Alexis Black founded The Scholarship Expert, a scholarship coaching in 2016 to assist students in graduating college debt-free. Recently, Alexis published a bestselling book Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat The Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness, and Love with her husband, Justin Black. Now she operates 3 companies, Redefining Normal, ROSE (Rising Above Societal Expectations) Empowerment Group, and The Scholarship Expert. She hopes to encourage others to heal while breaking generational patterns to live a life worth living.
Where did the idea for Redefining Normal come from?
The meaning of Redefining Normal stems from the identity that has been shaped by your family, community, and society. As foster kids, we inherited a culture of ideas that was a reflection of the trauma of our family and community. This became our reality and the image we had of ourselves. Our Redefining Normal book challenges every idea that we’ve been told/shown throughout our lives in order for us to reshape and redefine what it means to pursue happiness, form meaningful relationships, to prosper, and to love.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
In order to be productive, I challenge myself to be as efficient as possible each day. To do this, I overload my day with tasks and attempt to complete as much as possible before burning out. Though stressful, this technique has pushed me to accomplish more than I could’ve imagined on a daily and weekly basis.
My husband and I also create yearly goals that are broken down into monthly and weekly tasks. We set goals that are far beyond our reach to ensure that we utilize our network and spirituality to achieve them. Of course it can be overwhelming but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I think of something that I’d like to create or build, I first do research to see if others have thought of the same thing, what have they done and what have they learned from the experience. Many ideas can be revamped and restructured to fit your target market and create an impact. Also, studying why other business ideas failed and avoiding those pitfalls. These strategies have brought about amazing ideas that have carried our business to where it is today.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that I’ve grown to love is the accessibility to multiple events that I would have never been able to be a part of if we were not in an almost strictly virtual world. I’ve been able to join conferences in other parts of the country and interact with people who’ve given me incredible business and personal advice.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Everyday, I try to think of ways that I can be more efficient so that I am cutting down on the time that it takes me to complete tasks while maintaining the quality of my work. I think of tasks that only I can do and tasks that can be automated through platforms like Zapier and workflows.
What advice would you give your younger self?
As a teenager I had the harder time trying to go with the flow. I would take my planner with me to school everyday and maximize every single moment of the day. If I was to forget my planner at home, my day would be ruined! I would go to the school main office and ask to be sent home. It was ridiculous to say the least.
As an adult, I’ve learned that we can’t be in control of everything. We can react to life’s ups and downs in a positive manner that produces good results. There have even been times where my husband and I have traveled abroad without scheduling our hotel. We’ve embraced living on the go.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that Ketchup was made for bacon! Yes, I said it. Many disagree with this take but I wholeheartedly love this!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
For entrepreneurs, I would suggest you regularly visit Youtube University. For startups, teaching yourself skills through Youtube will be essential. Many of us don’t have the funding to outsource tasks and projects. This means that we have to be resources and learn things ourselves.
This also will contribute to the skills that others are willing to pay you for. I’ve learned that when others see your business thrive, they become anxious to connect with you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Recruiting interns has been a tremendous resource in growing our business. Though we don’t have the funds to pay them, we’ve created incentives that include earning a percentage of sales if they are to bring in customers. There seemed to be a million small but critical tasks to do with startups. Interns have fulfilled an invaluable role on our staff that has improved our quality of services and efficiency overall.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had an unsuccessful launch with my first company. The Scholarship Expert failed to reach and impact the audiences I intended them to. In fact, I wasn’t 100% sure who my core audiences were and how to best interact with them. I started a business based upon my abilities but neglect the research that it required to promote and excuse such ideas.
I lacked the capacity to grow, perform, and manage the business and temporarily shut it down. Our re-launch in 2019 was exceedingly more successful. My husband and I learned to do more market research and customer interaction with the business and doubled the sales I had done before.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Before The Scholarship Expert, my dream was to open a cereal cafe. Of course, things would have taken a hit during the pandemic but my love for cereal hasn’t yielded whatsoever. I would love it if another entrepreneur used this idea!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently purchased printed proofs copies of our book, Redefining Normal. Physically holding a product we worked so hard to produce will never get old. It was a sweet feeling finally having a copy of the book and feeling as if the work we put towards this was worthwhile.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Asana is definitely a life-saving service that allows me to organize my day! It’s as simple as scheduling tasks for each day and getting them done. When working in a team, Asana is almost a requirement to complete projects. You can assign tasks to team members with descriptions, due dates, and attachments.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Of course, I would have to suggest our book, Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat The Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness, and Love. Each of us have our own definition of what normal is based on the definitions from our family, our community, and society as a whole. We challenge each person that reads this to redefine what that looks like to help individuals heal and break generational patterns.
What is your favorite quote?
“You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.”
Transitioning from an abusive relationship that I was in from the age of 13 to 22, I noticed that when my surroundings changed my mindset changed as well. Originally from Flint, Michigan, my identity was a reflection of my friend group as well as the environment I grew up in. My actions and behaviors did me no justice and I had to make a change. It was difficult to make that shift in mindset when I lived in the same environment. My peers would ridicule me if I dared to question their unhealthy habits. After my honest remarks were taken as bitter, I knew I needed a new circle of friends and supporters.
It was time to turn a new page in order for me to make needed adjustments in my life. My foster parents moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan and during my second year of college I transferred to Western Michigan University where I was exposed to what felt like a whole new world of possibilities. Moving locations allowed my adoptive parents to have a greater influence in my life. I changed my social circle and my group of friends reflected my future and not my past. After making that decision, my life changed drastically.
- It is completely different to manage tasks and projects than it is to manage a team of people.
- The importance of networking and building relationships is needed and irreplaceable. You have no idea that so much of owning/operating a business comes down to networking.
- Understand the importance of digital marketing and analysis.
- How few women own and lead businesses and how empowering it would be to join groups that do.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.