By day, Christine Michel Carter is a thought leader for marketing to young moms and black consumers. Over the past ten years, she has established her credibility as a global communications strategist and researcher of millennials, forming strategic alliances for organizations with Starbucks, Under Armour and Whole Foods to name a few. She has appeared on many podcasts, served as a panelist and speaker at national conferences, and has been called the “exec inspiring millennial moms”, a “mom on the move” and “the voice of millennial moms.” She also regularly contributes to Forbes, covering millennial parenting, millennials in the workplace and black women. She has been profiled by The New York Times, CNBC, Ebony and Women’s Health and has partnered with brands such as AARP, ALDI, Brahmin, Chicco, Goodwill, Orgain, Hungryroot, 23andMe, OtterBox, Suja Juice and Therapedic as a social media influencer. By night, she is incessantly referred to as just “Mommy” by the black Tommy and Angelica Pickles, her children, Maya (7) and West (3).
Who is Christine Michel Carter and what was your motivation for starting your brand?
I am a writer and global marketing strategist and also the creator of “Mompreneur and Me”. I was motivated to start my brand, which is focused on the empowerment of moms and black women because that’s who I am. I’m an advocate for them because I’m passionate about seeing folks that look like my tribe and I represented in a positive light. I started writing many years ago when I owned a retail-marketing firm to get some credibility for my brand and recognition and it turned out that even though I was offering my clients a myriad of communication services, I was a strong writer. I wrote their press releases really well and noticed that I can also write for my brand really well too. For the past eleven years, I’ve been doing that. You know how they say overnight success? I’ve been getting more recognition now that I write for Forbes, Time, Entrepreneur, and a few other publications. I’ve always been a writer and in marketing. It wasn’t until 7 years ago that I became a mother which made me passionate about mothers, but since I was a little girl, like 9 years old, I’ve been passionate about black women and black men in general. I was motivated to create “Mompreneur and Me” because I kept meeting moms who aspired to be entrepreneurs and were career-driven. You can be both, but they didn’t have the time to network or to find sponsors or they felt guilty about leaving their children. So, I created the first national mommy and me networking event where there’s an hour for the mom to spend time with her kids and then the second hour she can attend the networking event. We will have trained daycare on site so that the mom won’t have to feel guilty about leaving her children and you get to connect with other moms who are career focused just like you.
How did you transition from being a writer to a speaker?
When I was writing 11 years ago, I started off writing for trade publications. I always recommend you start with trade publications and never turn down a writing opportunity. So if someone had a blog and wanted me to write and only had 100 views per month, I would still write. I continued writing for trade publications and blogs and built up enough for a writing resume that I reached out to Inc. magazine about writing an article about “Google Find Your Office”. Meaning, making your office more of what Google had in terms of office space set up. I started reaching out to others and another blogger asked me to write a piece. I could have easily said “well, I write for Inc. so I don’t write for smaller publications anymore”, but I didn’t. She was a black woman, passionate, and I wanted to help her, so I did. Turns out that she was an editor at Ebony magazine. She featured me in Ebony and that was my first large feature. Again, never turn down an opportunity because you don’t know who is who. That opened the door to my speaking opportunities because I’m not just a writer who wrote for large publications, I am a writer that was featured on a large publication. Because of those two things, I was able to pitch to Forbes and get my beat, which started off as “Millennial’s in the Workplace”.
What were some of the main challenges you faced while building your brand?
The challenge that I had was that there were a lot of pieces that didn’t feature minorities, and I didn’t like that. So I’ve always put the bug in their ear that eventually I wanted to do a piece on diversity. That was one of my frustrations. Another frustration was that no matter how great my article was I could never find stock photography that had diverse people in it and that used to piss me off. I would rather not have a photo of anyone, just have a photo of a laptop or something like that, than to have another photo of a professional who is not diverse because it doesn’t speak to fewer than 30 professionals. We are actually the most diverse generation to date so it makes no sense why there wouldn’t be photos of diverse professionals. Those were my two biggest hurdles. We are holding more folks accountable. We will no longer accept “this is the way we’ve done it, we can’t find…” I used to hear that all the time. Forbes has recommended stock photography sites to use. I would say, “ I cannot find any diverse stock photos on this thing.” I actually went out and used my own money to get a membership to CreaterHER stock. I was willing to invest in a woman-owned black business and have a tremendous impact if I can get these on a site like Forbes. Her business has grown phenomenally and it has grown into so much.
What motivates you to keep going?
I am so motivated by my children. I think that I was born to be a mother. I definitely have more of a modern relationship with my children and we joke around and everything, but they still respect me as their mom. It allows me to have an impact on my children and drives me to impact the world. If I am impacting other black women, other black mothers, it’s just a domino effect; it feeds into their children. It ultimately comes back to the fact that my children are going to school with their children so ultimately I’m helping my kids in the end too.
What advice do you have for women in your industry?
The advice I have for women in the marketing and communications industry is take a deep breath and Rome wasn’t built in a day. I say that because there are so few black and Latino women in the marketing and communications industry, yet at the same time we are expected to represent an entire demographic. Then some of us are expected to represent that demographic through the brand marketing that we might do. When we come and we bring our authentic self to work, we are the minority and that makes a lot of older white men and women uncomfortable. When people are uncomfortable they become aggressive, defensive, very cautious and skeptical of what you bring to the table. That’s very difficult to deal with on a daily basis. I know it can be overwhelming and exhausting and you feel like you want to throw in the towel, but my advice would be don’t do it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What are some of your favorite books and resources that you use?
I’m always a fan of anybody who is really good at social media because it is always changing. If somebody is really ahead of the curve and really aligned with their brand, I don’t care if it’s a man, woman, or bear, I’m going to follow you, track your career and see how you are a thought leader within your field. Some people who are much further along when it comes to personal brands inspire me. The execution of The Momference organization is so useful. When you’re looking at them on social media, everything is just so beautifully curated. They are a true inspiration for me. I love people who are raw and authentic in their voice because you can’t emulate authenticity. Nikki who has the Instagram account @nikkiesthoughts has four degrees, but at the same time her account is like so ratchet and so funny it’s perfect. If you focus too much on your lane then you start to get blinders on and you’re really not growing and innovating so you need to be jumping in and out and experiencing growth.
Tell us about some of your accomplishments so far and which one you are most proud of.
I’ve been featured in a lot of publications and spoke at some really great conferences. I’ll be speaking at even more next year. It was just announced today that I’d be speaking at Moms 2.0, which is the largest conference in the nation for moms, which I’m extremely excited about. I think I’m the only speaker speaking about black millennials, which is very exciting. I was featured in The New York Times this year. I’m really proud of that because the person who interviewed me said they’d read my articles in the Huffington Post and was a fan of my writing and would like to feature me. I thought I was going to get a quote, but when it was released, I was in the print edition and it was a half-page image of me and then online I was the digital thumbnail for it. I was blown away!
What is your definition of winning?
If you are truly happy with yourself when you look in the mirror every day and you are proud of the person that you are and the decisions that you’ve made, that’s winning.