Three years ago, MBA ’22 Watchen Nyanue landed his dream job as Senior Vice President of Marketing Partnerships for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. the only problem?it wasn’t she what you really want.
“I was at the Basketball Hall of Fame banquet and in the back of my head I heard a voice say, ‘You’re living someone else’s dream,'” said a participant in the Polski Center’s Small Business Growth Program. said an entrepreneur. . “I loved the people there and the work was interesting, but I still felt like something was missing.”
She knew the voice pointed her toward entrepreneurship. She had felt it before.
“I was always interested in working for myself, starting my own company, building a corporate culture. It was a feeling that never went away,” she said. “I just needed to find something that matched my skills and interests.”
In fact, by that time, Nyanue had already tested several business ventures, including an online clothing resale site, a consulting firm, a children’s activity box, and a video series. The companies met with varying levels of success, but ultimately did not align with Nyanue’s professional goals.
In 2018, after some experience, she founded I Choose the Ladder, a workforce management consulting service for Fortune 500 companies.
“The key element in my business has always been conversation and making people feel empowered,” she said. “That’s what we do at I Choose the Ladder: helping people make choices and succeed in their chosen career paths.”
The value of networking and mentorship
In a way, Nyanue has been preparing for Choose a Ladder since college. She attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana through her Posse Scholarship, which provides financial and career counseling support to a diverse student population.
Through this program, Nyanue was exposed to business leaders from an early age and learned how to network and develop leaders. She met her first millionaire and first entrepreneur at the age of 18 and was introduced to her CEO and her CFO of a large corporation. The Posse program even helped her get a job at Comedy Her Central by introducing her to the channel’s president, who is a member of Comedy Central’s board of directors.
Mr. Nyanue who worked at Yahoo! and Hurst didn’t realize the experience was unusual until after college when he was talking to his friends about his career.
“I thought everyone had a mentor and knew people who were really successful,” she said. “When my friends complained about my boss, I said, ‘Well, let’s get a mentor to help me find a new job.’ I didn’t know everyone had such a network.”
Supporting Black Female Talent
Later, at a weekend reunion of people of color at her alma mater, she heard from black students that they wanted more black alumni to come back and help guide them as they launched their careers.
“These conversations made me want to create something that will last forever to help young people, especially young black women, pursue careers in business,” Nyanue said. “So I started a podcast where I interviewed senior-level female black business executives not about jobs, but about their paths to leadership as black women.”
The podcast “I Choice the Ladder” was launched in March 2018. The podcast quickly gained a following, and listeners soon began asking for additional support avenues such as workshops, classes, and coaching. Nyanue responded by organizing a conference in September 2018. This conference is sold out.
“That’s when I realized that this company could grow,” she said. “My next step was to determine the most sensible route to growth for me.”
Business-to-business transactions (B2B) were the most logical route, according to Nhanyu, who studied entrepreneurship and organizational behavior at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, given his ties to American companies. Today, she and her five-person team work with Fortune 500 companies to develop and retain employees with a focus on black female talent.
“While our program is open to everyone, we specialize in retaining Black women,” Nyanue said, adding a two-pronged approach to creating a culture that supports a diverse workforce. is taking Her program not only teaches people of color how to navigate careers in companies, but it also teaches people of color how to work with a diverse workforce.
“You have to have both,” she said. “One cannot work without the other.”
Planning for smart growth
To date, Nyanue has no outbound development for their business. She got her first customer, Nike, through the connections she made while working for her WNBA. Her network and word of mouth also brought in her next two customers for the company, McDonald’s and Best Buy her.
Currently, she is interested in actively reaching out to new customers and is working with the Polski Center’s Small Business Growth Program to create a business development plan.
“We want to make sure we have the right partners, the right staff, and a solid foundation,” said Nyanue, who plans to hire two more employees this year. “I want the business I’m building to be fun for myself and my team.”
Nyanue has a long history with the Polsky Center, attending lectures there as a student and using the office space for meetings in the early days of her business. She said she looks forward to continuing to work with the organization on their business development plans.
“I have nothing but great things to say about the Polsky Center,” she said. “There are so many opportunities and resources to tap into. As an entrepreneur, when you have access to places like the Polsky Center, it’s really easy.”
Article by Devon McPhee. Freelance writer and editor and owner of DM Editorial Services LLC. Devon has over 20 years of experience covering business, science and technology, health and medicine, and higher education.