Happy Tuesday, Millennials!
This week’s “Millennial on a Mission” is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and public relations maven that wholeheartedly believes in doing everything with passion, or not doing it at all. Her story is not only inspiring, but it goes to show that you don’t need a lot in order to make your dreams become a reality, and that your voice is the most powerful tool that you possess.
I’d like for you to meet Natasha Brown.
Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Natasha received her undergraduate degree from Morgan State University. She then went on to pursue her master’s degree at Towson University, and started her career as journalist, and then did work in development and communications for a boarding school in rural Pennsylvania. And while she enjoyed the work that she did for the school advancing their mission and telling the stories of their students, she knew that there was something more that she was called to pursue.
CC: What inspired you to start Think Brown Ink?
NB: I started freelancing a lot back in 2008 as a journalist, and then got introduced to marketing. While freelancing, I was able to meet a number of prominent women within DC’s philanthropic scene, which then opened the door for me to work on two major projects. I fully enjoyed the work I did for the school. But between feeling completely isolated in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, and having the right doors open for me in D.C., I knew that it was time for me to get out. For me, communications has always been a tool to establish my purpose. I knew that I couldn’t have both my full-time job, and these two very big “side projects”, so I gave myself a reason to leave my job and build my business full-time.
In 2009, I launched my company Think Brown Ink, a communications and branding firm that encourages social responsibility. It really started because I wanted to get back into communications here in DC, so I connected with people in the entertainment industry. Never did I imagine that I would ever be able to replace my income or make more — I always thought it would be a side business and it just started to grow. From sports to entertainment to fashion, I’ve made sure not to limit myself when it comes to my scope of work, but always remain focused on the mission to serve.
For the first few years, Natasha never did any marketing for herself — the clients she received were always referred to her by others that she had worked with. Her goal with Think Brown Ink has (and continues to be) to build communities, encourage social responsibility and to help people engage with their audiences by telling their stories.
In 2012, however, Natasha hit a point in her life where she wasn’t inspired to do the work she once was so passionate about doing. “I wanted to move overseas and become a missionary,” she says. “I was going to quit, and throw everything away.” But life always has its way of showing us that we can’t give up on our dreams, no matter how daunting they may seem. “I lost everything.” Natasha recalls. “I had no computer, no car, no money — my relationship on the fritz, and I just wanted to quit. But then I started to pray and God put on my heart #12MonthsOfService.”
It was at that moment that Natasha decided to approach the world from the angle of “yes.” With her re-discovered zeal and dedication for service, Natasha started to receive projects that were geared around nonprofit organizations and social responsibility — ultimately confirming her passion for communicating and sharing the stories of others. “With #12MonthsOfService, the interesting is I really didn’t have much but my cell phone, my voice (and social media platforms), and my network of friends to help me spread the word,” Natasha says. While it did started out as an idea, Natasha soon noticed that it began to catch on socially, and others were sharing how they were giving back to their communities. “I want young people to know that they can make a difference, no matter where they are.” Since the inception of #12MonthsofService, Natasha has worked with a number of well-known clients in the DMV area with successful social good initiatives.
CC: Finally, what challenges have you faced being your own boss, and what advice would you give to those millennials that may be hesitant to start their own business?
NB: Focus and motivation are key! No matter what, I have to start working at 9 AM and stop no earlier than 5 PM. And even though I typically work beyond those hours, I’ve given myself that default time to get stuff done. And it’s also important to remind yourself of the great things that you have already accomplished. “If there is something that is constantly on your mind, more than likely it is your passion that you should pursue. And once you get started, it’s all about investing in yourself and sharing your story in different ways.”