A Woman to KNOW : Kelsey Vickers

Kendi’s Odyssey: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Tech Startups to Entrepreneurial Triumph

By Myra Stacey

In the heart of Arizona, where the sun’s embrace is as familiar as the contours of the landscape, Kendi Brown’s journey unfolds—a story of ambition, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of making a difference. Her formative years in this sun-kissed state laid the foundation for a craving that mere convention could never satisfy. She sought a career that not only challenged her but also left an indelible mark on the world.

This quest led her to the doorstep of the tech startup world, where she found herself at Opendoor—a company with the audacious mission to revolutionize real estate through technology, aiming to profoundly impact people’s lives. Her adventure through the startup landscape was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, teaching her invaluable lessons and shaping her path. From managing the intricacies of back-office operations at Opendoor to pioneering customer operations at Kindred, Kendi’s journey was punctuated by moments of challenge, growth, and self-discovery.

Yet, her unexpected foray into consultancy reignited her passion for entrepreneurship, steering her towards a destiny that was hers to claim. As Kendi reflects on her journey, her narrative emerges not just as a career chronicle but as a testament to the power of embracing the unexpected and finding one’s niche in the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship.

So what was that aha moment that led to the creation of this company?
The pivotal moment that propelled me into founding my own company came from seeing a deep need around the consulting space. There is a lot of advice given that is fractured apart from getting the advice implemented. As an independent consultant, I found joy in engaging in thoughtful discussions and offering my insights. It felt good being a strategist or even a therapist to my clients. However, the real turning point occurred when I saw my clients flourish when I was the resource to get things done and march projects across the finish line without taxing their already limited resources..

It dawned on me that I could be more than an advisor; I could be a builder, an integral part of shaping a business’s operations. It was a profound realization that my passion and skills in operations could genuinely enhance people’s lives and businesses.

The trust and confidence my clients placed in me illuminated my true purpose. I’m here to serve, to improve lives through operational excellence. That realization shifted my perspective from merely offering advice to being deeply involved in the operational fabric of businesses. It was then I decided to accelerate, to see how much value I could add to other companies. This wasn’t just about me or my client; it was about harnessing my skills to make a tangible difference. And so,I put the pedal to the metal, ready to explore the breadth of impact I could achieve.

So what makes your company stand out?
What truly distinguishes our company is our distinctive approach and methodology. We prioritize not just setting a strategic vision but also co-creating it alongside our clients, fostering a partnership rather than a mere service provider relationship. We go a step further by embedding an operations excellence team deep within the very fabric of the business.

This isn’t about merely guiding from the sidelines; we dive into the thick of things, working hand-in-hand with you. Picture us not just steering the ship but rowing vigorously in the belly of the beast, ensuring you have an expert right there in the trenches, accelerating execution and building trust across your teams. We possess a deep understanding of your business ecosystem at every level, which sets us apart.

However, our core mission revolves around empowerment. Our goal isn’t to be a permanent fixture in your business but to equip your teams with the skills and methodologies to tackle challenges and manage growth independently. We’re here to teach you how to swim, to foster a culture of self-sufficiency and long-term strategic thinking.

We look forward to the day we’re no longer needed—not because we don’t value our partnership, but because it signifies your growth and self-reliance. Our aim is to eliminate single points of failure, ensuring you’re equipped to thrive on your own. Our expiration date is a milestone, a celebration of your company reaching its full potential and soaring to new heights.

What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?
There are countless moments I treasure, from capturing large revenue shares for my clients to delivering keynote speeches at significant events. However, the memories that truly resonate with me are those involving personal impact.

One of the most rewarding experiences for serving others over a long period of time happened during my time at Opendoor. It involved guiding an individual who was initially underestimated by many. Described as overly emotional and often seen as a hindrance, this person possessed untapped potential that I was fortunate enough to help unveil.

Taking them under my wing, I provided the support and belief they needed to step up and lead. Watching them evolve from someone doubted by all to managing an entire business unit and exceeding their objectives was nothing short of remarkable. They became the subject matter expert everyone relied on, a testament to their incredible growth.

Of course, the credit goes entirely to her. My role was merely to facilitate this journey, offering guidance, be her accountability pillar and leverage my expertise to aid her development. Witnessing her cultivate empathy for stakeholders, navigate complex challenges with intelligence, and implement solutions swiftly was profoundly fulfilling. Our journey wasn’t without its imperfections, but it’s the process of making meaningful change and continuously refining our approach that truly stands out to me.

What measure do you use to determine success?
In the realm of business, success is often quantified by three pivotal elements: cost, quality, and speed. These are the metrics by which I gauge my own achievements and the impact of my work. The goal is to deliver unparalleled products that offer exceptional value.

Quality is paramount. My approach and the services I offer are not meant to be compared to a standard, mass-market option. Instead, think of it as akin to the distinction and excellence associated with a Nordstrom brand. It’s about providing a level of service and attention that’s both exceptional and personalized, truly a white-glove experience for everyone who engages with my business.

Then, there’s speed. The pace at which we operate is critical. The aim is to not only meet but exceed expectations, ensuring that we’re not merely keeping pace but setting the standard for efficiency and responsiveness. It’s about making real, tangible progress without delay, adopting a “do it today” mindset that keeps us ahead.

I set these benchmarks when collaborating with any business: delivering value that resonates, achieving operational excellence that inspires enthusiasm, and maintaining momentum that underscores our commitment to immediate action. This triad of cost, quality, and speed forms the cornerstone of my philosophy and the measure of success in every endeavor.

What piece of advice has impacted you the most?
One piece of advice stands out to me, something I’ve heard from various people but was most memorably articulated by my husband, Jake, when we were just starting out. In those days, filled with a lot of fear and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted to do, Jake offered me a perspective that has since become a guiding principle in my life. He said, “You are the most amazing person for who you actually are, not for any facade you might present to the world.”

This struck a chord with me. It prompted a profound realization: the key to making a significant impact and achieving greatness lies in embracing my authentic self, loving me for me. It’s not about conforming to expectations or hiding behind a mask; it’s about acknowledging and valuing my unique quirks and perspectives.

Yes, I admit, I’m a bit of an oddball. Those who get to know me soon discover that I have a chameleon-like ability to adapt to a wide array of unexpected interests. Yet, at the core of it all is the commitment to stay true to myself.

Embracing my authenticity has been the greatest gift I could have received. It has allowed me to carve out my path and create an impact in ways that only I can. This piece of advice— to be genuinely me—has not just influenced me; it has defined me.

What message would you like to give to anybody who has a plan of creating something of their own and making a living through it?
Embarking on the journey to create something of your own and turn it into a livelihood is both exhilarating and daunting. The most crucial piece of advice I can offer is to believe in yourself. With countless ideas and solutions out there, the key is to wholeheartedly commit to your vision. It’s essential to be all in; wavering or standing with one foot in and one foot out only leads to lost time and momentum. Make a decision, dive into it, and trust in your capabilities.

If self-doubt creeps in, seek support from experts who believe in your vision. But remember, the path of entrepreneurship can be incredibly lonely without the right network. I felt like a solitary ship adrift at sea until I sought out fellow business owners. Communities like Nawbo, the Secret Sauce Society, and of course KNOW introduced me to a vibrant group of talented, value based entrepreneurs. These support systems became my backbone, uplifting and pushing me towards success.

Finding your community is paramount. Surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs provides not just support but a sense of belonging. They’re ready to welcome you with open arms and shared experiences. But it’s not just about building a business; it’s about maintaining balance in life—health, family, work—each holds equal importance.

I learned this the hard way, embarking on a two-year journey to reclaim my health after prioritizing work to the detriment of everything else. As entrepreneurs, we might perceive our ventures as do-or-die situations, but it’s vital to set boundaries. Ensure that you’re investing in your life outside of work as much as you are in your business. Your identity should not be solely tied to your work. Embrace your authentic self, which exists beyond your business persona. This distinction is crucial for a fulfilling life and sustainable success.

Lynne Kimmich

More About Kendi

Kendi is an operations guru who helps companies solve their operational blockers to reach their full potential. She brings proven results from her tech startup experience in building teams, innovating processes and investing in systems. Kendi launched her own operations agency, Coati Consulting, in March 2023 to help companies solve their operational limitations. Kendi’s grit, unwavering positive mentality and love of helping people solve problems defines her as a driving force in business and beyond.