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Life and Work with Keiona Eady

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keiona Eady.

Keiona, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have to start by saying this… God purposely brought me across the country to the desert to allow me the opportunity to grow in ways I could not if I were home. I am stronger, braver, and wiser because of Arizona and for that alone, I give thanks! I am known to many as Keke and October marks my third year here in the Valley of the Sun. I am 28 years old, the truest Taurus you’ve ever met, and a 100% ENFP writing the story of my life!

I was born and raised in the small town of Cross, South Carolina which is located on the outskirts of the Holy City Charleston. Everything you could imagine about small town living, I lived it! My childhood was filled with adventure and I was a very active, gregarious, and curious child! I loved learning and after years of hard work in grade school, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of becoming a Clemson University student where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Education minor in December 2012. Upon graduation, I’ve worked within numerous sales roles for global industry leading companies Sherwin Williams, Continental Tire and currently Pearson. But it doesn’t stop here.

Like many millennials, I checked all the “How to Lead a Successful Life” boxes but I was unfulfilled just working. Then, it hit me too and I decided to go for “it” in 2016. After being complimented on having a radio voice and realizing my gifts of being a connector, I created the New Geechee platform, which is dedicated to sharing the stories of young melanated professionals worldwide. I lived in Boston for a year and was amazed at how a group called YBP (Young Boston Professionals) connected the cities numerous young professionals from all over through events. So, when I moved to Arizona to accept a new position and I couldn’t find something similar, I started a group chat to help connect young professionals here. So many of us are miles away from home trying to figure “it” out, so building this community would lead to confirmation that New Geechee was needed. As I fostered relationships with my peers, everyone had the same overarching pursuit to do more with their lives. I decided it was important to capture that narrative and gift is an inspiration to the world! Fifty-seven podcast episodes, 300+ YMP caps, ten+ blog posts and a community of over 5,000 later you have the New Geechee platform that is surely making its way around the world.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
If I can be honest, no part of my life has been easy. I could be angry about it, but I know that character is built from overcoming challenges and there is so much to be gained taking the road less traveled. Although I accept the challenge, it is my desire to make the journey easier to navigate for those who follow, because that is exactly what so many selfless men and women of color did for me.

I was raised in a young single parent household and the odds were already stacked against me because of that. We faced many challenges, including our family being broken apart for over five years during my adolescence. However, that single event really brought our family together closer, so I know it was a part of a greater plan. I have to thank my mother and immediate family that did everything they could to show us unconditional love, unwavering support, and endless possibilities always, even throughout these difficult times. My mother’s belief in me has powered me all throughout these last 28 years on Earth. She always made me feel like I was capable of doing anything and never pushed her agenda for my life onto me. The only expectation was that we would take the tools that they provided to create a life we could be proud of.

Of my mother’s three children, I was the “smart” one. The one who would be academic because I was so gifted in school. My original plan was to graduate with a degree in Mathematics and work towards becoming a Math professor. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure of making that happen. I graduated from high school (check), went to college (check) accomplished many great things in college (check) and went on to build an almost six-figure career before 30 (check) BUT I always knew that God would use me in a way far more powerful than working 9-5 for a company. When I turned 25, it weighed on me heavily and I went through my “quarter crisis” pondering what I was going to do to contribute more. I simply had to trust that God would show me the way. A year later, when I decided to leave Continental Tire to go for “it”, my family supported me the entire way through and I know that is unheard of. So here I was at 26, looking to start this journey into broadcast media. That was “it.” I hunted down internships and that didn’t turn out as promising but I kept going. I had to learn so much about entrepreneurship and the media industry on my own since it was new territory for me. When I think about it, I’m taking the long route but with good reason because I’m seeing things from an untainted virgin perspective. Beyond grateful that along this route, I am able to constantly learn every day!

For anyone reading this, I hope you’ve picked up what I have put down. Life is one big complicated, beautiful journey that we think we have figured out until… the most powerful thing you can do is BELIEVE that you will find your place in the world because we all have one just waiting for us to accept that truth. The world NEEDS our gifts and talents. Some of us undermine our gifts and think they are not good enough. I know I am only just in the beginning stages of this entrepreneurship journey, but as long as I continue to hold true to myself and trust the process, I can never lose!

Please tell us about New Geechee.
New Geechee is a work of love. A work of service. A work of preservation.

I chose to name this platform New Geechee to honor my direct lineage to Gullah Geechee culture coupled with my ability to continuously create new opportunities for my life. I am who you see today because of this. Gullah Geechee is the name of the distinct group of West African descendants along the SC, NC and GA coastline who have fought to preserve the language, traditions, and livelihood of our great descent. Sounds cool, right? Well, I simply lived in it and never truly understood how special this was until I moved away. It is an honor and privilege to acknowledge this wonderful heritage, capturing millennial perspectives and our contributions while pushing positivity into the world.

Every layer of this platform was me pushing myself further. At the root of it is the podcast. Did I mention, I knew nothing about podcasts when I started? Then I realized I wanted to produce income and have branded items to spread the movement, so I designed and sold YMP dad caps. I then ventured to host events such as a singles mixer and speaker/networking events. I’ve also enjoyed writing, so I began blogging to improve my writing. So much of the platform is highlighting and sharing what other YMPs are doing! One of my favorite features is the challenges hosted to help YMPs improve their lives. We’ve hosted the #NewGeecheeFitnessChallenge, #SelfCareChallenge and #InMyReadingChallenge, all which have had over 100s of participants! We (because I don’t do this alone) are known for inspiring the millennial young professionals to know they are not alone. There are so many supportive elements meant to empower that I know is the what keeps others engaged because they may not be getting that anywhere else.

Who I am seeps through the brand. Since childhood, I’ve been empowered to always be myself because there is only one me, and I’m pretty cool! And so are you! Authenticity is a key value and YMPs remind me that is one of the things that they love about New Geechee. Networking is one of my key gifts and I try to share my network with hopes that we can collaborate and connect with one another as YMPs because we need each other! Simply being myself is what sets me apart. Sadly in 2018, in the world of social media, everybody’s striving to be more like the other person. It almost drives me crazy! It is great to review their lives and learn from them, but never lose you trying to be like someone else. You are your unique value proposition and everything that you are should power your brand!

What advice would you give to someone at the start of her career?
Dear young woman just starting out, give yourself grace! There is so much to learn along the journey. My favorite quote of all time is “Success is not a destination, not a journey.” Everything you do is a learning experience, therefore, failure is only the event in which you stop pursuing your dreams. You will pivot, you will take detours, and just like myself in this space, you will take what feels like steps back! Keep your eyes on the prize.

What is the definition of success for you?
It doesn’t have to be wrapped intangible possessions because the most valuable things in life are things we can’t even touch. I learned that once I had checked all the boxes and still felt empty! Let your own definition of success guide you and know that even when the going gets tough, you will be just fine!

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Image Credit:
DNA Images, La’Belle Photography

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