ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | JACKIE KIKU SNYDER
Jackie Kiku Snyder is an Entrepreneur, Business Development Executive and Recruiting Leader with 20+ years experience. She serves as a Mindset & Success Coach for aspiring women entrepreneurs and Fractional Executive & Advisor for mission-aligned venture capital firms and startups through her consulting firm, KIKU. She is Head of Business Development at She’s Independent Investments, a women-first Angel investor group with a mission to diversify the face of investing and startups and close gender equity gaps. Jackie specializes in creating outside-the-box collaboration to fuel the mission of impacting the world through innovation. She is an investor, MBA, community leader, and former NCAA Division 1 record-holding athlete.
Q&A WITH JACKIE SNYDER
Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal background and just some of the things you feel like relate to your path in life now.
- I grew up in a pretty low-income household. As a child, there was some unrest in the home, and I saw my mother being a good mentor and such a hard worker. Both my parents came from “no money” and virtually no monetary support from their families.
- Watching my mother struggle and work so hard to provide for us, my sister and I working 80 hours a week. Traveling from Sonoma County to San Francisco. Taking the bus every day, not getting back home until 8 pm, or 9 pm and leaving at 5 am. All that stuff taught me a lot about what resilience looks like. But also growing up with some of these hardships taught me what I didn’t want for my life.
- Reflecting on this conversation we are going to have, I think that there is a lot that led me to make the choices I have made in my life and my career. What’s more important to me is it is what led me to become such an achiever at such a young age. Wanting to provide for myself and not have my mom work harder. To try to pay for my college. I resolved to be a Valedictorian, a top swimmer so that I could get a full scholarship and not have to be a burden to my mom. That was a big driver for me and a driver for why I started working so much even when I was swimming in college and also while I was focusing really hard on studying. I wanted to work and be independent from a very young age.
Q: You graduated as a Valedictorian at your high school, a scholarship athlete in swimming at UCI and somewhere along the lines here you discovered selling Cutco. How did that happen?
- I got a letter in the mail from Kristen Sunday. I needed a job, needed something to make money, while also swimming during the summer and taking a little break from school. I went to the interview and came back thinking, I’m going to do this Cutco thing. Everyone in my family thought I was crazy. What! You are going to sell knives in people’s homes? Why would you do that? I answered I can be good at things. I see the path to success here and that is what happened.
Q: What were some of the experiences that were most memorable from that first summer?
- The most memorable experiences were always the great relationships I made at Cutco. 20 years later, I am still in touch with you (Dan Casetta) and we have been good friends all this time. There are several other friends that I am still close with and brought into my angel investor groups later in life.
- The number one thing that comes to mind is meeting and being around entrepreneurial-spirited people. I don’t know if it’s Cutco-engrained. Those are the people that were attracted to that kind of job. Just focusing on constant self-improvement, learning, growth and knowing we can control our destinies.
Q: What do you feel like are the most standout lessons that you have utilized to this day to succeed?
- One was how important relationships are for your entire career and future and how important it is to build those relationships with people you trust and the clients. That was an important lesson.
- The power of your mind and having the fortitude to know that ultimately, you have total control of your success. That was really important to learn young rather than later on to wait for raises and have someone determine your income. No!I do these things, in the right motion. I learn. I focus. I dedicate and I will be successful. It is not rocket science and I will be able to control my own destiny. I think I had that personality a bit. Just put yourself out there.
- Cutco also taught me to be unafraid of rejection. Rejection is constant and it is how you view it that matters. For every no, you are that closer to your yes, your success, and your goals.
Q: So you worked several summers while you were at UCI. Obviously, during school time, you were focused on school and swimming. Then you graduated and you have had this career that I will say is relatively unusual in that you’ve gone from one different path to another throughout your career. One of the reasons we wanted to talk about this is because it isn’t that unusual and a lot of people have a hard time finding exactly what is their true calling and the whole idea of having a diversity of experiences and enjoying the journey is also a valuable way of operating, a way of living and that your path has taken you through different things. So tell us a little bit about the arc of your career and some of the things you’ve done.
- I was one of those people growing up, I never had any one thing that I wanted to do. I was so jealous of people like my sister who always knew she wanted to be a doctor, a forensic pathologist, at a young age. I had so many interests. It is a good problem. I knew I wanted to impact somehow. I wanted to change lives.
- My arc of career is interesting since I wouldn’t have thought that sales would get me there.I have always had these guiding values for myself and they have become stronger and stronger as I got older. I knew I wanted to have a lot of freedom. I didn’t want to be stressed about money. I knew I wanted to control my schedule. And if I had kids, I wanted to be able to be with them a lot and not have to worry about working so much and being so tired and stressed out.
- My main values have always been freedom and exploration. Life is about exploring, adventure, and learning. I wanted to constantly grow. It is much less about me having an ultimate destination or thinking when I am 60, I am going to be in this position. I never thought that way. I just thought I was going to do something that fulfills me and I need to make sure if it fulfills me, all these boxes, it is fulfilling me enough in one way or the other that I can get back in another way.
- Every decision I have made has been allowing that freedom for myself, complete control over my destiny. Not needing to rely on other people to control my income or what I end up doing and learning along the way.
Q: Was software sales your first stop after college?
- After college and Vector, I went to ADP which was at the time a SaaS company that was huge. I went there with the goal of maybe I could make a career out of it, but really getting that training and thinking I would be respected later on in a lot of other sales positions. I stayed there for a year and a half and created a pilot position for a client consultant. I tend to create positions for myself everywhere I go and luckily, I get supported by the executives and owners of the companies to do so.
- I then went to commercial property casualty and insurance sales. I moved to Colorado and that was with Brown & Brown, one of the largest brokerage firms in the area.
- I then took a pause and thought I don’t think I want to do sales anymore.I just don’t think I am getting fulfillment in doing it. And that was my first start at coaching. I got into a certification program doing life coaching, but my focus was going to be career/passion coaching. My focus was going to be on young adults, helping them with their career/passion navigation.
- Then the 2008/09 recession hit and I went back and got a job in business development. At that time when no one was hiring, I was making cold calls to get a job. Everyone was getting laid off. I wanted to only work for companies and non-profits where I would be impactful. I ended up getting a job at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which is one of the biggest business associations in the nation and that was my path to meeting so many people in Colorado, becoming a community leader, and getting on for-profit boards as well. I did very well in that role.
- Around that time, I started my MBA program and got my MBA. My goal was to run business development and sales strategy. Therefore, being more strategic and that is why I got my MBA because I wanted to keep learning. I then took a business development role, which was again, a brand-new role in a brand-new industry, running everything from marketing to community relationships in a small company for 8 years until we got acquired by a large CPA consulting firm.
- I was also working on starting my own business, seeing this need for wanting to help startups, innovate and seeing the need for all these great ideas that are out there where these founders have no idea how to sell. They really can’t get to the point of getting investors a lot of the time since they can’t sell their ideas. They may have a great idea, but they are not good at relationships or the sales process. They think they know how to do sales. I thought I could help these people get to the next path, whatever that is, getting investors or clients that they can get to their next round of funding and eventually be acquired. That is why I started my consulting company Kiku Growth Solutions. It is business development and sales consulting. I now also help companies raise money through venture capital, and angel investors and offer some strategic advising and executive recruiting as well.
Q: There is a theme of sales throughout these roles. You spoke about how in consulting, for a lot of founders sales was often the stumbling block. My experience in getting to know a lot of people throughout Silicon Valley is that there are so many great ideas that are out there and oftentimes, they fail because they don’t have the right ability to sell as you were saying. I would love for you to pick up on that a little bit more and just tell me why sales is important to the success of any business and the myriad roles that sales plays in being able to create the results that a company wants when they’re getting started.
- Part of why I am so thankful that even though it is not what I had envisioned for myself as a child, I am still grateful I went the sales path because even in my own business, I know any business I start, I am way ahead of anyone else since I know how to sell. How to sell myself and what I am doing. If you don’t have that, your business will go nowhere. There is no way for anyone to find out about it, no way to get investors. You cannot do anything without sales. I think that is something that is completely overlooked and something I try to share a lot and educate people on the importance of sales. And also break down some of the barriers of what people think salespeople are.
Q: Tell me more about some of the misconceptions people have about sales.
- For me, what seems to be the biggest determiner of success in sales is really mental fortitude and your attitude like being able to take rejection. I think a lot of it you can train in a person. But in my opinion, there is also a disposition that certain people have, and if you can handle being told no all the time, at least train through a lot of hard work to be able to handle rejection, to be able to say, yeah, today was a horrible day. Depending on what you are doing in sales, you could get hung up on or the door slammed in your face or perhaps encounter more polite prospects. You’re constantly getting rejected. So being able to keep a really strong sense of self and keep your self-esteem high, maintaining your humility and not getting caught up in the competition like who is the best.
- I am more about personal growth and that is really important as you aren’t going to succeed without that and that is something many people don’t realize.
Q: So all these experiences you have had and gone through, these different roles, they have really helped you in a variety of ways. You have been able to get a diversity of skills. You have been able to learn about your strengths and find out what are your key strengths and you have discovered some of the things you are passionate about in life. All in all, I feel like you have gone through this path has been crucial for you to truly find out what it is you are called to now. I would love for you to speak about the role you are playing now, and what you are most excited about, both now and in the future.
- It has been quite a metamorphosis especially the last year or two coming to my greatest purpose and how I can be of service and try to put that together. My whole career even when I was in sales, my reasoning was I was doing something that was going to be good for the world. With sales, at least I want to be on board and give back help, and raise money for charities I am interested in.
- Now, it is more of I want my work to be more directly impactful on a daily basis instead of I do my work and that is great and I am learning and growing. But then I am giving back in other ways. It has been an interesting year or two in making this shift from what I was doing which is mostly consulting, executive recruiting, and advising or typically startups, high-growth companies, helping them to grow their sales and do strategy and get the right people.
- I still do all that, but I felt called a year ago to get back to coaching. I will start doing some form of coaching probably some form of executive coaching later and now that I have 20+ years of experience it is more relevant. I feel like I have a lot that I can give and share. I was listening to a lot of Jay Shetty and I started getting information about his coaching certification program. I looked at a few programs and decided to go with that one because it felt intuitively right for where I was. I did that program in late 2022 and I started focusing on rebuilding my coaching business. It was a conversation on not focusing on a specific destination, but on the growth, the path, and the process. I thought I was called to do this. I don’t have a specific goal like how much I am going to coach or what I am going to make doing this. I just want to learn this and see where I come out at the other end and I was very motivated on that program since I met a lot of great people from all over the world all in it for the right reasons, wanting to make a change and have a ripple effect and impact people, one life at a time and eventually even more.
- My niche in coaching is now working mostly with women entrepreneurs. It can also be women salespeople. It tends to be who is drawn to me. I can coach anyone who has personal goals, work goals, they’re launching a business, or running into roadblocks and help them to reach their highest self and come to their own answers. In this coaching program, it isn’t advising. It is helping people to reach their own answers through a lot of different methodologies and tools.Being a space that is completely non-projection, non-judgmental, and completely objective.
- In addition to focusing on my consulting side, I’m growing a group called She is Independent Investments. I am running partnerships and business development. A friend of mine, Natalie, originally had a passion project to help women, be a community for women after her mom committed suicide. It is like a women-first community where we can learn along the way through experiential learning and empowered action. While also having the opportunity to pool our resources together.We started the investment part about a year and a half ago and we have 100+ investment members.
- We also have Non-accredited investors or women who don’t have the capital to deploy yet, they just learn about the process and be involved in our community on an observer membership. It is a multi-faceted, very mission-driven organization.
- The ultimate goal is to get more women in leadership positions, and more women as owners of these early-stage companies since usually we can’t even see these opportunities. We are trying to diversify who is in the boardroom, who owns these companies, and who has decision-making powers because once we are investors, we do have a say. We also have a say in we would like you to have more women on your advisory board, we would like you to have people of color on your advisory board. Companies do much better when there is diversity in their teams. Right now, only 20% of venture funding goes to women-founded companies. It is pretty bad and that is the main gap we are trying to change; the ownership gap.
Q: There is going to be a segment of listeners to this who are like your sister, who kind of feel they have got their path figured out, what they want to do down the road. They are sort of running in that direction. But I tell you what I think, there are going to be many more of our listeners who are unsure exactly what the future is going to hold for them. Maybe they feel there is anxiety about that even though there probably doesn’t have to be. What would be the advice you would give to this vast majority of the people who are listening, who aren’t exactly sure what is going to happen to them after college or down the road of where they want to go in life? What would be the advice or encouragement you would give to these people?
- That is a good question. From my own experience, I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but I always knew I would be successful, whatever that was. I think just having that faith of building your mental fortitude and spirituality, whatever that is for you. Working constantly on determining what is your intuition so that you can follow it and know where the right path for you would be. Probably the best advice I could give since that can help you get through anything.
- For me, I have so many interests. I could be doing something totally different, but related in two years. But that is just about evolution and learning. I think that is okay. I don’t think you have to follow a certain career path, especially these days when things are changing so rapidly. Technology, entrepreneurship, working from home, and everything else. The whole society and culture is changing. So I think it is just honing on really strengthening yourself internally and that will get you where you need to go and being able to guide yourself and get the guidance you need from others.
- That was a great conversation.Starting with this concept of your personal background and how it impacts the things we want in our lives and what we don’t want in our lives are great ideas for introspection to think about how your personal background is serving you today and how perhaps there may be ways that it isn’t serving you. What is hindering you? Examine that and think about that and that it is a great thing to consider.
- Love to see that Jackie had some great experiences building relationships with other entrepreneurial spirits in her Cutco days, gaining leadership opportunities, helping run the office as an ASM over the couple of summers that she was with us, and learning, of course, about the power of the mind and the role that plays in our success.
- Throughout the initial years of her career, Jackie had an opportunity to learn about some of her guiding values. I think that is a cool thing to think about as well. What are some of yours? And this helped her to identify that her calling was largely in coaching focused on women, women entrepreneurs, and women salespeople and also in helping women gain a step up creating a path into ownership, into leadership positions, and influence in the corporate world and the things she is doing with She is Independent as well.
- The whole idea that freedom and exploration are greater than a specific destination was something that really resonated with me. Looking for the synchronicity that occurs in your life and those little messages that come our way. Being aware of those and trusting our intuition when those things come our way, having faith that we will always be successful even if we don’t know how because we have other things in the past, and focusing on learning and strengthening ourselves internally is the way to get there.
- For information on Jackie’s coaching programs, visit: https://kikusolutions.com/
- To connect with Jackie, you can email her at: Jackie@kikusolutions.com
- To learn more about She’s Independent Investment group, please email Jackie directly.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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