We’ve come to know award-winning singer-songwriter Kandi Burruss best on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Through the show, audiences have watched Burruss’s life evolve over the past five years and four seasons. One thing is a constant, however: her hustle.
With business ventures from stage plays and clothing boutiques to her own line of sex toys, Burruss has set herself apart from other Housewives as one hell of an entrepreneur. She sat down with EBONY.com to discuss how she balances her personal and professional lives, and detailed her secrets to success in business.
EBONY: First, congrats on getting married. Does your relationship with Todd feel different now that you’ve tied the knot?
Kandi Burruss: Thank you. Not yet, actually. I guess we still don’t feel married yet. We went from seeing each other and being together every day to a long-distance relationship—because he’s in L.A. producing his show, Hollywood Divas, for TV One, so we see each other on the weekends. Sometimes we don’t even get to do that.
EBONY: How does that work for you two as newlyweds?
KB: We make it work through a lot of communication, and we try to see each other as often as possible. There was a time when we both got really busy and went a while without seeing each other. I actually was getting really upset, almost crying. I called him fussing one day and, as I was fussing, he came through the door and surprised me. To me, you have to do things like that and make your relationship a priority. Our new rule is to not let two weeks go by without spending time together. That’s the limit.
EBONY: What was some of the best advice you got going into getting married?
KB: Going into the marriage, everyone had something to say. (laughs) Of course, everyone says communication is key. I agree. Actually, I think that’s why Todd and I have worked as a couple for so long. He enjoys talking often. In fact, I need to step my call game up throughout the day. And if we have disagreements, I’m less inclined to want to talk about it. He wants to talk everything out. That’s helped me get better with my communication.
Of course, everyone also says to not let anyone in your business. Obviously, that was a big issue with my mom, and I’m working on that. I had to be like, “Hey, this is what we’re doing and this is how we’re rolling.”
EBONY: We’re seeing a lot of that play out on your wedding special, Kandi’s Wedding. You also mentioned in the first episode that you never thought much about getting married when you were coming up. Can you talk more about that?
KB: I’ll be honest: both of my parents have been married multiple times. With that being said, I never really had confidence in marriage. I felt like, if you can get married and divorced so easily, ain’t that just like going together? I used to grow up and say that I couldn’t wait to grow up and have kids, but not that I couldn’t wait to grow up and get married. I knew other girls who knew exactly when they wanted to get married and what their dress would look like. That wasn’t me.
EBONY: What changed that?
KB: I think love changes things. And as I got older, I wanted a teammate to spend the rest of my life with. It’s like Ne-Yo said, I’m killing ’em by myself but I’m a force when we’re together. Todd and I are a force. We’re able to do things together that I probably wouldn’t have even thought about. He pushes me. He motivates me. I just love us, us. And at a certain point in your life, you don’t just want someone who you go with. You really want to be in it together. It’s a different type of commitment. You can’t just walk away from it.
EBONY: Do you think not focusing on marriage contributed to your success in other areas of your life?
KB: Maybe. Times in the past when I was in a relationship and things were good, my business wasn’t together. When my business was on point, my relationship sucked. I feel like a lot of men need to be catered to… a lot. So when a woman is focused on her business and putting so much energy into that area, it can be hard to give your man the attention he needs. The way to get past that is to have someone that motivates you and wants you to win. I have that with Todd, and now it seems like everything is coming together.
EBONY: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in business? Was there one situation that really drove that home?
KB: I’ve learned a lot of things. First, when you’re trying to start a business, before you even tell anybody about it, buy the web domain for it, all the social media tags, get your trademarks, everything. Because as soon as you start talking about it, someone else will snatch it up.
When we first started our stores, Tags, we just registered TagsATL.com and didn’t think anything else of it. Now we have all these other stores, but someone already went out and snatched up the dotcom! Now when I mention it, people will go to that site thinking they’re buying something from me, but they’re not. Other people love to jump on the bandwagon and benefit from something that’s already hot.
Another thing: if you want to go into a business in which you don’t have any experience, you need to intern in that field to gain your own contacts and relationships. Relationships are everything! If you don’t do that, you need to be partnered with someone who has already worked in that area successfully.
People can be so much about having their own and not wanting to split anything, but it can be a huge benefit to have a partner who has strengths you don’t. My business partner for Tags, Peaches, she had already worked for years as a successful stylist. She had her own successful clothing stores. I kept asking her to team up with me and now we have multiple stores. It wouldn’t have worked as well if she were just my homegirl helping me out here and there. By partnering, I was able to get her full expertise and not lose a ton of money trying to figure things out.
Also, start following up on your ideas. Everyone has good ideas. Great ideas just float around in the air. Think about it: How many times have you thought about doing something but you waited, then see someone else doing it? We talk ourselves out of it before we even try. We think of all the ways it won’t work: it’ll take too long or cost too much. I say don’t wait. Start small if you have to, but follow up on your ideas.
I would also say that a lot of people don’t like to spend money. But you have to spend money to make money. I’ve always been the kind of person to live within my means, but I will put most of my money into a project that I know will make me more money.
EBONY: So what would your advice be to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
KB: My advice to anyone out there looking to go into business is to first cut back on your spending. Get a cheaper apartment and less expensive car. Stop flossin’. Pull back on your expenses and put money to the side until you’ve stacked up enough to put toward your dream. If you’re not willing to invest in you, why would anyone else?
As someone who’s been asked to invest in business ideas, one of the first things I notice is if someone is fly to death. They’ve got the latest bag and poppin’ shoes, but asking me for a $5,000 loan. That’s a problem! If you cut back on your expenses, you wouldn’t need an investor or financing. Even with a modest income, you can save enough in a year to get started.