| Kendrix Enterprises Enhances Event Consulting and Management Services
For Kathy Kendrix, co-founder and principal of Kendrix Enterprises, the most important lesson she learned in becoming an effective entrepreneur is finding the right balance between work on the business while working in the business.
William and Kathy Kendrix
Under the umbrella company Kendrix Enterprises, Kathy and husband William operate The Empowerment Group and Nia Water Sales and Service. Kathy runs The Empowerment Group, a full-service event management and consulting firm that offers a speaker’s bureau, meeting planning and consulting, publicity and media relations. The Empowerment Group produced its first independent event Soul Quest Empowerment Conference for Women in 2005 and expanded services to include Soul Quest Empowerment Speakers and Programs.
William, a retiree from the Portland Fire Bureau, operates Nia Water Sales and Service, which provides beverage catering for large and small events. The namesake of the company is Nia Water fresh mountain spring water, bottled in Forest Grove, Oregon. “Nia comes from the fifth principal of Kwanzaa meaning ‘purpose,” says Kathy. Kwanzaa is known as the African-American cultural holiday which links African traditions with American traditions.
Kathy’s venture into entrepreneurship “came from wanting to be independent,” she says. Before taking the plunge into launching her own business, she worked in a corporate environment for a number of years. “I worked at a local TV station as a production coordinator, and then started project managing events for my job and at my church. My husband was the one who said, ‘Kathy, you could do this as a business,’” she says.
In 1991, the timing was perfect for Kathy to start her own firm. She and her husband had three young boys at home, and Kathy wanted to work her own hours so she could also spend quality time with their children. Through K&K Consultants, Kathy offered public relations services, and then eventually moved into event and meeting management to organize trade shows, conferences and fund-raisers. “Our niche was working with nonprofit organizations. I like to work with groups that are working toward worthy causes. Their mission became my mission: I wanted to help get them to another level.”
Cultural competency is an important aspect of Kathy’s approach to business. “When mainstream businesses hire me, it’s usually because they want to effectively market to ethnic groups. They have well-meaning intentions, and my role is to advise them on what they need if they want to conduct successful marketing campaigns,” she says.
Nia Water also draws heavily on the Kendrix’s cultural roots. “We wanted to focus on a principle of Kwanzaa, and came up with the tagline ‘Quench Your Soul with Nia Water.’ We tested it out at an event, to see how people would react. People who are familiar with Kwanzaa recognized it right away. I had several people tell me that they kept the bottle after drinking the water, because they liked the way it looks,” she says.
"Now, when we talk to companies about Nia Water, we tell them the story behind the brand. We’re selling the brand, and use it as a way to educate people about our culture.”
Through The Empowerment Group, Kathy is broadening her event management services to include a Speaker’s Bureau, featuring professional speakers from diverse cultural backgrounds and industries, with specialties in a wide array of topics. “Our mission is providing personal transformation and professional growth for attendees,” she says. Thus far, Kathy has recruited about 12 speakers to participate in The Empowerment Group.
Kathy is especially proud of successfully executing the 2005 Soul Quest Empowerment Conference for Women. “After years of doing events for other people, I wanted to do an event on my own,” she says. Kathy drew her inspiration to host the event from a “life-changing” Oprah Winfrey workshop that she attended in Seattle.
"Oprah Winfrey defined it for me: whatever your vision or mission, make certain that it is a service to others,” says Kathy. The Soul Quest Empowerment Conference drew more than 100 women from various backgrounds. “Our goal was to put together an event that would empower women, and we focused on bringing women of color together.”
"I really stepped out there to make this event happen. It’s relatively easier to plan an event for an organization. We didn’t have many sponsors, and basically financed the event ourselves. It was a great event, and we learned a lot of important lessons along the way.”
Kathy says she’d like to put together similar events in the future, and is currently focused on growing Kendrix Enterprises. “I want our business to prosper, and to do this, we have to think outside the box. We’re a small business, but we still have to think big. In business, you can’t count on things to stay the same,” she says.
Expanding the family enterprise meant expertly avoiding the trap of being bogged down by day-to-day tasks, constantly putting out fires. “When I first started, I found that a lot of my time was spent was working in the business, the daily stuff. I learned that you need to find time to work on the business, such as marketing, professional development, going after new customers. Always think of yourself as a ‘rainmaker,’ to make prosperity and success rain on your business. Always ask yourself: what are you going to do to make it rain today?”