Tell us a bit about yourself and your side hustle.
Hola! My name is Kyla Jones and I am a Humanitarian Organizer. From D.C to New York, and now Dallas, I have been able to foster greater inclusion in the workplace and in the community around me.
Professionally, my light has impacted both the business and culture of Disney / ABC Television Group, Discovery Communications, IPG, and now, Omnicom Group. Recently, I transitioned from a multi-platform analyst, exploring innovative ways to showcase data through creative-visual storytelling over into Experiential Strategy. As a Sr. Experience Strategist, I am able to leverage my research background to build experiential campaigns for diverse audiences.
On the culture side of business, I’ve been able to spearhead and host several innovative programs geared towards empowering multi-generations and diverse audiences – all in an effort to create a workplace where employees feel heard, accepted and acknowledged.
My side hustle is educating, empowering and equipping the next generation for what’s next. The. Miss. Jones Xperience® is a solutions-based platform, engineering transformative experiences for schools, community partners, colleges/universities and companies. Hosting interactive masterclasses, I am able to meet the needs and rally cry of the audience members with each masterclass being its own unique experience.
Across multiple markets, I’ve been able to host several xperiences ranging from personal brand building, healthy social media habits, pressing cultural topics (i.e. The Missing Girls of D.C), resume and interview readiness, public speaking, presentation skills and essential building blocks to securing your seat at the table.
The core of my side hustle is centered around bringing my unique journey and skillset to the audience, as a means of inspiring and preparing them for the next step in their own unique journey.
The students who make up the audience are often those who are naturally marginalized or forced to put college / career plans together with minimal resources and support. Being able to shine a light on this diverse generation and inspire them to keep moving forward, despite the barriers they face, is more than a side hustle for me, it’s a passion. I believe the work I do under The. Miss. Jones Xperience is a part of my greater purpose in this world.
What inspired you to start your side hustle? How long have you been doing it?
What inspired me to start my side hustle was working in the community for over 10 years. I’ve been able to mentor several young women and men, and have had a front row seat to the struggles and barriers this generation faces. Struggles and barriers that often delay growth beyond high school. Hearing the stories of social media bullying to lack of family support, convicted me at such a young age to develop a hustle, now platform, that first listens to them before developing solutions or inspirational content.
And, because of the resilience and fortitude of this next generation, this is why I started The. Miss. Jones Xperience. I wanted to leverage my privilege and access, as a means of helping to bridge the gap and share learnings along the way. I wanted to be able to give back to my community in a way that showed them just how much this world needs their voice, their visions and their hustle.
This generation truly inspires me. They give me hope. Every day, I take them with me in the boardroom, both metaphorically and methodically.
Does your side hustle benefit the community in any way? If not, do you plan on using it to give back at some point?
Yes, it absolutely does benefit the community.
This is the core of The. Miss. Jones Xperience. Recognizing that some communities are shut out from certain opportunities or conversations. Often due to varying factors that are out of the control of the younger generations. However, being able to lift the veil and expose certain truths / alternative facts, such as the algorithms behind social media to influence impulse behaviour and subconsciously foster low self-esteem, has been able to help students have a greater understanding of the world around them and certain forces at play. The measured result is being able to help them make stronger, more discerning decisions for their future, as well as bridge the gap between documented disparities.
It’s no surprise that minority children continue to face significant disparities in access to quality education and college / career-ready opportunities and resources. There are even less resources tailored towards building healthy and sustainable self-esteems, mental wellness, financial literacy and owning your authentic identity. This is why, I continue to create equitable opportunities of learning and empowerment. Exercising my graduate degree, psychology background and career journey to help the next generation overcome the steep learning curves and accessibility gaps these students continue to face.
Putting together a media strategy that acknowledges nuanced audiences for a multi-million dollar company, which struggles in this market space, does pay my bills and student loans. However, what makes my heart smile and continues to be a strong catalyst, is being able to use those same skills and privileges to help all students and young professionals build strategies for their future.
This often includes equipping them with how to write a resume, how to overcome anxiety during the interview process, how to authentically brand themselves on social media, how to write a captivating college entry essay, how to apply for the FAFSA, how to decide on a college and major, how to pivot in your career, understanding the power of essential soft skills, and so much more.
Reaching back is in my DNA. It’s in my bloodline; it’s my foundation. So, it only makes sense that what I did create as my side hustle, would be a vehicle of change for many communities along my career journey. Being able to see MJX expand across several key markets and diverse audience segments, truly highlights the legacy I come from and why this hustle/platform will always be community-first.
What motivates you to keep hustling?
Purpose motivates me to keep hustling. I believe there is an anointed purpose over my life that is tied to equipping and empowering the next generation. I believe I am a vessel and the journey I am on is meant to provide inspiration, education and hope to others along the way.
MJX requires me to have a level of vulnerability that creates a safe space for others, to feel comfortable doing the same. In these safe spaces, I share some of my innermost struggles and triumphs, which in turn encourages others to speak through their low and high points. This approach creates a trust exchange between myself and the audience, where we recognize: we’re all in this together and asking for help / guidance is perfectly okay – it’s highly encouraged.
What ends up happening at the end of each xperience, and what makes each one unique from the others, is a collective is formed. A unique collective where we laughed together, learned together, and shined a light together. It becomes a shared experience.
It’s all of this combined that empowers me to keep hustling. It’s being able to inspire a new mindset or provide a light at the end of the tunnel that keeps me forward on building up the platform of The. Miss. Jones Xperience. Moreover, It’s being able to be an advocate for these voices in executive decisions within the companies I have worked for.
Even though MJX doesn’t fully pay my bills and often requires more work on top of the work I am paid for, it’s the greater purpose of it all that keeps me motivated.
Were there any specific skills you needed to start this project? Has your day job helped in developing those skills?
There were specific skills needed to start this project, such as Entrepreneurial Hustle, “Power of the Pivot”, Grit, Cross-Generational Communication, Strategic Thinking, Experiential Planning, Empowering Public Speaking and Persuasive Presentation Skills. These specific skills were actually developed in tandem during the creation of The. Miss. Jones Xperience.
Learning how to knock on doors for unconventional opportunities, how to pivot through the market in order to keep my resume fresh, how to continue moving forward despite rejection, how to effectively speak to various generations within the community and within a company, strategically mapping and building experiences for diverse audiences, were all skills I learned during my career journey in New York, at the same time I was building MJX. 20/20 hindsight, it was the perfect alignment.
During this time, I found myself in grad school and transitioning from unemployed entrepreneur to full-time Jr. Digital Analyst at Disney/ABC Television. Reflecting now, I had no idea all of these unique touchpoints within my journey would not only define my career, but also define me: Miss. Jones.
As a Digital Analyst, I had such a unique opportunity to use research to inspire change across multiple departments. I learned how to evangelize learnings and insights in a way that was digestible, but also approachable across various business hierarchies and learning capacities. This is how I gained the skills of cross-generational communication, empowering pubic speaking and persuasive presentations.
I noticed during meetings that when Analytics would speak after Marketing’s cool, awe-inspiring campaigns, eyes would glaze over and the engagement would drop. I wanted to change this.
As my director helped me to learn the business and new skills under analytics, she also created a space for me to present. So, the presentations I put together would always be visually captivating and humanized in a way that would resonate across multiple disciplines and backgrounds. But, how I presented the data and insights was all “Miss. Jones” – energetic, lively, engaging, real and authentic.
At the same time, I was piloting my graduate capstone thesis (MJX) in the community back home. Creating visually stunning presentations, tailoring my content towards a different audience and mindset. Using stats and research to influence change among young girls. But again, how I presented this was in the same vessel as how I presented in the boardroom, as Miss. Jones.
Fast forward 5 years, my day job today uses the foundation of the experiences and skills I gained during my time in New York. So much of what I’ve created within those companies (passion projects) and in the community with MJX, centers around creating custom experiences for diverse segments. Entrepreneurial hustle, “power of the pivot” strategic thinking and experiential planning are key foundational skills continue to develop today, as a Sr. Experience Strategist
I love how it all connects and weaves together, and this was not something I purposefully set out to achieve. It was all by divine planning.
Does your side hustle benefit your day-to-day work?
Yes! It absolutely does. As a Sr. Experience Strategist, I am called upon to build holistic customer experiences for diverse segments within unique customer journeys. The work I do under The. Miss. Jones Xperience is very similar: building custom experiences for diverse segments, empowering audience members on the unique journey they find themselves on.
At RAPP, I am also the lead Social Diversity Influencer, helping to lead efforts with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as well as partnering with other cultural committees. This allows me to build custom experiences for the network, fostering greater inclusivity and collaboration among diverse segments within the workforce.
Over the summer, MJX hosted an interactive masterclass for the Marcus Graham Project, partnering with RAPP. I shared my 10-year career journey from hosting the middle school announcements, 9 months of unemployment, $140K in student loan debt, to now the work I do as a Sr. Experience Strategist at RAPP. I shared my journey with a group of diverse, young professionals, eager to turn their hustles and education into solidified careers.
I shared essential building blocks to help the next generation of executives, secure their seat at the table, as I find myself doing now at RAPP. I not only represented myself and my hustle, but I also had an opportunity to represent RAPP and speak to the work and workplace I am to influence. After the masterclass, several young professionals said they will now consider RAPP as they look for future employment.
The work I continue to do with my side hustle not only impacts the community and the next generation, but it is also beginning to increase awareness and consideration of my current company - among a key generation. Thus, affecting the talent pipeline.
In the near future, we are looking to bring in more RAPP employees into the MJX partnership to offer employees an opportunity to help prepare the young professionals for their next career steps. This in hopes of impacting morale, improving retention and broadening perspectives among employees.
Moreover, the more diverse audiences I am able to interact with in the community, the more diverse perspectives I am able to listen and learn from. This will then inform and influence how I build customer experiences for clients. Customer experiences that acknowledge those same diverse segments clients often leave out, due to a lack of awareness or greater understanding of best cultural CRM practices.
The combined experiences of my current day job and current community work, allows me to build real, humanized campaigns and pitch new business with authentic consumer voices.
What have you learned since you began your side hustle? Has it evolved it evolved the years?
Since beginning my side hustle, I’ve learned so much about myself, my community, the next generation, and the world around me.
What I’ve learned about myself is that I am actually destined to do this work. Research shows that within 5 years, 90% of start-ups / small businesses fail. The fail rate is even higher for women, much higher for women of color. If you beat the odds, it brings a sense of credibility to your business and validation to your mission.
As a woman of color, the odds were against me. I was expected to fail. After 5 years of a successful hustle / platform, I am still making a change. So much so, it has expanded across multiple markets.
Through MJX, I have been able to learn more about different communities, cultures and the world around me. There are systems in place designed to deny access to key resources within certain communities and socio-economic groups. We are beginning to see more and more of the systematic injustices at play, but also their cause and effect 50 to 100 years later. A quick reference would be Ava DuVernay’s recent film: WHEN THEY SEE US. It’s such a powerful example and inspirational touchpoint of why MJX and many other community-centered ventures continue to focus on equipping and preparing the young men and women of today, for tomorrow. It’s absolutely critical.
In full transparency, I did set out to change the world somehow. I saw the stats, I read the news, I witnessed the injustice and I wanted to act. Blame the “millennial” in me. But, as I continued to do the work under MJX and learn about the systems in place, I learned that it’s not necessarily about changing the world. It’s more so about being a good neighbor or serving others in your community.
So, I changed my mission hustle from trying to change the world, to just helping people with what I have and where I can. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned since starting my hustle.
After 5 years, the side hustle is now beginning to evolve into a business plan, with an annual budget, community partners and most recently, a company sponsor. RAPP is looking to partner with MJX to help build their young professional talent pipeline and community presence. We are in the midst of spearheading a MJX University Tour, where I will be able to continue building original content and use my journey to inspire others. By partnering with RAPP, we can bring in employees to help lead portfolio reviews, resume reviews, and mock interviews to help prepare the next generation for the workforce, in the advertising industry.
Is there any advice you’d give to young creatives & executives on how to pursue their passion projects on the side?
The advice I would give young creatives and executives on how to pursue their passion projects on the side is: go for it! Don’t be afraid to create a solution or a passion project on the side that makes your heart smile or gives you another creative outlet to express yourself.
We were all born with so many gifts, talents, and skills, that it’s naive to think that one environment or outlet can water all of the seeds we wish to plant. So, don’t be afraid to branch out and discover new environments that may be the catalyst to discovering other aspects of who you are and what you’re capable of achieving.
It’s also imperative to collaborate and bring in others who are just as passionate and visionary as you are. Whether they help you with your side hustle or vice versa, it will allow you to develop a network of trusted neighbors and allies. In order for a side hustle to turn into a business, you must have advocates and sponsors – people who believe in your vision and the work you are looking to do. Find those people, but also be that person for someone else.