Today we’d like to introduce you to Ceci Shell.
Hi Ceci, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I questioned God a lot on this journey. I know His promises highlight that I’m different and it shows.
Social media will have you thinking you don’t fit in or are not good enough, but God continuously reminds me that I am equipped with everything I need to obtain my expected end. He just continues to sharpen me because I prayed, asked, sought, and found Him. It’s the work that God is doing and using through me that makes me confident.
In 2 Samuel, it says that He has made my name great, just like the other great men on earth. He further says in Matthew 5, to let my light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. In these past seven years, I’ve come to grips with that. The objective is to glorify God. It took me making a commitment and sticking to it for God to reveal his love for me which is a testament to when He said He knows the plans for my life, to prosper and not harm and give me that expected end.
For no man can take nor provide what God can do. He is still writing my biography. And to be honest, if it is not from God, I don’t want it! But listen, in the journey is where the faith lies. Without faith, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to please Him. It makes sense why He gave me the name of my business to be “Keep The F.A.I.T.H. because in order to receive His promises I had to do just that!
The fruition of my journey started when I was attending Florida State University majoring in Pre-Med: Biology. It was my Chemistry Professor (a Black man) who helped me realize what it meant to be passionate. To have a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards or compelling desire for something. He explained to me why he became a Chemist. I was only enrolled in Chemistry because it was a required course for admittance into medical school. Let alone, I had to take Organic Chemistry which ended up being a deal-breaker for me and deferred my dreams of becoming a Pediatric Neurologist.
Please note, that I had a study partner who happened to be another Black student-athlete as well. Without mentioning any names, he ended up playing in the NFL, becoming a Rhodes Scholar, and now is a Neurologist. My Chemistry professor told me he became a Chemist because he had a passion to create and develop his own body care line such as lotions, shampoos, body wash, etc. But in order to develop his line he needed to know how to mix formulas. His profession as a Professor was his way of reaching back and paying it forward while simultaneously working on his empire. I had to find it within myself to figure out what it was that I actually was truly passionate about too.
Growing up my mother was hardly around due to her intensive work schedule as a Pediatrician and having her own practice. I always kept that in mind because I knew one day I, too, wanted to have a family and a successful career in the same profession. But I also knew I wanted to enjoy the time with my family while doing what I loved to do that I didn’t really see from my mother. With that being said, I took into consideration what my Professor shared with me and prayed about it. Other than playing sports, I always had this creative gifted gene within me.
I knew how to draw, I wrote a book, and I wanted to model. I never had the time to pursue it because I was excelling in sports which took all of my time. Then it hit me! I had an epiphany, what could I do that would still make my parents happy for investing so much into me and something that I would enjoy doing that would allow me to serve and help others? Well, I decided to become an Attorney. I researched practices within the profession and discovered Sports & Entertainment.
After such realization, I immediately withdrew from all those sciences classes and began to further my studies to become an Attorney. Ever since then I procured experiences and relationships that have catapulted me into my destiny of serving the people. Currently, I am an Administrative Law Judge for the Arizona Department of Economic Security Court of Appeals.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Like many experiences, I have endured, I still haven’t had a chance to have a seat at the table. I always contemplated if it’s the double standards of being a woman in the sports and entertainment industry. Or is it because I’m overqualified, people fear that I’ll take their spot? However, I’m no longer contemplating and I’m now implementing it into existence on my own table. I just keep the faith, while I’m manifesting my dreams.
Before I was an athlete, I was a student of the game. However, I didn’t have the right teachers around to prepare me for the fame. Instead, my parents did all they could to put food on the table but didn’t know the NCAA could slain careers as Cain did Abel. It wasn’t until I was in the game, did I recognize I was the one to blame. Because I never learned from someone who had been through the same.
I learned to be a good sport, but not how to build my own fort. I took it upon myself to renew my mind and educated myself in marketing, finance, amateurism, and the law. Because if you would have asked me where I would be while I was playing, I’ll say this is nothing that I foresaw. Work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy are all developmental skills to empower me to own my economic success.
I didn’t grow weary, instead, I ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century by developing successful growth habits, empowering them to explore their potential of becoming an aspiring entrepreneur, and provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in a global workforce.
Somehow in all my experiences, the lesson for me was the experience itself because the opportunities that I was awarded by either athletes, entertainers, or entities, they really did not treat, appreciate, or value my being and the assets that I bring to the table. I realized I needed to be able to recognize my own gift and embrace my journey either good or bad, it all happened for my good and betterment.
It wasn’t until I transferred to Tennessee State University that I began to build a resume of experiences in the sports and entertainment industry. I changed my major to Communications and Psychology. In addition, I procured a Masters in Sports Marketing. I also became a single parent. I did not want to be that woman who allowed her pregnancy or having children to be the reason why I could not pursue my dreams or give up on them. I had my daughter while I was attending Georgetown procuring my second Master’s in Sports Industry Management with a focus on Finance and Business Operations.
Subsequent to my master’s, I procured a Juris Doctor and was awarded the Deans Award for outstanding performance at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. While in law school, I procured a legal certificate in Intellectual Property with a focus on Blockchain. Please keep in mind, that while seeking these accolades, I was living a long distance from my child. Thank God, I had my parents who assisted me in raising my child while I completed school. It was hard on me because I wanted to physically be around my child, but I did not have the time to be a full-time mommy, work full-time as a Business Banker and attend school full-time.
On top of living long distances, all my necessary expenses such as childcare, housing, transportation, and utility bills were excessive. I had to take out many school loans to find the means to provide the best way I could. I eventually could no longer work full-time due to the rigorous curriculum of law school and study time. Not being able to work put a further dent in my finances because I no longer had residual monies to utilize. I was taking the responsibility as a mother and father for my child while my parents physically raised her across the country.
Luckily, we live in a time where we have Facetime so I could always see her every day, although I missed a lot of her firsts. I had no choice. I understood it took sacrifices to increase my equity valuation of becoming an asset. With great power comes great responsibility. To gain equity, I also acquired debt. My grit and grind will eventually allow me to live debt-free and gain a return on investment.
Another challenge in my journey has been being a Woman of Color. People tend to be jaded from hearing the same story coming from a black woman, but it’s still a story that’s been misconstrued. As mentioned above from a brief abstract of my resume, I’m still facially only seen by the color of my coco brown sugar skin. Rather for being seen as equal and not having to recite my resume for one to ease up. To help color commentate, think of me as the middle section of a Venn Diagram. Venn Diagrams help to visually represent the similarities and differences between two concepts.
The circles that overlap have a commonality while circles that do not overlap do not share those traits. I have privy to both sides of the diagram and can maneuver as such. It’s difficult already being a black woman attending predominately White schools at top schools in the nation and only being included amongst a very small percentage of people of color who are most likely the student-athletes. For all the talk of equality that goes around and all those filled quotas, I’m still surrounded by mostly men and White men are the majority.
So, I have to work harder to earn everyone’s respect. I have to be durable to be taken seriously. Aware of my blackness and all that extra grind that I have to put in to compensate for being a woman, being black expunges that and brings me back down to the bottom. At that point, I must work double-time just to be seen for who I am and what I’m capable of bringing to the table.
Regardless of the adversity good or bad, I have endured, it’s evidentiary that it was necessary because I wouldn’t have learned the game. Without it, I wouldn’t know how to serve and assist others who may be facing analogous circumstances.
Furthermore, I realized while I make my moves, I have to keep in mind the 48 Laws of Power. I have been in situations where I know so much that I outshined the “Master” or for better words the person I must sit down with who is interviewing me for the position. Or there have been times when I have explicitly been told I’m too pretty and would be a distraction, regardless of if I was equipped or qualified for the position. In the meantime, in working in sports, the most dangerous are the men in these positions because they abuse their power by enticing or groping women around them and diminishing their contributory roles.
For example, in college football, they need hostesses to show the prospective recruit around. They’ll recruit pretty young girls to escort these players around and show them a good time. In addition, the coaches or personnel are also having a good time with these young girls. And let’s not get into if the prospective recruit comes from a single mother. Sometimes, these position coaches would prey on the mother. How do you think they signed with their school over another Power 5 School?!
The recruit was influenced by his mother who was influenced by the coach who most likely sold her a dream about how much he liked her and would look after her son. But that’s another discussion. However, I’m told I’m too attractive and a distraction because they fear I may fraternize with the players. It never failed for me to be asked what my intentions were. Meanwhile, I’m in an interview to join their front office.
So instead of me continuing to keep getting “No’s” or whatever excuses, when in fact I’m actually a yes, is when I pursued building my own table. The objective of building a table is to have ownership and control over my own narrative for my brand and recognize my worth. Therefore, I can invite those I want to pull up a chair to eat with me at my supper table, pun intended.
Being able to control my own economic success is powerful. It’s my vision to build my own Multi-Billion Dollar Kingdom. Being an entrepreneur isn’t always glamorous because I’m still broke and in debt. But humble beginnings and faith of the size of a mustard seed can change any situation. There is so much creativity in the brokenness. I’m still capable of telling my story using all the resources I have available to me even if it meant creating it myself all on my iPhone.
There were times I could not afford a graphic designer to implement a vision I had. Brokenness will have you making it work! I found it difficult to explain what it was that I saw and to get someone else to see it and bring it out. After a while, I just embraced my gift of uniqueness and creativity that was destined for me to do it myself. I relentlessly became self-efficient.
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about KTF Group/ F.A.I.T.H. means “Fighting Adversity In The Hardships”?
One must understand my life story, to be able to understand how I’m coming. God revealed to me that in my business name “F.A.I.T.H.” means “Fighting Adversity In The Hardships” and the only way to endure adversity is to Just Keep F.A.I.T.H. #JustKTF Under intellectual property law (IP), I am able to federally register my business name, slogan, and logo.
Matter of fact, during law school, my IP Professor filed a trademark application with the USPTO for my business name for class discussion. Nobody in my class had a business, but I did and capitalized on the moment by only paying the filing fee. My brand is more than products that you “sell” on social media. Rather Keep The F.A.I.T.H.™ /dba KTF Group/is an enterprise of entities consisting of goods and services. Existing today, there are a plethora of White billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Michael Rubin, and Robert Kraft.
However, they’re not as many Blacks who are billionaires, such as The Carters, Meek Mill, Oprah, Bobby Johnson, Robert Smith, Kanye West, Rhianna, and Lebron James. Those names are notables amongst the greats who have exemplified wealth management and own their economic success.
Just like them, I’m building my Kingdom that will be a full-service enterprise supporting our diverse roster of talent including but not limited to management, production, strategic brand marketing, legal, intellectual property matters, business development, blockchain/fintech, social impact, justice reform and beyond!
KTF Group specializes in brand management for athletes, entertainers, and entities. My services provide inclusive and exclusive expertise to govern a client’s brand, whether it be for public relations to risk mitigation. I am able to provide protection and creative directiveness revolving around a client’s overall brand. For color commentating purposes, in my field, I’m the Olivia Pope but Dope!
What sets me apart from the competition is implementing blockchain and utilizing non-fungible tokens (NFT) in my client’s brand portfolios. Blockchain is considered to be Web3. The new internet. Blockchain is a decentralized and immutable public database of transactions. Unlike social media sites or online banks, a blockchain has no centralized authority.
Rather, a blockchain is a pure peer-to-peer system because its users create and manage the network. While in law school, I completed my graduating writing requirement on Blockchain and conducted extensive research on this evolution of new world technology.
In my whitepaper, “How Artist Can Use Blockchain to Out-SMART The Music Industry,” I created a platform that could take artists and content creators and place them in a community that could monetize them with a crypto-wallet. In addition, you could use NFTs as a form of an asset, too.
For example, even if an Artist sells his music on Spotify, Apple Music, or Google play, they do not get that actual depiction of what is happening overall digitally to their product. Blockchain helps the artist. These production and distribution intermediaries take hefty amounts from the Artists earnings and much less gets passed onto the actual Artist who did the work.
Doing this would cut out the intermediaries, record labels, and publishers so that out of the music streaming, artist get paid their fair share. The goal is to bring innovation, creativity, autonomy, and fairness back to the creative artists. Solving once and for all, the issues of the disproportion of artist compensation and monetization systems and getting them their warranted share of the music industry revenue. To do so, I created JustKTFolio™. In other words, “just keep the (port)folio.”
This platform will use smart contracts hosted on a blockchain that pays the artists at the point of sale itself in a matter of minutes. And unlike traditional currency, you can send NFT or Bitcoin currency to anyone and anywhere without seeking permission from banks or governments. The objective is you created all the work; you should also be compensated for your work fully and directly. Entrepreneurship.
I’m most proud of my business because it will be a future household brand and mentioned amongst legends. The vision behind the brand “keep the faith” is a generic phrase that many people use to their liking and meaning of choice. My creative genius imparted within me wanted to show the strength of my branding skills to take a common phrase that everyone says casually and brand it in a way that when any time someone says the phrase, “keep the faith,” I’m the first person or thing that comes to their mind.
Branding is very powerful and everlasting. For example, ROC Nation is Jay-Z; “The Marathon Continues” or TMC is Nipsey Hussle; BadBoy is Diddy; Meek Mill is Dream Chase, and Oprah even means OWN. Now, the world will soon follow and take heave to my identifiable mark to further the mantra and lifestyle to always Just Keep The F.A.I.T.H. and think Ceci Shell.
What people need to know about my business is that KTF Group is the parent company. Under the parent, the umbrella is many other businesses to expand my entrepreneurship. The most influential is JustKTF, inc.™ (pending filing for 501c(3)). Under this organization, a social impact brand will be a leading pipeline for Diversity & Inclusion. There continues to be a misguided and misconstrued notion of People of Colors worth in the world.
There are always talks about equality and the necessity for it in the workplace, however, major fortune 500 companies and institutions fail to input personnel in the position to properly inform and educate on the subject. It’s necessary to have an array of people from different backgrounds and cultures to provide a balance of voice and reason and diversity of thought that we need.
This brand will socially impact the masses with videos, tutorials, tools, and resources pulled from People of Color with hopes of major companies following JustKTF to further a proactive stance on permitting a diverse workforce that reflect the real people of society today. Other KTF Group brands include the following:
• CeciLikeChanel™ (personal brand)
• JustKTF Sports™
• JustKTF Entertainment™
• JustKTF Productions™
• Pink Koolture™
• For The Koolture™
• Sassy Girl™ By Laila Grace (my daughter’s own business).
• ICEC™ (pronounced icy).
• ICEC Dolls™ (co-owner with my daughter).
If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Coming from a family of five, as the middle child, I guess you can say I was born to be the equalizer! My parents were wedded in college while attending Purdue University and still are married 40 years later! My father was a student-athlete and participated in track & field and cross country. He became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
My mother was a Pre-Med major and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She attended Meharry Medical School (a Historical Black College & University “HBCU”) where she received her Medical Degree as a Pediatrician. I have an older brother, a United States Ranger, with a Bachelor of Science from Ball State University who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
I have a younger sister pursuing her Juris Doctor at Florida Agricultural Mechanical University (aka FAMU an HBCU) as well, in addition to having her Masters in Animal Science from Tennessee State University (HBCU). I, too, am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Fortunately, growing up I had the best of both worlds. In my parents’ early years starting out with their careers, my mother finishing her residency and my father working in Finances, they were not making as much money to care for a family of five.
However, although their income could only afford housing that was in an impoverished area, they still found a way to provide us with the best resources to be able to excel as well. My parents placed me in a private school in pre-kindergarten. I was the only African American in my class. I stayed in private school until 8th grade and by then only 2 other African Americans were admitted into my class. However, I did leave private school in either first or second grade because it ended up being too expensive.
In the first public school I attended, I got assaulted on the playground by a 5th grader over a turn on the tire swing. My parents transferred me to another public school. At this new school, the curriculum was not challenging enough so I was admitted to the honor class and again, I became the only one that looked like me in these rooms. My parents deemed public school curriculums were not as advantageous for me as much as the private school college preparatory courses were constructed to be. I was enrolled back into private school.
My mother would remind me while I was in Kindergarten attending the private school, I would share stories that we lived on a farm and had a lot of animals. Listening to this story in my adult years, all I can do is laugh because I was in class with classmates who were raised in homes with bowling alleys, movie theaters, stocked fridges, and pantries, and had horseback riding for birthday parties! I couldn’t even have sleepovers at my home because I’m sure none of my classmates’ parents would allow their children to spend the night in the neighborhood, I lived in.
At this time, we were like the Cosby family, but living like Crooklyn. I figured if they knew the truth then they wouldn’t want to be my friend. While attending private school, for Christmas my mother asked me what it was that I wanted. I definitely asked for Abercrombie because everyone in school was wearing it. Well, Christmas came, and I got one shirt from Abercrombie and I dang near wore that same shirt every day like a uniform and felt like I was one of them.
The icing on the cake for me in regard to my character was foreshadowed when I was 4 or 5. My Pediatric Dentist would hold an annual Christmas Party at the Zoo. At the Zoo, they would allow attendees to ride an elephant for fifty cents. I asked my parents for some money to ride the elephant and they said no. However, I was determined to ride this elephant that I asked a stranger around me for fifty cents.
The stranger gave me the money and I got to ride the elephant! I was born with grit. A non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state. This skill is critically important to student achievement, both in and beyond the classroom.
Non-cognitive skills form a critical piece of a worker’s skill sets, which comprise cognitive, non-cognitive, and job-specific skills. Moreover, I grew up playing soccer. A predominantly White sport, also, referenced as Olympic Sports (such as soccer, hockey, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, etc.) Olympic Sports are considered to be money sports and that’s why their predominately White because certain socioeconomic demographics (Blacks) could not afford to play.
Therefore, it wasn’t cool to be Black and play soccer, we didn’t do that. You would likely find Blacks playing basketball or football because money was not a major necessity to participate. Imagine being Black, playing soccer, and then being good at it! I figured I had to be great in basketball, too, just to be able to be around people that looked like me and not judge me for playing soccer. I had to travel to the suburbs for soccer, whereas for basketball you can do outside just playing pick-up.
I became so competitive in sports, that by the time I was in middle school I knew I had to expand my talents to a more competitive vantage and women’s sports in private schools, unfortunately, don’t provide that benefit. I had solid travel teams for basketball and soccer. I decided to attend public school for high school. During high school, I was around more Blacks, however, I still was admitted to the AP classes being the only Black, again. I recall I befriended a White teammate, and she came from money, too.
One time visiting her home, I observed her take cash from her father’s wallet. It was a thick wad of money, too, held tight with a money clip! She took few couple hundred dollars from the stack, and I asked her what she was doing. She responded that he would never know because he always has that much money on him, and she does it all the time. At that point, it made sense how she was always laid with the new Jordan’s that had just been released and how she always had fly fashion.
No wonder we connected so well; you would have thought she was Black by the way she dressed! Regrettably, being exposed to her antics, I, too, though I could run that with my parents and get away with it. I did, but it was short-lived, and when I say how I was reprimanded, I would never look at a wad of money the same, especially that’s not mine or that I did not rightfully earn myself! Unfortunately, I cannot same the same about my friend. Her antics caught up to her and her ways ended up imprisoning her.
The moral of the story is to learn from other people’s experiences, whether it be failure or success. Other than taking from my parents, I never stole from a store or anyone else. I think the worst I did outside of that was handle people on the soccer field or basketball court! Without playing defense, you cannot win games. I was chosen to be a Captain of my team. My Coach told me I was chosen because I led by example and I was vocal about it, too.
When I was not playing, my parents kept a close-knit and sheltered me to make sure I was on top of my game off the field, too. I never got into any physical altercations nor went to jail or any other disciplinary actions whether in school or out. I graduated early from high school with honors, enrolled, and played early at a Division 1 school to get a head start on my Pre-Med journey.
My father was the “soccer mom,” or better fitting, “soccer dad.” He was the one taking my siblings and me to our extra-curricular activities. Looking back, I guess gender roles and double standards were in existence even then because somehow a man had more time for his family than a woman working in a similar profession.
Although my mother worked a lot, I understood why she did, and it instilled the same wit in me as she had in her when I played sports and excelled in school. All of my life lessons have imparted skills that will forever be embedded within me and permit me to be a pipeline for diversity and inclusion and to properly serve the people.
Although I made it this far, it’s still the beginning, I’m still waiting, and another layer of brick foundation was laid toward completing this Kingdom. I’ve learned a consistent way to stay organized and be market-ready, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have KEPT THE F.A.I.T.H.!
- Instagram: @cecilikechanel, @ktf_group & @justktf
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org