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Inspiring Conversations with Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson of Kengen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson.

Hi Kenadie, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I own Kengen, a consulting firm specializing in DEI consulting, nonprofit consulting, and business development. I came to Los Angeles from Ohio in my late teens as a writer for the Arsenio Hall Show, The All-New Dating Game & Newlywed Game, and other television shows… However, the seasonality of work scared me and I decided to go a different path. I became an English Teacher, first in Japan, then in Ohio, and ended a seven-year stint as a teacher at Long Beach Jordan High School. However, I was struck by the adverse childhood experiences that were prevalent among teenagers and felt compelled to help on a greater level than I could as a teacher. I left teaching and started HerShe, a nonprofit mentoring organization for girls in foster care in 2000. Most of the youth came from South LA. Undoubtedly, this will be one of my greatest achievements. I ran HerShe for 16 years taking in kids from 12 to 14 years old and mentoring them for more than a decade. Many of them are college grads and sorority girls who have become professional working women. I left Los Angeles for seven years to become the director of business engagement for a workforce development board in Las Vegas. Interestingly enough, all of these experiences find great value in DEI consulting which requires (1) a significant educational component that I draw from my teaching experience, (2) the fragile emotions I dealt with at HerShe are similar to the emotions of discussing race in America, and (3) the business and workforce development that is necessary to start, grow, and sustain diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces as well as diverse suppliers.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
There were many challenges along the way. While I left Ohio pretty unscathed, I believed that racism was a historical phenomenon. It wasn’t until I went to college did I understand the magnitude and persistent legacy of slavery. I went to DePauw University and I was one of 12 Black students entering the freshman class. As my parents drove me to school, I saw a KKK meeting in progress and was greeted with picket signs as I arrived. I wrote an article about this. You can take a look here: https://kenadie.medium.com/becoming-a-cheerleader-for-change-2bedc94b0db4.

Then, one of the school’s fraternities throws a “Ghetto Party” and my path to dedicating my life to DEI begins, but not without heartache. After a painful four years of college at DePauw, I couldn’t take America anymore and left to live in Japan. I returned two years later feeling more American than ever and boldly took up my mantle – creating allies and preparing the youth of color to succeed.

Then, more recently, in 2018, I ran into significant oppression from the Latinx community in Las Vegas. Again, I was shocked because I thought we were all in this struggle together. While I think being pro-Latinx, pro-Black, or pro-Italian is a good thing, being anti-Latinx, anti-Black, or anti-anything else, is quite another. I also discovered what it felt like to be oppressed by both my race and gender. So, this is a life I’ve lived, not read about, or heard about. It can be crushing; however, I am a prisoner of hope and will continue to fight the good fight.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
My company helps corporate executives (because change begins within the seat of power) master Kengen’s 4 A’s of allyship and leverage their voice to accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. The 4 A’s are to (1) Acquire the essential skills to have courageous conversations; (2) Acknowledge and accept the history and context of injustice in America; (3) Articulate the lived experiences of marginalized groups; and (4) Act as an ally to accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion in the faces and spaces people have influence. Ultimately, we develop DEI strategies to help executive leadership teams gain critical DEI and social justice tools to advance corporate DEI goals and shift company culture. Additionally, we help non-profits and diverse suppliers build capacity and succeed.

What sets Kengen apart is the mindful, restorative practice approach we use to transform high-performance teams. We don’t care about being right, we care about being in a relationship. The goal is to build relationships across the fault lines of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more.

For new clients, we come in and perform a 16-week assessment of the organization. Our goal is to (1) design and execute a strategic visioning and comprehensive planning process; (2) develop an actionable three-year strategic plan, including a projected budget for its implementation; and (3) develop recommendations regarding the plan’s implementation and support structure. Then, we are typically retained to coach and train its employees as the company works through the plan.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
My personal motto is to never make rookie mistakes. It’s unlikely that you are doing anything that hasn’t been done before. Learn from the experiences of others and go farther as a result. I love talking to and learning from people. Personally, if I see a person I would like to meet and get to know, I find someone to introduce me. Generally, a warm introduction is all that is necessary to at least get a meeting. From that point, you must ascertain if the relationship has the potential to move forward.

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