Nekei Lewis is an entrepreneur, Amazon author, technology enthusiast and startup coach. Nekei has worked for over 10 years as a digital expert creative with an extensive background in branding, marketing and strategy. She's assisted more than 475 businesses with branding, marketing, digital and guerrilla marketing strategies. Her expertise ranges a variety of industries from retail, real estate, restaurants, service-based businesses, mobile apps, sustainable solutions, nonprofits, solar, tourism, hospitality, advertising, cosmetics and apparel. Nekei advises startups and is capable of building brands from the early idea stage.
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Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to The Passionistas Project Podcast, where we talk with women who are following their passions to inspire you to do the same.
We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And today we're talking with Nekei Lewis, an entrepreneur, Amazon author, technology enthusiast and startup coach. Nekei has worked for over 10 years as a digital expert creative with an extensive background in branding, marketing and strategy.
She's assisted more than 475 businesses with branding, marketing, digital and guerrilla marketing strategies. Her expertise ranges from a variety of industries from retail, real estate, restaurants, service-based businesses, mobile apps, sustainable solutions, nonprofits, solar, tourism, hospitality, advertising, cosmetics and apparel. Nekei advises startups, and is capable of building brands from the early idea stage. Her company specializes in logo, design presentations, website hosting, early stage advisory and digital marketing strategies.
Nekei Lewis: Hi everyone. Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm so excited to be here.
Passionistas: Thanks for being here. We really appreciate it. What are you most passionate about?
Nekei: I am most passionate about inspiring others and helping people too. Become their best version of themselves that can either mean from being the best version of building your first company to maybe you have an idea that you already started and you are just looking to improve upon it. I feel super passionate about that.
Passionistas: How do you do that?
Nekei: Through my business, I have actually developed a program, which is to help people and coach them through the idea stage into. Full production of the company. So example, you may have this idea. You want to start, let's say like haircare brand or something of the sword. You have no idea where to start, but you just have this vision, right. But sometimes, you know, when you have a vision, you just, you really don't know what's the first steps. Like what should I do? So, what I have done is I've created a 30 day programs. We'll get everything you need to get done for your idea and your vision off the ground. So I've made it actual a book.
It called “Launch X in 30 Days,” which it is on Amazon. And I host like private coaching to help people through that. So that is one of my passions. It's my main passion. It's like my, my give back way. I help and inspire others. I've always had this goal to inspire like 1 million entrepreneurs. I don't know.
That's a lot, but from women and also men, I've worked with so many different people in so many different industries. So when you said part of 75, I knew, I thought about, I was like, Oh my gosh, you're right. It's been so many, like use amount of people I've actually encountered and companies, the people coming to me and they're just like, okay, I have an idea.
Let's say. I want to start my first store. I worked with a lot of retail owners and building their first store and getting that first apparel store. When, you know, people are more used to shopping a little bit more back in the day, actually go into a store, picking up a product. So, and it just happened.
People started their first apparel brands too, even in the, in the, in the solar industry. I had worked previously with, with different ideas station. Most of the people I'd worked with all ideas stage. I was like, look, I'm the early stage of my business a year in two months in three months in people like, look, I don't even have a name for the company yet. Can you help me?
Passionistas: So let's take a step back a little, tell us where you grew up and what your childhood was like.
Nekei: I grew up in a smaller town. It's called walkie village and it's in Clifton. So it's area in Clifton, very quiet town. I went to, um, private school for eight years. So I was one of those nerdy girls.
Okay. Who sat in the front seat, like where the teacher was. And I was like, hi. Hello. Yeah, I'm going to do that. I'm doing my homework. Okay. Sure. What else do you need anything else? Like, yeah, I was that one. I was that one, right? The teacher's pet. The one getting the perfect day is I actually, for three years I got perfect attendance.
Grades five through eight. I did not miss a day. Ladies. I was not playing. I actually remember in my childhood, I was the one, like, I was really like 10 and I was still now learning different little small things. But anyways, so I had a lot of clothes that were small and I actually grew up with my dad. So I actually wasn't raised by a mom.
I was actually raised by my dad. So I just honestly was like, Oh my gosh. These clothes are so small. What am I going to do with it? So I don't know. I had this crazy idea to take my clothes, go in front of my house, put little hangers up. And like on Sundays.
And that was my first entrepreneurial experience. Right. So I would be out there and I hung up my little clothes and everything like that. No waiting to people if a little side up. And I was just waiting, you know, for someone to come by and I make money because people were like, yeah, they saw my shoes for $2, my shirt for $1.
They're like. We'll take, we'll take it off. I mean, I think it'd be like $20 that day, but guess what? $20 back in, am I going to tell you when, because I was telling my age, but when he dollars back then was like, you could buy a whole basket of stuff. Like I'm going to shop for $20 and told me like six bags, you know?
So I was so excited to sell my first little things. And that was one of my first like entrepreneurial projects that kind of got my feet wet. And then we had the school project. So we have this school project and the school project was to create like a little company. I think it was, this was like more high school was a little bit, a little bit early and later I remember actually in high school, I was like, okay, well, I'm going to do a fitness company.
So I did my first fitness company. And I created it. It's probably like 13 or something, but yeah, I did a membership-based fitness company. Now, if I went global with this thing, I would have built planet fitness. It was so similar. So then you went to Rutgers, right? I went for like two years and then some way through it, I just felt this entrepreneurial, but I wanted to kind of go off on my own.
So I did go off on my own for a bit. I wanted to pursue like my own thing, my own passions. I actually wanted to start my first model agent thing. So I actually started my first Molly to see at age 18, I started working at 16, but I was doing my first mile, age is 18. So I left college and I was like, look, I'm starting once the big Apple I had about maybe about 12 models signed.
And then I landed my first gig. So when I was 18, I got this girl to a course light campaign. And I made my first $3,000. I remember like the check gave it for her. And I was like, I'm her agent? And I got a piece of that super exciting show. I was booking models. That was my first business. You know, booking models back in the day was called demure models.
Passionistas: How did you figure that out?
Nekei: I was learning all this stuff in college. I was like, what is this? I can go build this on my own. So I was like, you know, I'm going to be proactive and I'm going to go out there and there was. Oh, running and making it happen. And it's probably exciting. But then I got lost in the world of modeling and, you know, I did some modeling stuff.
So I did a couple of print things here and there. After I started working with the girls, people were like, Hey, you know, cause I'm young. And at that time, okay, well you're young, you're hot. Right? Why can't we use you? You know, I was like, no, I'm going to be the background. See, only background I wanted to collect whole money.
Passionistas: Did you go back to school or did you just move on to your next venture after that?
Nekei: After that I would say I just continued pursuing my dreams. I really did. I just felt that pursuing my dreams was the best way that I can live. And I felt living that way was more pure for me from a heart perspective. So I was the die hard.
I'm going to live from my dreams kind of girl from then on to be frankly honest. And I continued from there too. I did a couple of moving around. So I ended up getting an opportunity to start another different company in Florida. So that's when I went down to Florida.
Passionistas: And what'd you do there?
Nekei: When I was in Florida, that's when everything, a little bit more started to click for me, I did a little music for a little bit, a little while I was a singer.
I wanted the entrepreneurs who was trying and doing everything and it was like looking to figure out, okay, how and where can I really get there? So. I did [00:09:00] some saying I was the one performing really passionate about music. Like I love music. I love dancing. I love all that stuff. Right. So from then in Florida, it was just open.
It's just different. Like, everyone is like, Hey, you know, you're from New York praying, you know, what do you do? And I realized along that part is when I started getting into graphics that I had to do graphics for myself. And then I realized like, Whoa, I can actually live doing this. I started doing some graphic for myself, and then I learned a little bit more than I started to do myself, a little Photoshop for myself.
And then I started doing some other programs and I was like, wow, this is interesting. And then other people saw my graphics and they're like, can you do that for me? I'm like, yeah, like, okay, we'll pay, you. You'll pay me. So they loved everything I was doing for myself. So I started a PR firm. So it was doing the PR from some people who may know me from back in the day, it was called like cliche PR firm.
And it was so cliche, that was the thing. Right. And then I'm like, okay, I'm getting clients. Now. People are like, Hey, you know, you're going to promote yourself in marketing, which can I pay due to that? Really great. So now I'm going to key our clients to market and I got graphic clients. And now because I'm doing the music and print CDs, I'm printing, t-shirts, I'm doing graphics, I'm doing CD covers all this stuff.
Right. And we're paying me for it. So I'm like, okay, well, that's how it was kind of making, like, my little living had my little side jobs still, but I was still feeling it out. You know, I didn't go quite all the way.
Passionistas: What inspired you to go all the way?
Nekei: Meeting different people, especially down there in Florida, I met so many different aspects. So that's when I actually started really saying, you know what, I want to develop my firm a little bit more. So I changed with cliche P R firm to cliche brands. Now I was like, okay, I'm going to be all about brands and, you know, helping people with their Brandon's. So I started doing printing with the flyers and the business cards.
Because I saw I was able to print and then, you know, I was able to get some deals with some bigger printers to help me out. And I was like, you know what, I'm going to be an all in one solution. And I want people to say, Hey, when I go to, at that time, like I was one memory, same. So, so we were like, okay, Stacy, that's another thing we'll talk about that.
We'll talk about sometimes with branding and everything, I'm going to start it out there. I was one of those type of people that would each brand. And I morphed into, I changed my name. I changed my brand. I changed my image and I was like a morphine, you know, the transformer probably transform to this and I'm a music artist and I'm the front person.
And now I'm the PR person. And I was like morphing through time morphing through time. Okay. Yeah. So morphing through time, right? And I'm working now into the next best version of me, which is cliche brands. So I was like, all right, cliche brands, I'm here to help your brand. We're going to help you be the most amazing, right?
So I'm doing the printing, I've got the craft fix going and everything. I asked if you were coming to me now, I was getting now actually I started being a little bit more corporate. I started getting like a little like working with some of the cosmetic companies. And then I was able to get some of the solar companies to do some branding and then even a couple of like refrigerator type brands, things like that.
And I was getting more bigger clients as I morphed kind of like into a more corporate brand. Right. And at that time it was a little harder to find graphic designers, stuff like that. So I'm definitely getting hired for those types of things, which was amazing at the same time. I still didn't quite pivot.
It took a while before I was like, you know what, I'm going to do this full time because I still didn't quite believe yet.
Passionistas: Was there a moment that made you believe that you could do it?
Nekei: I had a certain individual, again, it's good to have great mentors and people who inspire you, you know, like, Hey, maybe we should try really going out with this a little bit, you know, harder.
So I did leave and I was only just doing the business for a while, a very long time. And that was like my main sauce. So just the branding graphics, working with businesses. And I realized everyone kept coming to me with their ideas. So that's how, from that time I was able to work with so many of the companies, because if I'm having maybe 30, 40 clients a month or whatever, I'm doing all these practices, other people they're like, Hey, I want to start a company.
I've got to come. Now. I want to start a company. Okay, let me help you with the name. Let me help you with the logo. Let me help you with the brand. Let's get the website going then. I was hosting websites. Then I started learning how to build websites. Then I became a hosting brand company, which now I can host brand and do your website.
Passionistas: You're listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Nekei Lewis. To find out how to hire Nekei as a business coach and order a copy of her book, “Launch X in 30 Days,” visit asknekei.com. If you're enjoying this interview and would like to help us to continue creating inspiring content, please consider becoming a patron by visiting ThePassionistasProject.com/podcast and clicking on the patron button. Even $1 a month can help us continue our mission of inspiring women to follow their passions. Now here's more of our interview with Nekei.
Passionistas: Is there anything you've ever wanted to do or been asked to do that you haven't been able to figure out?
Nekei: The things that I didn't know how to do, what I would do is I would hire someone who did.
So regardless, I knew how to do it. If I did not know how to do it, I would figure out. So just so you ladies know on this call, that I'm the master reseller here. Do you understand? So I will resell you your own shirt if I could. Right. So people come to me, can you build me this type of website with these type of functions and this, and then they would give me their specs, right?
And I would not do it. I'm not a developer or anything, but guess what? There are people out there that can do it. So I just become a third party person. You don't have to know how to do anything because I have no cell. Okay. I don't know how to do this website. I don't print CDs. I don't print. I never printed up things in my life.
Understand it, people doing it for me. I had shops doing it for me. I had other designers doing certain things for me, but me actually. Pick up a paintbrush and print impossible. I'm a hustler, right? This is that way. And I'm like, listen, you got to hustle. And you especially dealing with, uh, other men in the industry, the whole print industry was all man.
So the reason I was actually getting a lot of jobs too, it was like, Oh, you're a female in the print industry. Like, yeah. So you want to pray with me? Yeah, hell yeah. You know, do my, t-shirts do my love. I'll do my business cards. And I started. Doing all these things for all these people building with all these new entrepreneurs coming to the table, do my banners for this real estate brand that I know they're doing very well.
Also too, nowadays, another hair Kay brand. They started with just the logo with me. And now they're into a store now they've made their own hair care products with the same logo with everything you see. So it's. It starts with that little idea and kind of like mixing Google batter and having the perfect mixture of Oh yeah, this smells good, right. So then we're going to put that out into the world.
Passionistas: Do you have any like a few tips for people who have an idea and want to start up a company?
Nekei: I have this vision, it's all about getting clear about the idea and clear about the vision. It doesn't matter what kind of idea it is, because guess what?
Somewhere, somehow someone has started some kind of version of it. Where, what 20, 21 you, I think about. So someone has started it somewhere, right? You want to find maybe the closest thing that is similar. Do your research on it? Cause that'll be not only maybe your competition depending, or it may be just something that you miss.
Hey, I like that. I like this. I like this. I like that. So I like to take a pick and powder and take a little bit of each person, different brands. What I like about the brand before, like I'm creating my branch so that I'll actually have a brand that reflects what my vision. Is clearly like portraying and what I really want to build.
Right. So that would be a next value point that I would definitely specify for you is create that vision, that way of seeing what else is out there, but then putting your own spin on it because there's nothing new under the sun really varies.
Passionistas: Why do you like working with startups so much?
Nekei: I like working with startups because I love the passion. I love the fire that comes with it. I love the, like, I don't have a claim. You know, I have an empty vault here in a Chi feel my goal. Yeah. So I think that's pretty cool. You know what I mean? So it's like, okay, if it was me and it was something, it was like 20, 30 years, let's say down the road before. And someone was like, Hey, do you have a vision to build something?
Let me help you build a vision. There was no one telling you that, but I'm just telling you, I was out there telling other people that you have an idea, let's start it. What do you want to do? You know, and I just feel like I really enjoy that spark because as you get into corporate America, then you have to get into the structures and it's like this, and it's like, there's no leniency room to move and create.
Cause I'm a creator, right? I'm a Passionistas creator. And I just love the fact that when you just have that idea and you have that, that, like, I have so many ideas. Now, like I said, startups and branding and coaching, that's my passion. Right. And I have other passions, but that's one of my passions.
Passionistas: Now tell us about Quuirk, which you founded in 2018.
Nekei: Quuirk is my brain child. It is the beginning of that transplant. I started and everyone's going like, okay, well, I remember she was kind of doing this, but it was a version of, of the whole big picture. Right? Because sometimes I actually can help other people with their big picture and painting it and putting that pain and splash and glitter smell like great stuff on it, right. But then sometimes for myself, it's like, well, should I do that? So should I do that?
Should I do that? You know, I don't know. So that's where I'm been. Right. I've been like, because I have this great brand vision. So Quuirk ventures came from cliche brands and I morphed it into that because I was like, I've always had the idea to start work like Quuirk.
I had 10 years ago. It was sitting in the back of my head and it sat there and it's out there and it sat there. So I said, you know what, we're going to take that out of there and stop sitting from there. And we are going to put it in a forefront, put it out there. What is it that you want to do? What is it?
Okay. So I realized, all right. So yes, I have a passion for real estate. I have this really, really huge passion for real estate and creating. And I'm into sustainability, I'm into solar, I'm into container homes, I'm into renting and also dealing with guests and creating. So I was like, okay, I need all these passions.
Passionista one, Passionista two, Passionista three three, all of those passions, right. Put into the container, mix it up. All right. So. Quuirk was born to help startups, which now will always be part of my thing. Like when this, when my company blows and you know, I'm a 1 billion validation kind of company I said to your first, you would feel good one day.
Right? I'm going to say that I started here, but I love the fact that I still want to help startups. You see what I mean? So even as a company, I still want to be able to have that. Community kind of piece where, whatever profits I have, I can still help startups. You see? So that part I never wanted to lose.
So what I have done is morphed again, to, to do, to do more for, for, for always morphing. So of course the brainchild is now a rental real estate album, and we are going to be helping homeowners, landlords, renters. Like I was one of those people and I realized this is something from the core, my parent. You know, they rented for 18 years.
That's a long time to rent and I was never taught about buying house or any of those. Right. So I also now became one of the product of renting for many years now as well. And I realized, you know what, I'm sure there's other people out there who have been renting for years and were renting and were renting.
And like, do we ever get out of this, renting it? Oh Lord, what are we going to own? What am I going to buy? So Quuirk I'm like, okay, I want to help renters. So one of the future we'll be adding, which I'll be adding soon is being able to report your rental income from like, whatever that you rent on the app.
Also report it so that you can get credit. So boost your credit. I mean, it's not a benefit. So I want to make it all a one rental solution to help renters and to make it more simpler and easier, whether it's furnished unfurnished. And that's basically what Quuirk is about. Right? So the foundation, it's your home, your foundation then of course, I split up my passionate piece.
So as Nekei Lewis, I've just now made my own brand, which is called asthma cock. So that is the second part. I just decided to split it. I just created Ask Nekei because when people want help, they just come to me anyway.
Passionistas: Tell us more about Ask Nekei. What is, what is that and how do people ask you something?
Nekei: Ask Nekei is my brand. I've now transformed that into, from the coaching and working with startups. So ask the Chi is all about that is no longer in court where it's just real estate, ask the pies about helping others. So I have my radio show, which is an iHeart radio and Wednesdays when PM and WDRB, as well as. My website, which I've just launched.
And now I'm helping others as my passion with either asking me to help you about your business or your startup, your idea. Or wealth. So anything dealing in terms of like wealth management, the financial aspect, I'm now also have been adding that and studying those pieces to add. And I have another business partner that helps on the wealth side to help businesses really set up their foundation so they can create that generational wealth and they won't miss any money or opportunities and know how to retire because we start our businesses.
And then what. We don't even set up a retirement plan, an exit plan, nothing. So I'm a micro influencer in that space. Um, I'm continuously creating that part and that's my passion part of just helping others. And I'm just morphing and developing that into one big online resource.
Passionistas: You mentioned your book. So tell us a little bit more about it.
Nekei: “Launch X in 30 Days” is on Amazon. It's also part of Ask Nekei where, you know, you get coaching and things like that. And then if you want to say, Hey, you know what? I just want to go ahead and start my idea. You can actually get this on Amazon search “Launch X in 30 Days.”
So this is the workbook edition, right? So this workbook goes along with the coaching and with the course like of that for 30 days. So we help you get an idea, start an idea and launch it within 30 days, the minimum version, some people don't even get this far. They just have the idea and it's fitting in the backseat for 10 years.
Passionistas: What's your dream for women?
Nekei: My dream for women is exactly what I'm concentrating on right now, which is wealth, right. And her legacy. That is what my dream is right now for women, which is her legacy. We as women, we do not think, or, you know, even back in the day, like what, I think, what women we had to have men like sign up and credit cards and all this stuff, right?
No one says, well, what is your legacy? We all know. If you have children, usually quote unquote, that's your legacy, right? That's your little, you passed the version of you that lives on forever and ever, and ever, and ever right. But what about business? What about your creations? What about your recipes? What about, you know, that is your legacy.
You know, what you eat, how you eat, how you are, your whole being, what you want to create, what you have created, the legacy, the legacy of you, right? So for women, I want women to be able and the vision for the future is really take hold of your legacy. Dif is my legacy. Right. And what do you want to leave?
How are you? Let's say they got a special spaceship and we're out of here tomorrow, right? And you had to leave back a box, right? Stuff. The Passionistas Project box. What are you gonna leave that box? What is your legacy? So is it that lip balm that like, Oh my God, it makes my lips feel so amazing. Isn't that hairspray?
That feels so great. Is it the cupcakes? Is it, what is it? I feel that every woman has a special, unique thing to bring to the world, whatever it is. Is it a book? Is it a poem? Whatever your contribution in the world is. All for your contributions to the world, we all have something to offer others, whatever it may be, write it down, put it in physical form.
That's my whole thing. Do the legacy. Right. And in addition to create avenues a way so that your generations is set up your generations after that, and after that is set up. For continued wealth for continuing, maybe passing on the company, to who, your grandchildren, your children's children. Right. And then setting all those levels of things up so that everything falls into place.
Sometimes people even write a basic, well, even if you're 15 York, 25, whatever it is. We need to really create our legacy and make sure that it is ready at any time at any time at any time, really, and truly, and instructions of what to do. That's what I'm passionate about.
Passionistas: Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Nekei: Yes. Causes there's a bunch and there's always some mantra. One in particular is just be, you be you. A lot of times we just get morphed into this morphed into that and morphed into this. And many times along the journey, I've lost the version of myself in morphing. Sometimes you lose little parts of you.
I would say, be you once you're able to just continue to be, you just be you in your interactions with others, being you in your products that you deliver, being you in those aspects. It's it seems simple, but it's kind of hard for certain people and just being authentic so that authentic self. You know, because you may have a view of a YouTube channel.
You may have Instagram, we have seen certain aspects and you're not typically all you, so you're not really drawing in the audience. So if you be you and try to learn how to continue to just authentically come out naturally and just be your best self, it works.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to our interview with Nekei Lewis. To find out how to hire Nekei as a business coach and order a copy of her book “Launch X idea in 30 Days,” visit asknekei.com. Please visit ThePassionistasProject.com to learn more about our podcast and subscription box filled with products made by women owned businesses and female artisans to inspire you to follow your passions. Sign up for our mailing list to get 10% off your first purchase. And be sure to subscribe to The Passionistas Project Podcast, so you don't miss any of our upcoming inspiring guests. Until next time stay well and stay passionate.