Kim Newton of Alexis Enterprises: “Develop an emotional plan because you are going to want to give up”

Develop an emotional plan because you are going to want to give up. This is actually a big idea I write about in my Intentional Pause Dream workbook. Look, doing something you have never done before it is going to be hard. An emotional plan helps you manage your give up. Many successful people reinvented themselves […]

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Develop an emotional plan because you are going to want to give up. This is actually a big idea I write about in my Intentional Pause Dream workbook. Look, doing something you have never done before it is going to be hard. An emotional plan helps you manage your give up.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Newton.

Artist, entrepreneur and experienced marketing executive, Kim Newton, decided to leave the corporate world behind and step out on faith. Today, she operates as founder of Alexis Enterprises, LLC., where she recently launched her first product — 15 years in the making — Alexis Gift Quilts. She is also the creative mind behind The Intentional Pause™ Project, a project designed to empower women to follow their dreams using the power of the pause.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in San Francisco as the only daughter of my mom, an elementary school teacher, and my dad who was in corporate America, specifically IBM, for 30+ years. Because my dad was in corporate America, we moved around quite a bit throughout Minneapolis and Connecticut until my parents got divorced when I was 7 and we all move back to the Bay. I lived with my mom who raised me as a single mother, though my dad was very close (emotionally and physically) He remarried a Chinese woman so I also had a multicultural blended family.

As long as I can remember I have worked on two things. Nurturing both my leadership and my creative side. I was in student government from the 5th grade until my senior year in college. I was the fifth-grade class president and president of the student body my senior year in high school, as well as Miss Fisk University (full tuition scholarship) my senior year in college. I think it was one of the reasons I decided on a career in business where good leadership enhances the ability to driving results. Managing a leading has always been one of my favorite parts of my career.

My mom very intentionally nurtured my creative side along with her sister who was a renowned artist. I literally grew up in her studio. I went to an all-girls private high school and went to Fisk University, where I majored in accounting and decided to go straight through and get my MBA in marketing from Vanderbilt because after interning in accounting, I knew I did not want to work in accounting a single day of my life! I worked in an African-American art gallery all through school and always was doing something creative as a side hustle.

From Nashville I decided to integrate art in business and started what turned out to be a 20+ year career at Hallmark Cards, Inc. in Kansas City.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If you always do what you always did, you’re always get what you always got.” — Albert Einstein

To get better, you have got to change so, get comfortable working on who you must become. I consider myself a transformation leader based on all of my career experience. I am comfortable with ambiguity and like to connect dots and envision new things. I adopted this philosophy in my early 20s and I think it has prepared me well for embracing vs resisting the inevitable. There is nothing constant but change. But you must move within intention and strive for growth.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

A growth mindset; I believe in potential. As a mom, wife, daughter, friend and business leader, I never give up on people. I believe the best is in front of each us — our best selves, our best experiences. We’re all learning and each new day is an opportunity to grow and learn from experience. I have taken on “low performers,” nurtured them and watched them soar. I believe brands can be reinvented and negative situations can sometimes lead us to the best result.

A strong work ethic; I am not afraid of hard work. I don’t think it’s a secret that I have high standards, not only for myself, but for those I work with. But I’m not asking anyone to do what I’m not willing to do. It takes effort to create something extraordinary, it takes time to master your craft, and it takes falling down, learning and continuing persevere to create outstanding (humble) business leaders, strong athletes and great relationships.

A high EQ; I invest in people and relationships. Clearly there is a theme. Things happen through people. Brands are made of people. Our lives are in enriched because of relationships. They are very important and you should invest accordingly. I’ve always had an inclusive and collaborative style and believe we are all more alike than different but should appreciate the differences as gifts. It has helped me navigate even the hardest of situations.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I spent 23 years in corporate America — all at Hallmark. But I had several phases.

First 10 years of my career I call my, functional leader phase when I was all things marketing -multicultural marketing, retail marketing, brand marketing and product marketing.

The next five I call my cross-functional leader phase. I was a leader on a full company transformation program, ran process management for the company as well as played a general manager role for $1 billion product P&L. This is when I really understood the company end-to-end and outside in (how it was supposed to work). I fell in love with that view.

My final chapter I call my enterprise-leader phase. I ran strategy for the largest business unit and then ran corporate strategy which included retail, consumer products entertainment and the global business. My final role was running consumer experience for the Hallmark brand.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I articulated my inflection pointseveral years before I left Hallmark. After 20 years, I started to feel I had outgrown the company and I was not meeting my full potential. On a weekend trip with friends, I had a good girlfriend tell me I should join the Henry Crown Fellowship program. I said, “Great, what is the Henry Crown Fellowship Program?” Ha. After learning more it is a success to significance fellowship for intra and entrepreneurs and while there are many criteria like you must be nominated the one that stuck out is you had to articulate your “inflection point.” This was life changing for me to even acknowledge and put a story to where I was in my life. And amazingly I got in the fellowship.

I decided I would explode my network to expose myself to new people and experiences.I also decided I would develop more relationships outside of my company than inside my company. I joined the Network of Executive Women, The Executive Leadership Council, I started attending Alumni events for both of my alma maters and I joined the Henry Crown Fellowship.

I went on a “walkabout” and got invaluable advice. After I left Hallmark, I knew I wanted to take some time off and got the best idea from a dear friend. He told me I needed to take a walkabout — make a list of 30 people I admire and go meet with them. Not for them to get me a job or anything but to talk to them about life, how they make big decisions, what they are seeing in the future and other “life” advice they could share from their experience. He told me not to limit who was on my list because you would be surprised who will talk to you if you don’t want anything from them. I met with CEOs, C-suite executives, retired leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, art collectors, board members, VCs, spiritual leaders etc. Yes, I cold emailed people and guess what — many of them emailed me right back. Incredible.

I took the advice. I got some of the best advice. Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW, told me to “resist the familiar,” decide the criteria of what I wanted and not to settle. Carla Harris, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley told me to “give myself a 150 percent for 18 months and to pay attention to how things happen because they would be indications of whether or not I am on the right path. Josh Silverman, CEO of Esty told me to listen to everyone and all the ideas on what I could do and then take time to listen to no one. Truly unplug so I could think about what I want. Jean Brownhill, the CEO of Sweeten told me, “things go infinitely better when you surrender.” It really broadened my perspective.

I wrote a book that would help others, but helped myself, too.I came up with the idea for The Intentional Pause Project before I left Hallmark. I had mentored hundreds of women (and men) from all over the county and I was noticing while they were crushing their goals and ambitious in their pursuits, they were extremely unfulfilled. Overwhelmed but underwhelmed at the same time. I realized I was also feeling it myself! I had commissioned two rounds of research with accomplished and ambitious women to better understand this dynamic. I learned that tools to help them navigate what they really want was one of their primary needs. So, I developed a process, curated exercises, and published a workbook so more women would follow their dreams. My workbook was definitely shaped by the research but since I was chasing my dream at the same time, I used myself as a litmus test to make sure my ideas worked.

I started my own business. Right before Covid, I decided I would start my own business. I was ready to follow my dreams. This was a big decision and a big change for me. A startup is far from a $4B corporation with an established brand.

I advise and keep my ties to other businesses and corporate America. I learned through my walkabout process and soul searching, that my purpose and my passion was about helping people and organizations meet their full potential. So, I knew my tie back to corporate and supporting other female leaders/founders would be important to me. This shows up in three specific ways now.

I advise two startups with female founders

I help facilitate leadership programming at Netflix as an episodic contactor

I now serve on my first public board

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

I mentioned that I was at an inflection point a few years before I left Hallmark. I was in a role reporting to the CEO and working on vision and growth for the brand. But here I was about to graduate from my 2-year fellowship and still had not left Hallmark. I was a bit down and disappointed that I had not chartered a new path for myself. I was on vacation in Jamaica and woke up to watch the sun rise, as I do on every vacation. I had a long conversation with God that am. I asked him for a sign but then said, no don’t give me a sign. I am horrible with signs. I asked him to make it painfully clear. I know not to pray for clarity unless I am truly ready. Well, it was three weeks later, kind of out of the blue, my boss, the current CEO stepped away and a new CEO came in and immediately eliminated my role. As I was sitting there listening to him tell me his plans I was like — Wow! Look at God! I wasn’t upset. I was clear.

This was a trigger, but my real decision was to not return to corporate America. I could have easily jumped back into a role — an autopilot response would have been to run to another job. I resisted that decision and forced my way to pause and listen to what I truly want. Autopilot to intention.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

There were a few. Art was inside of me and I had been quilting as a hobby for nearly 20 years. I had not embraced the title artist but once I did it gave my work new purpose. So maybe not a new skill set but underleveraged for sure. I sold my first piece just over a year ago and I have sold 10 pieces since that time. Embracing that I can be more than one thing at a time was really validating on this journey and helped me overcome my own limitations. I am an executive; I am and artist and I am even more.

The new skill set was about writing my book. I never desired to write a book. I hired a ghost writer or, in my case, I call her a “midwife.” I did a lot of the labor and she helped my confidence and held my hand through everything. It was great to have a partner help me with something I have not done before. But the book is all me and she helped me show up as my best self! Really grateful for the support and proud of myself for seeking the assistance.

Another thing I think helped me overcome obstacles and barriers was the use of my network. The power of networking and finding the right people to help me. I think this is very important, especially when you are bootstrapping your business. I used my network to ask questions, find talent, open doors, gather ideas and sometimes even to boost my confidence when it needed it.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

Things are going well! I have gone from one income stream to six. I live a portfolio lifestyle that affords me to work on the things I care about and have a level of flexibility I did not have before. People are loving the quilts. In the first month after launch, I hit six figures in revenue!

The Intentional Pause workbooks are really resonating with people. I was also just nominated to my first public board position. Life is good!

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Honestly, it is hard to pick one. The walkabout and that exploded network I spoke to was integral. I also built a strong network prior to leaving Hallmark.

I wrote about the kind of people you need with you on the journey to your dreams in my workbook. I wrote about this because I needed every one of these roles on my journey. The strategist, the coach, the builder, the bestie, the restorer, the planner, the badass and the invigorator.

But, if I had to pick one, I think it would be my husband. The year before I left corporate, he left his firm of 20+ years. He had extreme empathy and awareness of what I was going through and encouraged me to do what I needed to find my next chapter. I saw some research that shows the emotional curve of a transition — it doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative, of your doing or someone else’s — the curve is the same. More than anything he supported me through it all. My ending phase, my explore phase, my reinvention phase and now my new beginning phase. Not everyone is lucky to have that support and I am thankful.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Yes, I went to New York for a few days on my Walkabout and met with some of my corporate crushes! I met with Mindy Grossman, who is the CEO of WW, formerly Weight Watchers. I have known Mindy for several years and admired her leadership even longer. We met in her office and she dropped personal experience and gems throughout as I asked her about how she made big decisions and how she managed the big transitions in her life. As I mentioned, she told me to “resist the familiar” as I thought about what I wanted to do. It really got me in a mindset of not accepting what I thought I could do vs. embracing fully what I want to do. Mindy is very future-focused and self-assured and that is exactly what I needed. We were at the end of the meeting when she remembered I told her I was going to have a solo art show. She didn’t even know I was an artist. I told her I was a quilter and showed her my work. She said it was beautiful. She bought the quilt and gifted it to her friend. That friend was Oprah! I think I might have choked. I had not sold a piece of artwork before.

Mindy invited me along as her guest to one of Oprah’s events where I could meet her. I decided to gift each of them a quilt based on my design that they both could use. I placed it in a fully designed box and I think they both loved it. That is what I really wanted to do — launch my own line of gift quilts inspired by my artwork. I tested it with them and I am so happy I did.

Was this a turning point? The entire experience made me think very differently about my talents and my options. There I was, listening to day of Oprah talk about having a vision for your life as a guest of my corporate crush who had just gifted my first purchased piece of artwork.

The following month Covid hit — so I used it as a time to incubate and develop my business, write my book and really rethink how I wanted to move forward in the world. Yes, I started a business in the middle of a pandemic.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Yes and No.

No, because another piece of advice I got that I cherish and now lead with is, “do the thing you are uniquely positioned to do.” I believe I am uniquely positioned to do what I am doing. My dreams, my experiences, my talent, my family, my friends, my network and my God have brought me to this place.

Yes also, because of course I am human and definitely have my moments. That is why I say I wrote the book I needed as well. I studied why people give up and came up with my F.O.R.E.S.T™ framework. I need help with all those topics. I included the exercises that I thought would be most effective.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I studied why people give up and the reasons typically fall into 5 categories — I call it your F.O.R.E.S.T.™: Fears, Obstacles, Relationships, Emotions and Self-Talk. In my workbook, I break down how to develop a plan for your F.O.R.E.S.T.™. I call it your emotional plan.

For relationships specifically, I talk about the tribe of people you need with you. These are more roles. Of course, one person can play many roles. I needed every single one.

The Strategist. Knows you, what you are capable of and understands your vision. They have the skills to help pull out the answers you already know and solve for the ones you don’t. They are willing to spend the time to help you strategize and game plan. Think Business Advisor.

The Coach. Has been down the road you want to go and is willing to help you. They have wisdom from experience and are willing to share through good advice, instruction, tough love and solid motivation. They can save you time and money, not to mention open doors. Think Mentor.

The Planner. Knows how to give ideas structure and can help get things done. They are super practical, have a bias for action and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves. They help you progress by keeping you focused, committed and sometimes are right next to you getting it done. Think Assistant.

The Restorer. Has a special skill or perspective to help you heal so you can be the strongest version of you. They help you see life through a different lens through their perspective or touch. They help you manage your emotions and put them to work for good or give you expert advice. Think Therapist.

The Confidence Builder. They exude a healthy confidence in themselves and believes wholeheartedly in you. They model self-assurance well and their support of you is undeniable, so by virtue of a discussion they seriously build you up. If you can’t find the confidence yourself, you can borrow theirs because there is plenty of it. Think Cheerleader.

The Bestie. The bestie is always there for you, will hear you out no matter the circumstance and will love you anyway. They are fiercely loyal, brutally honest and won’t change if you succeed or fail. They will always lovingly meet you where you are and will push you where you need to go. Think Confidant.

The Badass. The badass is wildly successful and wants it all for you, too. They can push and motivate you through their mere existence, but on top of that, know how to help you get what you want. They are rooted in their own badassness, so they are willing to introduce and connect you because they want you to succeed. Think Successful Peer.

The Invigorator. The invigorator is all about momentum, new ideas and is always ready for action. They pump you up, fill you with positive energy and know just what to say to recharge your batteries and get you going. Think Go-Getter.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” — Albert Einstein

I do things that scare me. I say yes to new experiences. When it is your personal passion that you are working, every day, those moments come fewer and fewer. For example, maneuvering around like an artist is unfamiliar territory. I am continuing to practice and working at getting better — it’s not as scary anymore.

I want to respect my work and process by not resting, but instead and pushing myself. I am applying for fellowships and have goals for developing as an artist. This is new territory and I accept the growing pains and remind myself that next time it won’t be unfamiliar and that each new thing is an opportunity to learn.

In regards to my book and gift quilts I remind myself it is not about me. I want my gift quilts to inspire and motivate people. I want them to act as tools for spiritual growth and daily warming reminders that someone is cared for and loved. I want my book to help more women get out of autopilot and in to intention. So when I do get scared about new things, I remember that it’s not about me, it’s about touching more people.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Your Business Deserves Experts. Hire people who are experts and know what they are doing. It is tempting to hire the person who is the least expensive or wants to learn so they will charge you less, but often you will end up spending more or costing your idea in this precious stage to be under optimized. This doesn’t mean look for perfection, but understand you have to make the investment in talent who know what they are doing vs. letting someone learn at your expense. I worked with several designers before I finally decided I would not spend another penny until I found a textile designer who could help me design for manufacturability. The other designers were not bad designers and all told me they did not know textiles well. The entire game changed when I found someone who knew the industry, the pitfalls and could apply all of their learnings to my effort.

Your own business if full of extreme highs and extreme lows — so take in the moment but know it is fleeting. Either way. Major in confident humility. When something amazing happens celebrate it, leverage it and move on. When something bad happens, acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. Starting a business can be an emotional roller coaster. Avoid emotional decisions.

Look for feedback not validation. Seek input on “how” not “if.” It is your vision and not that of other people. That is what makes it unique.

Develop an emotional plan because you are going to want to give up. This is actually a big idea I write about in my Intentional Pause Dream workbook. Look, doing something you have never done before it is going to be hard. An emotional plan helps you manage your give up.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would say I am working on it — I called it The Intentional Pause Project because I know getting more women to follow their dreams would be a project and could be a movement.

I researched almost 400 accomplished women throughout the U.S. Here is what I found:

Women are unapologetically ambitious (91 percent)

Many women feel overwhelmed personally (81 percent) and professionally (73 percent)

Many women know they need self-care but feel like they are alone (67/68 percent respectively)

According to my research, only 36 percent of women are living their dreams.

I learned women like “us” need three things:

Permission to pause. Yes, stop. Not for a spa day but to do the hard work of contemplating ideas to move forward with intention. So, we can work intelligently towards what we want.

Permission is not only granted; I’m telling your pausing is actually required.

Tools to help:

Effectively dream and decide what is needed for our own personal fulfillment beyond commitments to our family and career

Craft the personal strategies and practical steps needed to focus on achieving the life we desire.

Dreams and success don’t just happen. They require intentional exploration and planning.

Strategies to face and move beyond fear. Fear can be replaced with faith. We just need to be constantly reminded. That is why I created the Dream Workbook I want to elevate the pause to the place it deserves in our lives.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would pick Michelle Obama. She may not be in business per se, but I see her as a fantastic leader and we share a passion for inspiring girls and young women. Plus, she has a love of the arts. I think we would have a great discussion.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would love for your readers to follow me! They can learn more about me, my story, the quilts and the workbook at They can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @kimalexisnewton. By doing a search for Kim Alexis Newton, they can find me on YouTube and LinkedIn as well.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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