Karl Sona of the Kas Company Works to Normalize Minorities in Corporate Business

January 19, 2022 | | 0 Comments

Karl Sona

Karl Sona is the founder of the Kas Company, which connects black-owned businesses to corporate brands. He also contributes to the world as the host of the Dear BLK CEO podcast. Karl is a strong advocate of representation that provides a way for people to see themselves in various roles, particularly minorities. Through working together, companies can create a new atmosphere of funding, mentorship, and infrastructure that helps diverse teams thrive. More importantly, Karl works to see a future where these approaches can scale.

After a successful career as a medical device representative, Karl sets his aim on a new path towards tasks that are more connected to intrinsic values and his childhood dreams. He describes his enthusiasm for conquering another part of life: “There’s no time like the present to be bold.”

For Karl, the new path is a journey to exploring solutions for economic inclusion. Speaking about representation and career advice on the Dear BLK CEO podcast is one way Karl is choosing to fulfill that mission. A chance to hold dialogue around topics of minorities in the C-Suite helps normalize the narrative. Karl sees his contribution as exactly that, a chance to normalize the pursuit of corporate levels.

Among the conversations happening in minority business communities, one general theme is figuring out how to address stereotypes associated with running a minority-owned business. Karl delves into the real-life conversation he had around the myth of minority-owned businesses being of poor quality and minorities supporting fellow minorities. From his own experiences, he talks about the sense of disassociation when facing imposter syndrome as a “token hire” in the corporate world. He realizes that opening the room for conversations leads to new insights. Insights can be collected then turned into proper solutions to society’s larger concerns, like economic inclusion.

Kas Company is a business development agency that looks into the infrastructure and teams of minorities in business. Karl discusses his process for creating change through his agency. Many of his observations originate from first-hand conversations with stakeholders in the interconnected roles needed to run a business. Karl talks about establishing a pipeline of opportunity by forming a mentor I ship aspect in the company. This way, people can gain experience, be trained, and feel secure in a community that wants to see their growth.

Karl brings a perspective of “filling a cup so it can flow into others”. Completely embracing community, Karl suggests that society step away from a scarcity mindset to welcome advocacy and collaboration. In the long run, Karl envisions the creation of a hub that will be a resource for minority-owned businesses. He poses questions that possibly spark ideas for actionable steps towards better business practices.

True to his original aim, Karl inspires a collaborative effort in allowing minorities to embrace their variety of experiences. Karl starts with himself and empowers all others that are willing to contribute to the journey.

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Read Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris. Today, I am excited to have Karl Sona on the podcast, host of Dear BLK CEO podcast, that steer B L K CEO. He's also the founder of the Kas company, which connects black owned businesses to corporate brands. Karl has a knack for breaking down barriers and stereotypes. And so to share his journey and the impact he's making, karl welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:32] Karl: Adam, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here with your lovely community of people, helping people. And it's just a pleasure to be connected with you. Again, my man

[00:00:43] Adam: I'd love to start off and just hear a little bit of what happened, what your life was like before you kicked off dear black CEO and kind of what led to that.

[00:00:51] Karl: Yeah, that's a great question, Adam. I honestly, I was at a crossroads relative to what I wanted to do with my life. I made a promise to myself when I was about six years old. Because of how I grew up and because of where my parents come from a small little country in west Africa, and because of the fact that they literally won the lotto, being able to make it to America and that we had a lot of relatives back home that, that I would find a way to leverage the most of my circumstances being here in this abundant country.

And I would find the way to, fill up my cup so much that it would ultimately overflow into others. And so fast forward, some 20, some odd years, I'm at the tail end of my career as a very successful medical device representative for a very innovative startup company, we had just exited for nine figures and I'm literally sitting on my deck trying to figure out if I want to do it again.

Yeah, because I'm good at it. It's what I know how to do. It's where all my connections are or is it time to actually branch out and to reconnect with that childhood dream. And to really fulfill my purpose and my life's mission relative to why my Lord created me and why he put me here on this earth.

And there's no time like the present to be bold and to actually make that leap and to go out into my own and to figure out how I actually. Become part of the solution to a problem that I had seen, become a huge issue for many people that look like me in this country, and that is economic inclusion.

So we can talk more about that if you'd like.

[00:02:25] Adam: I love this. Just to paint a picture, you're sitting on your back porch successful career wise and looking back towards your childhood, like what gave you the nudge to actually do something about it?

[00:02:37] Karl: Yeah, you mean? I think at some point in life, it's not enough to continue to look at the problems and the issues around you and to trail and just shake your head and discuss and say, ah, it's the status quo. Like at some point you need to figure out where you are uniquely qualified and or gifted to go be a part of the solution.

One of my favorite entrepreneurs is a guy by the name of he's a pretty big figure in South Africa. And he said, it's so brilliantly one time, he was like, you know what? The biggest issue for South Africa is, and the audience, it was absolute crickets. He goes, everybody's looking for the next Nelson Mandela.

And I'm sure you're very well aware with all the positive work that Nelson Mandela did, you know, 27 years in prison, then to move on and become the president of South Africa. But that's the issue. We're all looking for somebody else to be the savior. We're all looking for somebody else to be a part of the solution that we fail to realize.

We may just be that missing piece. And that's honestly what it was for me, Adam. I was like, you know what? I've always felt a burning passion in my heart. I've always felt a very unique and primal gift and just my ability to connect people from various backgrounds. I'm obviously very good at pushing revenue.

It's what I did for my company. It's what helped us exit for over nine figures. Why not go help? And be a part of that movement in the minority community, especially for many of these minority entrepreneurs that, have a significant grade, a very steep grade ahead of them, relative to funding and just resources.

And then the list goes on and on. And so I just said, you know what, it's time for me to take off my executive hat and it's time for me to put on a new one. And yeah, it's a little scary. It's a little daunting. I'm not quite sure how this story is going to go, but I'm the guy for the job, so let's go make it happen.

And that was the impetus.

[00:04:29] Adam: Now, can you tell us a little bit about what you do? Can we start with your BLK CEO of podcast?

[00:04:34] Karl: Yeah. Yeah. So dear BLK CEO podcast really came about. When I was sitting on my rooftop deck and I was literally close to just going out and getting another corporate opportunity, when you've been a part of a successful acquisition head hunters are coming at you like, bees on honey.

And I was just doing a little bit of research on my laptop. And I looked at the number of African-American CEOs in the fortune 500 corporation space. And there weren't very many, there was something. Three or four for all the big corporations out there. And for the longest time, we've all been sold, the narrative that it's because of our lack of higher education, that we're not in some of these boardroom seats or it's because of our lack of experience that we're not, granted the opportunity to sit in the C-suite. And when I went further in, on that research, I was like, oh no, that's definitely not the case.

Minorities in this country are, more educated. I'm talking more, bachelor's degrees, more master's degrees than ever before in this country's history. So that is no longer a viable excuse or a viable reason in my mind. And I was like, you know what? I'm not gonna, I'm not going to go bust my butt for another corporation, and make them wealthier than what they were before.

Off of the backs of my heart. Aren't my heart work. When I could take my skillset out to the open market and really help us level up as a people. So that's really where dear BLK CEO came from. The biggest thing that I realized was. When we don't see ourselves represented in some of those C-suite rooms and some of those board of director rooms, it does something to our mindset, we start to tell ourselves even on a subconscious level, that we are some how not worthy of that position, right? Like we are somehow not qualified enough to sit in those rooms. This is literally what happens for a lot of people of color in this country, Adams. So I said, Let me create a platform.

I'm going to call it dear BLK CEO. So it speaks directly to the individual like myself that knows they've got a burning purpose put on their life in this world, that knows that they can go out and do something greater than themselves. And let's start to slowly change the narrative by featuring other black and brown professionals that were once in the corporate atmosphere, but found a way to place a bet on themselves and actually took that leap of faith.

Maybe some of them got a little bloodied and beaten up during the leap, but ultimately. They found a way to stand up on their own two feet and they found a way to create a business and an opportunity that has not provided for themselves, their family, and has ultimately created other jobs for other minorities.

And so that's really the narrative that we're looking to normalize, right? When it comes to what it means to be a black CEO. So that's where the show came from and it's been a very beautiful journey. I've had the opportunity to sit down, with folks from a variety of industries from a variety of walks of life.

And we're really just breaking down what that transition looks like, how you navigate it, and then how you actually set yourself up to be successful in the first five years of business, because that's typically, the infantile stage where a lot of businesses come out in the market and they just never find a way to actually sustain and prop themselves up.

That's what we're about. And it's been absolutely fun.

[00:08:01] Adam: I always believe, when you have a role model where you can see yourself in that role model, one, it gives you a vision of what you can do. But it also allows you to build on top of that and improve on it.

[00:08:14] Karl: Absolutely. And I think that's one of the reasons why we've seen a dramatic effect with poverty in an urban communities, in the urban landscape for many cities, I'm here in Denver, Colorado, but I've lived in Atlanta, Georgia. I've lived in Washington DC. So I've seen extreme poverty, just literally minutes from where I've lived.

Some of the challenges are, we don't have role models. We grow up in situations where. Oftentimes there aren't parents in the home that are doing something positive or there aren't friends or relatives that are doing something positive. And if you're not fortuitous enough, that leaves you with not really the best options at hand.

And one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about my work relative to economic inclusion is that when we can create more minority leaders, Those folks tend to come back into those communities. And they tend to be positive role models. They tend to provide employment opportunities and the list goes on and on.

And so again, it really changes the outcome of another person's life. Going back to my childhood dream of just filling up my cup so big so that it could flow into others. That's what really drives me, relative to the work that I do on a daily basis.

[00:09:26] Adam: So when you have these conversations with CEOs, have you noticed anything in their journey of barriers that they've had to overcome or things that they've learned in general, of things that are different for somebody of color.

[00:09:40] Karl: Yeah. One of the biggest things, I do a fun little segment at the end where I just try to, get to know them a little bit more on an intimate level. And I ask this question every single time, where every guest, what is one negative stereotype associated with black culture that you feel needs to be done away with?

And one of the answers I've been getting from a lot of these CEOs and a lot of these founders time and time again is, we need to know our worth and we need to help people understand that just because we are people of color, our products, our services, our businesses are not somehow inferior, right?

They're not somehow associated with a lower standard of quality relative to what we're trying to deliver to the marketplace. And it goes on both sides of the coin, Adam, right? Like one, there's a limiting mindset from some of these entrepreneurs, especially when they first started that they somehow. Have to price themselves a bit lower in order to win the business.

We even see this in the private sector when minority businesses are bidding for jobs, oftentimes they are getting the jobs that are lowest priced and they're not even mainstream jobs relative to that individual corporation's value stream. They're typically peripheral jobs, meaning janitorial supplies or landscaping, like something that doesn't actually move the needle forward relative to that company's ability to perform their product or their service in the market. So that's a big one, and then on the other side of the coin, it's also educating consumers about the fact that they can get a very quality product or a very quality service and or experience, doing business with local minority owners as well too. We've seen a lot of small business, whether black owned or majority owned get hit as a result of COVID-19.

And I think the beautiful thing was many communities started to band together and they started to say, Hey, look, let's shop local here in Denver, Colorado. That was a really huge initiative. And it was beautiful to see people get behind their communities. But in talking to many of these minority owned.

They've mentioned that there have been times where they felt like minorities wouldn't necessarily support them. Like other minorities wouldn't necessarily come behind and do business with other minorities. And so one of the things that we've seen is that there can be a crab in the bucket type mentality, which can be very sinister.

And if you're not familiar with the audience, listening is not familiar with the crab in the bucket mentality. It's the whole ideology. When a crab tries to crawl its way out of a bucket, the other crabs do something that's very bizarre. They try to pull him or her back into the bucket. And this has actually come up time and time again in my conversations.

And that's why I'm so passionate about the show is I'm featuring entrepreneurs week in and week out. And so when you start to see many people that look like you, having success, it hopefully attacks that mentality. If that has taken a hold in your mind that only one can be successful. Or only one can be the token.

We hear that a lot in the corporate space as well, too. I'm the token. So I've got to do what I can to create a little bit of a moat around me. So nobody else that looks like me comes and threatens my existence here and that, that type of mentality needs to be eradicated. It needs to be done away with.

So that's definitely a huge challenge, I would say in the business space that we see come up. Fortunately shows like mine and there are many other platforms that are now starting to come to the horizon are doing their very good job of attacking that and showing that doesn't need to be the case.

[00:13:19] Adam: When you were working in the corporate world, were there any stereotypes that you had to overcome or that you faced that you felt held you back.

[00:13:30] Karl: What I will tell you is that I never experienced any overt racism while I was in the corporate space. What I will tell you is that I started at a very young age. I was 23 years old when I came in and I was tasked with selling to hospital leaders and to surgeons, lung surgeons, so for me, it was more of a imposter syndrome, if you will, that I had to overcome. And yes, I, I was one of very few blacks in my company. So at times it made it a bit difficult for me to really show up authentically. Because I was felt as though I had to hold myself to a higher standard. I always felt as though there was less room for error, if you will.

And so I think that kind of played in my psyche a bit and that kind of kept me a bit withdrawn or a bit reserved relative to who I felt I truly was and how I could allow my genuine self to actually show up. But that was something that I had to work through. And that was something, yeah.

It took a lot of inner work, a lot of personal development for me to overcome. And, listen, part of it is just the black experience. I think that it's actually an opportunity for all of us, those of us that are people of color. To lean into and to say, okay, I understand that if I'm one of the few people of color within the organization, that might make me feel awkward, or it may make me feel like a limited character or a limited supporting actor in the cast.

But let me try the challenge where this belief has really coming. And rather than leaning into what your mind would tell you that yeah, you're just there as part of an affirmative action quota, or you're there token hire for the season, leave all that to the wayside and understand that whether or not that has any bearing as to why you're there, you're there because they saw something great in you.

So why not choose to lean into that greatness? Why not choose to exploit that and to lead with that and to leave the color? Situation the color conversation to the wayside, right? So it's really about empowering yourself. And I find that when you empower yourself, you start to actually provide tremendous value to the organization.

And one of the things that organizations are looking for right now is they're looking for the competitive advantage and they realize that diversity is a conduit to the competitive advantage. So you actually have an advantage to plant your flag and to show, you provide significant value to the organization that will hopefully open more doors for others, just like you.

So that was my mentality over the course of time, but it took a little bit of time to get there though. Adam

[00:16:10] Adam: It seems like right now, a year after Black Lives Matter, that there is more of a conscious awareness around diversity and the actual value that it brings to an organization.

[00:16:22] Karl: A hundred percent. I think, organizations, corporations have been held more accountable since Black Lives Matters. And I think that, their motivation probably comes from a variety of places. I think one, there's definitely a feeling of corporate responsibility, to be a better corporate citizen.

To champion diversity, especially if you're an organization that sells to consumers that are largest diverse. I think it's important that

[00:16:48] Adam: Yeah.

[00:16:49] Karl: diversity is also represented within your four walls. And secondly, it makes financial sense. A lot of people look at it as like a philanthropy thing, and I think philanthropy is great in and of itself, but for me, philanthropy is not necessarily sustainable.

I think the way we need to think about it more is. It actually makes business sense, Adam, and the next couple of decades, minorities will be the majority in this country relative to our workforce. I can show you the graphs and the curves. We are just outpacing Caucasian Americans and that's nothing against Caucasian Americans.

That's just the way that America was designed. And when you look at these numbers and you realize that our economy here in this country will be largely driven. Off of the backs of minorities. Doesn't it make sense if you're a large corporation to start to include minorities into your business dealings, right?

So that they can be properly developed, they can get the proper experience required in order to ensure that the organization as a whole is champion and continues to have sustained success over the course of. The decades to come. It absolutely does. Especially if you're some of these large, fast food chains, for instance, McDonald's is one, taco bell is another one that sells a lot of your products too, urban environments, where there are a lot of minorities, right? Like it makes sense to have minority decision makers that are actively participating in some of the decisions being made so that you can have more appeal to the folks that you want to do business with. So those are the things that I really try to help, outsourcing managers and purchasing decision makers.

Truly understand it. It's not about, Hey, just give us whatever scraps you have. It's about. Offering a seat at the table, so we can come and be co-creators relative to what you're trying to achieve so that we can do better collectively. And so that we can ultimately have that competitive advantage that will hopefully keep America a top global power.

Cause I still really believe in this country. I know there's a lot going on in the world and I know that we are definitely demonized. I know that a lot of Americans themselves. Ashamed to be American. And I don't really subscribe to any of that, despite what's currently going on, because this is still the country that provided my immediate family, so many opportunities.

And if there wasn't an America, if there wasn't an American dream, I wouldn't be on this podcast. Speaking today, we wouldn't be having this conversation. So I think it's very important to keep that in mind as well, too.

[00:19:22] Adam: I think some of the things that make us great also are some of our challenges. And so some of it is powering through and figuring it out. But just to your point, like I'm was really blown away by Goldman Sachs report around the beginning of COVID where they were saying, Hey, we are not going to take any company public that doesn't have diversity on their board.

We're just not going to do it. You need to have a, at least one diverse board member, I think last year. And then this year, next year it's two. But their reasoning wasn't philanthropy, the reason was companies that have diverse boards are more successful and more profitable. So for them, it was a financial decision.

[00:20:05] Karl: and they're very smart to say that. I think that's a good start. I would challenge the Goldmans of the world to be looking to do more, but it's a great start because, when you think about how effective teams work, part of an effective team is having conflict. And if everybody in that board room has the same issue.

They all look alike and they're all coming from the same frame of reference, whereas the conflict to keep them competitive and the free and open market, it's just not there or it's significantly reduced. So they're very smart to do that. I think it's a great start, a hundred percent. And I think I suspect we'll be seeing more companies, more large organizations like the Goldmans of the world slowly falling in line. If they wish to be around in the next few decades.

[00:20:52] Adam: So you've launched a dear BLK CEO podcast. What led to the Kas company?

[00:20:59] Karl: Yeah, so great question. They really go hand in hand. The Kas company is my business development agency that I launched actually a handful of months ago. And so at the Kas company, we really serve as a conduit. If you will, between minority business owners and corporations that want to do business with more minority owners.

One of the big things that's happening right now in a variety of organizations here in America, and certainly around the world is outsourced. It used to be that these giant corporations with compete against another large corporation and they would just duke it out because everything was vertically integrated.

Meaning the organization had its hands in every part of the value chain, from manufacturing all the way to getting the product or the service within your hand. As companies have tried to diversify and as they scale to other countries around the world, we've seen outsourcing to vendors because.

More of a critical piece relative to how they function and. Given everything that we've just spoke about up to this point on the podcast, we're seeing more minority entrepreneurs coming into the fold with very unique and disruptive solutions. That have a foothold, if you will, within the value stream of these organizations.

But here's the big challenge, Adam, the big challenge is. Why we've seen organizations say, Hey, we need to outsource the more suppliers while we've seen them say, Hey, we also realize we need to give more business to minority owners. A mere 3% of the majority of corporations, business actually benefits minority organizations That is not in direct correlation to our representation relative to the number of minority organizations or even the minority workforce. So there's a big gap. And I noticed this and I was like, huh, why is this, one of the things I learned a while ago in business is if you want to be successful, if you want to be really successful, you want to be really remarkable and have positive impact, go find a big problem and, introduce a great solution towards that big problem.

And as I started having conversations with supply chain managers, this even began back during my medical device day. I realized that many of these managers were taking more of a procurement focus on how they decided to give business out, meaning. Let's say they had, three contracts available for a variety of different services that they needed done in order to help them function.

They would simply bid those out to either familiar vendors or familiar suppliers, or they would say, you know what, let's look at our diversity, our supplier diversity goals based off of. Meaning, if we can, say X amount, went to accounts payable at these handful of minority organizations we've been successful, but they've not been actually looking at the true developers.

Of these minority businesses, because one of the things that's really not typically looked at is because we've been disenfranchised and because we've been excluded over the years for a number of reasons that I won't get into, because that's a whole nother podcast, we haven't been appropriately developed, many minority businesses either don't have the working capital in order to actually do business with larger organizations because large organizations, they can only afford to do business.

A small number of large suppliers, right? Like they're not looking to do a ton of business with a lot of small businesses, but how do we actually provide these minority business owners? The opportunity to actually become sizeable the opportunity to actually scale to a level to where they can be a viable supplier for these corporations.

So that's been one big challenge, right? And the second thing. Is, they have not traditionally included minority businesses in integral parts of their value chain. And I touched on this earlier. So if I'm a big corporation and I've got a supplier diversity initiative and a suspend X with minority organizations, we're starting to see that a lot of these organizations have not been actually spending those dollars on critical functions.

Within the organization, they instead identify one or two, minority business owners that can do roles that don't really matter, roles that aren't really gonna move the needle much. And if they fulfill great, if they don't honor the next one. And so what I'm getting at Adam here is that it's really created a bit of apathy towards.

Supplier diversity. One can argue that supplier diversity was initiated in our economy to lift up more minority businesses. But if you really look at how some of these organizations are approaching it it's a lot more passive. It's not very active, and it's almost becoming one of these things where it's in place to create a facade it's in place to check a box.

But it's not really moving the needle forward. And that's the main issue that I saw. And that's why I really started up Kas because a long time ago, I recognized that I was good at two things. I was really good at creating diverse relationships. And many people don't realize that my first few years in the medical device space were spent driving through the fields of rural Alabama and the fields of rural Mississippi and sitting down with individuals that wouldn't be sitting down with me, but finding a way to tap into their humanity, finding a way to show the good that.

Have, not all of us, but I tend to believe that most humans are good. Like they're show people, helping people. I tend to believe that deep down, most of us want to have genuine connection and want to bestow good on one another. And so I found a way to tap into that and it ultimately led to me developing relationships with people that didn't look like me and it led to us getting deals done.

And so with Kas that's exactly why we exist. We exist to advocate for minority business owners that quite frankly. Don't have the time don't have the resources or don't have the know-how because they're so busy just trying to keep their heads above water. We mentioned that a lot of these businesses, unfortunately, aren't even around in five years, they're still busy with the day to day that they don't even have the bandwidth.

If you will, to go out and to make those relations. In the private, or even in the public sector that can lead to significant business dealings over the course of time. So we are that intermediary and that's what we do.

[00:27:47] Adam: Got it. So for the small businesses, that's just an expense and a talent that they don't have of being able to make the time to build the relationships, create these shared stories that get them. Into the door, into a place where it's yeah, Hey, here's what I offer. And so big corporations can see the value in what they're offering.

[00:28:07] Karl: a hundred percent, because right now, the way that this is facilitated prior to Kas coming on the scene is you see these big corporate matchmaking conferences where a few times a year you'll have a bunch of minority suppliers in a big auditorium, and you'll have a handful of corporations. They give you your little name, badge on your land.

Your they pretty much give you a little pat on the butt and say,

[00:28:29] Adam: yeah.

[00:28:30] Karl: Buyers and sellers go make friends and it's this sort of weird dance of the minority business owners, going booth to booth, but not really having an an opportunity to build intimate connection, to really understand what the corporate organization needs, and they're also articulate how they can potentially fit that need with true value. It's this kind of an awkward dance, that really isn't substantiated. And some of these supplier diversity professionals go, all right, that was a success, but also often people leave without any contract.

That have been signed or without the prospective of contracts that can be signed. And so I looked at that and I was like, all right, that's ineffective. That, that is not an efficient way to do things, nor does it actually bring about results. Let's partner up with these minority support organizations, whether it be venture capitalist groups or whether it be accelerator groups that help with funding and let's understand what portfolio of businesses they are currently looking to elevate.

Let's understand where those products and or those services have fit in the marketplace and then let's go match them up with precision and with, the full intent to actually create relationships that, will lead to transactions. And so that's what we've been doing over the past few months.

And I tell you it's a lot of hard work, but it's the long game that we're playing for. And that's typically where all the best results come from when you play the long game.

[00:30:01] Adam: Awesome. Do you have any cool stories from doing that work that you can share?

[00:30:06] Karl: Yeah I'm currently in the process, so we launched Kas in may. And I've partnered up with a couple of a 5 0 1 C3 organizations. So a couple of nonprofits that exist to help minorities with access to mentorship, which is a critical need, just being paired up with folks that have been there and that have done that, that can keep you out of hot water if you will.

And so what we've done in these strategic partnerships is we've said, you know what? You are helping the minority business owners, with funding or with mentorship, let's start building a pipeline of opportunity on the back end so that when they matriculate through your program, we can actually put them in significant opportunities that they can fulfill on.

Because the other thing we don't talk about is. Let's say I'm a minority business owner and I do somehow win a big contract with a corporation. If I don't have the infrastructure, if I don't have the know how I don't have the capital to actually fulfill on that, I'm being set up for failure and we've seen that happen.

And what inevitably happens is these supply chain decision makers go, all right. That was a fail. We actually tried to make the leap of faith here on this support organization and they didn't fulfill, they didn't deliver. It costs us time. It cost us money. It costs us resources. Let's just go back to the same handful of vendors that, maybe they're mediocre, but they've been doing it for the test of time.

And so, at Kas we're really working on the right strategic partnerships with the folks that can actually provide them the resources that they need to be set up for success that way. Facilitate the matchmaking process and we negotiate the contracts they can get in there and actually fulfill which leads to repeat business coming back.

And that was a huge missing link in the process that we recognized.

[00:31:56] Adam: What's the ideal company to come and work with you.

[00:32:01] Karl: so the ideal company is one that is built to actually scale. And when I say scale, I talked to on dear BLK CEO, I talked to a variety of entrepreneurs, you know, We're just tired of the corporate rat race and they wanted to build something that could be a lifestyle venture, something that maybe is them a couple of assistants, a couple of employees.

And that's really, as far as it goes, that's not really the organization that I can help. Because at Kas we're really more interested with the economic inclusion issue. And if you're a smaller business, just looking to live a lifestyle, unfortunately we're not really your match.

We're looking for high growth opportunities. We're looking for high growth companies that can scale that can create. Employment opportunities for others that can be viable partners in the marketplace and in the economy, quite frankly, for the test of time that are just missing the opportunity to have the seat at the table.

So it doesn't really matter the industry. It doesn't really matter what sector you're in, but if you have high growth capability, which is one of the reasons why we're looking at partnering up with these non-profits or some of these VC groups, typically, if you're working with a VC group, they're only putting money in you, if you have a scalability component to your business model.

And so those would be the companies that would really be an ideal fit for what we're doing here in the market.

[00:33:28] Adam: Makes sense. I'd love to just touch on that VC world a little bit. Because I know there's one area where there's been significant barriers of capital to black owned businesses. And I'm curious what you've seen there, or what changes are happening in this.

[00:33:42] Karl: Yeah. The VC space is a tough one. I think I'd read a statistic the other day that, a percent, 1% of VC funding actually goes out to minority business. And I even have a number of friends in my immediate network that are black founders, mostly in the tech space. And they've told me stories where, a White company, let's just say, we'll come in with essentially an idea and, or a concept on the back of a napkin and they'll get funding, like just like that. But when they come into the pitch room in front of a group of VCs, they have to have proof of concept, they have to show all these things that have been done that the white founder didn't have to demonstrate.

And so that's a challenge, right? Especially if you're a founder, And you're so set on the idea that you need capital from venture backed capitalists and you're getting nose, you start to really doubt yourself. And so what we've seen is we've seen a social impact venture capitalists, starting to come to the full, where they are looking to create a model that not only facilitates getting funding to more diverse founders, but also has like a pay it forward model. If you will, where let's say you're a black owned founder, you get VC funding, you go on to do something great with that funding. A percentage of it also goes to help another black owned fund.

In this example, and that's so important, Adam, because one of the things that we were seeing, and this is something that one of my best friends was encountering was that crab in a bucket of mentality that I touched on in the earlier part of the show where these black founders we're starting to see that.

All right. There's a limited pot of funding available for folks that look like us. The VCs are now on the hook. If you will, to try to get more funding to diverse founders, but they're giving a larger or a lion's share of that funding to less founders instead of taking, more of that funding and saying, you know what let's get a smaller bit of funding, but that's divvy it up more or less divvied up amongst more more black founders.

And so it created this scarcity type mentality. It created this scarcity mindset. Where these founders were literally having to go up against each other. And that's the sort of thing that we don't want to see. That's very divisive in nature. So I'm very happy to see that this pay it forward model is starting to come to the full and I think, social entrepreneurs.

You know what you know about this better than anybody else. I know you have a lot of social entrepreneurs on your show is really what will drive us further together as an economy, as a nation, as a people. And I, and we're starting to see more of these VCs taking that approach. So I think that's very impactful and, I really want to see more of that sort of thing.

I really want to champion more VCs to be thinking about that approach because it really does provide greater opportunity and more equitable opportunity for all.

[00:36:45] Adam: And it seems to really fit in with your model. Some of the pieces that we've spoken about today is one, the mentorship, one building, these connections. So it's not just, Hey, here's funding, but it's Hey, here's actually how you go and build up, corporations that you can work with.

How do you develop that supply chain and those capabilities to be able to scale in a way. That works in these environments that you can be successful. And a lot of that takes role models that takes people coming together.

[00:37:12] Karl: Yes.

[00:37:13] Adam: it means cutting down the costs of developing that understanding and that know-how, which, might've been communicated in another way to somebody from a different bag.

[00:37:23] Karl: Thanks. Exactly. I definitely think it's more of a holistic approach. What's re which is what is really required. I think it's going to take a bad of all of us to really get behind this initiative. Truly wish to create economic inclusion. That was literally the fourth thing that Dr. King mentioned in one of his final speeches, right before he passed away, that we would have to achieve in this country, in order to really live up to the ideal of America and the principles that America was built on. And that was economic inclusion. No one company, no one agency, the sba.gov or any of these other support groups that you see can do it alone.

It really takes advocacy and it takes collaboration. And that's one of the other things that we really trying to work on as we position ourselves to be here for the long haul is how do we create. A hub, right? How do we create a hub that all of these support groups can feed into? So that we're really taking the best interest of the minority owner in mind, instead of a VC, just being concerned with pumping capital, but not really being focused on the development of the company, that's no longer the case, or instead of a credentialing body only being concerned with charging the owner. Whatever they charge for a certain credential status saying that they're a minority business and not really setting them up for opportunities to actually transact on business. That's no longer the case. So that holistic approach is really required.

And it's something that we ought to be thinking about in this space, in my opinion,

[00:39:00] Adam: Thank you so much for sharing what you're doing and some of the challenges, but also some of the ways forward to actually transform what companies can do to compete and grow and thrive. That's fantastic.

[00:39:12] Karl: Yeah, I appreciated that, but I want to commend you for all the incredible work that you're doing on this podcast. Want to thank you for providing me the opportunity to come on and share a little bit more about what we do and why economic inclusion is so critical. Thank you for extending the chair. This sort of thing is exactly what we are talking about.

So thank you for being a part of the solution there

[00:39:35] Adam: I love it. How do people find you?

[00:39:37] Karl: Absolutely. LinkedIn is a great place. So Karl Sona, Karl with a K S O N A I'm also very active on Instagram as well. I'm just at Karl dot Sona there. And then on my website, Karlsona.com. We are revamping that right now in the moment, but there'll be tons of great content, a lot more videos as well to really, demonstrating a little bit more about what we do and just talking about these issues and real working solutions behind how we can all collaborate and do business with one

[00:40:12] Adam: and if you're listening, Check out the dear BLK CEO podcast. That's dear. BLK CEO a great podcast is really fantastic guests and if you're listening to this, that's a great place to go for some excellent conversations.

[00:40:26] Karl: Absolutely. And that's on all platforms. I appreciate that. Plug Adam.

[00:40:31] Adam: Thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a real pleasure.

[00:40:35] Karl: Absolutely man, glad to speak with you.

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