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Crystal Kendrick

She left the corporate world to launch her own businesses.

Many people dream of owning their own business and being their own boss. Few actually try, let alone achieve this dream. Northern Kentucky University alumna and entrepreneur Crystal Kendrick, owner of a marketing consulting company, The Voice of Your Customer, and a digital media company, The Voice of Black Cincinnati, got to where she is today with a lot of determination and teamwork. But it wasn’t actually her intent to be her own boss.

“I always thought I would retire from a corporation as a vice president of customer service,” Kendrick confesses. “I wouldn’t have described myself as much of a risk-taker, and the corporate route seemed safe.”

After graduating with an MBA from NKU in 1997, Kendrick worked in the corporate world for a decade until 2007, when she fell ill and needed to reconsider her career options. As a hobby, she was a secret shopper for her friend’s businesses to help them improve accountability and customer service. She also found herself educating businesses about the needs and habits of niche, hard-to-reach and underserved populations.

“There was an opportunity for me to work with those who needed to have their voices be heard,” Kendrick says. “How could I pass it up?”

Kendrick wanted a career change, and, once she realized how she excelled working on her own terms, she decided to take her career in a new direction. From the corner of her TV room to a commercial office building of her own, Kendrick built her business from the ground up with a team of five and her personal drive to succeed.

"There was an opportunity for me to work with those who needed to have their voices be heard. How could I pass it up?”

The Voice of Your Customer was established in 2007, born from Kendrick’s passion for working with business leaders to better engage with less represented populations through research and assessments, call center services, secret shopping and outreach campaigns.

However, this wasn’t enough for Kendrick. There were still areas of opportunity to increase representation of African Americans in local digital media. No stranger to opportunities knocking at her door, Kendrick saw a chance to truly impact local Black communities and took matters into her own hands.

“People kept calling into the office to see if we could help. The lack of representation in the media really impeded African American businesses and communities to be successful,” Kendrick says. “There was clearly a gap in the market for these underrepresented groups.”

And so, The Voice of Black Cincinnati was founded on Valentine’s Day 2016. The media company strives to remove the barriers preventing those positive and authentic stories from being represented in local news sources. The media organization was designed to educate, recognize and create opportunities for African Americans in the region. Resources include local news, calendars of events, business listings, job posting and even scholarship opportunities.

With 30,000 social media followers with no advertising, as well as a newsletter with more than 11,000 subscribers, The Voice of Black Cincinnati has proven to be just as successful of an endeavor as The Voice of Your Customer. Kendrick has succeeded where few have been able when it comes to entrepreneurship but notes that it doesn’t just take a good idea and a can-do attitude to succeed in the business world.

“The path to success is being able to manage customer requests and, more importantly, manage your finances,” Kendrick explains. “A lot of Black-owned businesses go under due to systemic reasons, finances, publicity and staffing—not lack of potential.”

Despite the systemic struggle Black business owners face, Kendrick was able to set herself up to reach her goals while getting her master’s degree at NKU. During her time at the university, she felt that she was set up to succeed in whatever route she took.

“NKU definitely advocated for African American students and made me feel safe to learn. There was a sense of pride on campus, and that made the process of getting my master’s degree both easy and exciting,” she says. “As a part-time student, my professors knew I worked so they were very accommodating and understood students’ lives and had realistic expectations of getting our work done.”