Yelp’s Black in Business Summit
With Headliner Wayne Brady
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Thank you to everyone who registered and attended the summit! Watch our keynote session with Wayne Brady above, and see recordings of the other sessions below.
To celebrate National Black Business Month and headlined by producer, actor, and musician Wayne Brady, the 2022 Black in Business Summit highlighted inspiring stories, business tips, and lessons learned from Black entrepreneurs. We heard from an array of dynamic speakers, covering topics like branding, marketing, finance, mental health, building community, and more.
This summit sessions were for business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs across all industries and of all backgrounds. Whether you’re a seasoned expert, within your first few years, or just starting out, there’s something for you—check back soon for recordings of all sessions.
In Conversation With Wayne Brady
In this keynote session, producer, actor, and musician Wayne Brady sat down with Yelp’s Darnell Holloway to discuss the soft skills that businesses should integrate into their operations and use in everyday life. From the value of improvised thinking to full circle listening, imagination, and empathy, Brady explained how you can use these tools in the corporate world, within small business, and in relationships with others.
On the Yelp Blog: Take a deeper dive into Wayne Brady’s seven principles for life and business, including steps for setting boundaries, marketing yourself, and always saying “yes, and…”
How to Bring Your Brand to Life
Creating a great brand requires more than just making a beautiful logo. It’s about finding the right voice that reflects the business you set out to create and making sure that voice is leveraged across the business within your marketing materials, on your website, and beyond. In this panel discussion, hear best practices from brand leaders on how Black business owners can create a unique, highly resonant brand that will keep customers coming back.
- Detavio Samuels, chief executive officer, REVOLT
- Kimberly Paige, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, BET
- James Toney, chief strategy officer, MNTN
Moderator: Sandy Pierre, brand execution manager, Refinery29
Networking Your Way to Business Growth
Many of today’s great business leaders credit at least some of their success to building a strong network of like-minded individuals they can leverage to find new business opportunities, share learned knowledge, and collaborate with on innovative ideas. The Black business community is vibrant, thriving, and ripe for opportunities to connect and share innovation—but it can be a challenge to build your network from zero. In this panel, learn how top leaders created their networks, and hear how they tap into them to build their businesses and advance their careers.
- Monique Rodriguez, founder and chief executive officer, Mielle
- Talisha Bekavac, executive vice president, U.S. Black Chambers
- Malyia McNaughton, founder and jewelry designer, Made by Malyia
Moderator: Zanade Mann, founder and managing director, Black Women’s Business Collective
Meet the Yelp Community Team
Yelp has Community Managers in most major cities, and they work to connect people with great local businesses. Learn about their role and how you can connect with them locally to spread the word about your business.
Speaker: Ashley Finney, community manager, Yelp
Running the Numbers: How to Fund Your Business
Systemic bias and inequality have caused substantial barriers to funding for Black entrepreneurs. The pandemic has only widened the gap, and in times of increased economic pressure, finding financing could become that much more difficult. Hear from business owners and financial experts on how they funded their businesses in the earliest days—from bootstrapping to securing funds—as well as how to build your business credit, drive efficiencies in your business, and find financing in times of turbulence.
- Daryn Dodson, managing director and founder, Illumen Capital
- Mignon Francois, founder, CEO, and director of joy, The Cupcake Collection
- Wale Ogunleye, head of sports and entertainment, UBS
Moderator: Michelle Billingy, sales manager, Yelp
Self-Care for You and Your Business
For many business owners, mental health unfortunately takes a back seat as they prioritize more day-to-day concerns, like keeping their businesses healthy and growing. But mental health is one of the most important factors that can either fuel or deter success, even more so in times of a tightening economy. Learn from mental health experts on how to make mental health and self-care a priority, like how to take a break even when you don’t have time to.
- Misty Gaither, director and global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Indeed
- Brian Batch, founder and co-owner, Bird Bird Biscuit
- Miara Shaw, life and business strategist, Maven Miara
Moderator: Chantay Golson, executive coach, therapist, speaker, and author, Chantay Golson Executive Coaching
Create Impact Through Culture & Community
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black Americans, including entrepreneurs whose businesses are the bedrock of their communities. For many Black entrepreneurs, it’s crucial that their businesses reflect and support the vibrant culture that these communities represent. Entrepreneurs play a unique role in championing social justice, combating racism and inequity, and reinvesting in Black communities. Hear from Black leaders on how entrepreneurs can navigate new challenges and opportunities and put culture at their core to thrive in today’s business ecosystem.
- Artis Stevens, president and chief executive officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- Eric Rhone, president and chief executive officer, A Bird & A Bear Entertainment
- Javid Louis, senior brand strategist, Twitter
Moderator: Alfred Edmond Jr., executive vice president and editor at large, Black Enterprise
Success on Yelp
Your free business listing on Yelp allows you to communicate with consumers who are searching for what you provide in your area. Taking advantage of the free Yelp features will help you stand out from the competition, giving you the best chance to secure the sale. Learn how to implement the most important tools—which will help you optimize your listing and manage your online reputation.
Speaker: Emily Washcovick, small business expert, Yelp
Darnell: And super excited to introduce our guests today. I’m a leader on Yelp’s Enterprise team. I’ve been with the company for over a decade. Previously, I was head of small business outreach. I also come from a family of small business owners, myself, and so today’s event is near and dear to my heart, and anything that we can do to provide some insight and help people achieve their goals is always a win. So with that, I want to turn it over to the man of the hour, five time Emmy Award winner, TV personality, comedian, actor, he is the true multi hyphenate as they call it. He’s also an entrepreneur, and he’s going to share some insights with us, Mr. Wayne Brady. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Wayne: Good morning, sir. Thank you so much for having me, Mr. Darnell. Thank you. Before we even get started, I loved listening to Nana just now because something that she was even saying about the giveaway and the roadmap, and even just my reason for being honored to being able to speak today, every person in my line of work is an entrepreneur. Every single person who is a performer is a small business owner.
And then when you narrow it down, every person of color who is a Black, small business owner, which is yourself, there are certain challenges that you deal with right from the get go, and even after you’ve had success, I’ve been in this business since I was 16, and I’m lucky enough that I’ve worked steadily in show business since I was 16. This has always been my business. I wish that someone would’ve taught me when I was younger, even in my twenties once I’d already gotten Who’s Line and then into my thirties, instead of thinking like an actor who has to get more acting work and more musical theater work and more work, I wish that someone would’ve come along and taught me to think like an entrepreneur, to think like an owner, to own this thing that is Wayne. Do what is best for Wayne, and we’ll talk about branding because 15 years ago, branding wasn’t even a thing really in terms of the greater zeitgeist and knowing what… Now 10 year olds are like, “Girl, I got to brand myself on TikTok This is my brand.” Everybody knows what that is now.
I wish that I would’ve known about Yelp Black Business or that someone could have taken me under their arm and said, “Hey, it’s great that people know your face, and you have this job that pays you X amount of money, but you really should leverage that into X, Y, and Z.”
So I say all that to say that I’m very happy to be here, and I’m happy to learn, because at 50, I just turned 50, I still have in my humble estimation until the good Lord takes me, I have this next phase of my life and career that now Wayne the entrepreneur can leverage what Wayne the actor and producer and director has accomplished and saying, “Let’s build that going forward.” So I’m excited to learn just like I’m excited to impart things.
Darnell: Absolutely. And so just to go back to the beginning, you said you started when you were 16. So can you just help the audience understand what inspired you to go into improv and what was really the a-ha moment for you where you were like, “I’m good at this?”
Wayne: Well, first off, I think I’ve got to say, improv to me back then, now it’s different to a lot of people, it’s not a destination. I’m not just an improviser. The thrust of this is I’m teaching this specific skill to the people in the seminar to say, “This is how you can use this thinking.” But it’s not like I said, “Oh, I’m going to improvise, and that’s what it is.” I’m an actor and a singer, a dancer. My whole thing was I’m going to go to Broadway, so I’m going to work and do those things to go to Broadway.
When I stumbled into improvisation, I think I was 19, and I just got finished doing an industrial film, and I met this young lady at the time who I was trying to hit on her, and she said, “Oh, you’re cute little man because you’re a child, but my husband and I, we have an improv company and you are really fast.” Because we were making each other laugh in between takes, and the director was saying, “Try it this way and try it that way.” And I just let my mind go. I was completely unencumbered.
That’s what’s great about starting out. I think maybe even starting out in show business or any business, sometimes your ignorance works to your advantage. I didn’t have any bad habits which I think is a lesson to get to go into this with I didn’t have any bad habits as of yet, so I just said, “Sure. Yes and.” Without even knowing what yes and was yet. I was free. She said, “I love that about you. Come and take my improv class.” I said, “What’s improv?” She said, “It’s spontaneous theater. It’s creating something out of nothing.” I said, “Oh, you mean make believe. It’s like when I play at home and I make stuff up.” She goes, “Yeah, that.”
But then they taught me the structure of it and the rules for being able to do it on stage and on film, the parameters. Just like in business, you can have a business that you feel is on very go at the flow, but improvisation on stage, just like in life, is meant to be done within a parameter and a certain set of boundaries. Those boundaries give you the room to play. It’s like your business plan. My only difference is every time I step on stage, I don’t know where I’m going to go, but I’ve got a business plan in place, and the business plan is I’m going to start here, I’m going to use these things that I get from the audience, I’m going to put these things together, and by the time that this 90 minute show is finished that I’m doing, I would’ve arrived at the end.
So I learned those skills then, and to be honest, improvisation was always a skill and a thing that I used to keep myself sharp while I auditioned for plays or TV shows or musical gigs. I never really thought of it as an end goal until I ended up on Whose Line. I was like, “Wait a minute. Someone’s paying me to be on TV to make stuff up? This is unheard of.”
And it wasn’t until then that I realized that all the skills along the way, which just like a small business owner, so sometimes I think people end up saying, “I want to do this as my business.” Because it’s popular or because they think it’s a fast way to make money versus saying, “What am I passionate about? What am I good at? I’m going to take these things, and I’m going to make that my business because I know those things really well.”
I didn’t realize that I’d been training myself all these time and all these years, so that when I finally got my break at 26 when I got cast on Whose Line, it’s because of all the years of learning the improvisational skills, but also of training myself as an actor, training myself as a singer, training myself as a dancer, training myself as a director and a producer, not even knowing that I was doing that, and it all paid off. Like James Brown said, “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.” And I think that goes for business as well, and that’s how I found myself on a national stage doing improvisation.
Darnell: Absolutely. And so you’ve had this vision for using improv. It sounds like there’s almost two applications, right? Helping youth and also helping business people, and you talked a little bit about seminars, and can you just give us a little bit of maybe a snippet of what are some of the things that people might learn in a class like that with a business application? You mentioned yes and. So even starting with that. People that may not know exactly what yes and is. Can you expand on that and just some of the specific tools that people might be able to learn from improv?
Wayne: Yes and is the core principle of improvisation, and when I teach these seminars, I try to dissuade anyone from going into it with the mindset of, “Oh, I can’t do that. Because I’ve seen you guys do Whose Line or I’ve seen Wild ‘n Out. I can’t make things up, and I can’t be funny.” No. Get that out of your head right now. The yes and principle, it’s for life, and I challenge you to think of it this way. Let’s say that you are in a leadership position at work, whether you are the CEO, whether you are a manager, whether you know are running a pod, and someone comes to you with a suggestion. Let’s say that you make T-shirts. You’re making your T-shirts, you are good at your T-shirts, and you’re overseeing the floor, and Jim steps to you and says, “Hey, I’ve got a really cool design for this T-shirt.” “No, we don’t do those designs. I’m do these designs. No. I’m going to go back to making my T-shirts.” You have then shut down a fellow creative. You shut down someone. T.
He yes and is designed to not shut someone down. Now I’m not saying that everyone has a great idea. I’m saying the acceptance of the yes and is, “Hey, I have an idea for a T-shirt.” “Okay. Yes. Let me see it. All right. That’s not necessarily what we do here, but I’ll tell you what. I see that you have drive, and you are creative. Why not work on something else?” Because that one idea may be the idea that puts your business over the top.
Likewise, in a relationship, the yes and, it’s a two way street. People love to, on your favorite sitcom, there’s always the husband and wife. “I’ve been married to her for 32 years, and all she do is talk, talk, talk. She won’t shut up.” Well, you need to listen to each other. Yes and is a conversation on stage. You give something even if it’s a, “Hey, how are you doing today?” I’m going to take that, and I’m going to respond to you in kind, and then I’m going to lay on a response, and before you know it, we are exchanging ideas.
Especially in a business sense, one of the most valuable tools you have, and I don’t care if you are Jeff Bezos or if you run a bodega, you need to network and not just network with other people in your field, you need to network with your clientele. That’s yes anding. That’s a conversation. It starts with putting out an idea or starting a conversation piece, which is the offer that we talk about an improv, it’s an offer and the yes and is to take your offer, take it in, and then and it. I’m I’m going to give you something back. It’s an exchange.
As soon as you say no, and in improvisation you are taught to not say no. As soon as you say no, it’s a hard line that cuts off any flow, any creativity, and especially in a work environment, it can create a hostile environment where you may be sitting on the next great idea, but why should I tell you? Every time I come in, you shut me down. I’m going to go do this for myself.
So in business and in relationships, just in life, those are the principles that work which is why I said earlier, I try to dissuade people from, “Oh, I can’t do that because it’s funny.” These are principles. The application is something else on stage. That’s the funny piece. But for what we do and for what you can do in your business, that’s what we would use the improv piece for.
And you also use it for empathy. If you are practicing yes and, you’re going to listen to what someone says. You’re not just going to talk at them or you’re not just going to take in what they say and go, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah.” Now I’m just biting time until I can speak. It forces you to be present. It forces and it forces and enforces mindfulness, and those are things that we need in our jobs especially if you are the owner of this small business. My whole thing as Wayne, but also as Wayne Brady, the president of making it up in Brady Productions, I have to be present. I have to be able to go into a boardroom and pitch to executives, to pitch my next project that I want to produce. I have to be able to sit down with the director and pitch myself, so I have to practice mindfulness and being present, and those are the two things that the improv piece is wonderful for.
Darnell: Incredibly powerful stuff. And I will say I’m a firm believer in everything that you’re saying. I’m a leader on the sales team, and interesting fact, some of my best salespeople have an improv background because you can’t really be in a high level meeting, as you just said, with the CMO of a company asking for marketing dollars, unless you’re really listening and having a conversation and being a hundred percent present, so I see so many applications on the business front.
Also real quick. For people that might have joined us late, we’ve got five time Emmy Award winner Wayne Brady here sharing some really great insights. We did want to let everybody know that we will be taking a few questions from the audience as well, so if you want to chat your questions in, our backstage team will send those to us towards the end here.
Wayne, shifting gears just a little bit, you do so much for the culture. You recently won the Ebony Vanguard Award. You gave great speech, and you touched on some of the nuance challenges that you faced in your career as a Black man in Hollywood. And so can you maybe a little bit of that story with our audience here and just how you’ve able to pivot some of those challenge into opportunities.
Wayne: First off, I was so honored to win that Ebony Vanguard, well, not win, but to be presented because it meant anybody that tells you I don’t care what people think about me. True. There is a world where you need to have tough skin, especially as a business owner and especially in show business because it’s such a subjective art. You are basically asking the world, “Hey, like me and like what I do, but I don’t care if you like me, but please do.” So it’s such a contradictory thing. Who forces this stuff on themselves? And then you add the layer of being Black, and you’re in a business where the aim is if I’m good at something, if I have a play or I have a TV show or I have a song, and it’s in me, and I get it out, I want the world to hear it.
But because of the color of my skin and because of everything that we’ve been through in this country, it sometimes becomes if I want too many people to like what I do, then I can’t be liked by my own people, and that’s a very narrow view, and it’s not just me. I think that’s part of the cultural contradiction that we’ve been raised in throughout these generations. So as a performer and as a man, I’ve always battled with, I just want to do what I do, and in the beginning I will admit I listened to the argument of just do what you do and don’t worry about color because if you’re the best at what you do, it’ll shine through. And that actually came from my grandmother who raised me.
My family’s from the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix, so her whole thing as an immigrant was get in, kill it from the inside, they’ll see who you are on the outside, but you don’t have to go waving a flag. I’m Black and I’m bad and I’m here. But I realized that as much as I love my grandmother’s device, and I took that to heart, it’s got to be more nuanced than that because you are fighting a battle. Every time you open your mouth, someone is going to say, “Well, you don’t sound like me, so I’m not going to mess with you.” Or there’s somebody else who may be white who says, “Well, you don’t sound or look like me, so I’m not going to mess with you.” That’s where I found myself in this weird ride, and coming back to improv, I was always, whether it’s improv or sketch comedy, I was always the only person that looked like me in the room.
Just like Key and Peele had said that when they’re at Second City, and you end up going through an identity crisis, because you’re trying to make these people that don’t look like you laugh, so the onus is on you to learn all this stuff to make them laugh. But then at the end of the day, you’re still you with your black skin and your Black journey. How do you satisfy yourself and the people that look like you? And it messes with your head. And I think the only way that I’ve come to peace with that, even in the past decade, is settling back into, I’m just going to do the things that I feel good about, and contrary to Grandma’s belief, there’s no harm in me doing those things and saying that I’m a proud Black man who happens to be able to do Shakespeare and can turn around and do improv and make a fart joke and then turn around and do a Broadway musical and turn around and host a game show and put all that under one roof.
So I feel that as a business in truly claiming my artistry and marrying it with my blackness and being unapologetic, and by unapologetic, I mean also unapologetic to other Black people. I’m not going to feel bad for anything that I’ve done on TV because I don’t think I’ve ever misrepresented myself. So to anyone that says, “Well, we don’t mess with you because you only done why I chose to do this.” Okay, cool. Well, I’m not for it or for you then. I’m for me, and I know that I believe in my product, which is me, and I think that’s what you’ve got to do. Navigating this space or navigating any business space, you have to own who you are as a person, and if you own that, then you can go into making sound business decisions because you’re not going to listen to all the noise.
Darnell: Absolutely. And I saw an interview with you recently where you were actually talking about the Chappelle Show and your experience on that and kind of one sketch with Paul Mooney that led to then you having a conversation with the cast that led to you being on the Chappelle Show, which by the way, that was one of my favorite sketches on the Chappelle Show of all time, the Wayne Brady sketch. But can you maybe share with the audience a little bit about that story for people that might not know? And just how did that impact your career at the time of being on the Chappelle Show?
Wayne: I’m not really going to go super deep into it because I’ve talked about this ad nauseam. But I will give the best broad strokes because whenever I have this conversation, because I just had it a while ago on The Breakfast Club, inevitably and invariably there’s somebody online who says, “Well, because of that sketch, that’s why I know who you are.” Once again, good for you. But basically what happened was Paul Mooney made this joke, and the joke was that Wayne Brady makes Brian Gumble look like Malcolm X. Now, when you laugh at that, it’s just my opinion, and that’s what I’m saying. It was just my opinion. I believe that when we are in certain spaces, you make that joke, and you would laugh at it on the surface because especially at the time because of the things that I think a bulk of America had seen me do, not withstanding my theater career and my live touring.
So you see Whose Line Is It Anyway, it’s an ABC show, and especially the first run, they very much tried to keep it family. You saw The Daytime Show, which was a daytime talk show, so it’s a daytime talk show, so I’m not going to come out and say, “Here’s my next guest, bitch.” That’s not the venue. And some of the other things that I had done, which were deemed family friendly and maybe to some people white centric, so I get that joke, but what I was saying was whether it’s me or whomever that joke is aimed at, by that joke, you’ve tried to then take down a couple Black people who have really succeeded in their space, and by making that joke, you just perpetuate the self-fulfilling thing of, well, Black is only this. Black people can only talk about that. You have to be the blackest to do that. You have to be.
And to me, Paul Mooney was not a gatekeeper. Paul Mooney was not in charge of how black I am or what I do or Bryan Gumble. So when I heard that joke, I did say to a couple of Dave’s cats, because I ran into them, I ran into Darnell Rawlings when we were out, and I said, “Nah, man, I thought it was a stupid joke. I wasn’t a fan.” I love Dave, and I love Paul Mooney. I’ve grown up watching Paul Mooney. I don’t like that joke because I wouldn’t make that joke dot dot dot. So then Dave calls me. Long story made short, we end up writing a sketch which is now in the Museum of TV History’s Funniest Sketches right alongside Lucille Ball’s veta might have [inaudible 00:23:29] and whatever the thing is, and so as much as I didn’t like the joke, I love the fact that I got the chance to do it because it opened up a conversation.
And you are still talking about that sketch. We are still talking about that sketch. God, I don’t even know how many years ago it is now, 15 years or something, 16. So obviously we still have a cultural problem that that sketch or the joke is a resonant one, and so I have cats come up to me in the street, “Wayne, I wasn’t messing with you until that joke.” And then I say, “Hey, cool. Thank you. I’m glad that you like, but two, I don’t care. And that’s sad that you weren’t messing with me until then because then you’re thinking, so you didn’t like me until I played a black cat driving on the street with hoes, shooting a gun, using drugs. Gotcha.” So when I think of that, I laugh because I just say, “Hey, there’s still work to be done.” And I’m using my business and I’m using my platform as a way to do that good work.
Darnell: So just to bring it full circle to present day, can you talk a little bit about some of the new projects that you’re working on? I heard you have a book in the works, you’ve got a new show, just what some of the new and exciting business ventures that you have going.
Wayne: Well, I’m very lucky to always be running and ripping. I’m starting my 14th season of Let’s Make a Deal Right Now as host and executive producer, and I’ll say when I first started Let’s Make a Deal, I got clowned by a couple stand-ups, I won’t say names, who were like, “Ah, this corny dude is now doing a game show.” Cut to, how many people of color do you see hosting game shows right now? Steve Harvey, Niecy Nash, Jamie Fox, Michael Strahan. And he’s a great host, but look at how many of us are doing that in that space and killing it. There’s a reason why networks are approaching celebrities. Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, people that look like us to host these shows because of the magic that we bring, but when I was the first one doing it, “Oh, he is doing a game show.” So I’m just going to take a little bit of a, I’m going to pat myself on the back about that.
Darnell: We’ll give you your power to that, because you have been a trailblazer in that front though.
Wayne: I don’t want flowers. I want a whole garden. I want a whole orchard. So we’re starting that. I’ve also got a sitcom development at CBS right now, a family sitcom, and I’m working on a show that I can’t say what it is, but y’all will hear about it in the next, I think, next week and a half there will be an announcement. I’m joining the cast of a show.
Also live wise, I’m working on a book that uses the improv stories and narratives married with personal stories of growing up which the aim is to empower young Black people to say, “Just because you are the odd duck, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use that as your superpower.” And I’m also writing a brand new book called Hard Times, a sci-fi, because I’m a big sci-fi nerd, a sci-fi time travel piece with an amazing author.
If you want to support a small Black business, people look up a dude named Maurice Broaddus. Last name B-R-O-A-D-D-U-S, Maurice Broaddus, who is a, he is one of the most amazing, I’m not even going to say just Black authors. He’s an amazing author who is making headways in the world of Afrofuturism. And Afrofuturism, sci-fi, mystery. He has middle school books out, and he’s just great, so we’ve partnered, and we’re writing this book together and trying to produce a couple scripts.
My production company, Making it Up, and Brady Productions and a Mandy and Wayne Creative, all those companies are under one banner. We have a project in the works with Jerry Bruckheimer’s TV company. We have three projects with Fremantle Media, who is also the parent company that I do Let’s Make a Deal with. We have a reality show in development at E. I’ve got a new record coming out, and I’m the father of an amazing, amazing 19-year-old beauty who is starting her sophomore year at Loyola Marymount, so that’s my life.
Darnell: Amazing. Amazing. And we’re going to take some questions from the audience here in just a moment, but Wayne, just on the family front, a lot of us are just incredibly busy with running a business or with careers. You obviously yourself just listed off everything that you’re working on. How do you find balance, and do you have any advice for all of the busy folks out there when it comes to just kind of work life balance and family in particular?
Wayne: Yes, I will, as an OG, I’m going to sit back on the stoop and talk to some of them and go, “Young blood, young blood.” You have to establish a work life balance. I’m a cautionary tale. From the ages of like 26 to 36, I was building, and my mind was completely in the building phase of, “I’ve got to blow up. I have to do this work. I have to get my name out there because that’s the way that I can make a foundation for my family.” Well, in the middle of building and in the middle of trying to do that, if you don’t pay attention to your home life, what are you working for? And I got divorced. Luckily my ex-wife is my best friend in the world, and we have our production company together, and she truly is my soulmate, so I was very, very lucky, but we couldn’t remain married anymore because I was not tending to the fires at home. I was busy over here.
So to anyone that cares to listen, I will just say, yes, tend to your business, but ask yourself, find times to ask yourself, if work is too tough, if you’re putting energy into something, if you’re chasing, chasing, chasing opportunities, why am I doing this? Check in with yourself. Why am I doing this right now? Okay. I’m doing it for my family. Okay. Well, if I’m doing it for my family, then maybe I should see my family. If I’m filled with anxiety, and my health is failing, and I haven’t gone to the doctor in a year because I’m tending to my business, check in with yourself. Am I healthy? Huh, maybe I should make sure that I’m healthy while I’m pursuing my dreams because at the end of the day, and this is the thing that whether you’re in business school or what we’re inundated with and indoctrinated with when we’re kids, if you work hard, and you go to school, and you do everything right, you’re going to get the American dream. We all chase that.
I’ll say chase it, but you have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of this. If you don’t take care of your mind, if you don’t take care of your heart, if you don’t take care of your actual vessel, if you don’t manage your relationships, both personal and at work, and your focus is just making it, all of this will fall apart, and you’ll lose the things that you’re working for. And at the end of the day, in my humble opinion, it’s not worth it.
So please establish a work life balance. Find your safety valves. Find a hobby that will let you not work seven days a week and have a heart attack. And some of you might say, “Well, Wayne. I’m not on a TV show. I have to work seven days a week to make this business go.” I completely get that. Trust me. Pre-TV, I worked seven days a week because I needed to. I would still work seven days a week if someone didn’t stop me and I go, “Oh, you know what? I don’t want to die of a massive coronary like my father did at 45 years of age.” Because of the end of the day, he never got to enjoy me. Plain and simple.
Darnell: I love how you said find your safety valves. That’s so true. So we’re going to take a few questions from the audience.
We’ve got our backstage team throwing some questions in the chat right now. So we’ve got our first one here. So how do you navigate being the only person of color in the room? I feel a responsibility to speak on behalf of every person who isn’t represented at the table, but it’s exhausting, and I’m not an expert. What are your thoughts?
Wayne: You said it. It is tiring as hell. And I feel that for whatever reason, a lot of my life I’ve always been first in, and maybe others have come after me, but to be the first person in and to have to be the Black representative at that time, a lot of us in these spaces, it’s exhausting. And I can only speak for myself. You don’t have to carry the weight of your people on your shoulder, but I do think a good way to navigate it, boundaries. You have to be, and I say all this to say, it also depends where you are. You may be in a position where you feel that if you speak up at this board meeting, you may lose your job, so it’s up to you to decide where and how strong you hold your boundaries and how much that matters to you.
I decided a little while ago that I’m going to hold my boundaries stronger than I ever have in my life because I never really paid much attention to some of the microaggressions even at the level that I can walk into some rooms or maybe I paid attention to them and chose to let them roll off my back because I just wanted things to be easy, and I think sometimes being the only one of us in the room, you just want it to be easy just so I can get in and get out because it’s tiring. But I think hold your boundaries. If you don’t want someone to get to touch your hair, if you’re a woman, “Oh my God, how do you get your hair?” “No. Please do not touch my hair. Please do not make off color jokes.” “But I was just joking.” “No, I can take a joke.” “Why so angry?” “I am not angry. I am holding my boundary. I’ll talk to you all day about this other stuff, but I choose to not let you step into my personal space and say certain things about me.”
So that is exhausting in itself, but I feel depending on your situation, if you’re in a position where you can do that, I would do that. And there’s sometimes that you can’t, which is its own different story, that I think that’s just the story of being Black in America of biting your tongue and tight lip smile and then walk away.
Darnell: And Chappelle made a skid about that too, When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong.
Darnell: So our next question is how do you manage different buckets in your career when building a brand? At times, I struggle with what I should be presenting to my audience. All of them are a part of me.
Wayne: Wow. I completely feel you. Even right now at this point in my career, I feel after so many years of being on TV, I’m still in a place where depending on who you ask, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I like Wayne from Whose Line.” Or, “I like Wayne from Let’s Make a Deal.” Or, “I saw Wayne on Black Light Men.” Or, “I saw this sitcom or whatnot.” I think that when you are multi hyphenate, when you do a lot of things, people fixate on the one that they like, and they want to make that your identity. I choose to make my identity the multi hyphenate because if you remove one of those pieces, so if you remove one of those buckets, then I’m not sitting here talking with you today, Darnell, because then I wouldn’t have been special. It’s because I can do that stuff that.
So when someone goes, “You got nominated for a Grammy for singing?” I was like, “Absolutely. Go check out my record.” “Well, I didn’t know that you sang.” Have you seen Whose Line or have you seen any of the other shows?” “Yeah.” “Then what the hell do you think that I was doing during all those musical improv pieces?” “Oh yeah. That’s right.” Talk about boundaries. You have to be able to hold your boundaries. If your brand is I do X, Y, and Z, then don’t change it. Do X, Y, and Z. At some point, eight people may pass you by, but by the time that you get to that 9th or 10th person, they will recognize you for that, and that could be the thing that turn turns around the business perception. So stay strong. That’s all I can say is stay the course.
Darnell: Excellent. So we have another question here. What is your philosophy on the responsibilities of being a leader and empowering your team?
Wayne: I think that by being a leader, the best thing that you can do is empower your team because if you try to do it all yourself, you’re asking not just for a breakdown of your business, because no one can do it all themselves, but you’re also asking for, in my opinion, you’re setting up a room where no one wants to bring you any ideas because why should I bring you anything if all you’re going to do is shut me down? And then we go back to the yes and piece. Why should I help you? All I’m going to do is just do my job, and I’m going to do the bare minimum. So a good leader says, “What are we doing? What are we doing?” Empowering the people that work with you to make good decisions and to bring those decisions back to you, and you can help to implement them or vice versa, you come up with something and you go, “You know what? I trust this team to implement this idea that I have.”
And it’s just like a child. I’m not calling the people that you work with children. I’m using the example. Think if you’re a parent, isn’t it better when you say, “I trust you to do this chore.” Or, “I trust you to do this errand.” And they go, “Oh, I can.” And then if that’s how they grow up. You’ve now raised someone who can go out and independently do things and have a confidence. When you are a tyrant at work, and you don’t empower the people under you, you’ve taken away their confidence. Maybe you can look good, but your team, and it’s the same thing on stage doing improvisation. I was taught, the school of improv that I come from, the school of theater that I come from is I’m going to make you look good. If you look good, and you succeed, then I bathe in the reflected sunlight, and then I look good too, so I’m going to worry about you. If you do that with your team, you can’t lose.
Darnell: Absolutely. And one more question from the audience, Wayne. So what advice do you have for networking as a small business owner who is just starting out?
Wayne: I hate networking. I’ll just say it. I have a LinkedIn profile. I’ve been on there twice. I have to change that. I’ve used social anxiety and being an introvert as a reason for 30 odd years in show business, I don’t go to parties, I don’t talk to people. That’s to my detriment. Most of these deals, when you see your favorite actor, yes, you audition for things, but most of those things are done on the golf course, they’re done at parties, they’re done in a social environment, they’re done where people feel good about each other. They’re like, “You know what? I like this dude. Let’s work together.” And work begets work. Just like in a corporate set is setting, you just can’t expect people to, “I want to work with you because I like your work.” In a perfect world? Yes, that’s great. But that is not human nature.
I think part of being a good business person is not just being good at your craft, it’s being good at the study of human nature. So I, now at this point in my career, I’m like, I’m going to go out and meet some people. I’m not just going to stand in the back when there’s an event. I’m not just going to get up and give a funny speech, but then where’s Wayne? I’m gone.
I know the things that I need to do now in this day and age in 2022 to build my brand, which is part of a rebranding, which is really not even rebranding, it’s introducing myself to the people that maybe feel a certain way about the brand of Brady, because they’ve never met Brady. So I say to you, you have to network so that they know who you are. Anyone can look at a business card or look at the outside of a building that’s your business, but they need to know you because at the end of the day, they’re doing business with you. People love eye to eye contact. We all like Amazon. Well, not all of us, but we know Jeff Bezos’ face. So even in terms of it’s, you have to be able to put a face with the business, that’s how, in my opinion, you become successful.
Darnell: Amazing, amazing. Wayne, thank you so much for sharing all of your insights today. Just before we wrap, can you give people a sense of how they can stay connected with you, how they can continue to follow your journey? And also when the improv seminars roll out in full kind of maybe how they can attend one.
Wayne: Oh, I plan on doing. Here’s the best way. Follow me on Instagram at MrBradyBaby, which is MrBradyBaby. I’m also on TikTok. If you’re not on TikTok, get on TikTok. Gary V has said this as well. TikTok is one of the, it’s one of the biggest social drivers right now. And some of you’re like, “Oh, but it’s for the kids. And maybe I don’t want to do the Milly Wop.” And you shouldn’t do the Milly Wop. That’s a two years ago now. It’s, trust me when I tell you, get on TikTok, establish a presence. Social media, like it or not, is a business metric. And I even see that in my business right now. So on TikTok I’m at Wayne Brady, Instagram, MrBradyBaby, Facebook, Wayne Brady. I’ll be rolling out these business seminars close to the end of the year, definitely the beginning of next year.
If you want me to come and speak to your business, I’m with CAA, Creative Artist Agency, to be able to come out and actually do this for your company and just know that I’m a big, oh, one of the other projects that I’m working on, and I want you guys to Google these cats, it’s a business called ConCreates. C-O-N-creates. It’s all one word. In a nutshell, it’s a business. It started by these two amazing guys that, long story made short, back in the day, they were involved in illegal activities, and they did their time for it, and while they were incarcerated, they decided to start a PR business. Upon being released, Joe and Vincent, who are the two owners have since worked and done campaigns for MeUndies, United, Google, tons of other companies. They were just at Cannes, and they were celebrated at Cannes, and so my company, we are producing a docu-follow. And so that’s one of the things that I’m super excited about, but if you want to really look at what a Black small business can become, and it also stands for something, check that out.
Darnell: Amazing. Amazing. And also I see our backstage team is putting Wayne’s Instagram, his TikTok, and the website to ConCreates in your chat. So for folks, if you look at your right hand side, you’ll see those pop up. Once again, Wayne, thank you so much. This has been an amazing conversation. We really appreciate you joining us today.