Rhonesha Byng is the founder of Her Agenda, a website with articles, events, job opportunities, career profiles, and more geared specifically for millennial women. I first started reading the site after they published a few of my pieces for Skillcrush. I quickly read a few dozen of their posts and attended my first Her Agenda event. I can see why the site was named one of Forbes’ Top 10 Websites for Millennial Women and one of Forbes’ Top 100 Sites for Women in 2013.
Rhonesha manages Her Agenda and her own journalism career. She has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Seventeen, and Teen Vogue. She has also won an Emmy for her work as a field producer with NBC New York (WNBC-TV). She clearly lives by her motto, “no one ever slows her agenda,” and I’m thrilled to share her advice with you now.
Photo Credit: Terrell Belin
What inspired you to start Her Agenda?
As I moved forward in my career, I noticed that often I was the youngest in the room or the only “something” (woman, black person). I also started to kind of get a following consisting mostly of young girls who started to follow my journey through my personal blog after Seventeen Magazine published me in their contributors section. The questions these girls asked me made me realize there was something missing. Many of them were looking up to the wrong role models and also had no access to the opportunities out there that could help them achieve their goals. It inspired me to create a website that could serve as a digital hub of inspiration and information.
How would you describe Her Agenda in a few sentences?
A digital platform working to bridge the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women.
I love your personal motto: “No one ever slows her agenda.” How did you come up with it?
I discovered my passion for journalism very early and hit the ground running. I was sixteen and, thanks to a lot of encouragement and guidance from my high school journalism teacher, I was able to participate in several high school journalism workshops taught by professionals in media. This is how I was able to get my first mentors who encouraged me to join professional organizations like the New York Association of Black Journalists.
I was so hungry and fearless starting out. Any chance I got to receive training, or gain experience, I jumped at it. I did my first internship during my senior year in high school. I also was running my own personal blog and contributing to an online teen newspaper called Harlemlive. So after school, instead of hanging out with friends, I was at press conferences or doing phone interviews with sources for a story or a celebrity for a profile. On top of all of that I was involved in teen magazines: Seventeen as a Real Girl Model and Teen Vogue as an itGirl. So the phrase no one ever slows her agenda came from the lifestyle I was shaping for myself.
I was always on the move and busy. I also never take no for an answer. If I want something, I find a way to make it happen. It was also a way for me to brand myself because the motto is actually an acronym: N.E.S.H.A.
Photo Credit: Raymond Eugenio/AlleyNYC
You have such a clear, concise personal brand for yourself and your business. What are your tips for personal branding?
Personal branding is about two things: your reputation and also repetition. What do you want to be known for? Are you the girl full of excuses, or full of solutions? Do you always meet deadlines or do you over promise and under deliver? Get really clear about what your goal is and what matters to you and get really good at it. Read as much as you can about it, practice as much as possible, get feedback, and actually listen to it. Not every piece of feedback will be relevant, but eventually you may notice trends. Those trends are the pieces you should pay attention to. Then make it easy for people to remember you. Whether that’s a name, a logo, or a tag line—whatever it is, be consistent with it. For me it was my motto.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start her own business?
Be clear on what your true goals are, and try to identify your true motivation for wanting your own business. It’s not as easy as it looks on social media. There are hours behind a computer, high levels of rejection, and every moment is full of uncertainty. It’s rough. So really get clear on what it will take, and talk to as many entrepreneurs as you can. Have savings. Test your revenue model. Get feedback on the product.
Don’t be afraid to put something out—even if it’s not perfect. If you wait for it to be perfect it will be too late.
What are some of the best things, and on the flip side the most challenging things, about starting your own business?
The best thing about starting a business is the amazing opportunity to live on your own terms and execute your vision. The challenging thing is that nothing is stable, things change constantly—sometimes that can be exhilarating.
In addition to managing Her Agenda, you are a freelance on-camera reporter and writer. You also received an Emmy for your work as a field reporter with NBC New York. Did you always know you were interested in journalism?
Yes. From the age of sixteen, I fell in love with journalism and media and did everything I could to learn the craft and gain experience. I was incredibly lucky to be admitted into the Emma L. Bowen Foundation my senior year of high school which allowed me to work at NBC from the age of seventeen (before I entered college) until I graduated from college.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned by starting your own business?
Understand the numbers.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
I wish I was more business-minded when starting out. I knew all about how to build a brand and create content, but I wasn’t necessarily doing it in a way that gave me a direct return on investment. I was just happy to have a byline, or land an interview, or land an internship. I should have also taught myself how to code beyond just HTML and CSS.
What advice would you give to someone who is in the first five years of their career?
Gather as much experience as possible. Always seek feedback. Be reliable. Surround yourself with experts and professionals. Always follow up. Maintain an updated portfolio of your work. Always have a resume that’s ready to send.
How would you define your professional style? What are a few staples?
I love classic pieces. My style is usually fashion-forward with a conservative lens. I pretty much grew up in a corporate environment so a lot of my wardrobe still reflects that. Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of black. I always have a sweater or blazer to throw on and big bag that can fit my laptop in it.
What is on your desk right now?
A venti ice coffee from Starbucks, my laptop, my Sony voice recorder, sunglasses, my iPhone, and headphones.
Photo Credit: Jason Chandler
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Books. Reading the professional bios of women I look up to.
Who is your mentor?
I have too many to name. I refer to my mentors as my personal board of directors.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never be afraid to ask.
What advice do you have for other young professional women?
Intern early. Remember to learn the rules now so that you can break them later. Rules are meant to keep order, but there is always an exception. If I had waited until I was technically “old enough” to start interning, who knows where I would be today? I was told I needed to be in college, but I was determined to do it and found a way to make it happen.
Luck is something that’s truly found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.
Thank you, Rhonesha!