Failing helps you learn what you aren’t supposed to do and gets you closer to your life’s purpose.
Atima Omara is an award-winning political strategist, advocate, writer and speaker who has spent 15 years engaging youth, women, and people of color in the political process and related progressive causes.
She is the founder and president of Omara Strategy Group — a D.C. metro based consulting firm, providing strategic political services to progressive people of color, women and LGBTQ candidates. In addition, it also offers political- and capacity-building services to organizations that center women and people of color in their work to build pro-gressive political power and enact a more representative democracy.
Additionally, Atima served as president of the Young Democrats of America from 2013-2015, the nation’s largest youth partisan membership-based organization. Upon her election, she became the first African American and the fifth woman to serve as president of the organization in its more than 80-year history. As president, Atima not only organized young people in the political process in almost all 50 states, but she also achieved membership growth, fundraising success, streamlined operations, and increased collaborations with allied progressive organizations. In addition to leading the Young Democrats, Atima served as the vice president of the Reproductive Health Technolo-gies Project, a research-based advocacy reproductive health and rights non-profit organization. She has also served on many boards related to the women’s rights and health movement.
Currently, Atima is an elected Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Virginia and a vice chair of the DNC’s Women’s Caucus. She is a board member for Emerge Virginia, that identifies, trains and encourages Demo-cratic women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office, a founding board member of Virginia’s List PAC, that endorses and help elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates to office in Virginia and she is Board Chair of the Planned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund.
Throughout her career, Atima has worked for the social and political advancement of women, developing a special niche of empowering women candidates in the political process as well as supporting the causes of women-focused organizations. She has lent her efforts and skills on multiple campaigns, including PACs that elect women and trained women advocates for leadership roles.
In 2014, Atima decided to run for public office. She ran as the only African American candidate in the Democratic primary election for a seat in the Virginia General Assembly. Although she came up short, she has translated her experience and extensive knowledge as both a candidate and a campaign staffer into speaking engagements and training sessions about political participation, leadership, and addressing issues important to a diverse electorate.
Where did the idea for Omara Strategy Group come from?
I launched the Omara Strategy Group because I wanted to dedicate my work to electing progressive people of color, women, and LGBTQ candidates to public office. I believe that progressive social change is not solely achieved through electoral politics or activism alone, but rather a combining of the two to achieve the critical mass in a fully representative democracy.
Since the 2016 elections, we’ve seen a large number of progressive candidates, especially women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates, stepping up to run for office. Many of these candidates have great resumes and stories, but not much political experience. In the past, candidates usually worked or volunteered first, either on a local level or supported the work of their favorite legislator, gaining political experience along the way. Today’s candidates need a little more mentoring and training.
And that’s where the Omara Strategy Group comes in. There are many institutional barriers and roadblocks in place, which makes a political run for office more challenging, especially for people of underrepresented communities like black, Latino or Asian communities. The Omara Strategy Group will lend its expertise and guidance to many of these first-time progressive candidates along with grassroots organizations who are working to support them or mobilize resources for targeted elections.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical workday starts with a cup of coffee, and I try to scan a bit of the news headlines. To keep track of my day, I use a work journal to help me map out my day and week. My day consists of emails to clients, prospects or other business colleague, whether it’s setting up a prospect call or meeting with a fellow consultant. It’s an unusually busy week if I’m attending and speaking at a conference because I have to carve out time to prepare remarks and talking points for a speech or presentation. It’s not uncommon for me to spend my evenings at events, networking and socializing with other political folks like myself. I also receive media requests to offer my take on headlines making news; so, I have to make time for media interviews, which builds my brand as a political leader and media expert. I’m a very deadline-oriented person (both externally and internally), which keeps me on track with all the balls I’m juggling in the air.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I keep a brainstorm notebook and when I have an idea, I sketch it out and layout how the idea could be implemented.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m excited about the democratization of digital media platforms, and how it has grown so that even unknown folks without any major connections can have a voice and become an influencer. This is great for candidates and newer organizations, seeking to build a larger profile, especially those organizations or candidates who don’t have access to prominent influencers or funders.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m very deadline-oriented about a lot of things I do. Whether it’s finalizing details on an event, following up with a client or introducing my services to a new business prospect. Deadlines really help me figure out priorities and what needs to be juggled around to accomplish things.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to fail at things sometimes. Failing helps you learn what you aren’t supposed to do and gets you closer to your life’s purpose.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Ok … so, you really don’t have to work 80 hours a week with very little sleep to be a successful entrepreneur! I know that there are a lot of famous CEOs and founders in the media who have championed thriving on little sleep or working for 10 years without a vacation. And if you can physically and mentally do that, and WANT to do that, then that’s fine. And yes, sometimes being an entrepreneur or CEO requires very long hours, depending on the tasks at hand. However, it’s important to get some rest and rejuvenate yourself so you’re in it for the marathon, it’s not a sprint.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Again, work hard, but build in some time for relaxation. While I work very hard, I am a big advocate on self care — that is, taking at least taking one day for some down time to sleep, read, recuperate, clear your mind and recharge your batteries. I will try to schedule a vacation when the timing is right — sometimes, combining work and play — even if it’s just a long weekend. Very few people are at their best, working long hours with no break in sight.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that helped me to grow my business —that is, the Omara Strategy Group – is that I spent months, preparing for an official launch and announcement and building my brand and media presence. I wrote op-ed pieces on topics, making headline news and relevant to my work as a political strategist. I also sought out opportunities in media to be on TV and radio, talking about politics and issue relevant to voters. The end result showcased my professional experience, and allowed folks to see me as an expert and thought leader who could provide them with invaluable consulting services.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Well, it’s not a failure – per se, but more of how I had to upgrade my image. I spent so much time gearing up for the launch of my business. New name. New services. New clients. But I was still using old headshots of me! So, I had to take time to schedule new pictures of myself that reflected the new me as a boss lady in charge!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Well, if you’re a good fundraiser — whether it’s grant writing or major donor fundraising – you should start a concierge consulting service to support organizations. Amazingly, there are not enough businesses out there that offer this type of service.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent $100 on a massage. That is my monthly time I set aside for a little rejuvenation., and it’s always worth every penny.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I love using Calendly (or any of those calendar scheduling programs that allow you to pick a time to schedule a meeting with someone). This type of web service helps me schedule things without going back and forth via email on a time with a client or colleague, which without it, can take up A LOT of time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think the community should add John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” or anything in his leadership books series to their bookshelves. (Google it. You can download a PDF copy of the book.) As entrepreneurs, we’re setting the vision for businesses and organizations, based on experience and know-how. It’s one thing to have the skill set to execute a vision; but it’s another thing to get people to buy into your vision. I find John C. Maxwell’s examples of leadership across all sectors to be very helpful.
What is your favorite quote?
“When you stumble, keep faith. And when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” — Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, senator, Secretary of State and 2016 Democrat presidential candidate
• Use deadlines to prioritize work for the day. As an entrepreneur or head manager, you’ll be pulled in a lot of different directions. Prioritize your tasks and keep a work journal to facilitate time management.
• Always start the day by taking a moment to focus on what needs to be done. Get your mind set for the day ahead.
• Self-care is not a cute tag line. Running a business is a marathon, not a race. Take time to take care of yourself — i.e. get enough sleep; plan a vacation or long weekend; and recharge your batteries.
• Read John C. Maxwell’s book, “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” or anything in his leadership books series to get a sense of where you can improve on being a leader, which is what entrepreneurs do daily in creating and setting vision for businesses or organizations.
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