us more about her reasons for putting the Empower conference together, and we learn more about her professional and relationship priorities in this UrbLife exclusive interview. Read on…
What inspired you to put together this conference and who are the people involved? Do you have any partners?
Kandi Burruss: I don’t have any partners. It’s just me and other people that we’re adding to the panel, outside of the people we’ve already announced. For the last few years I’m always the person out of my group of friends that’s pumping other people up to start their next businesses, and I’m always on them like “What’s your next move?” and things like that. So a few of them have gone on to be successful in some of the things that I put them on to, and everybody’s like “Kandi, you should do your own class and motivate women”. I mean not just women. Men can be a part of it if they’d like to.
I feel like I’m more connected to women who are out there trying to make things happen. The whole goal was to motivate women, get them going, get them started, and start a network of us who are like-minded so we can support each other in business. Also I feel like by doing this, it helps me meet people that I may have not normally met, and it may be some small business that I may want to invest in or different things like that.
Are you looking to give tough love advice to people to make it in this business?
KB: Definitely. I’m definitely giving advice, and there’s going to be a part of the class where people will be able to ask the questions. The plan is to go though the basic elements of starting out your business. For example, if you’re starting a business and your packaging needs to be up to a certain level, your website, and all of the beginning stages. Some people I know are beyond that point, and are asking what the next level is as far as marketing and different things.
I always have people come up to me and say “I’ve started my own….” whatever line it may be, but here’s the first thing I always tell people: Let’s say you’re starting a make-up line. You’re still going to have to compete with Chanel’s makeup line or another makeup line. Just because you’re a new business doesn’t mean that you don’t have to strive to be just as good. It can’t be “Oh you know I’m just starting out.” You need to take all of that into account. When someone wants to buy something, they are looking at it like “ehh, I don’t know about that.” I think some people use the excuse of “I’m just starting”. Stop thinking like that.
As soon as you get in that business, whether it is a product, music, whatever, you’re automatically competing with the best that’s out there. So you need to hold yourself to that standard. Is my music sounding as good as whoever the hottest person who’s on the radio at that time? Or even your product. When we first came with Bedroom Kandi, we didn’t want bootleg packaging because it’s got to compete with what people are already buying.
I’m just trying to make people think about things realistically, make sure they have prepared themselves, and put things into perspective. To me, when you’re in a group around like-minded people, you’re also going to find people you can bounce ideas off of, network with, and help market yourself.
What has your experience been with brick and mortar retail versus direct sales? Which do you prefer? And if someone were to go into business tomorrow with a product, which route would you recommend to them?
KB: I definitely would tell people to start online first. I’ve done it both ways with both companies. Of course with my store Tags you have the physical location. We’ve also had people who license our name and opened locations. So I’ve had experience in the positive and negative in every area, as well as selling online.
With Bedroom Kandi, we started out making our product available in certain higher-end adult stores. We also have online sales and then we went into having the direct sales company. So I’ve experiences the three different levels in Bedroom Kandi as well. In most businesses I would tell you that online sales as a company is always better because the profit is better, obviously.
For instance, with Tags we had our own store, so it was the overhead of the store. When you have stuff online, people from all over the world who are able to buy from you, whereas when you buy a physical location, you’re depending on the area and trying to get new customers. I wanted to have women on the panel that started their business from the ground up and are successful with it.
With that being said, you’re going to find that a lot of us have made some great mistakes that we can share so that you don’t repeat the same, and then you’re going to see what they did that works. I’m sure we’re going to have totally different viewpoints, but I think it’s going to be a great mix. I’m looking forward to learning some things from the other ladies as well.
Name one key challenge of working with your husband on a business. How do you personally find time to keep your own goals in check that may not be necessarily in line with his?
KB: The one thing that I loved about my husband is he’ll push me to do bigger things that I’ve done in the past. I think that’s always a good thing. In this relationship, the one thing that can be a negative is we are both bosses in what we do. You know they say “you gotta let a man be a man” or whatever, but at the same time you don’t want it to dim your light.
Sometimes they feel like “You should just listen to me” and it’s like “Hold on, I’ve been doing this thing for a minute myself. I will listen to you, but I’d like to have my own research. I like to make a decision based on my research and not because you told me. You’re my husband, you’re my man and I love you to death, but I’d like I like to make a sound decision on what I know.” [laughs]
This is something that I’m sure we will say at some point at the conference, and have said a million times before – not only with friends, but when I’ve had to speak to [groups of]women in the past. This is prior to me getting married. I just feel this way, period. I feel like we as women, a lot of times where we messed up is getting so caught up in nurturing our relationship, we slack off in nurturing our career and everything else.
An example all the time is when we get caught up in our relationships, we’ll be like “I’m gonna call in sick. I just wanna lay in and chill with my man today…” and whatever right? But with a dude, he can love you to death, but when it’s time for him to get his paper, he’s gonna get up and say “Baby I’ll be right back”. He’s gonna go get his paper and come right back.
The chick, she’s gonna sit up, call in sick and say “Oh baby, you need anything?” She’s putting everything on the back burner catering to this relationship, whereas the dude knows the relationship is gonna be there, but he knows he gotta make that money to make that women feels secure so he’s never going to let his paper flex. You’re going to have to understand that he’ll come back when he comes back. A lot of the time we don’t take that approach like, “I’m gonna come back after I get this check!” [laughs]
Is this conference something you want to do every year now?
KB: My goal is to do it bigger, but do it for free next year. That way I can get so many women that are a part of the same network, and we all promote and boost each other. It will be beneficial to everyone.
When we interviewed you a few years ago, you mentioned that Riley was interested in being a singer. Has she taken any cues from you as far as business?
KB: She always tells me she wants to start her own business. Riley kinda has her life mapped out in her head. [laughs]She tells me that’s he wants to be a lawyer if she isn’t able to become a successful singer. She already has this Ivy League school that she plans on going to. She said in High School that she’s going to volunteer at the Humane Society so she can be around animals, because she loves animals and stuff like that.
She already has it mapped out what she’s doing from what age to what age, and she said when she retires from attorney she’s going to be a teacher. She’s going to make sure she has her Doctorate so she makes more than the Principal. This is what she tells me, now so I’m like, she has to figure it out some kind of way. [laughs]
As far as her singing, Riley has a beautiful voice, but she is shy so we don’t try to push her. There’s an art developmental place here in Atlanta called AGI and I put her in their summer camp to be around other like minded kids that can sing, act, dance to bring her out of her shell. I want to send her this year, but she’s going to London with her school for a couple of weeks.
As far as your other ventures, are you expanding on them? Do you have any other ventures in the works that we can look for this year?
KB: I have a few things that I’m working on, but they aren’t all the way solid yet so I can’t announce it. We do have more television productions coming on air soon. I can’t say yet, but they are coming.
What do you want people to know most about you at this stage of your life and career?
KB: People watch [Real Housewives of Atlanta] and form their own opinions. I think what I want people to know that, yeah, I’m an emotional person, but I’m an emotional person when it comes to dealing with my family, close friends, or things that I really care about. When it comes to business, I’m about making things happen and I’m not emotional about it. I don’t want people to think that crying on TV makes me weak when it comes to going for a business deal, or making things happen in that area. I’m totally night and day when it comes to that.[laughs]
I always believe in doing fair business, being upfront with somebody about things, and everything I do isn’t about the money. A lot of things I do are because it’s something that I love, it’s a passion project, and sometimes it comes into a financial success. I don’t want everybody thinking I won’t be interested in something because it’s just not “that much” yet. I’m open-minded to a lot of things.
And the main thing, I’m fair. I’m a fair person when it comes to business, and I believe in always being fair, because I feel that money can always be made. If you guys are on the same page, then we can keep making money together!
Find out more about the Kandi Burruss Empower: The Businesswoman Masterclass at EmpowerMasterClass.com The sold-out Empower conference takes place Saturday, April 11 in Atlanta (although you can get on the wait list here)