Quanda Francis

Meet the Woman who wants to become the fiduciary and trustee of one of the most complex retirement systems in the United States with roughly $252 billion in invested assets to date.“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E Frankl, Austrian neurologist, Holocaust Survivor

Every day we wake up, we are presented with choices in our life. From small to big, these choices and decisions determine where we are headed. Of course, there are times when we cannot control the circumstances. There are times when everything seems to be moving downhill. There are times when we would rather have different choices than the ones we are presented with. 

Even in such adverse situations, we do have choices. We can either succumb to the situation, flowing with the time and letting it take us wherever it wants; Or we can choose to focus our energy on changing the circumstance from adverse to favorable. When we are young, we are full of optimism. The adrenalin that flows inside makes us think that we can achieve almost anything. However, when decisions lead to unfavorable outcomes, what do we do?

At 17, Quanda Francis found herself at the threshold of motherhood. For a young woman, whose family lived at a housing project and moved due to gun violence, this was not a moment to rejoice. She had to leave her high school and her future, was very depressing. However, she was determined to not be a victim of her circumstances.

How does your company uphold its uniqueness and individuality?

I believe the uniqueness of my company comes from my coaching principles and PR hacks. For example, I formulated my acronym – B. E. P. I. C. – which helped me overcome moments of weakness to this day. I teach this method to my mentees so they can find their confidence and their inner voice to carry them through their journey. At the end of the day, my company’s primary goal is to carve an avenue for women in this male-dominated world continuously. I have stood firm on that goal and stayed committed to not only providing resources to educate women further but also to give them the tools and skills needed to become competent professionals. It is also important to me to not only educate but inspire. As a result, I have utilized my network over the years to give solid examples of what could happen with hard work, persistence, and dedication. Today, I am known as the millennial PR strategist, a media mogul, and a branding maven.

Kindly mention some of the notable recognitions and accreditations received by your organization.

The first honorable accomplishment that I cherish is becoming the first female Entrepreneur and businesswoman in my family. I am an official member of the Forbes Business Council and Chairwoman of WMW Lounge in New York. I am also one of the latest members of the Young Entrepreneur Council, the editor and chief of my lifestyle magazine, and a celebrated keynote speaker. However, out of all of my accomplishments and accolades, my most outstanding achievement is helping women create their own space and succeed in their entrepreneurship journey. I started the podcast “What Makes a Woman.”, and have penned multiple columns for various prestigious outlets such as Entrepreneur, and have appeared on notable platforms such as Forbes, Huffington Post, INC and more. More recently, I mentor girls from orphanages by providing them the necessary resources to educate them on the art of entrepreneurship. I feel that if I reach back and help future generations, the cycle will continue, and I have made my mark on this world.

The pandemic turned the tables for every sector of the economy, telling us something about your market and its scope for growth.

Covid-19 has changed the structure of business for everyone. Thankfully, my team and I could adopt more technology and create a digital avenue that allows us to reach a bigger audience and develop more effective and profitable services for these times. We were able to pivot my platform during a pandemic and carve out a new way to reach women on the one latest and aggressively growing apps, Clubhouse. The idea and overwhelming response from the platform motivated me to start a virtual public relations academy, Zavo PR Academy, which transforms professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives from being unknown to becoming unrecognizable by teaching proper industry strategies for boosting personal brands. The academy also uses a specific method to help magnify and monetize a message, how to find your unique voice, and how to develop an authority in your niche. As a result, we were able to broaden my audience and help more women create a better life for themselves and their families without losing any of our team members.

Where do you see your organization in the years to come?

Going forward, my organization and I plan to take my brand and mission to the next level. Zavo Media Group is becoming a global company by establishing offices in Paris and Dubai in the Spring of 2022. We will capitalize on technology so we can reach an even larger audience and help more women tap into their unique voice and story to share with the world. I plan to continue to educate and inspire those who know that there is more to life than doing the bare minimum and those that want to live instead of merely existing. Overall, I will remain persistent in creating more avenues and preparing the next generation of successful entrepreneurs for their greatness. I love the idea of giving voice to the voiceless, and I love the idea of storytelling and the power behind someone’s message. As a result, I plan to continue creating a brand that is aligned with the things that I am extremely passionate about.

Entrepreneurship is an art, what is your take on that?

I agree that entrepreneurship is an art because this journey is not for everyone. It takes a skillful and passionate person to understand the balance of talent, dedication, and the need for patience to trust the process of birthing a dream. Most people give up because of the dark and narrow roads of entrepreneurship, mainly because there are no guarantees, no safety nets, and no one or nothing to fall back on. Everything rests on the entrepreneur’s shoulders, and not everyone can bear that amount of weight. For example, before I started my company, I was a college dropout and a single mom at age 20. I knew I wanted more so I decided to learn for myself the art of storytelling and how to get it out to the public. I wanted to share my story with the world so others can learn from my experience and become inspired. When PR initially piqued my interest, I had no knowledge of the industry, but I decided to partner with a firm in NYC under one condition: I would introduce new clients from my family’s restaurant, and in return, they will let me shadow and learn everything there is to know about PR. I gave myself a year, and during that year, it was nothing but hard work, grit, and determination. By the end of the year, I learned the ins and outs of PR and hired a mentor to teach me the business aspect, and started my journey. With only $5000 and a spirit of determination, I started my bootstrap startup company in 2017 without any partners to assist.

I want to encourage people not to quit on themselves and to trust the process. Every task, every mistake, every pitfall, and every move is pushing you closer and closer to your dream, and you will see that one day, it was worth it.

Tough Decisions Need Tougher Mindset

Quanda has leveraged adversity and disadvantage to forge excellence and prosperity most of her adult life. She is now a visionary, directly impacted leader, entrepreneur, accountant, data scientist, consultant, community organizer, youth advocate, Ph.D. candidate, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sykes Capital Management and candidate for New York State Comptroller. She earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a Master of Business Administration from Long Island University. However, her success has not come easily but she never let her hardships define her.

She has derived inspiration from the challenges faced during childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, family and friends and accomplishments. In fact, these experiences have served to inspire her. These incidents inspired her desire to level the playing field and become the “best” version of herself. She lives her life by the C.O.D.E, her code, which is an acronym that stands for (Choices, Ownership Determination and Empowerment). “I want to quickly explain why I live my life by this acronym C.O.D.E. CHOICES – “I truly believe that I am a product of my choices and I take OWNERSHIP of my actions. Determination enabled me to overcome tremendous adversity and I utilize this determination as a tool for encouragement as I push into spaces that were not created for me. I have a sense of Empowerment  that gives me direction and purpose” explains Quanda. 

Holding her Ground

Throughout her career, Quanda has pushed into spaces that were not created for her, or women in particular.Data science and accounting are heavily numeric and generally have significantly more males/men working in those areas. Making her way into those boardrooms wasn’t easy, but she persevered. “Coming to the realization that I did not have to gain acceptance through the portal of “male validation” was a challenge that I faced. However, I now reject the premise that men dominate the world,” says Quanda.

She previously held positions with the New York City Police Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration. As a workforce development architect, creating replicable systems and infrastructure that will maximize the potential of all people, especially those who have been historically marginalized has been very important to her throughout her career. This is one of the reasons she established her firm, Sykes Capital Management. It is a strategically positioned company that specializes in education analytics, financial literacy, business advisory services, and workforce development. It offers a wide range of consulting services to serve a variety of businesses and clients. Whether a small, local business or a multinational corporation, Sykes helps businesses reach new levels of success. “Workforce development has become an integral part of everything we do. We intend to employ an Education Agenda that ensures that every student is exposed to coding as part of their elementary school education. Our plans for education aim to implement modern digital technology more efficiently and effectively in learning, teaching, research,” shares Quanda.

Creating the Next-Gen Workforce

Quanda believes that the economy and society needs a workforce different from what was required in the past. The market demands more today and there must be new ways to train the next generation to ensure they have adequate digital skills to contribute to a technologically driven economy. How do we prepare students to assume the challenges in a depressed economy? What should be the de-facto competencies (beyond standardized tests) students should possess that will ease their transition from high school to college?”

These are just a few questions that Quanda seeks to address through Sykes’ initiative, the Pledge. The first of its kind, it intends to be at the forefront of revolutionizing K-12 Education and workforce development. Through this initiative, Sykes intends to develop and offer 100,000 paid internships each year to youth from marginalized communities to ensure the next generation has the skills they need to contribute to a 21st-century economy. In doing so, Quanda and her team propose to create replicable systems and the necessary infrastructure needed to maximize the potential of the next generation of leaders in every major city around the world. 

Inspiring the Team and Adjusting to the New Normal

Inspiring people is achieved when you embody the attributes and display the behaviors/actions that you espouse for others. Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose, I either win or I learn” and this is how Quanda lives her consciously embodied life and encourages others to do the same. The company’s leadership apparatus is fully engaged and supportive, possessing the right balance between optimism and realism. As a result, she has cultivated a forward-thinking, inclusive, and performance-oriented business culture. The leadership team takes ownership of their choices. Quanda has clearly defined what success means in a team-oriented environment. It means making progress towards the collective goals and understanding how anatomy affects decision-making that can positively or negatively influence business outcomes. 

Talking about the new normal Quanda agrees that the pandemic has accelerated the work-from-home (remote) option. The challenge, she feels, is to use the work modality that benefits the organization, customers, stakeholders, and the worker himself/herself. However, her leadership and management philosophy is that no one plan exists in isolation. Every plan is directly or indirectly connected to every other plan to improve efficiency and maximize impact. Consequently, education, health & safety, housing, law enforcement, workforce development, etc., are elements of a larger goal and plan that will help re-establishes a new normal. 

What’s next for the Woman Helping to Change the World and Make an Impact

As a former candidate for Mayor of New York City, Quanda made history as the first African American woman to run for Mayor of New York City in a general election as the nominee of a political party that she established. She was named Global Women in Banking and Finance 2020 Global Community Development Honoré on the continent of Africa and received the 2021 Madam C.J. Walker Global Citizen Award. As the workforce development architect of the pledge, her team was able to get 100,000 summer jobs allocated to the New York City Summer Youth Employment Program which represents a community investment of over USD $226 Million. I intend to be on the forefront of revolutionizing K-12 Education by utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify student learning styles and offer personalized education plans with the goal of improving educational outcomes and lastly, “embark on this historic run for New York State Comptroller and shatter yet another glass ceiling” says Quanda.

A Word for the Women Entrepreneurs

As a woman making history on many fronts, Quanda urges women entrepreneurs to never give up! Inspiration can be derived from the challenges one faces during their lifetime. These challenges must be taken as opportunities to find one’s calling, leave your mark and make an impact.Her advice to women entrepreneurs is to reject all notions, messages, and practices that undermine women’s ascension. 

“Refuse to be your own naysayer, adversary, and enemy. Show up for people and allow people to show up for you. Cultivate the right relationships with other professionals as networking is important and essential. It is never too early to start identifying prospective mentors and sponsors. There has been a tendency to view both mentors and sponsors interchangeably, but the role of a sponsor and the role of a mentor is uniquely different. A mentor is someone you can go to for advice and guidance and a sponsor is someone that will advocate for you to get opportunities when you are not in the room. Develop relationships with people you admire and if you do not have access to them, read about them,” shares Quanda.