You know the jam — in the Founder Feature Series, we chat with the founders of the 6th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys. They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community, and they could use your help too!
This week, we spend some time with Safiyyah Mills, Founder of Sentimental Moodz. Safiyyah has an MBA, participated in the 2006 Kauffman FastTrac program and was featured earlier this year at the KCSourceLink Resource Partner Quarterly meeting, where she presented and had a Q&A session with KCSourceLink partners.
Established in February 2018, Sentimental Moodz was born out of a desire to see more paper products that reflect people of color and decided to be the change it wanted to see. As a result, Sentimental Moodz handcrafts greeting cards and gifts with an emphasis on Afrocentric/Multi-cultural design.
What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?
I did a lot! Most recently/currently, I run operations for Your KC DJ, which is a business my husband and I collaborate on. I also serve the community through my family’s nonprofit, Laura E Mason (LEM) Foundation. LEM was created to memorialize my mother who is a missing person of Kansas City, MO. The majority of LEM’s programs run through AdHoc Group Against Crime. I also work as a contractor for other small businesses. I am mostly contracted to assist with the organizational management, the development of processes and operations help. My last career before becoming an entrepreneur fulltime was as a Special Education teacher for mild to moderate disabilities at a charter high school. My diverse background has sharpened my problem-solving skills. I am more open — often seeking multiple sides of a situation before rushing to judgment. My many backgrounds have also made me a better people-person, which directly impacts my customer service skills.
Why this startup? A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?
I have been working as an entrepreneur fulltime since 2011. Before founding Sentimental Moodz, I was always at the mercy of another person’s vision and passion. Although I found/find pleasure in business responsibilities, I discovered that I had passions of my own I wanted and needed to explore. I brainstormed for roughly a year. Often asking myself, “what problems exist that need to be fixed?” I contemplated what could I do without needing someone else right away to execute and finally get back in the driver’s seat. I watched Shark Tank a bunch (actually a lot) and kept getting inspired. Until one day it hit me — greeting cards. Not just any greeting cards, but ones that focused on people and expressions that were unique to me. From there I began thinking about my first-hand experiences when shopping for greeting cards that I could identify with. Many times I’d find a card that I could tweak somehow or even repurchase a previous design that I had bought in the past. When I got the courage to share my plans with my closest family and friends, I discovered that they believed in my vision, which in turn motivated me to start drawing again. I hadn’t drawn since my days at Middle School of the Arts. At the beginning of the year, a middle school classmate reached out to me to invite me to pitch at KCSourceLink. In that moment, Sentimental Moodz became real. Committing to KCSourcelink made the startup experience real for me as I stepped off of a ledge, unsure if there was netting to catch me. I’ve been taking all opportunities since then to put Sentimental Moodz out there.
What was your first milestone/win that let you know you were on the right track to building this business?
The feedback received after presenting at the KCSourcelink event.
Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?
What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?
Receiving branding-specific feedback from my mentor, which prompted me to make a change. I have also received interest from 4 different organizations to discuss wholesale opportunities.
How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?
I am a cinephile. I love all sorts of movie genres. I enjoy reading, vegging, traveling, etc. I make a point to rest when I’ve been pushing myself really hard and workout every other day.
KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs. What are we still missing? What gaps do you think we need to fill?
If I had to pick what’s missing, I’d have to say an intermediary that ties everything that is available together (somehow).
Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?
If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Enjoy the journey more.
Also published on Medium.