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Life & Work with Xavier Hankins and Ashley Rudd

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xavier Hankins and Ashley Rudd.

Hi Xavier and Ashley, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
We were former college roommates at the University of Kansas. During college, we were always coming up with ideas to turn our creativity into something that generated revenue. After college, we both ended up becoming entrepreneurs outside of our day jobs, all while juggling families. We both had busy schedules, so we would set aside time to catch up bi-weekly at happy hour. As entrepreneurs, we noticed a lack of diversity in events geared towards small business owners. These events did not seem to be marketed towards women and men of color. Oftentimes we would not find out about them until right as they were happening or even after they had passed. When we did have the opportunity to attend, we felt out of place. Several of our other friends echoed our sentiment. We figured why not create the space we were looking for and Brown Sugar Collective was born.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
One of the challenges that we faced in the beginning was launching Brown Sugar Collective during a pandemic with zero members and a passion to impact those who are typically underserved and under-represented in our community. Another challenge that we encountered was patronizing a local business and when they found out we were women of color, their customer service shifted drastically to the point where our members felt uncomfortable. This prompted us to shift our gatherings to a more intimate and personal setting. Our most recent obstacle is to find a permanent co-working space to provide a consistent home dedicated to our members, where they can come regularly and continue to cultivate their businesses while building a sense of community.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
In addition to co-owning Brown Sugar Collective…

Xavier attended KU, where she majored in Sociology and French, with a minor degree in Women Studies. She currently works full time as the Grants Manager for Literacy KC, which is an adult basic education non-profit, where she presently oversees grant research, writing, and reporting. Additionally, she participates in the development and fundraising in many capacities, including donor cultivation, special events, and foundation relations. Xavier has a passion for empowering others and sharing her experiences. She also owns a small business called Innovative Pathways that is dedicated to helping small businesses and startup nonprofit organizations in their pursuit of finding sustainable funding to ensure their ability to continue to serve clients. Innovative Pathways was created out of a passion to see organizations who are doing life-changing work throughout the globe grow, thrive and create a sustainable future. Outside of work, Xavier is a wife and a mother who enjoys spending time with her family, trying new restaurants, and traveling,

Ashley went to KU, where she majored in Applied Behavioral Science. For the last eight years, she has worked as a Postsecondary Retention Specialist for Kauffman Scholars, located at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. In this role, she provides comprehensive and culturally competent support services designed to ensure the academic success of underrepresented college students. She also has a small business called She’s Thrifted. It’s an online thrift boutique, giving shoppers access to high-quality, name brand and vintage clothing. Outside of work, she is a mom of two, ages 15 and 18 months. She enjoys spending time with her kids, thrifting, DIY projects, traveling and photography.

Together they started Brown Sugar Collective, which is a networking organization for women of color who are entrepreneurs, creatives, influencers, and those thinking about getting started. Our 4 pillars are: Network, Collaborate, Empower, and Flourish. We embody these by hosting monthly coworking Labs, that provide a diverse space and time for women to network, collaborate and spend 3 uninterrupted hours working on their businesses outside of their life obligations; professional development workshops hosted by current members who have a specialized skill set to share or someone from the community; local volunteering; and social gatherings to build a sense of community.

What’s next?
Our goal with Brown Sugar Collective is to change the narrative about minority-owned businesses. Also, we aim to create a space where women can come and be their authentic selves as they work on building their personal brands. By being a part of the Collective, our hope is that each member can meet tangible goals that take their business to the next level. We want to provide a space where women can give and receive advice, gain insight and truly support each other in our different journeys.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Chancellor Adams

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