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This Brand Strategist Left The C-Suite To Take The Reins Of Her Financial Destiny

"You only live once. Buy the shoes."

Money Talks

Money Talks is an xoNecole series where we talk candidly to real women about how they spend money, their relationship with money, and how they spend it.

Self-proclaimed "Olivia Pope of Branding" Timeesha Duncan is no stranger to saving her finances. With a savings plan incorporating putting away 20% of what she earns per month into her savings, which she invests into a high-yield savings account, this personal brand strategist and experiential consultant is successfully developing generational wealth. Today, Timeesha is recognized as an international best-selling author, serial entrepreneur, brand marketing expert and educator who helps transform their ideas into income, monetize their genius, build strong sense of communities and social impact through leadership.

The Atlanta, Georgia resident by way of Bronx, New York has a strong belief that people should quit codependency when it comes to relying on others to fill financial gaps and not relying too much on the social security boat to pull into the dock. By building a lucrative Instagram brand and parlaying that into public speaking, writing and coaching, Timeesha left the C-Suite of Coca-Cola after her nine-year tenure to rake in the profits for herself and her family - ultimately taking control of her income and her finances by the reins. She is currently a podcast host alongside her husband on Fix My Brand and co-founder of national workshops The Mogul Builder and The Bombshell Experience.

In this installment of "Money Talks", xoNecole spoke with Timeesha Duncan on letting go of unhealthy money mindsets, wealth being more than having physical capital and splurging on a coach to elevate her business.

Courtesy of Timeesha Duncan

On her definitions of wealth and success:

"Wealth to me is not just having physical capital, but having worth, assets, and possessions that accumulate value over time. Success is being able to accomplish things that make you happy. It's not about reaching a certain level of income or status. If you are happy at what you've accomplished, you're successful."

On the lowest she’s ever felt when it came to her finances and how she overcame it:

"Three weeks after I left my corporate job, I made $12,000 from an online course I created. It felt awesome. However, my next course flopped. I had put in all this work and not a single person bought the course. Right around the same time, my mortgage was due and I had -$67 in the bank. I didn't have another product to sell, no income and no hope. I would literally just stare at my computer hoping some bright idea would fall from the sky to help get me back on track but it didn't. I would look at others in my industry, who appeared to be killing it, and yet I was sitting on the sidelines. I went into a deep depression. I was stuck and couldn't get out of it. My ability to create was gone. I started to regret the decision I made to quit my job. I lost my motivation and had to file for unemployment to help me get back on my feet.

"My mind wanted to give up, but my heart kept tugging at me to keep going. My family pushed me to rediscover my talents, stop feeling sorry for myself, and get to work. I started revisiting comments, and emails from previous clients on how I helped shape their business and changed their lives. This helped to recharge me. So I decided to give it another shot. The next course I created made over $25K which was double what I made the last time. That was the reassurance I needed to keep going."

On her biggest splurge to date:

"I spent over $60K on a coach to help me grow my business. I was excited about working with this particular coach because I felt she could take my brand to superstar status."

Courtesy of Timeesha Duncan

"I made $12,000 from an online course I created. It felt awesome. However, my next course flopped. I had put in all this work and not a single person bought the course. Right around the same time, my mortgage was due and I had -$67 in the bank. I didn't have another product to sell, no income and no hope. I would literally just stare at my computer hoping some bright idea would fall from the sky to help get me back on track but it didn't. I would look at others in my industry, who appeared to be killing it, and yet I was sitting on the sidelines. I went into a deep depression. I was stuck and couldn't get out of it."

On whether she’s a spender or a saver:

"I'm definitely a spender. I have always had a hard time saving money. If I see something I want, I buy it. I learned over the years that I had a bad relationship with money and I needed to reverse it or I would be broke forever (laughs). I love money and numbers but not accounting."

On her savings goals and what retirement looks like to her:

"I want to be able to save at least $15K-$30K each month. Retirement looks like me having seven-figures in the bank, several investment properties, and a house on a beach."

On the importance of investing:

"Investing is very important to me because I don't want my children to ever need or want for anything if something happens to me. I've had investment properties in the past and currently looking for more to acquire, and recently started investing in stocks and trading."

On her budget-friendly must-haves:

"I'm actually a budgetnista. I enjoy finding great things on a budget. I shop at thrift stores a lot to find low-cost, one-of-a-kind items. My press-on nails are my biggest budget must-have. I can't live without them. I have been wearing press-on nails for over a year now which has saved me about $720/year on getting my nails done twice a month. I used to also spend about $300/month on my lashes. I found the perfect lash strips from Walmart that cost me $4.88 and those are also a must-have. I check Amazon first before I buy anything, which also helps to save on items."

Courtesy of Timeesha Duncan

"My intention behind having multiple ways to make money came from me not wanting to run out of it. As a business owner, I realize that every business has seasons. When I started my business I only had one offer, and when that 'season' was slow, I wasn't making any money. So I needed to create different ways for others to work with me. I also wanted to meet my clients where they were."

On her intentions behind multiple streams of income:

"I provide 1-1 coaching, which is a more personal experience for my VIP clients and corporations, I also have online courses, books, a membership program, speaking engagements, and brand sponsorships. My intention behind having multiple ways to make money came from me not wanting to run out of it. As a business owner, I realize that every business has seasons. When I started my business I only had one offer, and when that 'season' was slow, I wasn't making any money. So I needed to create different ways for others to work with me. I also wanted to meet my clients where they were. Some are not ready for the 1-1 experience just yet and want other ways to experience working with me."

On unhealthy money habits and mindsets:

"I always looked at money as 'the root of all evil', or that money was limited because 'money doesn't grow on trees'. And therefore, subconsciously I felt bad when I made a lot of money. Maybe that's why I could never keep it. I eventually realized that those are not true and were just sayings that were fed to me by my parents because that's what was told to them. Changing my view of money and inviting it into my atmosphere, instead of pushing it away has truly helped me to prosper. I started making more money and it would come from places I wouldn't even expect. When I'm closed off, the money faucet closes too."

On her money mantra:

"You only live once. Buy the shoes."

On the craziest thing she’s ever done for money:

"I was hosting a conference and didn't have enough money to pay for all the expenses so I took out a title loan on my car. I regretted that because the interest rate was super high, and I never paid the loan off. It took me years to get my title back."

On the worst money-related decision she’s ever made:

"Investing $60K in a coach. I wouldn't say it was the worst decision I made, but I honestly wasn't ready for that type of coach. I invested the money because I thought this person was going to give me a 'magic pill' to success. It took a while before I realized there is no such thing as a magic pill. I would have invested that money so differently, if I had hindsight 20/20 back then."

Courtesy of Timeesha Duncan

"Changing my view of money and inviting it into my atmosphere, instead of pushing it away has truly helped me to prosper. I started making more money and it would come from places I wouldn't even expect. When I'm closed off, the money faucet closes too."

On her budget breakdown:

How much do you spend on eating out/ordering in?

"I love to cook, but staying in the house for six months has me tired of looking at (and cleaning) my stove. We've been ordering out a lot lately. So feeding a family of four a couple of times a week is about $125."

Gas/car note?

"Excited that I will be paying off my S550 this month, so goodbye car note! Corona has helped a lot with keeping gas expenses down, but it's about $60 to fill up with premium gas, so I would say about $120 -$150 a month."

Personal expenses?

"Massage Membership, $100/month. Pedicure every two weeks, $50/month. Eyebrows maintenance every two weeks, $20/month. Haircuts and products, $75/month. Drinks with the girls twice a month, $100. If Amazon or Sephora bullies me into buying something I don't need, $100/month."

For more of Timeesha, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Timeesha Duncan

Originally published in September 2020

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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