Jenifer Daniels – Co-founder and CEO of colorstock

I make my days more productive by squeezing every viable minute out of them. I schedule everything and nothing happens without intention.”

Jenifer Daniels is an award-winning brand storyteller changing the face of stock photos. She is the co-founder and CEO of colorstock, a stock photo library featuring people of color. Jenifer is an adjunct professor and the co-host of #WomensWednesday on SiriusXM Progress’ Make It Plain and has been quoted in The New York Times, HuffPostLive, BBC News, Essence, and more.

Where did the idea for colorstock come from?

colorstock was born out of frustration. As a PR and branding professional, I often had trouble finding images of people who looked like me and my colleagues. I simply couldn’t find authentic photos of my client’s audiences. This isn’t to say that stock images of people of color don’t exist, but they certainly aren’t viewed through the lens of the people they’re intended to represent.

Colorstock is filling the growing need for authentic depictions of people of color. We offer images of Black, Asian, Latino, and other ethnically diverse people at work and at play, reflecting their nuanced lives in realistic ways.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is not typical at all. One day, I may be on campus teaching wide-eyed students effective communication, the other may be filled with nothing but executing strategies on behalf of colorstock. But all days end in the carpool line as I pick my children up from school.

I make my days more productive by squeezing every viable minute out of them. I schedule everything and nothing happens without intention.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life through collaboration. No man/woman is an island. You may have the vision, but successful execution requires mutual assistance.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The edtech trend really excites me. As a university educator and speaker, I am intrigued with the thought of bringing classrooms into the home. I am not a betting woman, but I do believe that my children may choose this option for higher ed.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Discernment! This isn’t my first go-round as an entrepreneur. That experience was filled with excitement but naivete. I didn’t properly vet clients and I spent too much money upfront. Flash forward a few years and I’ve gained better judgement, thereby leading to better decision making. This discernment has increased my productivity ten-fold.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I’ve ever had…hmmmm. That’s a tough one. I don’t think I’ve ever ranked jobs from good to bad, but I do try to think of them as learning experiences. I’ve learned the most from a job that didn’t provide timely and relevant feedback. The absence of that feedback kept me professionally stagnant and very unsure of myself. Once I was moved to a position where feedback was provided, I was able to see that my ideas were worth executing and that I was on the right professional path.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Starting again looks like me taking technology more seriously. My mother was a computer programmer who learned Cobol and Fortran in her early twenties, but I didn’t want anything to do with computers. Had I followed in her footsteps, I’d be about 10 years ahead of the curve.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Self-care. I am an advocate for taking care of yourself first, and business second. Self-care is one of colorstock’s guiding principles. I take monthly digital diets (as explained in my TEDx Talk) and I encourage everyone that I encounter to do the same. These periods of rest allow time for reflection and solitude; a must have in today’s hectic society.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Relationships are the key to colorstock’s growth. While I am a practicing photographer, I am a learning photographer. I simply don’t have the catalog (or smarts) to have created the products all on my own.

Colorstock grows daily because we’ve developed strategic relationships with our creatives. I’ve used techniques learned during my time as a PR professional to create an outreach strategy to obtain and maintain these relationships. This outreach strategy isn’t achieved through growth hacking or content marketing, but with a personal touch. We’ve opened the lines of communication and our contributing photographers believe in our vision and want to be a part of it.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Failure doesn’t exist if you learn from your mistakes. One early mistake was not executing the business idea sooner. By the time we launched, we launched with competitors. Had we launched when the idea first came into existence, we would have been first to market by well over a year.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Great question. I have an entire Evernote folder dedicated to ideas. One that I am willing to give away is an idea for a ‘coding notebook’.

As a kinesthetic learner, I grasped the basics of each programming language that I studied through writing. (I can’t be alone in this process.) While I used notebooks with ruled paper, I had to write the line numbers down every time. This seems like such an easy fix and I searched everywhere for this kind of notebook but it doesn’t exist. Someone should make it exist!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Well, it was a bit more than $100. It was actually $200+ and it was for colorstock’s trademark application. Best money spent. Especially since it was followed up with a couple of cease and desist letters. An entrepreneur must protect their intellectual property.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

One software that I use (and love) is the Sunrise app. Sunrise takes my calendar(s) to the next level. Not only can I see upcoming events and meetings, it provides the weather report, and keeps me up to date on my favorite NBA team’s schedule.

I also love UberConference for meetings, Basecamp & Asana for project management, Canva for visual branding, and Tumblr for a no-fuss blog/personal website.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’ve read just about every business (and self-help) book written in the last 10 years. Many were good, some were terrible. But there is one book that I highly recommend. Death By Meeting is a fictional business book filled with the biggest gem of all: how to have productive meetings and clear communication. If your company is having a problem with communication or unruly meetings, you must read this book to get it all under control.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I spent all of 2015 interviewing women who have influenced my thinking. Leaders like Kathryn Finney of DigitalUndivided and Majora Carter of StartUpBox South Bronx are women who are influencing the tech startup industry. If you don’t who they are, you better get to know them.


Jenifer Daniels on Twitter: @jentrification