Ending Poverty Through Entrepreneurship with Dr. Velma Trayham, Thinkzilla

Ending Poverty Through Entrepreneurship with Dr. Velma Trayham, Thinkzilla

June 23, 2021

Today’s episode is about the impact you can potentially have as an entrepreneur on your communities. Dr. Velma Trayham joins us to discuss how she is helping ending poverty through building her 3-winged business. 

Three things you will learn this episode: 

  • How to run multiple businesses effectively;
  • How to use your business to help your community;
  • How to use self-care and self-development to grow as an entrepreneur. 

About Dr. Velma Trayham: 

Dr. Velma Trayham runs a three wing operation: ThinkZilla, a brand engagement firm; Millionaire Mastermind, a business education platform for women; and she is a hotel investor as well. Her three businesses synergistically feed off each other. She has mentored over 5000 women in her career and is an award-winning entrepreneur.

She also wrote the book, “After the Pivot: Real advice on how to survive a business pivot and make money.” In this book, she shares insights on how to navigate the aftermath of a pivot. Drawing from her own experiences and highlighting successful examples like PayPal, she provides business owners with practical guidance to move forward, make informed decisions, and ultimately thrive in the face of change.

For a comprehensive book review, check out this page.

Is entrepreneurship the answer to ending poverty?

Entrepreneurship has the potential to be an effective instrument in addressing and ending poverty for several reasons:

  • Self-Sufficiency and Empowerment: Entrepreneurship allows people to take control of their financial situations. It allows people, particularly those in underprivileged regions, to use their skills, abilities, and resources to develop sustainable businesses. Individuals can earn revenue, better their living conditions, and minimize their need on external aid or support by creating their own businesses. Entrepreneurship empowers people to become self-sufficient, allowing them to escape the cycle of poverty and build a better future for themselves and their families.
  • Economic Growth and Job Creation: Entrepreneurs contribute to job creation by creating businesses and hiring workers, which is critical for moving people out of poverty. Businesses that flourish and expand contribute to economic growth through improving productivity, creating income, and stimulating innovation. This economic expansion has the potential to have a cascade effect on poverty reduction, opening up new opportunities for individuals and communities.
  • Local Economic Development: Entrepreneurship promotes the growth of local economies. People who start businesses not only create jobs but also contribute to the local supply chain and ecosystem. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) frequently have a multiplier effect on the economy since they prefer to source goods and services locally, supporting other businesses and encouraging an economic development cycle. This localized economic growth empowers communities and decrease poverty by enhancing income generation and improving overall living conditions.

While entrepreneurship is not an instant fix for poverty, it does give a valuable and multifaceted approach to fighting poverty. Entrepreneurship contributes to reducing poverty and establishing a more inclusive and prosperous community by boosting economic growth, empowering individuals, promoting innovation, supporting local economies, and enabling social impact.

On today’s episode: 

  • Dr. Velma Trayham’s entrepreneurial journey (she’s hiring 25 new employees!)- 01:55
  • Why she’s working on many different businesses instead of just one OR  Why having many different businesses can be the solution you need -03:35
  • Why Dr. Velma Trayham built Millionaire Mastermind Academy and has run it every single month since – 07:40
  • Is everyone ready to own a business? (and an interesting definition of ownership) – 09:54 
  • Why your business will suffer without self-care (and why self-care is central to every entrepreneur’s success)- 12:06 
  • What is supplier diversity and how it can help communities get out of poverty – 14:52
  • What does a community-focused legacy look like? – 19:34
  • Lesson 1: How to run multiple businesses effectively – 21:04 
  • Lesson 2: How to use your business to help your community – 22:17 
  • Lesson 3: Your business is only a tool on your journey – 23:44

Key Takeaways: 

  • Having many different initiatives does not mean you have to do all the work running all of them. All you have to do is put the right systems, processes, and people in place to make sure the business runs well. 
  • If you want to have many different businesses, one strategy you can adopt is to make sure that one business feeds onto the next. Dominate a space. 
  • “Ownership is not a pursuit, it is a result”
  • Professional development and self-care are extremely important for entrepreneurs: “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. 
  • Working with small minority-led businesses can help communities get out of poverty. 
  • Whoever you are, you are brought on this earth to solve a problem. 
  • Money coming into small businesses flows into their communities 7x, the number is just 1.5-2x for large corporations. In short, small businesses uplift their communities financially considerably more than large corporations do. 

Why sometimes having several ventures is more effective than having just one: 

“When you look at ending a systemic issue, a systemic problem, and you’re looking at poverty, you need different elements in order to do that so along the journey I have been understanding what the problem is, I am not waiting on other people to provide solutions. I am actually along the way putting things in place to be the solution to the problem” –  Dr. Velma Trayham

What are your pro tips for successfully running multiple businesses at the same time? Tell us in the comments and don’t forget to say hello if you would like to share your entrepreneurship story on our podcast. 

Connect with Dr. Velma Trayham:

Connect with A.J.Lawrence:

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:

Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links in this episode are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we only promote products/services we believe will benefit your entrepreneurial journey.


[00:01:22] A.J. Lawrence: And then lastly, she’s also the managing partner of an investment fund, US Diversity Group that focuses on buying hotels across the US. Because US hotel ownership is very poorly representative from African-Americans, less than about 1%. Her new investment group is going to change that. So, very impressive entrepreneur who has an amazing journey to share with us today.

[00:01:47] Dr. Velma, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really do appreciate you taking the time to join us. It’s really exciting to have you here. I would love to know with your background, with everything you’ve been doing, you’ve helped so many people begin their journey and work on their entrepreneurial journey. Would you mind sharing a little bit with our audience where you are with your own entrepreneurial journey?

[00:02:10] Dr. Velma Trayham: Yes. Absolutely. Thank you for having me. In terms of entrepreneurship, I love how you phrase that of the journey. It is. Entrepreneurship is definitely a journey and where I am along my journey at this particular time, I have expanded to my fourth office here in Phoenix, Arizona.

[00:02:29] We have actually just finalized a partnership with ASU, one of the largest universities, and we currently have clients all around the US. So we are expanding in terms of creating job opportunities. In fact, we have to hire about 25 people here within the next 60 to 90 days. So we are continuously expanding, creating job opportunities and creating the blueprint for the next generation to have a path.

[00:03:00] A.J. Lawrence: That is really great. Are you hiring locally within the Phoenix area?

[00:03:04] Dr. Velma Trayham: I am hiring within the Phoenix area. However, we do have some positions that are open virtually.

[00:03:11] A.J. Lawrence: Having worked for an agency in the Scottsdale, Phoenix area. And then after I left the agency, started my own agency. I had an office down there.

[00:03:19] There was amazing talent. I never really knew Scottsdale, Phoenix was such a huge bed of talent for this. So you’re in a great area to pick up some amazing people. I really do wish you luck there.

[00:03:33] Dr. Velma Trayham: Thank you. I appreciate that.

[00:03:35] A.J. Lawrence: You have the millionaire mindset, you have your real estate with the hotel investing group. You have so much you’re doing, are they things you’re adding because of your core journey with Thinkzilla? Or is this something that you see as just part of everything you’re doing? How does everything else come into the picture for you?

[00:03:54] Dr. Velma Trayham: It’s actually a combination of them both. So along the Thinkzilla journey, I get a lot of people that want to do business with us, a lot of people that ask for mentorship and being one person with managing so many different projects, you don’t always have the time to give individual attention to all of these different people. And with having Thinkzilla, I realized that we’re not at a point on the Thinkzilla side where we can actually work with really small businesses.

[00:04:22] A lot of small businesses does not have the infrastructure nor do they have the budget to really bring on consultants and higher caliber expertise to help them to grow and scale. I started off obviously as a solopreneur then I grew to an entrepreneur that I grew to 35+ person organization. And I realized that you still need some help at the ground level.

[00:04:45] When I started to understand how there was a bridge, I decided that I was going to start putting other mechanisms in place. So that’s when I started the Millionaire Mastermind Academy three years ago, with the mission to end poverty through entrepreneurship for women worldwide.

[00:05:02] I realized that there was a lack of access to resources, a lack of access to capital, a lack of access to quality education. And so I created an organization that would solve that problem. I realized that if you’re talking about poverty first, you have to change the way you think you have to change your mindset.

[00:05:23] So I wanted to create something that would start there, and that’s what Millionaire Mastermind Academy is all about. We create programming and entrepreneurial training, business development training to help those that are in the beginning stages of their entrepreneurial journey to learn, build, and scale successful companies.

[00:05:42] So along the way, the hotel opportunity came about. There’s less than 1% of African-Americans that own hotels. And we’re the largest consumer, we’re the largest buyer. In fact, the African-American buying power, I believe the last report I saw was about 3 trillion. And so with that being so, why don’t we have ownership there?

[00:06:02] There’s a lot of systemic barriers in place that have caused us to not be able to have a seat at the table. My journey and how does all of these pieces work together? When you look at ending a systemic issue, a systemic problem and you’re looking at poverty, you need different elements in order to do that.

[00:06:21] So along the journey, I have been understanding what the problem is. So I am not waiting on other people to provide solutions. I’m actually along the way, putting things in place to be the solution to the problem. And then other people will then buy into the mission. I realized that a lot of people want to help change, but because they don’t understand the culture, they don’t understand what we’ve been through, then they can’t really put systems in place.

[00:06:48] But if you have someone that is an innovator and a trailblazer like myself, then they can say, wow, okay, I want to be a part of this. So that is how I have been able to put these other mechanisms in place. I don’t run all of my own businesses. I am the leader of all of them, but I do put the right people in place, the right systems and processes in place so that these businesses can run thrive, and we can help more people around.

[00:07:14] A.J. Lawrence: I love that approach because you have this core concept with Thinkzilla, which allows you to do so much great work. I’ve been going through and seeing, but then using that to then build up the platform for others to create their own, and then the investment opportunities from it, that is pretty strong flywheel you have for an entrepreneurial journey. One feeds into the next. I was very impressed in reading through this, that must’ve taken a lot of work.

[00:07:40] You said you started three years ago as someone who had an agency and we had to keep growing up, the more people I had, the bigger we got, the higher and bigger clients were, the less interesting our clients got. Cause it didn’t matter to our clients as much as the smaller businesses with the entrepreneurs. How did this decision to build the mastermind? Where did that kind of come from?

[00:08:01] Dr. Velma Trayham: When I moved from my hometown, Houston, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia in 2016, I felt the desire to help more women. And so I started off doing these monthly economic empowerment events. The first year event that I had ,that I hosted, shall I say, had about 30 something odd women there. And from there they asked me if I will continue to do them. And so every single month, the third, Monday of every month, I continued to do these events where I empower the women where I share the wisdom, where I share practical insight, where I share my journey, where I open it up for Q and A. And I was genuinely concerned with their role being, I was genuinely concerned with seeing them grow and become better people, better citizens, better mothers, better leaders.

[00:08:49] And I just developed a love for the growth that I had began to see. And to fast forward, each of those events, they started, they got very popular where 200 women every month would come 200 to 300 women. And so in about two and a half years, we had about 5,000 women that had come through those empowerment events.

[00:09:12] And I have not missed a month. And so every third Monday of the month we have programming, it’s fireside chat, it’s faith based. It’s really amazing. And so that’s how it started. And through those economic empowerment events, I started to learn from the women, what it was they were lacking, what they needed. And then I started to build out programming that could solve that problem.

[00:09:35] A.J. Lawrence: I think that is such a great way. Cause it seems like it was such a natural part of who you are, and what you’ve been working on and looking at the different aspects of your background on your journey, that is pretty impressive. And I like you’re adding then this component of ownership beyond just your main driver of business. Do you work with that mindset for the women who are in your program? Because now with the hotel, the gazillion other things you’re doing, is that something you’re also helping them understand to move, to continue on the journey? Not just with your core business but this concept of also ownership.

[00:10:07] Dr. Velma Trayham: So ownership is not a pursuit, it is the result. And so in saying that you have to first get the foundational principles, but you can’t go in thinking that you’re going to own something without having the principles.

[00:10:22] So you need to understand the principles before you can do that. And so I focus on principles. I focus on foundation. I focus on mindset because again, it is the results and not a pursuit because once you get everything else in place, then that’s what’s going to happen. So when we’re having these monthly economic empowerment events, what they do is cause you to think. It helps you increase in capacity building the things that you’ve probably never heard before, you hear. And so it allows you to do more and to continue to grow along your entrepreneurial journey. So not everyone is ready to be an owner of a hotel. Not everyone is ready to be an owner or the CEO of a large company right now. Not everybody’s ready for that, but I believe that everybody can retain information and move at their pace to do what they call being successful.

[00:11:17] A.J. Lawrence: It’s funny as someone who has, as I jokingly call myself, a journeyman entrepreneur, because I’ve sold a few businesses in the low 7-figures so this is a lot of privilege, but at the same time, I’ve never had that large escape. I’ve never had the big storybook thing. And yet, so much of it is, each step of the way you’re able, if entrepreneurship is your pursuit, is this idea of getting a little bit better and being able to handle something more complex, more interesting, different, larger, et cetera.

[00:11:46] And I love that this is such a concept for you because I think too often, the concept of entrepreneurship is you start a company, you drop out of school and there’s no real reality. For the way people talk of it and you’re helping them take these steps in this process, which is pretty impressive. But as you work on your journey, what do you focus on for yourself? Is your own development part of this? Because I saw some pretty impressive artwork on your Instagram, where you were talking about and your mom complaining about you going into the woods, but what about your own.

[00:12:21] Dr. Velma Trayham: That is so funny! I thought I could paint.

[00:12:24] A.J. Lawrence: No, it’s good. I like it. It’s a good picture. I like that. It’s a pretty impressive pair of lips.

[00:12:30] Dr. Velma Trayham: So, my own journey. Right now, I am focusing more on strategic and executive growth leadership, talent optimization to continue to scale, not just my organizations but the organizations and the clients that I work with, the women that I mentor, the systems and programs that I build. So that’s where I am in my professional development.

[00:12:54] In terms of personal development, I think that having that self care time where you block time off your calendar to do the things, the meditation and the relaxation and the reading, your Bible you’re running and just having time to kind of balance things out, this is very important. So I have just started to take blocks off of my calendar to, to do that. I also have therapists that I talk to every week to just flush through and talk through a lot of things that I deal with on a day to day, or just having that sound board that you can talk to. So professional development and personal development is very important because you cannot pour from an empty cup, right? And if you are going to lead people, you have to be healthy and whole to be able to do that. You can’t lead people from a broken space. And I believe a lot of people try to lead people from a place of brokenness. And that’s why we have a lot of people going around in circles and not going anywhere.

[00:13:53] So I believe that it is very important to lead from a place of wholeness, healthy, conscious, being aware and happy internally, and then you can really get some results. You can be a good leader because it all flows from the top down. And so those are some of the things that I do to continue my journey in terms of development.

[00:14:17] A.J. Lawrence: I liked that a lot. I had a business coach a while ago who always used to talk about upside down management at areas that typical pyramid like, oh look, employees and the CEO upside down with the CEO. We should be on the bottom, making sure that everyone else has what they need to then serve our communities, our clients, et cetera.

[00:14:36] So I liked that approach that you’re using. That’s pretty cool. The balance is very important because as someone who starts out with one of my last companies, I know very well when you don’t do that, you end up paying the price. It can be a very lonely, very crazy journey.

[00:14:52] Given how involved you are with so many people and in helping so many people, and with your clients, what are you seeing out there right now that’s really interesting to you that you don’t think other people may be in our space and marketing or elsewhere, or just in the community are paying as much attention that you think deserves.

[00:15:12] Dr. Velma Trayham: I think that, when you look at procurement, when you look at diversity, supplier diversity in the program that are in place, that the federal government has in place for minority entrepreneurs to build their companies and the resources, I mean, the contracts and the opportunities out there that other people that are not in a minority category are taking advantage of because minorities are not stepping up to the opportunities and educating themselves in becoming more forward thinking.

[00:15:47] I think that is an area that everyone needs to pay more attention to. I think from an entrepreneur standpoint, a small business standpoint, the reason they need to pay attention to it is because the federal government in supply chain, supplier diversity, and these corporations that can help small businesses. By doing business with small businesses can help small businesses get out of poverty or help communities get out of poverty. I would like for businesses to pay more attention to that, and we do educate and we do have programming in place. And what we do on the Thinkzilla side is help corporations build these supplier diversity programs that would be a resource to minority owned companies.

[00:16:29] So understanding from the corporate standpoint, the private space, but then the entrepreneur standpoint. From a corporate standpoint, they need to be paying more attention to how they can help more minority companies. And also from a diversity and inclusion standpoint, these people really need to stop just bringing on people in these leadership positions, senior level to check off a box, just to fill a seat. These people are not community advocacies. People are not on the ground. These people are not really making a difference in our communities. They just simply put them there because of they went to Harvard or whatever university they may have went to, and it’s not moving the needle forward.

[00:17:09] So we have got to get out of this traditional way of thinking and doing things because traditional reality will get you stuck. And it’s gotten a lot of people’s stuck. To answer your question, those are the things that I think people need to pay more attention to.

[00:17:23] My purpose in life is to help more people understand their passion and understand what they are placed on this earth, why they’re placed on his earth and the problem that they are placed on this earth to solve. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, whether you’re a CEO of a company with thousands of employees, you are still here to solve a problem and you really need to be a part of the solution and not the problem and stop just doing things to say that you’re doing them. We’re really doing them to have an impact.

[00:17:54] A.J. Lawrence: I like that because there’s so much research that shows that small businesses working in the community that provide a service, sell a product, whatever that money coming into them flows through their local community 7x. So you’re basically a seven times multiplier to that community. Where larger businesses outside tend to only have one and a half to two times the money flowing through the local community, if they are. And what you’re talking about is not letting larger companies, skirt, or not always larger, more than local companies skirt through this.

[00:18:25] And I think that is interesting because long time ago, after one of my companies blew up and I worked in microfinance and in east taralum doing a free Vita tax centers for the earned income tax credit. And this was a government program that if you were low income and working though you would gain money, gain this earned credit. But less than 20% of people who are eligible specially in inner cities, didn’t take it.

[00:18:48] So many people that have that few million people take the money or the government does. And that money just goes right back to the community. You’re talking about programs that have even a larger impact than the earned income credit that is really impactful and helping people bring that type of work within a larger community.

[00:19:06] When we create income, when we spend, when we hire, we do these things, we bring money back to those people there and helping people or use the government sources to then step up and get it’s still a hard road, no matter what. But it can bring so much back to the community.

[00:19:22] Given everything you’re doing, I was wondering how much you sleep.

[00:19:27] Dr. Velma Trayham: I get six to eight hours of sleep every night.

[00:19:29] A.J. Lawrence: That is very important. I try for seven and I fall closer to the sixth. Where do you see your legacy as you move forward with this journey or where do you want it to go?

[00:19:38] Dr. Velma Trayham: So from a generational standpoint, I do not want my children to go through some of the things that I had to go through. So it’s for my children’s children and the next generation of leaders to have a blueprint and a path forward.

[00:19:52] Systemically, this is bigger than a name or picture been on a wall or street. My legacy will be when I’m no longer here. People will be able to say I was able to rise above poverty and escape poverty through the programming and the teachings of Dr. Velma Trayham .That’s it.

[00:20:15] A.J. Lawrence: You’ve left things better off than when you found them. I like that.

[00:20:18] Dr. Velma Trayham: Absolutely.

[00:20:19] A.J. Lawrence: I think that’s going to leave a stronger message than many other types of journeys, Dr. Velma. I am so appreciative you came on the show today and we will make sure that there are links for everyone in the show notes here for information about Dr. Velma, her programs, her agency doing some amazing work. And we really look forward to seeing some of the amazing stuff you’re doing. So, thank you so much for coming on the show today

[00:20:44] Dr. Velma Trayham: . Thank you very much for having me.

[00:20:46] A.J. Lawrence: I hope you really enjoy that episode because I learned so much from Dr. Velma and I really believe other entrepreneurs should really pay attention to what she’s saying, because there’s so much value, not just in what we can learn. But the impact we can have as entrepreneurs. I think one of the first things to do is take a look at how she’s using her balance of businesses to kind of progress on her long-term mission. She has a core business that is being run incredibly well and worth amazing body of clients. But she uses as a platform to then develop or educational platform, to reach out to her community and help all these women grow on their journey as entrepreneurs, which then further allows her to go forward as this investor, leading this investment group to go by hotels across the US.

[00:21:35] It’s such a well thought out and well structured concept that I know I’m going to try and hey, look at my businesses against these processes that she’s using. I think as you look at your businesses and you look at what you’re trying to do, and looking at the big picture, take a review of what she’s doing.

[00:21:52] Go check out her sites, go check out how the logic kind of flows from one property to the next, how there is this articulation of what it is she’s trying to do. And how each step helps along that way. Think about that. Now we don’t all have to get it nice and easily and well structured as Dr. Velma, but you should all be thinking about how all the things we’re doing or should we be doing more to help us go towards our bigger picture. Really interesting.

[00:22:17] Second is how she is so focused on this concept of giving back to her community or working within our community and promoting her community. As entrepreneurs, we know we have impact in society at large. We know that what we do creating jobs to generating revenue has benefits beyond just for our own personal self.

[00:22:38] I think the understanding of what impact we have on the communities we do involve ourselves in through our business or through our own personal lives, is something that should be taken into consideration because as Dr. Velma was pointing out involvement in your own community or a local community from a local business within a local revenue generation point of salaries and all that, not mastering the concept, but basically every dollar generated by that business is utilized about seven plus times within its community. So that money circulates and helps that many people while those that are being salaries and businesses generated from outside companies or outside businesses are only a couple of times, one to two times the benefit that’s being generated.

[00:23:23] Now, there is nothing wrong from choosing your type of business to be involved or not, but it is consideration. Because we can do more. You don’t have to, obviously this is your own life, your own business, but that consideration of how much impact you can have is something that we can all learn from Dr. Velma. And we can all try to do more if we so choose. I know I am trying to.

[00:23:44] Lastly is her concept of being an investor. I talk a lot about how our businesses as entrepreneurs, are only tools, a part of our journey. They’re not the journey. Creating, growing, selling XYZ for our businesses are only reflections of our actions.

[00:24:02] So us as entrepreneurs, we have different concepts around different issues and different needs, different pathways for our own development compared to our businesses. Dr. Velma seems to be taking this extra step further as an investor, specifically investing in hotel properties to further her mission around her community. But even then taking it as she works with her students, step-by-step along the journey that they take and understanding how that impacts what you can do and what is potentially available to you and what you should strive for. I’m an active angel investor. I’m an LP in a few funds, way too involved in crypto and other things, but the logic and the process that Dr. Velma works with, in that concept of investing and the reasons why, and both from the benefits for herself and then for her community is something, once again, consider something we can learn and we can all do.

[00:24:55] I’m going to be using some of the lens that Dr. Velma shared with us, and I’ll be using that as I look at my hodgepodge of activities out there and figuring out how well aligned they are with what I’m trying to do in the long term. I learned a lot today, and I hope you did too. As always down in the show notes, we’ll have links to Dr. Velma’s sites, her personal site, her agency, the platform for learning, and we will also include her investment vehicle for buying properties. Lots of amazing stuff. You should go check it out. If you’re interested, please reach out to her. Lots of great stuff there, and we’ll have links to our social media sites.

[00:25:34] We’ll be talking with more great people, sharing great stories, asking questions, and as always, we love the feedback. We love your questions. We love the criticisms. Matter of fact, some of those are really fun and helpful for us too. So please continue sharing. I can’t wait to talk to you again. There’s some more cool things coming. We have great people coming up. Talk to you soon. Have a wonderful day. Goodbye.

[00:26:02] This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye bye.

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