Karen Civil has made a name for herself as a social media and digital media marketing strategist. For over a decade, she has built her personal and professional brand into prominent roles at Beats by Dre and Universal Music Group early into her career.
In 2008, Civil launched KarenCivil.com, an industry insider look into hip-hop. Two years later, she founded Always Civil Enterprise, a full-service branding and marketing powerhouse that specializes in the imaging of brands and creating a foundation of endless success and visibility.
Now, as a leading lady on the digital side of marketing, Civil’s work spans from the entertainment industry to politics. Her clients range from rapper and entrepreneur YG to Hillary Clinton. And she is known for being a cultural architect in the corporate space. In 2018, she helped open the first smart-store, the Marathon Clothing, in Los Angeles with the late, great Nipsey Hussle as her business partner.
Civil is also an author, philanthropist, and STEM advocate for children. As a businesswoman, she is known for being ambitious and unapologetic. We caught up with Civil at Fueled by Culture and spoke with her about what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur in the digital space. During our conversation, Civil kept it real about the sacrifices that come with success.
What goes into the business side of building a brand?
People tell me that I make it look easy and that they want to do what [I] do. Or they say, “I just want to hang out.”
Before the “hangout” or getting paid to do things that you love, [you have to understand that] there’s a lot of sacrifices that come with that. The time and dedication that you put into your career and craft is something that I don’t necessarily apologize for.
Everybody is not built to be a CEO. Everybody is not built to be an entrepreneur.
I always ask people, “Do you hate your job?” They say, “Yes.” Then I ask them, “Do you hate working 40 hours a week?” They say, “Yeah.” And then I tell them, “You probably wouldn’t be cut out to be an entrepreneur. Because it requires more than 40 hours a week.” I’m sending emails at one in the morning and at 3 p.m. because I work across different time zones. I put in 120%.
You’re surrounded by so many influential people and have deep, long-lasting relationships. How important is being relational and authentic?
Being authentic and having great relationships are two things that I live by. I’m not a character. I’m not a gimmick. I’m just authentically myself. And I tell people to do the same thing.
I don’t necessarily look at titles. I don’t walk into a situation and treat the CEO better than the janitor. To me, you should give more respect to the janitor because at the end of the day, you’re gonna lose them keys and need to get into that office. I’m grateful for all people in different places from different walks of life.
How do you practice being healthy and whole as you do the work?
Right now I’m going through a fasting phase for 90 days. And I’m not doing it for any religious reasons or anything like that; I’m doing it for my own sanity. But I am somebody who is spiritual. I light my candles; I have sage in my home; I talk to God; and I follow the Muslim prayer.
I live off inspiration. The first thing and last thing I see are quotes on my walls on my doors, it’s not the TV. That’s what keeps me going and inspires me.
What is next for you as you build and inspire?
My Live Civil imprint is something that I care about deeply. It’s my foundation. I have a school in Haiti and I also have a computer lab. My goal is to put my second computer lab, because it’s important to me, for kids in Haiti to have the same opportunity I did to get to know the world around them. Them being able to log on to the computer, do their homework, learn different languages, and see what’s happening outside of their community to broaden their horizons, is exciting to me.