In 2011, Safiyyah Mills, MLA ’09, MBA ’14, was at a crossroads in her career. The school where she taught was closing. While she looked for a new job, she became more involved in her husband’s DJ business and realized she enjoyed business and had a talent for planning and organization.
“The charter school that I was teaching at was closing,” said Mills. “At the time, I had a DJ business with my husband. The closing of the school allowed me to transition into being an entrepreneur full time. In doing so, I decided that I needed more education in business.”
Having already completed a Master of Liberal Arts degree at Baker, Mills knew Baker could provide the environment she needed as she pursued a Master of Business Administration.
“I was attracted to the intimate experience that Baker could provide and the school’s reputation,” Mills said. “I also enjoyed having the online option for my MBA.”
As a full-time entrepreneur, Mills found the program’s structure to be a perfect fit.
“Being able to complete assignments in the wee hours of the morning was incredibly helpful,” she said.
Mills also found the course work to be relevant to running her business.
“Being an entrepreneur while matriculating allowed me to apply much of what I learned in courses immediately,” she said. “Prior to earning my MBA, I was seen as business savvy. However, after earning an MBA, my business foundation became more solid.”
After earning her MBA, Mills began looking for a new venture. Her DJ business with her husband, Your KC DJ, had taken off. They were performing all over the city, most notably for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City and the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine Snowball event.
In 2014, she founded the Laura E. Mason Foundation to honor her mother, who is a missing person. The foundation serves the Kansas City, Missouri, community through philanthropic support and arts-based education.
While honing her organizational skills as an entrepreneur, Mills began to look for an outlet to use her creative skills.
“Despite being a business person, I’m also a creative who loves paper products,” she said. “I took a year to explore how I could enter into that space. After doing research, I learned that there was opportunity in focusing on primarily African American, biracial, and multiracial sentiments.”
This led her to found Sentimental Moodz in 2018, a business that produces handcrafted greeting cards and gifts based on Afrocentric and multicultural design. Mills draws and designs the cards herself.
“Our largest accomplishment thus far is landing a wholesale account with Fisk University in Nashville,” Mills said.
Mills’s advice to entrepreneurs is simple: Be yourself and be ready to face the challenges.
“Many people think you have to adopt a certain demeanor in business,” she said. “I have found that authenticity goes a long way. Expect to fail. Failure is almost synonymous with starting a business. If you expect the bumps along the road, it will make it easier to navigate the terrain. And finally, be honest. The old cliché is true. Honesty is the best policy.”