Kyla L. Tennin: “They told me It was impossible and I did it anyway”
Use difficult or excruciating circumstances as opportunities for growth and advancement. For example, deliberately “look” for the opportunity in the opposition, it is there, you just have to identify it. Your key to growing and advancing while in and through the adversity is recognizing the opportunity.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyla L. Tennin. Ms. Tennin is a transformational leader with core values of compassion (positivity), leadership, dependability, equality (fairness), and determination, has been an entrepreneur for nearly two decades, and successfully launched corporations within 30 locations, in 24 countries, on 6 continents.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
I come from family of a generation of farmers and fisherman in Indiana who migrated to Illinois and then Mississippi who sold their products (e.g. corn, green beans, tomatoes, onions, etc., jams/jelly’s, pies, and fish) to neighbors in the community and local stores. My immediate family then migrated to North Carolina and Minnesota and lived in Minnesota for 40 years. In addition, during summers in Mississippi I use to play “store & marketing” and between the ages of 8 and 9 I started my own candy and frozen beverages companies, selling my products, which I harnessed from local stores as my “suppliers”, to kids in the community. As a teenager and then into adulthood I worked at The Good Earth health foods restaurant, US Bank, Wells Fargo Bank North America, J. C. Penney Company, Inc., Wells Fargo Financial, LLC., MEDICA Health Plans, Inc., and SunTrust Banks, Inc. Afterwards, I started a conglomerate corporation where several companies make up one large company, where lead and am legally responsible for the entire company as president, hire and fire employees as CEO, and select which companies we work with globally as CEO. I love my job because it aligns with my skills, passions, and career interests, hence what I used to play as a child!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, currently I am in patent processes due to developing new product lines, processes, and methodologies for the food and beverage industry. The products will help people overcome obesity whom reside in obese prone areas based on statistics from the World Health Organization and individuals interested in maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle and teaching their children to do the same.
Eating healthy and being healthy physically is very important to me since due to two domestic violence relationships in my past provoking identity and insecurity issues, I ate my way into obesity from a size 0 to 24, weighing nearly 300 pounds, and was watched, ridiculed, persecuted, and laughed at in public retail stores and by my mother when I would go shopping for a new dress by stating “you’ll never fit into that dress, you’re so fat you’re bigger than someone’s house”. As a result, I had to rely on my childhood passions, ingredients, what I learned from working in the health foods/restaurants industry, and in undergraduate as pre-medicine to craft solutions to my health crises. I lost a total of 170 pounds, approximately 100 pounds the first time and 70 pounds after I had regained the weight due to poor eating habits and needing a healthy lifestyle mindset change, and want to continue helping others achieve similar victories.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
Our firm has authentic purpose. To demonstrate, we seek to establish and enhance businesses and economies by creating and building our own organizations and helping other companies with theirs. As an exemplification, our vision is to restore and empower clients, communities, and individuals who have encountered complexities, catastrophes, been overlooked, counted out for recovery, but have major innovation capacity, misunderstood because of crises or unethical leadership, reduced to limited resources, need revitalization, and seek growth to improve stakeholder value and benefits, build successful enterprises, and create household brands.
The mission of our organization is to use our expertise, leadership, and dependability to create and grow companies, enhance performance, and lead clients through change to improve economies. For example, in our advisory and consulting practice where we assist corporate clients with various forms organizational development, we work with our clients through actionable solution implementation for tangible results instead of just recommending a solution after locating the problem and then leaving our clients behind.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
Yes. I was mainly told the parent company of our organizations was impossible, “not realistic” were the verbatim words of my naysayers. Naysayers told me they operate in reality which I need to come down to because my head is in skies and I do not operate in reality. I laughed because I had “learned” my naysayers and was, not to offend anyone, aware of their distorted mindsets and misunderstanding about me, my life purpose, goals, and dreams. To explain further, a previous pastor of mine told me I have too many entrepreneurial ideas and need to select one and purse that as a life-long career because pursuing multiple or too many ideas was not feasible.
When I left his church and moved to a new city and state God told me to move to where I would advance in entrepreneurship, after some time the eldest daughter of my new pastor told me entrepreneurs should be successful with a certain amount of time and since I did not have some of the materialistic things she thought I should have by then I would essentially not be successful at my ventures for too long. Meanwhile, my mother would tell me I should not pursue entrepreneurship, my dream of becoming a doctor, a publisher, developing products or helping clients develop theirs, or traveling to foreign nations to work with major corporations or clients because it was risky and terrorism is everywhere; I should just get a job at the local gas station or family dollar store.
Inclusive, in later years when business within our entertainment practice was steady and strong although we did not have fringe benefits for employees and benefits major companies had, an “independent contractors” (go figure) who wanted to work for me full-time at some point as a Marketing Director told me so, but I advised her I although I was interested in her offer, she would have to wait. With being upset she later told me essentially to forget about it because she wanted to work for a real company with real benefits. I believe her reaction stemmed from being jealous of me after learning about my work and aspirations over time and seeing me advance anyway.
Moreover, a past friend of mine who I knew for about 3–5 years before starting my first company told me on the phone one day while standing in my new home (go figure), so you make money by doing what you’re doing, “that” is really working for you, and you’re going to keep doing it? I did not know what to say to his comments and found them bizarre since he was supposed to be my friend and believe in me and my dreams. Like the other naysayers, I ignored his comments, silently disconnect him from my life, and charged forward with my passions and entrepreneurial ideas. My ideas were of creating advisory & consulting, products, real estate, food & beverage, publishing, and education small businesses, for example, within one parent company to resolve economies and corporations complexities while also addressing societal ills. I later discovered Meredith Corporation, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, Hearst Corporation, Sony Music Entertainment, and Oprah Winfrey’s media conglomerate are similar organizations and the term serial entrepreneur exists, so my ideas were not so crazy or impossible to pursue after all.
Moreover, when you read all of my accomplishments, I do not list them to brag, but to make a point. The same naysayers who said I would not advance and who did not want me to advance are still doing the same things to today for careers they were doing when I first pursued advancement and entrepreneurship. They have not achieved anything in decades, except for two of the individuals who ventured out and accomplished a couple of things, but not on the scale I have. If I would have followed their plans and purposes I would be just like them. I mention all of this to encourage you to pursue your dreams because they are “your” dreams, not someone else’s, so you are responsible for initiating them into fruition.
Furthermore, tremendous opportunities and once in a lifetime blessings could be on the other side of you moving beyond naysayers. Think about it, if you wait until naysayers no longer exist or are positive towards you, you could be waiting for decades or eternity. Start pursuing your dreams or entrepreneurship goals “now”, while “in” opposition and ”through” opposition. Time is in motion now.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂
What happened was when naysayers researched me to locate me years later they “found” I am successful. Many of them researched my company to call me on the telephone to get a hold of me, but I ignored the calls, continuously had their calls transferred, and they eventually stopped calling. Others sent emails to individuals they knew worked for me and emails directly to me. They also wanted to come see me in person. I found a lot of this funny because the question was, for what; I even supported some of their dreams, but they did not support mine?
After all of those years and negative things done to me and said about me even to other people to spread inconclusive and inappropriate things about me and my aspirations was wrong and an apology could have been immediately stated over email throughout those years or even years later when they “found” out the truth. Numerous opportunities to apologize were present, all you have to do is contact someone because you are mature and know you were disrespectful, not when you find out “I did it anyway”, “I made it anyway”. One of the individuals who is a family member of mine and was a naysayer did not apologize. When she found out about how she was wrong about me and my success she was in shock and called other people on the telephone like she normally does to tell them, but did not speak to me directly.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, God is the one who helped me. He kept me encouraged during the rough times and provided strategies, insight, connections with key people, and resources, including financially to move me forward, opened new opportunities, and advised me on how to establish and run corporations even though I did pursue higher education too. To demonstrate, God was the one who told me which academic institutions to attend, which courses I needed to start and expand companies and for which products and services, which corporations buy products and services our firms offer, and extensive details about patent processes, methodologies, streams of income, and expansion connections into various nations. I also heavily relied on Him for insight and foresight regarding identifying people who did not have my best interest and were more than naysayers, but dream killers and destiny thieves, trying to indirectly and directly hinder me from going somewhere in life because they were going no-where. Finally, the naysayers helped me greatly, more than I could ever put into words because they grew my character, strength, reputation in places and spaces I would never go to, among people I would never associate with, and caused me to develop tenacity, maturity, and perseverance in the face of deliberate opposition and people’s doubt.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
Yes. My childhood was great because of resiliency and God protecting me, but overall my home life was unstable and abusive. Growing up I did not live with my father who had 8–10 other children, remarried, was an alcoholic, and is now deceased due to alcoholism. I lived with my mother who was always in a relationship with a different man and attending night clubs which was typical for women at her age at that time with young children. Later down the road the vulgar verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse towards me began when I started telling her my career dreams and actually pursuing them.
My mother was very manipulative and abusive, tremendously cruel and would do so behind the regular public and extended family members backs. Some of her abuse included shouting, telling me I would never have my own home or a job because I have natural nappy hair, she would throw and break things, bang on the door to my room with her fists in rage at random times to disturb me, my work, or during public relations interviews in my early entrepreneurship years, stalk and harass me, break into my locked room I kept locked (she would steal from other people and had stolen from me) when I was out for the day to mess things up things I had in order because I am an orderly person, she would throw trash into a trash can I had just emptied for the week, sweep the floor and put what was in the dust pan into my shower and tub to make it look like I had not cleaned it, shout obscene words, she wanted me to walk to stores or find a ride to places I needed to go to because she did not want me using her car because I was likely to advance by looking for my own place to live, visiting clients, or getting much needed errands completed, when guests would visit she would talk about how good God is and pretend to praise and thank God for things and would speak nicely to me around them asking me why I stay in my bedroom and do not speak to her, when guests left she turned malicious again, she repeatedly tempted me by stating she would call the police on me to have me removed from the home and taken to jail which I believe she said out of anger because she could not offend, control, or limit me, she regularly stated how I should get the hell out, and she would leave nasty notes on my old beat up car in the library parking lot (when I finally had some sort of transportation) stating to “get a job” and “get a real job” when I would go to read for the day, contact clients, and was working on entrepreneurship.
Also, in the home, another sibling of mine would block Christian television channels in the home so I could not watch them and receive inspiration. My mother, would yell my name from her bedroom to cause a disturbance, in the summers sit outside of my window in a chair with the back of the chair up against the window and with gardening utensils to pretend like she was gardening, but was stalking me and would then would pretend to clean the window right before banging on the window loudly to create a disturbance, she would also take dinner for the evening to work the next day in the pans she cooked it in and sat in the trunk of her car so I could not eat, and much more.
These behaviors were not overnight, but occurred for years, primitively when I decided to wholeheartedly pursue my dreams and entrepreneurial ideas full-time after a job layoff and went to live with my mother for a while. As a result, some of the major set backs I had while pouring into my business ideas were losing everything, some things twice, and then facing ridicule while trying to recover. Family members who lived near me or a few hours away did not ask me if I wanted to live with them and essentially left me for dead. All of the adversity and naysaying over the years built resilience in me and a desire to succeed because other women and girls and even boys and men climbing the ranks in life after me would encounter hardships and naysayers too and need to see a real overcomer. I now own a conglomerate corporation, with two headquarters, operate in 26 countries, and on 6 continents.
Lastly, while essentially homeless at a point in my life, I still completed doctorate degree credits and took classes online at institutions like Yale University, University of Cape Town South Africa, and IE Business School Madrid Spain with God’s help and resources. All of the information I am sharing with you in this article, originating with Authority Magazine, is the first time I am share the information publicly. Privately, I shared the information with a couple of extended family members and asked them to keep the information confidential until I survived the adversities, naysayers, and became successful. Overall, the same people who left me for dead are shocked about how they never really knew me, underestimated me, I worked through adversity, and I still made it, anyway, without them.
Nevertheless, with all that I went through, I had to learn how to become resourceful and strategic to survive, grow, advance, and pursue my dreams using non-traditional approaches. A great deal of what I went through and how God lead me through and delivered me, especially from my mother, I write about in my forthcoming book series. Yet, to briefly discuss resiliency here, her abuse caused me to “want to pursue” my dreams even more and not to procrastinate to ensure I did not have to live with her in an unstable household for many years. Her actions also developed me to be able to handle naysayers and persecutors in the real world.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each).
Yes, here are five:
- Use difficult or excruciating circumstances as opportunities for growth and advancement. For example, deliberately “look” for the opportunity in the opposition, it is there, you just have to identify it. Your key to growing and advancing while in and through the adversity is recognizing the opportunity. Hence, you can still growth and advance while “in” opposition, a negative situation, or unfavorable environment, which I am a testimony to. As an exemplification, everything you are reading in this interview about me, I accomplished while going through some sort of unfavorable circumstance and in more cases than not during the active attacks of naysayers telling me what I could not do, talking to one another about me in a negative way, and during excruciating hardships. What is interesting is the majority of the naysayers who had something to say and said the something, were inaccurate, did not know me, where not pursuing advancement themselves, and some would repeat what other naysayers were saying.
- Vow to advance little by little. For instance, if you need to gain a skill to launch a product, service, or business, work little by little until you get there. A strategy could be going to a nearby library or bookstore retailer to read books for 5–10 minutes. When I could not check out books from a library although I had a library card, I did not have a car and was unsure of when I would be able to return books if I checked them out. As a strategy, I read library books while inside of the library I needed to give me wisdom to advance in learning product lifecycle processes before actually taking college courses in the subject. To learn, I took 20–50 photographs of books on my mobile phone to read offline at home.
- Change your mindset. A prime illustration of this is when people go through bad events in life they think the events are always a set back, which they can be, but are not always. Advancement can come in disguise, so change how you see things by getting a new perspective, refocus. Here is an example, when naysayers tell you to stop doing something, say what you are doing is impossible, or talk amongst one another about how you will never make it, all of which people said about and to me, use what they say to learn about who they are and adjust your mindset accordingly. What they say will let you know where you stand with them, for example, if they are jealous, in hatred, insecure, trying to sabotage, childhood issues are at the root of their feelings, or they wish they were doing what you are doing. Learn people so you know how to handle them accordingly and “work around them” if you are required to be around them, like a naysayer you have to live or work with.
- Develop an ignoring characteristic. This takes practice and is not a fly by night skill, but is doable because naysayers are “distractions”. I had to develop this aptitude over the course of years. The objective of doing so is so you can continue to move forward and accomplish things, even “in the presence of” naysayers without them knowing. I have done this for many years.
- Know who you are, which includes your dreams and goals. This is very important for two reasons. One if you do not know who you are people will try to tell you who you are by placing labels on you or telling you who you should be, what you should do with your life or organizations, or perhaps not have a company at all, like in my case. I know about each from personal experience. Second, naysayers will speak negatively about you, your dreams, and goals on purpose in attempt to test you, your identity, to see if you know who you are or to stop you from moving forward by discouraging you. They see who you are, are likely to become, or are on your way to becoming, but do you? Knowing who you are will ensure you are not easily swayed or talked out of who you are by a naysayer; knowing who you are is connected to your personal growth, professional advancement, next level, and forthcoming blessings. Likewise, a colleague of mine calls such naysayers “confidence robbers” and I agree, including I believe naysayers try to place limits on people.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
Two of my favorite quotes are (1) “Do not try to get even, just get ahead” and (2) Rejected? Don’t worry about the reason, it was for a season. God is executing promotion” by Dr. Taketa Williams at Impact Christian Center Jacksonville, Florida, Oasis Outpour Church Columbus, Ohio, and Woman Arise (Out of the Ashes) Conferences.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am not sure about a “movement” per se because the term movement reminds me of ethnicity based movement organizations and causes like the #MeToo movement. However, I am interested in two things, first, acquiring commercial and residential real estate property and receiving help with establishing homes for underestimated, uneducated, and underrepresented individuals, no matter the race, but particularly for girls and women. I would like the homes to be communities, subdivisions in a way, along with schools and a college, buses for field trips, 2 regular vehicles like SUVs for daily transportation to grocery stores and to purchase personal hygiene items, and staff to make meals and teach the residents about life skills, careers, entrepreneurship, and thriving in life after hardship, abuse, naysayers, and starting life at a disadvantage. My interest stems from personal life challenges and I would like to help, inspire, and transition women and girls who are going through or went through similar adversities.
Second, I would like to start another company, a venture fund for millennials between the ages of 16 and 40 who want to become entrepreneurs learn about and actually start businesses they kept in their hearts. I only told this idea to one classroom of high school students who asked me the same question. Further, I have been a part of various accelerators and speak to high school students and adults regularly about entrepreneurship, careers in business, and what studies to pursue in college to work their business as careers, while mapping out a 4 year plan for some of them on how to launch corporations to know what to do to advance forward when I am not around. Now, I would like to help financially fund their dreams and start-ups, to grow the economies they live in and support their future families/generations.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DrKylaLatrice and Instagram @DrKylaLatrice .
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!
Thank you for having me and for providing me with the opportunity to share my background, experiences, insight, and dreamer story!
Kyla L Tennin: “They told me It was impossible and I did it anyway” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.