Every week on our show Built In Texas, we introduce you to some of the innovative and inspiring women that call Texas home. Regardless of industry, there are exciting things happening in the state and much of that is because of the women that live, work and do business here.
Meet visionary nonprofit leader Kimberly O’Neil.
When it comes to your career/professional pursuits, what challenge are you (or your organization) looking to solve? What is your personal mission?
Through Giving Blueprint, our primary goal is to change the way society views and treats historically discriminated communities, especially Black communities. Most of our work is done by supporting and elevating Black-led nonprofit organizations’ positions because it helps preserve the history, culture, and pride in many of the communities we support. Unfortunately, we have seen too many organizations without ties to the communities, whose leaders do not step foot in the communities and opt to share traumatic stories about Black communities to raise funds that are so off.
Biggest lessons learned from the pandemic?
I caught COVID-19 in March 2020 and am considered a long-hauler. The pandemic has changed me in ways I cannot always explain or honestly quite understand. My lens on life is so different now, but my biggest lessons ended up being reminders that nothing is guaranteed, tomorrow is not promised, and my time is even more precious than I already thought.
Your Daily uniform?
My style can change based on my mood or calendar. I like to keep things simple—two staples throughout my week – large 1980s era bamboo hoop earrings and sneakers. I’m always going to be a hoop-wearing sneakerhead. Fun Fact: I used to own sneakers and heels to match all of my professional business attire. I shop my closet because I have so many things I have never worn or have only worn a few times. I am also currently shopping for my own online boutique StyleGivers.com, which launched in summer 2021.
What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
So many people have told me they thought I was unapproachable. In actuality, I am an introvert. People don’t believe that because I am so direct in my work. Unless I am working or doing some community service, I am typically off the grid.
Currently: Reading? Watching? Listening to?
I am currently reading Unbound by Tarana Burke.
I am currently listening to one of my curated Spotify Playlists made of old R&B.
I don’t own a television and have not for years, so I’ll stream something online every once in a while. I’m currently watching Queen Sugar on the OWN app. I’ll stream Insecure’s final season on HBO once it returns in late October.
Describe Texas in 3 words. Why?
Opportunity. Texas is a great state to start and build a business compared to so many other states throughout the country. There are so many benefits.
Variety. Texas has so many different regions, and each region has its own unique DNA.
Changing. As big businesses are relocating to Texas, the demographics of Texas are also evolving. It’s interesting to watch the changing dynamics in some parts of the state.
Who has helped you in your career?
I struggle with awful leaders because I know how outstanding leadership feels. Some of my former supervisors were the best examples of great leaders. They gave me opportunities when I was young and maybe not as confident in my abilities. I was confident in ensuring I did not disappoint them, tarnish my reputation, or ruin the opportunities. They gave me room to grow, offered constructive feedback, and gently pushed me to other options. They nurtured my gifts and taught me about authentic leadership. I’ve tried to emulate that during my professional career and in my business.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Achieving balance was a challenge for most of my professional career. There was no balance. I rarely took time off and worked long hours. When I transitioned to entrepreneurship, I promised that I’d sleep at least 8 hours a day and take time off. Over the past 11 years, I have not always gotten that right, but I’m doing much better now. I incorporate mandatory business rest periods in the winter and summer months, and I am back to sleeping at least 8 hours a night. I now cannot function without adequate rest.
On The Menu: Morning beverage? Favorite place to grab a meal?
My morning beverage of choice is water, and my favorite place to grab a meal is either Mi Cocina’s or Velvet Taco.
What’s next for you and your business? Are you working on anything specifically this year?
I am focused on increasing the capacity of nonprofit startups, specifically those that are Black-led, through my professional development training platform, Cause Studio. We aim to expand the impact and capacity of at least 250 organizations around the country by December 31, 2022. We have trained several thousand nonprofit professionals over the past six years. I, however, want to be more intentional with our outcomes and the overall impact on the economy. I have been restructuring some of our existing virtual training and will offer a free BootCamp at the end of October. We will then launch a paid multi-week course to help nonprofit startup founders design a strategic roadmap for their organizations. Anyone interested should sign up for our e-news list at causetudio.co.
Name a Texas woman that inspires you.
Without hesitation, Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas and Founding Grants Chair of the HERitage Giving Fund, is the Texas woman that inspires me. I’m inspired by people committed to changing our communities, especially those with a history of discrimination, mistreatment, and abuse. When I see Froswa’s work, I know it’s coming from a genuine place, and her intentions are pure. You can always learn how to do something new or better through the impact of her work. The lessons are huge.
Anything else you’d like to share with the women of Texas?
Own your greatness. Own your brilliance. Do not wait for permission to be who you already are.
Check out Kimberly’s live appearance on Built In Texas below!