Victory by Association: Episode 6 | Monique A.J. Smith

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Monique A.J. Smith

Monique AJ Smith, a Sports Management veteran of 30 years, launched her consulting business
Seeds of Empowerment ® LLC, full-time March 2013 where she is a leadership strategist for Athletic
Departments and Individuals who wish to advance in Athletics/Sports. The B.O.S.S. Network has
listed Seeds of Empowerment® as one of 50 businesses to watch. As the host of the nationally recognized weekly
podcast “A Chat in the Garden with Monique A.J. Smith, Where Significance Blooms in Athletics &
Sports” she spotlights Women of Color in Athletics/Sports.

JT: Well hello everyone, I’m Jeff Tippett, I’m so grateful that you’ve joined us for today’s episode of Victory by Association. Today’s show is brought to you by Audbile. Get a free audiobook download, as well as a 30-day-free trial at for a 30-day Audible trial. There are over 800,000 titles to choose from, for your iPhone, Kindle or MP3 player.

Check out our show notes for the link.

I am so glad today and excited to welcome our special guest Monique A J Smith. Welcome, glad to have you!


MS: Thank you for having me here.


JT: So tell me a little bit here if you will, about your association background and work that you’ve done with associations. Help our audience get to know you just a little bit.


MS: Well, I’m in athletics. I’ve been in athletics for 30-something years. And I work for the CIAA, which is an athletics office. And the part I love about my job the most, was professional and personal development, and so when I left here, in 2013, I just took that national.


JT: Outstanding. Well, do this something if you will, tell us something interesting or unique about you that most people won’t know something, they won’t find on your LinkedIn profile, but might be intriguing to know.


MS: Well, I did work with the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. I was with basketball and track and field.


JT: That’s fantastic. Well, let’s get into the meat of our show here today and let’s talk a little bit about the association victory that you would like to share with these executives that are listening to our show. Give us a little encapsulation here of your victory.


MS: Well, I would say my victories is very similar to what you’re doing here in your podcast. Many people, so very busy and it lends itself to be able to supply them information without having them to stop their daily activity. So every week I interview an athletic administrator, a woman, African-American woman in athletic administration and I’ve been doing it for five years now.

And so you add those times up and so many people ask me any advice and I said, “Oh no, just go ahead and join our group and you can listen to the advice from others.”

And that’s been very, very productive. And from that, we have different other branches. When I travel across the country, people say “Hi, you’re the lady from the chat in the garden.” I call it chat in the garden, because I plant seeds to lead others to greatness, and I grow leaders, I grow people. And thus, you see the flowers. And so that’s really what it is, it’s a way to educate people in a manner that they can do. Because athletics is a moving target. You’ve got to catch them when you can.

And many people don’t know how to get their foot in the door, and that’s what I provide.


JT: That’s fantastic. So, let’s drill down a little bit right here from a couple of things that you said. First of all, why a podcast? There are so many different ways to communicate to your audience, and especially given our audience, here, our association executives — and there are probably association executives wondering, and thinking like, should I start a podcast, is that a way to get my message out to my audience? For you, why did you choose a podcast for your audience?


MS: Let me be honest with you. I had a publicist, who found it for me, I had no idea what that was.

I belong to a network and he called it radio and my undergrad degree was in mass-media, so I knew how to do live radio, traditional radio and they’re like, “Oh you’re a natural.”

And then I said I want to address my audience, my people and it just is so funny with the podcast.

The Facebook group grew – my members are 1400 plus. And that’s where I do most of my communication. But when I tell you, it just took a life of his own. When I travel across the country that’s when I know I make an impact. But even with people who are in transition, like mothers who are trying to get back in, I have been told that listening to the podcast gave them life.

JT: I love it. Let me ask you another question that you quickly mentioned in your opening conversations, your opening comments, you talked a little bit about your audience, tell me again about your audience, ’cause it sounds like you have gone extremely niche with your audience. You know exactly who it is that you’re trying to reach. ’cause sometimes we can have this mindset of… It’s all about mass. We have to have so many people when actually that might not be really true, it might be that we just need the right people. So talk to me a little bit about your audience and how you landed there.


MS: Well, you have to go deep and wide, and not wide and deep.

Okay, because if you’re trying to market to everyone, you’re marketing to no one.

And honestly, because I’ve been a consultant, since 2005, before I even began the podcast, and again, the organization I was known as a pioneer, so people have always asked me about my advice.

So for me it was like, let me spread across because of the fact I knew so many women who were in the business. I’ve been in it for 30-some years, an intern when I was a sophomore in college, in a conference office so I have been doing it since 1988.

So many women that I know might have already been on this not as an intern, but my years in gives me as an expert, so I want to share the wealth and say, “Hey do you know, do you know, do you know so-and-so. You should ask her, she’d be a great person for you.” So many people call me the connector, and for me that gave me a better resource to be able to connect people.


JT: Absolutely, I love it. So, as you are looking at starting your podcast and getting this up and running were there any barriers or obstacles or things, that you had to face, that you had to overcome to get running and get this thing up live and out to your audience?


MS: Well, I was blessed to have a great CEO named Clark Garrison, of survivor radio networks. So all I had to do was find my guests and plan it and market it, but for me it was, it was a blessing because it taught me how to sell. I did have to pay my monthly fee to the network, so I had to become creative on how to sell my commercials which is great, now. I mean this is the part that blew my mind. I do have one live event every year, the National College Athletic Directors

I’m having a listener appreciation reception. Our fifth one, the NCA called me, and asked me if I was having the reception again, and they said to send them an invoice, because they wanted to sponsor it.

So I don’t have that problem anymore, but you have to create a product for people to have to give to. And so when I first started doing the podcast I charged for shoutouts. Who do you want to congratulate on Coach of the Year or something? And so that wasn’t a challenge, it was a great opportunity for me to learn how to create products and to sell them on the podcast, to make my monthly fee for the network. Which was good for me, because I did not want to do the engineer part.


JT: Well, this is a lot of associations look for additional revenue streams. And so what I hear you say here, something of this nature could be something that opens another opportunity. The podcast itself might be an area for sponsorship, but then there are other things trickle off of that, so it could not just be a way to get your message out there and pull your target market and and help other people understand what your association does, but it also could be a revenue stream is what I hear you say


MS: It really is, cause you can add it on to other things. Now most of the time it’s the other way around, you have a meaning you add the podcast to but in so one or it is also your email marketing, you tie that in together.

So when I have the podcast I also have a replay because some people are not on our Facebook because I do tie together with it, because I put the all the replays in one place.

I used to put it on my website, but people don’t really go to a website. You gotta go where the people are. It drives them to the Facebook, so I email them the podcast replay.

And so then with that, I’m able to add other advertisement, usually something else that I’m doing, but that gives you a… Whoever your sponsors offer or whatever, whatever you had going on at your organization, I guess.


JT: Fantastic, I love it. Let me ask you this for our association executives that are listening today. You probably at least whet their appetite now, to think a little bit about podcasts and what they might could do. Give us a couple of tips here, if an association executive is listening to you or maybe watching on YouTube.

I’m just doing thinking maybe this is something I should explore. What are a couple of tips you would toss out?


MS: I would make a list of potential guests. I’m booked now to January.

So, that takes all of the stress out. I had to find somebody for next month, I would advertise by the month, by individual. I would have a Facebook group, so we would be engaged after the podcast and before the podcast.


JT: Fantastic, I love it. So it sounds like you do some amazing events, some really cool stuff that are out there and I…

I have to believe that you probably have some volunteers that are part of helping you pull this off. So, if you would give us a shout out to, maybe an association super hero volunteer. I think there’s just great value in showing appreciation and being grateful for what people do in our life. Is there a particular association super hero volunteer that you would like to give a shout out to today?


MS: Well I do, but before I do that, I wanna give you a background on what she helps me do.

Okay, so, Podcast is there. But there is paid programming that we have, we have, I have a virtual speakers bureau where I help people people who are coaches or would become a consultant, and I call them athleticpreneurs.

Okay, and then I have advanced academy, which is a monthly gathering of individuals who may be trying to get into the business that are trying to elevate to another position within athletics and I meet with them once a month, and then I have an in-person called leadership retreats and Michelle Larkin of Union Connections has been a total blessing to me because she’s my partner in crime.

When I created this I used to have them in my timeshare in Williamsburg, Virginia. And whoever comes in, I do an assessment dependent upon what they need, we create the setting and the speakers and we bring other speakers in. But she has been with me, and I think I’ve had about 15 to 18 of those and she’s been with me every time and she even created a spinoff called the Queen’s moves. Because that was one of the things we ran that most women don’t know how to play the game and I… Because being strategic… And so we teach them how to pay chess, they understand how to make moves five steps ahead and to understand the Queen is the most important piece on the board and you have more actions than anyone else, but you gotta be centered there to see all the positions that you have.


JT: Fantastic well, Monique you have been an amazing guest today. You have tossed out so much great knowledge here and so thank you for being our guest and sharing your expertise with our audience here today. How can people find you?


MS: Well, I like to have engagement on Twitter and my Twitter is @hostofchat, my email address is Monique AJ Smith at seeds of empowerment dot info. For the old people on Facebook, Monique A J Smith, and if you happen to be Instagram, that’s where all the young folks hang out, I’m seeds of empowerment and most importantly, really find me LinkedIn, Monique A J Smith, and that’s where I really like to have professional conversations.


JT: That’s fantastic. We’ll put all these links in the show notes so the audience can check those out and connect with you and find you online. So again thank you and thanks everyone for listening today, and being part of this conversation.


Hey, I have a gift for you, I find that crafting the message, getting the initial conversation, whether it’s on website, email marketing, crafting that initial message is extremely challenging for many groups. I have a free chapter from my book. Unleashing your super power, all you have to do is text the word persuade to 66866 persuade to 66866, and you’ll immediately get a free chapter of my book.


Hey, and I’ll see you all next week, as we discover another Victory by Association.


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