Not a day goes by where I don’t get asked about how I got started as a speaker and entrepreneur. I would say it started in the classroom…or maybe it was the principal’s office. I spent a heck of a lot of time there! I was the girl who always had her name on the chalkboard for talking, or as my report cards would say, for “not tending to my own business.” As one of a few small handful of black students at a pretty-much all-white-legally-but-not-visibly integrated school during the early 80s, I faced my share of tests ’n trials for sure. By age eight, I was labeled a bonafide problem child. Actually my brother and I both were both told we were anti-social and needed special education classes. (You’ll later see how, well…dumb that diagnosis was.)
My parents were the most supportive, caring, encouraging and esteem-building parents on the planet. But, at school, when I left the home, I felt like I was invisible. Unimportant. I didn’t fit it. I wasn’t one of the cool girls. My hair didn’t look like theirs, and apparently even though we lived in the same neighborhood, none of them ever came to spend the night at my house.
My AHA. One day while in 6th grade, I remember asking a question and feeling totally dismissed and embarrassed by my teacher’s answer and attitude. In that moment, I silently said to myself that one day I was going to become a teacher. Only when I became a teacher, I was going to be different. I would make sure that my students never felt incapable or insignificant. I would make them feel like they could do or be anything. At the time it was about pay-back. Proving all of the doubters, haters and dis+couragers wrong. Today I see it was really purpose speaking. Lemonade, Batons & Cheerleading – Oh My!
Not having an in-crowd caused me to find other interests outside of school and being a socialite. I always had a desire to help others and a fire for figuring out a way to make money.
We weren’t poor. My parents worked hard and provided a great life for me and my brother. We never missed a meal. The lights never went out. However, I was wired even as a little girl to turn a profit.
I started out selling candy here and there at recess. And then I set up my first lemonade stand. I had zero overhead and my parents were my suppliers since they provided all my materials (the pantry), my production facility…aka, the kitchen, and also my storefront (the front yard).
When business was slow or when people didn’t want to leave their air conditioning during the Texas summer inferno, I learned the power of marketing, messaging, sales and service in one afternoon. I went door to door offering my lemonade.
A few summers later I learned about the power of teaching others what you already know. I was a cheerleader in 6th grade and I wanted to spend the summer teaching the girls in the 4th and 5th grade how to become cheerleaders, too. I created my own signs, developed my value proposition (today we call this copy), and put the signs up at local elementary and high schools (ahem…target marketing + ideal client acquisition).
I guess you could say I created my first course when I was around 10 or 11 years old.
Around that time I got serious about competitive baton twirling and started training with Janice Jackson, who was one of the best in the world. By the time I was 16, I was competing at international competitions and even became a world-champion in two-baton. What’s interesting about this is that I am legally blind in my left eye. Nothing “happened” to me, I was born this way with a condition called a COLOBOMA. I hadn’t known any different. And thankfully my twirling coach never let me look at myself as having a disability. She never watered down my routines or accommodated my lack of vision, she made my vision rise to my potential. Potential I didn’t realize I had. I suppose that’s what really made her the best in the world…it wasn’t her strategy. It was her ability to believe bigger and beyond what I could imagine…and then to prep ‘n push me accordingly.
During the summer I would teach twirling, dance and modeling classes to young girls looking to try something fun and new…and to get out of their parents house! I didn’t really “click” that I was teaching and coaching…I just loved helping and the independence + confidence that came with getting my own check.
I liked being the one that sold stuff and had money to lend…never needing to borrow. I also liked that I got to make a check doing what I loved, using my gifts and talents, and also when I wanted. I was 16 and setting my own schedule. Making more in a week than most kids my age would make the entire summer.
I felt like I was
- Baton twirling took me further than just competitions. I was the featured twirler at my alma mater (TCU) and it was a talent that took me to the Miss America competition after 5 years of trying. My home state of Texas had never had an African-American woman win Miss Texas in the 80+ year history of the competition. When I moved to DC for an opportunity to work as a fellow with the National Crime Prevention Council and The US Justice Department, I ended up winning the title of Miss District of Columbia.
- While at Miss America, September 11th happened. Our country was attacked, and representing our nation’s capitol took on an entirely different meaning. My talent song was I Will Survive. Getting to perform on national television to the word’s “we will not crumble, we will not lay down and die,” was the first time I really understood the power of influence and the purpose of purpose. I thought I was going to win a crown, but I was there to be a messenger. Winning talent, interview, The Miss America Community Service Award, the People’s Choice Award and $52,000 in scholarships while finishing 3rd Runner Up was just a bonus.
- Honestly, I felt pretty foolish for wanting to win some money and a piece of metal. That moment awakened me. God positions us where He needs us for His highest purpose, even when we don’t have a clue as to what’s really going on.
Client – Rolls Royce
NFL Sports Camp with Bestie Karen
The Speaker Itch
My Miss America pursuit showed me a few things. #1 – I love speaking. I may have started with wobbly knees and a shaky voice with awkward pauses on the microphone, but the more I focused on helping others, the better I got as a communicator. I started a youth initiative called America CAN! (Children Achieving Now) and developed a national platform as a juvenile justice advocate called United Against Crime: Investing in Youth for a Safer Future. I had delivered over 500 talks by the time I was 20. Although I didn’t “win” Miss America, I fell in love with advocacy and using my voice to help others by showing those in position of power and influence what they could do to make a real difference.
The stage represented a platform for significance.
Not the limelight, but the spotlight. Being able to share something new, fresh and something that matters…and be heard. So, I decided at 21 that I wanted to become a full-time professional speaker and I prepared accordingly. I studied the legends like Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins and Les Brown. There weren’t many female speakers that made what the big boys made – sometimes up to six figures for a single talk. I wanted to change that. I launched my first website in 2001 – waaaaay before others were even thinking about getting online much less building a personal website. Who knew I’d be establishing SEO for decades to come. Promoting and marketing myself taught me how to get really good at bio writing and coming up with compelling talk titles that would lead to bookings. The clearer my message the more bookings I secured. The more bookings, the more income + more impact. I think that’s when I fell in love with developing marketing messages, tag lines, and organizing ideas in such a way that connected powerfully with an audience.
The 2nd thing Miss America showed me is that I love law….or so I thought. I got into Georgetown University Law School but didn’t have the money to attend. After I committed, turning down other top notch schools where I had full scholarships, the money appeared. I ended up securing over $200,000 in academic scholarships, including becoming a $30,000 Harry S. Truman Scholar (Class of 2000). That enabled me to graduated 100% debt free. I remember writing my last tuition check for $13,798.57 paying for my law degree in full. No loans.
It’s amazing what we can do and manifest when we commit and trust God’s voice. When you make your mind up, your mind makes things happen.
Funny how things we don’t plan are
apart of God’s Plan all along.
MY FIRST REAL COMPANY
Beyond my law school tuition, I still had to pay for my rent, food and living expenses in DC. An incredibly expensive city to live in as a student with no job! But, I didn’t really like having a formal job with set hours. I wanted to be able to focus on school and also have the flexibility to continue building my speaker career, which was growing. My dad made it clear that I was going to be solely responsible for financing my law degree. So I did what I always did. I taught what I knew. I had won the Interview competition at Miss America…and always won interview. Overtime, I naturally established a reputation for being a captivating communicator and other ladies still in pursuit of the dream wanted to pick my brain. All of the can-I-pick-your-brain requests were really a sign from above that I had something special to offer. I held my first seminar – a workshop in the backroom of a recreation facility (yes! with smelly basketball players and folks working out), and charged $35 per person. It sold out and then all of the attendees asked, what’s next? I had placed the title ‘Communication Counts’ at the top of my flyer, and one of the attendees asked if that’s what I was calling my company. Only, I hadn’t planned to start an actual company. Heck, I hadn’t thought beyond the workshop. Something in me just seized the moment and said, “YES! That’s the name of my business.” And, on the spot I set a price for coaching and started enrolling clients. I started with around 30 or so takers. And, voila! I launched my first real company Communication Counts! and focused on training competitors in the Miss America and Miss USA program. Funny how things we don’t plan are apart of a God’s plan all along. And, that’s how I paid my way through law school. I taught what I already knew. I taught what I loved. I taught what others were already looking for.
- During my first year of law school, I remember seeing a casting call for a new show called The Apprentice on NBC with real estate tycoon Donald Trump. The competitor in me wanted to apply right away. But, I also wanted to finish school.
- The show was insanely popular – garnering over 30 million viewers each week. As I geared up for my last year, I knew I was going to be on the show. Not just apply, but I knew in my knower that I was going to be there. I can’t explain it, but I was just certain. So, I organized my last semester class selection in such a way that would make room for what I was expecting to happen. I only took clinics or classes that required an essay for completion….no final exams. That would enable me to leave school early. And, that’s exactly what happened! It still gives me goose bumps. I didn’t have any hook-ups. I didn’t know “people” in high places. I auditioned like everyone else. Standing in line and waiting my turn.
- Being selected from a field of over 1 million people, and the only African-American woman, was an awesome feeling, but also a responsibility. I wanted to be a lawyer because of seeing Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show. The images of black women on TV and on this show in particular were not strong, and I wanted to showcase style + substance. Competing with some of the brightest minds on the planet was nothing short of life changing. I learned that I could truly do anything. We put together full advertising campaigns and commercials in 24 to 36 hours, whereas most major companies have months to do the same. I discovered a knack for branding and business. Not just non-profit work and advocacy, but swimming with the sharks and holding my own in what was the most infamous and sought after boardroom on the planet.
- That experience awakened my business gene. I was on the show 10 out of 13 weeks and was the only woman to win as project manager while the team was an all-women’s team. I led a comprehensive advertising campaign for Lamborghini, developing both promotional print collateral and television commercials…and we slaughtered the men’s team by the way. Wasn’t. Even. Close. (Never count a woman with big dreams out.). I also worked on televised campaigns for Dairy Queen, Bally Fitness, Outback Steakhouse, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Under Armor, and raised money for Autism Speaks. We won’t talk about the episode where I got fired. Every boss, even the current President of the United States, makes mistakes!
Law Firm Haze
I went to law school full intending to become a Juvenile Court Judge one day. But that changed when I got the business bug. I wanted to diversify my experiences outside the non-profit and government realms and learn more about for-profit life. I took a job with one of the most prestigious and largest firms in Atlanta. It started out exciting but turned into exhaustion. I worked all of the time. Sure, I had a fancy office, but I didn’t have fulfillment. Then, I also started developing anxiety from one of my “mentors” who was making work a living you know what. God was speaking to me about shift. And I had to. I was losing weight and hair from the stress of the job. It was time to make change. One day, someone gave me a book that had the words TIME in all caps on the cover. I realized then that it was now or never. I gave my two weeks notice and decided I would start my own sports & entertainment agency.
LAUNCHING ’N GROWING
A PRO SPORTS AGENCY
The partners at my law firm thought I was nuts for wanting to start my own sports agency. It was indeed a crazy idea. I had no experience in professional sports. I hadn’t taken a single sports law class in law school. But, the day after I got fired on the Apprentice, God dropped the desire + vision to work with professional athletes in my spirit. This wasn’t my dream. This wasn’t my desire. This was all God. I had never, ever thought about it before. But, I was clear. I called my mother so that I could speak it out loud. I knew she would affirm and not over-analyze or talk me out of it. I had no idea how it was going to happen, but I kept speaking it for almost 2 years. Eventually, right around the time I was literally getting sick from my job, I started meeting pro athletes. My firm said that I was too young to be generating business and clients as a first year attorney. That didn’t make any sense because clearly you need to generate business to make partner, but I was thinking too big and not staying in my place. Their pride and not accepting clients that I tried to bring to the firm was the catalyst for my next business endeavor. I started out working with athletes on media appearances and public speaking. I had worked with hundreds of pageant contestants, professionals and politicians at that point. Once I got started, I saw bigger opportunity and an untapped niche. I could certainly get the athletes media and speaking appearances – I had been doing that for years (generating multiple six-figures). I taught myself PR and the speaking industry, and so I transferred what I knew to elevate the visibility of NFL and NBA players. But, the bigger opportunity was what was NOT happening in between bookings. They had dreams for endorsement deals that weren’t happening, charities that hadn’t gotten off the ground, and they needed help with branding, website, marketing and off-the-field management.
So, I reinvented again. I launched EDGE 3M Sports & Entertainment. EDGE stood for Expect Dedication Genius & Excellence. The 3M stood for Media, Marketing and Management. My firm would handle everything off the field. TV contracts, endorsements, running non-profits, fundraising, and more. My first client was the highest paid defensive end in the NFL. He had just signed a 7 year $62 million contract. From there, everything just grew. I landed deals with Rolls Royce (my first corporate client), Tiffany & Co., Nike, Gatorade, Sprint and more. I developed my event production chops planning and producing over 75 events, award shows, red carpets and charitable fundraisers. If Communication Counts was my first real company, EDGE 3M was my first real business. I was no longer a solo-entrepreneur, I became an employer. Hiring, outsourcing, and managing were all new skills I had to acquire and quickly. The firm became the fastest growing woman-owned sports agency in the country in less than a year. I moved into an creative two-story loft office and I’ll never forget one of my first phone calls. It was from a lawyer at my old law firm. They were representing a WNBA team and trying to negotiate a TV Broadcasting deal for my client. They had to go through me…the same girl who wasn’t “ready” to work with athletes to make their client happy. #Chuckles #PopsKnuckles #WinksatGod
Being in the sports world required me to figure out the worlds of media and PR. I had wasted money TWICE on a PR firm previously when I came off the Apprentice and with my first book. Eventually I started, appearing on ESPN, CNN and Fox Business Channel on a regular basis. I went on to be a paid columnist for Black Enterprise and Upscale Magazine, and wrote for Essence Magazine…and slew of other publications followed suit. I believe that media is about reach, not fame.
SKIRTS IN THE BOARDROOM
In 2009, while in the middle of growing my sports agency, I released my first book SKIRTS in the Boardroom: A Woman’s Survival Guide to Success in Business & Life. It was published by the largest business book publisher in the country, Wiley & Sons. It was the first time they had done a business book with an African-American female under the age of 30.
I felt like I was living my dream! A sexy + successful pro sports agency. Tickets on the 50 yards line. Celebrity events. And, a new book that led to speaking engagements around the world. On top of that I found myself in love and engaged and getting ready to get married and become a bonus mama to 3 amazing kiddos. Then, something happened that changed my life forever. I talk more about this in my new book Believe Bigger and share the full story there. But, what I can tell you is that I called my wedding off 6 days before the wedding. To say I was devastated was an understatement. It took me a year to figure out who I was and to piece together my confidence again.
I no longer wanted to just pursue success.
I wanted significance. I wanted to help women upgrade their faith and also learn what it takes to thrive in the marketplace professionally and spiritually.
So the best part of my journey has been finding myself. Finding my purpose. Embracing my voice. And, stepping into my life assignment. As I embrace the highest version of myself, I found that I didn’t have to chase or strive. God brings us what we need based on who we are and what we believe. When I stopped looking back, when I let go of regret and unforgiveness, when I believed BIGGER, not only did my business blossom…my heart opened. I met a wonderful man named Jack A. Daniels (yes, that is his real name). He wooed me, pursued me AND put a ring on it. We consider ourselves Purpose Partners (TM) and are committed to having a blast as we change lives together one heart and mind at a time.
MY (HIGH-END) COACHING EMPIRE
Initially, I had no idea how to blend both faith and business. I thought that ministry lived in a different hemisphere than the business world. That’s what I had always been taught. I started by sharing what I was learning in my personal study time with God. Every time I opened up my bible, I would see messages about expansion, brilliance, living boldly, leading and elevating our mindset about money.
When it comes to coaching, my speciality is helping women of faith increase their income and influence. I started out small. My first event had 35 people. Heck – I just needed to figure out a way to pay my bills. That small event grew to large scale wealth building + business seminars where hundreds were in attendance. I went from stuck to seven-figures.
The more I shared what God was showing me, the more others were drawn to a fresh message that spoke to an unspoken aspect of God’s vision for our lives. Today, I’m more passionate than ever about helping women (and men) upgrade their faith and unleash their wealth. Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, God wants us to maximize our gifts and talents and use them to change the world.
- I hope that you can see through my story and journey that there is nothing predictable about me. But, I don’t think there is anything predictable about God either. He calls us to significance not safety and security. God reinvents us to reposition us for greater purpose. It’s not always pretty. It’s never gonna be easy. But, it will always be worth it. As I look back I can see that I was always a coach. Always a cheerleader of others dreams. And, always a strategist…helping people gain the faith muscles + practical steps necessary to fulfill their mission.
- That is my mission. To help you believe bigger and live bolder. I’d be delighted to help you determine your next step.
- Your story matters. Your life is necessary. Your destiny awaits.
If you’re tired to living in a box…shrinking, feeling stuck at a crossroads, living beneath your full potential, or just ready to truly step in to all that God has waiting for you, I’d be delighted to help you manifest the best that is within you, too.
- I wish I had someone to encourage me to go into business. Specifically, I wish I had a woman in my life who was passionate about mentoring me – helping me to grow spiritually and maximize my potential…not just professionally but as a woman. I mean, it’s the wild west out here. And, it can get even lonelier when you’re a big dreamer and thinker in a world that promotes safety and superficiality.
- This I know for sure —>>> Anywhere God sends us a holy ground. It’s sacred. It’s time to take off the limits and start leading. No apologies. No more asking people for permission. It’s time to step into what God pre-commissioned you to do all along.
- Pursuing a God-sized dream/vision requires next level encouragement, community + strategy.
I Believe that with God all things are possible.
I believe that shrinking and playing small dishonors your divine gifts and the God that lives within you.
And, I believe that God wants us to thrive and win – in every single area of our lives….everyday and in every way. That means we don’t put God in box. And, we go wherever God guides.
Money isn’t bad, money is a divine tool.
God is a multiplier, a healer, redeemer, but most of all…leader!
It all belongs to God. Every career path….the political arena, the business world, school, entertainment, philanthropy….all of it.
When God said let there be light, he was giving you permission to shine.
I hope this is just the beginning of our connection. I’d love to personally invite you to join my Inner Circle
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Marshawn Evans Daniels is a Reinvention Strategist, Influence Expert and Best-Selling Author known as The Godfidence® Coach.
A master in teaching the art of manifestation, this former Sports Attorney, Miss America Finalist and Donald Trump Apprentice, left her full-time job as a stuffy big-firm lawyer and turned her passion for people into a multimillion-dollar enterprise just a few years ago. She helps emerging & established women influencers of faith to Believe Bigger, Live Bigger and Profit Bigger so that they can ultimately Give Bigger.
As the Chairwoman of the Godfidence Institute & Business School, her firm’s courses, events, and results-based coaching programs equip influencers and entrepreneurs to monetize and market their message to the massess.Her signature programs include the Speak for Pay® Bootcamp, Brand Class, Attract Sponsors, Find Your Purpose, and The Godfidence Women’s Summit.
Featured regularly on CNN, Fox Business, and ESPN, her client roster includes HP, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Delta, Tiffany & Co., Nike, Rolls Royce and NFL & NBA Athletes. She previously founded and led EDGE 3M Sports & Entertainment (one of the fastest growing, women-owned sports agencies in the country) and Executive Produced The Caring EDGE Awards honoring the philanthropic endeavors of pro athletes and entertainers.
Once labeled a “problem-child” by teachers, Marshawn, who is also a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a former U.S. ambassador to the International Summit of Achievement in Dublin, Ireland, received over $200,000 in academic scholarships and graduated magna cum laude from Texas Christian University with honors and distinction, where she pledged and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by the Atlanta Business League, she is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, a member of the State Bar of Georgia, and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Marshawn released her best-selling book, SKIRTS in the Boardroom, published by Wiley, the largest business book publisher in the world. It was the first time that Wiley published a business book with an African-American female under the age of thirty!
Her next book, BELIEVE BIGGER: Discover the Path to Your Life Purpose with publishing powerhouse Simon Schuster/Howard Books is due out March 2018.
Marshawn’s philosophy is – “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.”
Believe Bigger! Live Bolder.
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