Entrepreneur, Leader, Science Enthusiast: The Rise of Dawn Hockaday
Dawn Hockaday is the CEO of Sista Ink Magazine and Supernova Creative Studios. Her rise from working in media as a marketing and promotions agent to CEO was very arduous. Dedicated to being herself and staying true to her soul, Dawn has become a force in the media industry by always focusing on the client and their needs. Dawn’s work is the true embodiment of what
it means to never give up in the face of adversity and inequality.
Working in radio in Southern California as a marketing and promotions agent, Dawn loved her career. Her move to work for Salem Media Group, a conservative media company focusing on contemporary Christian music, Wall Street news and Spanish teaching and talk radio, however was short lived due to Salem’s advertising on accepting Proposition 8 in the state of California. Proposition 8, was the statewide ballot that made same-sex marriage illegal in California. As Dawn states “we were receiving a lot of advertising dollars on family values and I was suppose to promote that and I couldn’t literally do that and go home to my girlfriend saying ‘hey guess what I did today?'" Although the ban was approved in November 2008, it was eliminated on June 26th 2015 when the US Supreme Court ruled that states who banned same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Dawn reached the plateau of her career in radio there and her decision to follow her heart moved her from the world of media to the transportation arena in the form of Harley Davidson in Southern California.
Responsible for their marketing and television promotion, Dawn was responsible for the sponsorship between UFC and Harley Davidson. It was here that her interaction with inequality began; “Many years ago, I brought the two together and it was difficult. They [Harley] don’t really listen to your ideas and the ideas that you do come up with, that are really good, you don’t get the credit for” Dawn responds. Although Harley Davidson and UFC still work together; Dawn never received the credit she deserved for the collaboration. Realizing that Harley Davidson was not giving her the credit for her ideas, which they still use to this day, she decided to leave the company for greener pastures.
Being an African-American woman in corporate America is not easy. In an article by Fortune magazine; Valerie Purdie-Vaughns reported that based on the Center for Talent Innovation, 26% of Black women feel that their superiors don’t recognize their talents, compared to 17% of White women in corporate America. Furthermore, about 11% barely win the support and sponsorship of their senior leaders in their companies. There is some merit here as Dawn, who continues to contribute innovative ideas to these still prospering companies rarely receives the credit
due. “African-American woman are not being taken seriously in the corporate world” Dawn states. Are companies truly missing out on the untapped potential of the African-American female population in corporate America?
Following her career, she landed a role at Environsax, as a public relations manager. Her job was to get the famed product in the hands of celebrities, by visiting greenrooms, politicians, and special events. Even the Clinton Administration received a bag under her guidance. Her promotion made Environsax one of the most popular recycled tote bags among the status quo. Furthermore, her guidance in promoting the product landed the famous tote in O Magazine. “Oprah said that it was one of her favorites” Dawn recalls. Her recognition was short lived however as she once again didn’t get the gratitude she rightfully deserved: “Here I am again making a company fantastic and yet there’s no word that I assisted in the promotion”. Ever vigilant, Dawn decided to move to the East Coast to pursue her dreams. Working in Virginia at an advertising firm, her ideas were once again phenomenal, but her recognition was overlooked and admonished when she placed more focus on the client rather than the invoices: “They were just looking at the checks rather than servicing the client. I asked them ‘why are we just looking at the check rather than doing this service for them? We’re not doing any research, we’re just putting something together and I was literally screamed at, spit in the face and I was placed on leave”. Dawn also stated that they wanted her to apologize: “I’m not apologizing for trying to do the best for the client”. It was with those words that Supernova Creative Studios was born.
Supernova Creative Studios
“It’s called Supernova, because I’m a big science nerd and so many things are created from supernovas” Dawn states. Opened in 2013, Supernova Creative Studios provides a full range of services needed for success in the digital age; creating exclusive website designs, they also provide effective social media management for the digital age of marketing. Focusing on the client’s needs, they take the time and effort to understand them and provide the most effective means to ensure the client is successful. Her managerial style is something to be recognized; “Some companies have leaders who tell their staff what to do, as for me, I don’t want to be the type who won’t do something and tell one of my staff to do it. I believe that you can’t just be one person and run a company, I welcome talent, I welcome creativity, I welcome ideas. I can’t do it all on my own. I would like a staff of people who can manage their own lives” Dawn states. Following her entrepreneurial spirit, she also founded Sista Ink Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to women of color in the tattoo industry.
Sista Ink Magazine
Sista Ink Magazine is an online publication dedicated to the promotion of African-American women in the tattoo industry. Based on the lack of African-American women in the tattoo industry, Dawn created a platform for them: “A friend of mine invited me to a burlesque show, I’ve been following this show on Instagram, and they’re awesome, but I didn’t see any African-American women there. Then there was this one time where they did post an African-American woman and when I looked at the comments, they were very negative. ‘She’s too fat, look how big her ass is’. The followers of the show were jarred to see an African-American tattooed woman in the burlesque show line-up”. Using her skills in marketing and publicity, she searched for phenomenal tattooed woman of color and the rest is history. Her first tattooed model, Drea Hand, is an extraordinary African-American tattooed model based out of California. A loyal and hardcore DeadPool fan, I can see why she was chosen; her beauty and tattoos are flawless.
Not only is Dawn a phenomenal publicist, a purveyor of great ideas, and a savvy leader, she is also a science enthusiast. With a tattooed replica of the solar system on her right forearm, Dawn is very celestial; “About five years ago I happened to come across a Neil deGrasse Tyson YouTubeTM video where he was talking to a student about how North America was established; basically describing if Europe didn’t come into North America, it would have changed the whole way society functioned. The way that he explained things, I wanted to know more about this guy. Then I started to listen to Stephen Hawkins and then it was like a light bulb clicked on in my head. The universe has been explained...I’m like a big science nerd now”.
When I asked her if she saw the movie, The Theory of Everything, her response took even a greater turn; “I watch it quite often, it was amazing; when I look at my arm and my place in the universe, it reminds me of how small we really are compared to the trifling things we worry about in everyday life. In the African-American community science isn’t on our list of priorities”. There is some merit to what Dawn is saying. The National Science Foundation’s 2015 account on African-Americans in Science and Engineering reported that 30% of the African-American population in higher education receive Science and Engineering degrees at minority serving institutions, namely Historically Black Colleges or Universities.
To describe Dawn’s navigation from the West Coast to the East Coast is that of a purposeful traveler. As she pursued her dreams and stayed abreast of the latest innovations of her companies that she worked for, she never lost sight of her soul and goal. I inquired about her place in the universe in regards to her personal life as an African-American female who is a lesbian residing in Virginia; her response was very heartfelt; “Its tough. There are minorities in this country, but I’m a minority of a minority of a minority. I’m the most minority that you can possibly get. Woman. Black. Lesbian. Navigating life before Virginia was interesting. I’m originally from California, and I wasn’t really aware of it until Proposition 8, when I was an activist in the street marching, but in my everyday life it wasn’t an issue, until I moved here. It’s very different. I would say that in Virginia, they’re a little bit behind as far as accepting LGBT people. I would say that Virginia is what California was 20 years ago. I’ve lived here for five years the whole time. Its hard to find someone who has the same views as myself”.
“As an African-American female entrepreneur, people are surprised that I run my own business” Dawn says; ‘Its empowering, when African-American women ask me what I do; I say to them that its possible, you can do that too, be successful’. Very modest, she believes that the work should speak for itself; “When I did have a website, I didn’t put my picture up because I believe the work should speak for itself”, Dawn states. This works as a double entendre for most African-American business owners to this day. By not placing a face on the business it creates an opportunity for diverse clientele, whereas placing a face could lead to limited opportunities and prevent future business transactions. It’s very disheartening. The Chicago Tribune reported that some ‘African-American entrepreneurs feel that by placing their image on their businesses or identifying the fact that their businesses are black-owned they will lose patronage, either to misperceptions that the products or services are only for African-Americans, or racial bias on the part of potential users’. Dawn also stated that she too had to follow the mantra; “I asked a client once would you have hired me if you knew that I was African-American and my picture was up there? He said no. Today he’s one of my biggest clients”.
It’s very challenging being an African-American, Female and a Lesbian. Dawn has navigated her personal life and her career judiciously as she traveled from the West Coast to the East Coast. From fighting on the front lines of California for the prevention of Proposition 8, to following her heart in media, publishing and marketing, Dawn has risen above it all to become a figure for entrepreneurship in not only the African- American community, but the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) arena as well. Dawn’s ability to never give up is phenomenal and her love of media is expressed through her media company and her impressive website Sista Ink Magazine (SistaInk.com). Forever humble, Dawn concludes with great advice for the up and coming entrepreneur, members of the LGBT community and individuals trying to find their road in life:
"Don’t believe what people tell you, that’s it.
Don’t believe that people tell you that you’re irrelevant. Don’t believe it when people tell you that you’re not equal. Don’t believe people when they tell you, you’re not as smart, Don’t believe people when they say that you can’t do something. Don’t believe what people tell you. If you believe that you can be an entrepreneur, then you can do it.If you feel that you deserve equality, go out in the streets and tell people, fight for it.
Don’t subjugate yourself to other people because ultimately its your life, you’re the one that’s going to live it. How are you going to live it? Are you going to live it under other people’s rules or are you going to make your own rules?"