by: We Rise and Shine
When something bad happens you can let it define you, destroy you, or strengthen you and Maria Lloyd knocked all the curve balls life threw her way straight out the park. As the Manager for Dr. Boyce Watkins/Watkins Media Group, Maria is living out her childhood dream. Get your pen and pad ready to take notes on how this tenacious young woman shifted gears, and fueled her ambitions on the road to success.
Before you settled into your career as Blogger and Talent Manager, you encountered a few obstacles along your journey. How did those experiences push you towards your dream?
I moved to Dallas right after graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 2008, which was a bad time for the economy. It was tumultuous for the first 4 or 5 years, I was all over the place trying to get money. I relocated to Chicago after I got fired from Ericsson. It was the first time I ever got fired, and I’ve had over 30 jobs. I was the only African American on my team, and the youngest on my team. Shortly after I was hired, my trainer went into labor sooner than anticipated so I was left to fend for myself. I didn’t have adequate training, yet my manager expected me to perform at the same level as people who had been with the company for 6 months to a year. I was able to foresee that it wasn’t going to be a good experience so I begin to stack up my money. My goal had always been to move to Chicago in the summer of 2012 so it ended up working out perfectly. I got fired in August 2011, my lease ended in October, and I had enough money saved up to last for the remainder of year. I had about $5k saved in cash, not to mention I was collecting unemployment because I was terminated. When I moved to Chicago, I stayed with my sister for less than a year before moving out on my own.
You’ve had some incredibly noteworthy experiences throughout your professional career. What did you learn from working on the Obama campaign in 2008?
It was one of the most amazing, yet challenging experiences ever. I hadn’t been that challenged since I pledged. My responsibilities included outreach to local restaurants to see if they would donate food for the volunteers, canvassing, phone banking, and voter registration. We worked every single day for no less than 14 hours, and we walked almost 5-10 miles daily. Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Obama’s campaign showed me the beauty of humanity. The host families were willing to open up their homes to strangers for free. There was an incredible amount of trust, it didn’t matter your race, sexuality or gender. Everybody loved everybody.
How did you transition into blogging and talent management?
I was on Facebook one day and saw a post that Dr. Boyce Watkins was looking for bloggers for YourBlackWorld.net. At that point in my life, I was trying to figure what to do with my career. When I realized the platform was reaching over a million black people on a monthly basis, I thought “I’ll do this for free.” I submitted an application along with some writing samples, and was selected for an interview. During our meeting, I explained to Dr. Watkins that I had my own blog, idatedaily.com, and he told me about their partnership opportunities. That is when I did the partnership with iDateDaily and Your Black World Network. I started off volunteering and transitioned into working as his manager/blogger full time by August 2012. Before I started working for him on a fulltime basis, I hit a brick wall. I was working at a retirement community as a marketing assistant. Marketing is fun for me, I’m very creative, but I wanted out of Corporate America. I expressed to Dr. Watkins that I saw how busy he was and I believed his brand could go so much further. I asked him if he thought about having a manager, and he showed interest. After I sent him my proposal, we negotiated the terms and here we are years later. Since I was a teenager, I aspired to be an artist manager; this is my dream. Talent Management is not exactly the same as artist management, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We’ve done incredible work and I’m very close to achieving the goals that I set out for his brand when we began working together. We released a film titled “Resurrecting Black Wallstreet” and we are working with Dame Dash on a financial empowerment products/services/events. Once I accomplish all of my goals, I will begin taking on more talent. I also offer contract negotiations as a side hustle. I’m considering the idea of launching a Talent Management Agency in the future.
You mentioned that you started out as a volunteer for YourBlackWorld.net. What advice would you share to others about interning or working for someone probono?
You need to have enough foresight to know the return on investment, and ask yourself “What am I going to get out of this?” Writing for YourBlackWorld.net for free was a major return on investment for me because I was able to get my face in front of millions of black people, which is what I wanted. It’s imperative to know exactly what you want because people have no problem wasting your time. Look at the experience, see if it is worth your time, and make sure you come in there with a clear set of goals. If it’s worth it, go ahead and pursue it; if not, look for something else.
How did you monetize iDateDaily.com?
I use Ad Networks such as Google Adsense. I also formed partnerships and leveraged relationships with news distribution sites. A lot of people think that they’ll immediately start generating revenue after launching a blog, but you have to make an investment.
How did attending an HBCU impact your life?
Attending Clark Atlanta University was the turning point in my life. I’ve always been raised in a predominantly white school district, so going to an HBCU was finding my inner self; the black woman in me. I never appreciated my blackness until I went to an HBCU, that’s why I went full throttle. It gave me the confidence to go into an all white office and not feel inferior. Confidence is all that you need, it’s powerful. Clark is also special because it’s in the Atlanta University Center, next to Spelman and Morehouse. It has a very tight knit family environment, and there are people who helped me tremendously. One time the manager of the bookstore gave me a voucher to help me get my text books. I have gained some invaluable relationships with people because of that experience.
How did pledging shape the person that you are today?
Pledging taught me to see things through to the end. It was one of the toughest experiences that I have ever gone through in my life. I learned that there is a bigger picture, and I became tenacious. No matter how hard it gets, I won’t quit. On a professional level, I’ve met some incredible people that are like family to me. I’m currently in the process of launching a mobile app with one of my fraternity brothers. I can’t begin to tell you how many amazing friendships and working relationships I’ve developed as a result of joining a sorority. I don’t agree with everything they do, but it has definitely been worth my time.
You speak a lot about financial empowerment and entrepreneurship within the black community, in your opinion what do you think needs to be done to further advance our race?
I believe that education is key. We are not taught that we have options. We need to do more in STEM, and we need to use social media to our advantage. We should strive to help everybody and embrace mentoring and sponsorship.
What were your greatest takeaway from your recent visit to South Africa and Botswana? How has it influenced your perspective on life?
It was one of the greatest trips I’ve ever taken. I didn’t understand the burden of racism that we carry as Black people in this country until I stepped off of the plane. During my visit I had a sense of belonging, and I literally felt lighter. It was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. The people were exceptionally nice and they live modestly. Not to mention, all of their food is organic. I wouldn’t mind living there short-term.
What have you learned about yourself on your journey since moving back to Chicago?
My experience has taught me that I don’t know anything. There is a whole world out there, and I haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg. We are all ignorant about certain subjects, but I’m uncomfortable knowing that I’m ignorant and I realized that I have to be ambitious enough to learn it. For example, it eats away at my soul that I don’t know code, so as a result I am studying code. I’m also bothered by the fact that I don’t know a second language, therefore I purchase books and audio CDs so I can master Spanish. I’m in a perpetual state of learning, and consider myself a student of life.