Cool Jobs: Author and Entrepreneur Tionna Smalls’ Tell-It-Like-It-Is Approach Wins Audiences

How self-publishing led her to reality TV and business success

Tionna Smalls coached TLC superstar Chilli, right, on VH1's "What Chilli Wants" in her quest to find love. (Photo: File)

As an author, publisher, boutique owner, and now budding filmmaker, (with your first project being Brooklyn Bred,) what is a typical day like for you?

Oh my God! Busy, as you can imagine. Well, I wake up around 9 a.m. (Mind you, I go to bed at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. the day before). The first thing I do is check e-mails from people I’m doing business with, payments from PayPal, or invitations. Next, I check my social networks (Twitter and Facebook) to see if there is anything new I need to know or anyone I need to network with. I also advertise all of my ventures or give updates. We have eight pages we control, so we have to make sure everything is updated. Sometimes, I proofread my authors’ work, or I go to Loveys (my boutique) and make sure the place is running correctly. I am very hands on in my businesses. I’m also engaged, so I make sure my fiancé is taken care of.

You’re very active online, even posting casting calls for your new movie via Twitter. How influential is social media to your brand?

Social media has made my brand. Vh1 called me for the show because they used to read my column online. My supporters were able to keep up with me after the show ended almost a year and a half ago because of social media. I personally love it because you can reach a broader audience. I am very into being a national brand, and social media helps me do that. I sell a lot of books online and I love it. It is the fastest way to spread a message to your audience and it helps your brand because you are able to hit your target market with a click of a button.

Where does the motivation to do what you do (specifically encourage & empower women) come from?

My motivation is from being born and raised in the ‘hood (East New York area of Brooklyn). Every day, you had examples of what not to be. Every day you saw people bite the dust. Seeing that made me realize that I didn’t want to be a statistic. I always wanted more for myself. I also have parents who are still happily married who taught us the game, so I guess I am passing along what I learned. I love to encourage and empower women because I am a woman, and one day I will have a daughter, and it will be my job as her mother to teach her what she should and shouldn’t accept from a man or in life. I take that role as a love coach very serious. I’d like to say I am the queen of self-esteem because if you have self-esteem, everything else will work out for you personally and professionally. You have to believe in yourself first.

So you’ve ventured into television, more books and even films. What’s next for Tionna Smalls?

I am coming back to TV! Yes! This time it is my own show and my own brand, and I am so excited.

We will film my debut feature film, Brooklyn Bred, this summer. I wrote and directed the movie, and I must tell you it is something else.

I also have two authors who are coming out with great books this summer. One is called Good Men Do Cheat by Carl A. Roberts, and the other is called Pretty Boy with the House in Virginia by B. Styliz Ortiz, his memoir of being a 22-year-old, gorgeous young man living with HIV.

We are also expanding my boutique’s brand by adding a shoe bar in Brooklyn and opening a store in Philadelphia. I’m also working on expanding the brand of my plus-size boutique, Majesty’s Closet. So let’s just say, I am very busy these days but it is all-good and I am ready for the challenge.

My biggest goal for 2012 is to shoot my movie and get this money so that I can relax a little more in 2013. (Laughs). I am a go-getter, so for the next six months of the year, I just want to keep doing what I am doing and make things happen with leadership from our Father, God.

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