I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Duncan the Founder and CEO of Newborn Consulting. With over 20 years of business experience, Amber has revitalized business after business in her pursuit of entrepreneurship. Amber began her entrepreneurial journey while seeking to solve a problem that so many Americans were facing during the housing market crash in 2008. In response, she and her business partners built one of the most well-known and highly-regarded debt settlement companies nationwide.
Since, Amber continues to scale small businesses, whether it be her own or those of the clients that she manages. Amber specializes in helping startups get their feet off the ground and scaling businesses in a wide variety of industries. From working with fashion clients in the e-commerce space and marketing firms, to working with fitness experts and organic farms, Amber’s business coaching strategy has served so many businesses well.
Amber’s passion project, Jackie, is a high-end, boutique subscription styling service that styles women across the US. She also owns and operates a local franchise, Gigi’s Cupcakes.
Thank you for joining us Amber. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
One of my favorite parts of learning about an entrepreneur is hearing where they came from and what their story is, because we all have one. Mine is one of complete surprise. I always had vision but didn’t always know how I was going to make things happen. I mean, don’t we all have a dream but have no idea how we are going to get there? I can tell you that it was the driving force of pushing my way to create something out of nothing that has led me to where I am now building another successful company and serving women across the country while empowering them to step out and make things happen. It is my goal to help women believe that they are qualified and can achieve what they set out to do.
I went from being a mortgage broker at the height of the boom to losing everything during the economic crash in 2008, however, one thing was certain. People across the country had debt that they could no longer take out their equity from their home to pay for. Out of that, myself along with two partners developed one of the top debt settlement companies in the nation and we help thousands of individuals settle debts for a portion of what they owe. I love seeing what this does for individuals who have no hope or feel stuck.
From there, I then opened two Gigi’s Cupcakes locations because, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what kind of economy we are in, who can say no to sweets? I then took it full circle and purchased a gym that I rebranded Live Training Center and later gave to by brother. That brings me here, Jackie. This company was born out of my desire to have a stylist that really understood me and my lifestyle. One that didn’t buy what I said but rather introduced me to brands and textures I had never seen before. When I didn’t find that service available for myself, I decided there must be more women like me out there who desire this same thing. I want someone to get me. I want to have a wardrobe that says I am a mom of five but also a business professional, so I created Jackie. This boutique subscription service serves women across the country and delivers the perfect curated box of clothes to their door monthly.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Boy I thought I had it all figured out when I first got started. I was notorious for sending some pretty harsh emails with exactly what was on my mind and for an 8 on the enneagram, that is not a great quality. One day, my business partner Harry Hedaya sat me down and suggested I write the email and wait 24 hours before I sent it and go back and read it prior to hitting the send button to see if I still meant it how I wrote it. That was a game changer for me. Today, I really don’t ever feel like I stop learning. When I look back at who I was 10 years ago and how I operated vs how I operate now it looks totally different. I always want to feel like I am growing professionally and personally and I find myself reading and taking courses to do just that.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I am constantly picking up books on business. One book that had a profound impact on me both personally and professionally is The Blessed Life by Robert Morris. This book showed me over and over how we are called to give more than receive and when I started practicing that both personally and professionally, it was a game changer. I recently finished Good to Great by Jim Collins. I absolutely fell in love with this book because I saw so many examples of things that keep companies good while others excel to greatness. I was blown away and immediately shared it with my team of managers to read so we could all be on the same page with how we are running the organization. It changed not only our culture but the bottom line results.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Since I was little, I have always had this chip to help people and if you look at the businesses I have owned, that is exactly what they entail. Helping people feel good. Whether it was getting rid of their debt to make them feel better or serving them a cupcake to bring a smile, I feel my purpose in life and in business is to help and empower those around me. I was once a single mom struggling and had I not had people behind me to support and mentor me, I would not be where I am today and I want to do the same for others. I want to help them anyway I can to achieve dreams they may have that are stopped by fear they are experiencing. I want them to reach their full potential. At Jackie, I tell all of my stylists that our job is to make our clients feel like a million bucks because if they feel like that they can conquer the world.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My number one principle that guides me through everything is found in my faith in God. He knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me and if I ask him to take the lead and show me and give me the wisdom I need, He will every time. It is not easy being at the top, in fact, it can be lonely but I am so grateful to have an opportunity to not only pour into employees but to build relationships with females like myself who have dreams and desires and just don’t know how to get started.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
COVID 19 came as a shock to everyone and my heart goes out to all those who lost their jobs and businesses during this time. I am one who relies heavily on systems and accountability so I had just finished doing some major updates in the organization prior to this so we were in a perfect position for all of our staff to move home and work remotely. In fact, it was very eye opening to me how much success we experienced with this new way of being. I think we all needed this time.
I can’t tell you the last time I spent that much time at home with my husband and five children. It was good on so many levels and while it had its challenges, it taught me that we can function and successfully complete anything if we structure our days accordingly. Between the kids’ school work and zoom meeting to my workouts on the Peloton (thank God for Peloton) we got it done and I felt very grounded and balanced during this time. I am grateful I was fortunate enough to keep all of my employees and continue to service all of our clients without any interruptions.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
While business itself has continued to grow during this time, we are dependent on our distributors to send the items to us for our boxes to be prepared and during this pandemic, it has limited the amount of workers who were able to prepare and send those to us so we are working with a limited number of items, however, I have gotten creative in my buying for clients during the interim and have found ways to keep their boxes on point until we return to normal.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
So many people I know are waking up daily with fear and anxiety of the future and what it holds. If we have all learned anything during this it should be that tomorrow is not promised and today is a gift so live in it accordingly. Stay connected with friends. Laugh and try to keep some social life even if you cannot physically meet up with people. It is important to prevent loneliness and depression. When this first started it was scary but once I found Tiger King on Netflix, my mind completely forgot about being quarantined. I try to encourage those around me to focus on the good. Focus on what is nice about not having to go anywhere and do things you have said you haven’t had time to do for years. Now is the time. While we don’t know what is to come, I chose to wake up everyday with the same purpose, to help someone. Whether that is through a meeting or simply a nice text, my hope is to make a difference in someone else. That’s what brings true joy.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Post COVID opportunities will be available. As a country we have all learned so much about staying well and how we interact. I am really excited to see how we run our businesses post COVID and feel that there is going to be so many opportunities to connect with individuals. We have changed the landscaping of a meeting and what that looks like. It may be something that ultimately helps with global warming as the decrease in Americans commuting to work daily declines with working from home. Productivity is estimated to improve for those working from home simply because they are happier in their own comfort zone. Probably one I am passionate about is that I hope people saw how quickly we can run out of essentials such as food and begin to take responsibility for their own well being by planting a garden or growing their own food. Food is medicine and our health is the most valuable thing we have so I believe we will see an upswing in Americans growing their own food to support their families.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
While it is hard to say what permanent effect COVID will have on us, social distancing will be around to stay. We may not always be made to stay 6 feet apart, but a healthy distance will always exist. I hope one thing that is here to stay is the importance of washing hands and sanitizing them several times. We really got lazy with this as a society and this pandemic quickly taught us all how taking that one step can make the biggest impact on everyone.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I plan to continue on the track I am. This is especially relevant for my business, A New You, where my team and I help others manage their debt. There will be millions of Americans who are struggling with debt post COVID, so we will continue to grow our team to assist the needs while keeping our employees working from home as it has served to be extremely beneficial for both our employees and our bottom line. This will allow for a smaller footprint which will decrease overhead expenses for the company.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would really encourage all business owners to revisit their business entirely. What matters the most? How can you connect with people now and speak their language because it looks different than prior to this pandemic. You have to be able to connect with someone. Be authentic in everything. People appreciate now more than ever. They crave human connection so make it count.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I really have one quote that I say to myself everyday when I am approached with things. “You can choose to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.” This has never been more true than today after going through what we have all just experienced. We need to offer hope and solutions to people, not feed their fears. I always want to find myself offering solutions in everything.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can get in touch with Amber Duncan and her team at https://www.anewbornbusiness.com/. You can also follow along with her passion project, Jackie (https://shopjackie.com/) or her Debt Settlement Company, A New You (https://reducemydebts.com/).