Nikkia McClain’s Pow(H)er Initiative Empowers Black Women To Be Unapologetically Themselves
Nikkia McClain speaks to Black Enterprise about Support Your Girlfriends, her creative agency Tene Nicole, and how the Pow(H)er experience came to be.
Vulnerability, intentionality, and authenticity. Nikkia McClain is dedicated to these values which revolve around creating supportive spaces for Black women. Through her Pow(H)er initiative, McClain champions the elevation of Black women, fostering a stronger network for them to empower themselves and their ideas. Her commitment is a testament to her determination to uplift and support Black women in their journeys.
McClain has been sparking this change through her now-fifth annual Support Your Girlfriends’ Pow(H)er Experience and Award ceremony, facilitated by her creative agency, Tené Nicole.
She knows that real change comes not only from within but throughout, as all Black women have the potential to encourage and inspire those within their community. Her work building the Pow(H)er experience has shed light on pioneering and triumphant women within and beyond the entrepreneurial, social impact, and media realms. McClain and her growing collective of “disruptors” seek to break any ceilings that limit Black women from being the game-changers the world needs.
The CEO and PR mastermind spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE about the impact of Pow(H)er and Support Your Girlfriends and how she is continuing to help women be unapologetic in who they are.
What is the overarching mission with Pow(H)er? The story of how it came to be, and what made you feel like this was vital for our community?
NM: It started with needing a break. If you know me, I’m extra, but in the best way possible. We started with a girls trip before girls trips were even that popular yet. That first year, it was 10 women; by the third year, we had 44 women. As it started to evolve, it became Support Your Girlfriends. We had a mantra of “Celebrate her, Support her, Power her,” and that’s how we got here. Last year was the first time we implemented the Pow(H)er experience, a free conference. I’ve been treating Pow(H)er her as this passion project because it is also part of our giveback, but now I have to treat it like a client. In this full year of programming, we are making more resources available through grants and networking. I started out as a small-business owner and had no background in PR and marketing. So I made every mistake, and now I want to be a resource for others so that they can learn and have the tools to be successful.
What is holding back Black female entrepreneurs the most, and what is the best way to rectify this?
NM: We are limited to resources. Limited as we don’t know where those resources are, and we don’t know where to begin. We as entrepreneurs have to be in a vulnerable space. In order to keep pushing forward, we may need to be vulnerable and say, “Hey, I need this.” Vulnerability is the biggest thing when it comes to being your authentic self. We have to be open, and as long as you are being you, that attracts like-minded people who want to see you win.
What does it mean to be unapologetic?
NM: Meaning that you can show up as who you are without feeling you have to apologize for it. I’m going to show up as the loud, boisterous, upbeat, and confident woman that I am. Because of who I am, it may rub someone the wrong way. But guess what? That is their problem, not mine. I am not dimming my light to fit in anyone else’s space. For me, that is being my unapologetic self. I want to be that disruptor in this space and say, “Hey, this is how I’m showing up.” Showing up like this is truly standing in my power and knowing who I am and what I represent.
Women leave your event feeling so inspired. How do we expand upon that for women who aren’t in the room?
NM: I want to be extremely intentional in servicing the community. We build these workshops around support. It goes back to Support Your Girlfriends, when I realized it was bigger than me. I didn’t do this out of want; I did this out of a need. But after Pow(H)er, I realized the impact we can have on women of color and how this network is so needed. Now we decided to do a four-part series in different cities. This is an ecosystem that they can come to and be vulnerable to say what they need. At the end of each day, we’re going to ask, “How can I support you?” Everything you need is in this room. No one is going to leave without a full call to action, and making sure we’re following up with that.
Let’s dive in about the nomination process. How do you figure out who best embodies these awards?
NM: Now, there is a board in place. I’ll submit my nominations, but I want the people who really see the impact of Pow(H)er to also have a say in who gets nominated. We really try to align with who is being unapologetic when it comes to things like entrepreneurship, finances, and the DEI space. When I thought about entrepreneurship, why not Angela White? [White won the 2023 Unapologetically Her Award for Entrepreneurship.] And that goes for Charlamagne, too, for getting the first-ever Power Him award. He is the most unapologetic person, and he stands in his truth.
How do you stay empow(H)ered, and what is the key to inspiring that in others?
NM: I was a mother of two by the time I was 18, and that was me making poor decisions because I didn’t have someone pouring into me. After becoming a mom, it literally was my best friend saying, “Let’s go, I’m about to go register you for college.” That got me on the road that life was going to look different. After four years of starting Tené Nicole, I went and got my master’s in strategic relations, and now I am in a Ph.D. program in marketing. For me, it was always how to elevate and get better. I’ve seen the lowest version of myself to the highest version. It really is these women, the network around me, and my family. I’ve broken every chain you can imagine. So that’s how I stay empowered.
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