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CEO Stacey J: Elite Clientele, Exceptional Services

yellow flowerBubbling with excitement, Stacey J greeted me in a comical tone, “Hi, Tawanda! Taaaaawaandaaaaa!” I couldn’t challenge that opening even if I wanted to. She already owned the interview with that sprightly announcement and judging from her enthusiasm, I knew that we were leaping in the right direction because she wasn’t going to be a humdrum conversation. When she spoke, her appetite for life pronounced itself first. Her intonation was full of authority and fire. Now, on a side note I’d like to mention that it was Tuesday evening, the second day of the work week when most executives are waning down from their demanding careers. I said most execs… but not Stacey. She was enthused—full of liveliness, humor, and zeal. That’s pretty uncommon in the conspicuous world of CEO’S. I was thrilled to get a live feed of emotions from her and not the blah, blah, blah. Stacey made me feel honored to make her acquaintance instead of acting as though I were a tabloid hiding in her bushes waiting to take snapshots of her more personal moments, or that I inconvenienced her just for asking questions. Stacey’s rank is elite; however, her persona is an unassuming nature… If she has the “I’m entitled- to this or that- trait”, I didn’t get a chance to meet that part of her. She’s budding beauty inside and out. Stacey thanked me more times, than I can remember with morose of a southern hospitality. The “diva -mentality” was nowhere in sight.

Stacey J is a notorious businessperson, and yet an unpretentious individual that started up her own corporation, “Stacey J Enterprise, Event Planning, and Lifestyle Management in 2009. That seems like a short time span, but not really. Stacey isn’t a recluse to the business. She began her mount in 1999 as Stacey Montgomery & Associates (SMA), an event planning commerce in the Windy aisles of Chicago. SMA evolved into a selected lifestyle management company that provided exclusive services to influential patrons. After relocating to Atlanta in 2009, Stacy J. became renowned. She has catered her services to clients such as Da Brat; TV Ones’ Lisa Raye; Comedian Rickie Smiley; Syleena Johnson; Turks and Caicos Island; Attorney,  James L. Walker; Humble Hustler Attitude Apparel;  Monshe’ Benet Collection; Celeb Stylist, Johnny Wright, and DA Designs. Stacey J. recently won the Boss News Magazine 2015 Top Atlanta Woman Business Award, and presented with a proclamation by the Atlanta Commissioner, Stan Watts, on December 13, 2014.

What is Stacey J. Enterprise? It’s lifestyle management. You know, a personal assistance service that helps people manage their lives and then the event planning.

Your biography says that it took years to conform into the corporate model that you are now. What was existence before Stacey J. became the exclusive lifestyle manager and event planner? I worked in corporate America. I worked at American Express. I had different corporate jobs. But, once I had my calling about what I wanted to do, I created my own business. American Express was the corporate model I was in until I broke out to be an entrepreneur.

You spend a great deal of time sustaining the lives of others. How is life for you especially now that you’re in such a demanding and thriving business? Gyyyrrl! It is hectic, but I like it. You know how they say, “you manage other people, and your life is hectic?” It’s not out of control but it has taken me in a different arena. I’m normally helping people manage their lives and now with me, I’m kinda taking on a new role and I’m putting other people in a place to still service those people that are in need. I’ll be an overseer in a sense, and there is another direction that I’ll be going in with speaking and hosting. Things like that. I’m just kind of balancing it. That’s when we realized that we may have to delegate or bring some other people on to help. I think that’s awesome because it gives other people the opportunity of employment or those who are going to join the business that you have helped pave the way for. I think that whatever we should be doing, we should be growing. We are rebranding. Most of my clients have been celebrity driven. I would like to branch out into the high profile business owners. I’m excited about it.

You mentioned that it was hectic. I want to know how you balance from artist to attorney and then throwing seamless and elite soiree’s while conducting business and at the same time maintaining the balance and integrity of your company. What are the key ingredients that you use to keep everyone happy? Well, now again, I’m learning to let go of some of those things. I know as an entrepreneur, we feel like “can’t Stacey and Commmissioner Stan Watson 1nobody do it like I do it, or it’s not going to get done if I don’t do it.” I had to let that go and I started to really do that because for all these years, I’ve been a one woman show, and it became hectic. As you get older, your patience is not the same and then you realize you can’t do it all, and also that we are connected to other people. So, my destiny may be to connect to someone else. It may be to give them a job. It may be to help them achieve their dreams. Right now, I’m thankful to have a small team. I have Lisa Gee from ConnectingYOUto. She’s been amazing and that helps me a lot. She’ll tell you. I’ll call her and be like, “Aye! Look we got this to do! I got this! Can you take this?” You can’t be afraid to do it. It is important to find a great team and people on that same rhythm with you. Not everybody supports your dream, and not everybody sees your vision. I want to find people that believe in what I’m doing because if you don’t, there will be nothing left for you. I also understand that people grow with you and people grow from you. My remedy to my thing is to add people slowly and in small quantities cause I like the boutiquish kind of field. We will help you because you can’t do it by yourself and if you try to do it by yourself, you’re going to be more hectic and all over the place. Then your business will suffer.

How did the boutique come into play, because when we think of boutique, we think of clothing? I say boutique style agency and that gives you the same kind of concept as clothing. Except clothing is small, and when you think of a boutique you think, “Ooh, I’m going to this little boutique and grab me something.” So, I’m not right now, I’m not looking for 50 clients. I’m looking for quality clients that understand business, and the business needs, as well as desire that type of help. If I have 5 or 10 good clients, that’s fine. But, when you think of some of the other larger agency, it’s great. It creates more expansion. However, I’d to be kinda hands-on and be involved. Even though it may not be as your lifestyle manager, I will still have my hands in the kitchen servicing your request. When you get too big sometimes, you can’t do that because you’ve hit another plateau and you’re not really involved. You’re involved but you’re not hands-on. Moreover, with me, I still have that hands-on with my clients.

Was it difficult for you to establish yourself in the market as a businesswoman? Would you say that it’s fair game between men and women? I would say that women are not really getting a lead in the industry because when I look in my industry with lifestyle managers and concierge service is more women that I see than men are. Yes, there are men. But, I think that comes from a place of nurturing and organizing, being an executive assistant, and things like that. I think the women now are really gaining speed in business period. Look at the attorneys. I was in an office today and the young lady that I was speaking with is the community manager of a property, and she looked every bit of 32, and she was a community manager that I was having a conversation with. She was professional. I think that women are really stepping up and showing that we are capable of doing some of the things. We aren’t men, and nor do I want to be, but we are stepping up and showing them that we are just as educated and able to run businesses and corporations just like they are.

With the economic plunge in 2008, how did your company maintain? “Barely”, jokes Stacey. What I like to do is be transparent with my business. I’m not making millions of dollars. I’m not even where I’m going, let’s say that. Because my business is growing and it’s going to be really amazing financially. However, for me, I love what I do. So, I don’t pay as much attention, but in another token you do it because you have rent and bills to pay. I was actually working with one of my clients that’s in real-estate. He had properties. He laid me off because it kind of got bad for him. For me, I’m a creative person and I always find ways to create some type of opportunity for myself. That’s why it’s good to take the opportunity of learning everything you can, whatever business that you are in, and whatever clients you are working with to reinvent yourself with little or no finances. I’ve always done that. We tend to give up. Sometimes you may have to get a job in the meantime, but when you have passion and purpose, that job is just temporary. You feel like, “Oh, ya’ll hired me. I came in here to help, but I have a plan, and my plan is not to be here long.” It’s been challenging. But I wouldn’t change it (But I would change it,” Stacey laughs) because of my business and the business woman that I am now.

You started out in 1999 as Stacey Montgomery and associates. It’s obvious that there is a lot of growth within your organization, how has it changed from then till now? When I started off, I was new to the game. I was working with my cousin, Lisa Raye. She rather molded me because she was already a businesswoman. She kinda molded me into the businesswoman I am today. Therefore, from her, eventually the relationship ended because of business. She was in L.A., and I was in Chicago. I wasn’t willing to move to L.A. We worked together more virtually and traveled together and I just started to expand my network by getting more clients. Chicago is another city that (Love the city love the food) is that… I don’t want to say that it’s not progressive. But, some people there are like crabs in a bucket. I got to a place where once I got divorced, I always knew I wanted to do more and I wanted to take that opportunity to come here more. I liked to say that I tapped out. I hit the ceiling in Chicago. There was nothing else that I wanted to do and there was no one else there that I could work with unless I went back into a corporate arena. I didn’t really want to do that either. So, I took that chance and packed up the U-Haul and a prayer. I came down here to Atlanta. I can actually say that I’ve done more here in Atlanta businesswise, and grown businesswise than I did in my however many years in Chicago. This transition has been amazing.  This is a progressive city that everybody is doing something. They may not really be doing something but we’re all doing it, and you have people trying to do it. You meet the right people. You connect with the right people. Your business has to boom especially if you’re a quality service and a good hearted person that mean what you say.

Stacey J Rickey and ... at Rickey Smileys viewing party 4-5-2014

You have many notable clients. What is it about your services that keep quality clients coming back? I can just say that it’s my passion for people. People can have great personalities. But if I can toot my own horn for a second, my personal social approach. I’m genuinely interested in my clients. You know, my reputation is on the line. I didn’t pick a career that was …”Oh you know what?! I’m gonna do this because famous people are over here. Oh my God!” I really enjoy what I do and I see the benefit that it does for the client because I am actually making their lives easier. I really put everything into it and my personality, and the love that I have with it. I’m service driven. So, I think that’s what my clients see, “okay, Stacey goes above and beyond. She does her best.” And that’s what we want in any business for the person to do the best that they can and willingly– genuinely invested into it. At least that’s what my clients have said about me. That’s the other thing. You have to expand and meet people that will tell other people about your business. They want you. The goal with my agency now that I’m revamping is that if you were an assistant that already has office skills, wonderful! We’ll just train you on how Stacey J. Enterprise wants to handle their clients. And if you don’t have experience we’ll train. Some people think that being a personal assistant is “picking the green M&M”s out of the bowl.” That’s not what we do here. We help people maintain their lives and either give you time back with your family or you can go make more money. That’s what we like to do, hang out with our families or make more money. We want to do the things that we really enjoy. When you have lifestyle managers that can come in and do some of the mundane things like at an enterprise, you don’t have time to type up an invoice. You can but look at the time that you’re doing invoicing or administrative duties that you can be passing on to someone else that needs that job, is good at it, and can get it done (Amen).

In what way are you socially inspired? I’m socially inspired by life itself.  I’ve been dealing with the law of attraction and we all have that law of attraction. I’m at a place now that I’m applying it. I lost my dad in March and I have always been an optimistic thinker. I’ve trained myself to not let life get me to the ground. I have problems, and the kids can get on my nerves, and all that stuff. I’m still that person. However, life itself is so precious, and I’ve learned to understand that especially after losing my dad. That was the closest person that I ever lost, my best friend, and confidant. He called and say, “How’s my beautiful girl?” and I’d say, “Hey, daddy.” He lived a full life. He lived till 88-years-old. He had pneumonia and he passed because his body just couldn’t handle it. I just want to be able to enjoy life while I can. We see in the news that the police aren’t just people in general. You never know when your day in life will end. I have just taken accountability for that every morning. I just demand my day to be what I need it to be and I move forward. It’s not easy. It sounds easy and all smooth and stuff but I listen every morning to this thing called the “Power”. I am very in the moment of “Okay, this is helping me out. What would Jesus do?” I try to t keep myself aware. Life is stressful, but life is beautiful. I take a lot of those things into consideration at looking at where I could be, where I am, and where I’m gonna be. I receive that. My main thing to do is not only be in the business to help people, but I want to be in the business to travel to other places. I want to be able to travel and step out of my comfort zone as well as boundaries, and be able to give to someone in need even if it’s just a word. A lot of times our words can be powerful. Yeah, you can give me rent money and I’ll say, “Thank you!” But, it’s not the same as someone sitting with you, and listening to you so they can pour back into you. Sometimes that could be more than anything could. When you have that, I may not have money, but that pouring may have inspired you to go and do something that’s going to make you your own money.

How has losing your dad affected you? It actually made me stronger because the thing is… I am thankful that I didn’t lose him to a disease like cancer or anything. He just got pneumonia and you know when you’re older and frail. The experience that I was able to have with my dad was when they called me and told me he was in the hospital (Let me tell you how God works). I didn’t really have the money to fly up their last minute. I put it on Facebook, “Does anyone have a buddy pass that I can purchase, I need it right away.” Someone called me and gave me a buddy-pass for $100.00.  I was able to get up there in time. When I got up there, they had just taken the trach out of his mouth. He had maybe two, or three good days that he was able to sit up and talk to us with each of my brothers and sisters what he wanted to say, and I knew that God was coming to get him. I knew. He said, “Stacey, God has so many plans for you. You’re going to do so many great things. I need for you to be strong.” That’s all I needed to hear because I knew that God was in that room. I knew that my father was a spiritual man and I just knew it. It was definitely hard for me. Every day, I know he is with me and those words that he said really push me. I can see him going, “I’m your lucky charm”, that’s what he used to tell me. So, I know that he’s with me and that’s my motivation.

One of those things that he was talking about was your recent win for “Boss News 2015 Atlanta Woman and Business Award. How does that make you feel? I was very humble because the young woman, Tamara found me on social media. She wanted to do an interview with me, and that never happened. So, when she decided to do the award, she contacted me and said, “Hey, I think you would be a great nominee.” Again, it goes back to me being in Chicago all my life and not really being recognized for anything, and then I come here within 5-years, and I have someone that says “Hey, I think you deserve to be recognized.”  So, I’m very humble. It lets me know that I’m moving in the right direction in my purpose. And whatever I can do to create more of that. I’m not in it for the fame. I’m in to be known for what I do and to be able to help people. That’s what it ultimately is. In that journey, I’m finding other purposes that I have and that goes back to connecting with people. I don’t know if God is going to make me a preacher one day, but we minister to people when we talk. I’m very passionate about life and happiness. That award was a confirmation that there are greater things to come and I’m excited about what those things are, and looking at my dad while going, “You knew didn’t you?” It’s exciting.

We are always considerate when talking about our legacies, however, I want to know what your famous quote would be since you’re so prolific and if you had to leave something behind and wanted it to be lived  out,  every single syllable. Maybe you already lived it out. What would that quote be? I’m a pretty decent writer. I need to write. Nah, one of things that I always say is “Live on Purpose, and that’s two ways. We always say find your purpose, I say live on purpose and don’t just exist. Don’t just go around on auto pilot. It’s easy to get up, go to work, come home, cook, do homework, and go to bed. That’s not living. I don’t believe now that I’m grown up that this is not what God intended for us to do, to get up and be robotic. I encourage people to “live on purpose,” you know what I mean? Get up and do things. Embrace it. Don’t be afraid to step out on faith to know that, “What will be, will be.” There’s nothing to change that. If it’s going to be a bad day, it will be a bad day. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen. However, it’s the way you attack it. It takes work. It does take work. Just live on purpose. Everyday get up and just do it.

What are your words of encouragement for aspiring business women or people that want to be where you are? Oh! absolutely! This is from me and from where I’ve come from. It’s always scary to do something that you never have. It’s very important to do something you love. If you don’t love having a boutique, if you don’t love doing customer service, then don’t do it because you will… I don’t want to say you will fail at it because you could be a military type business person; but, when you do what you absolutely love no matter the ups and downs. It will keep you going. I have stopped Stacey J. Enterprise and Stacey J. Montgomery a few times because of situations that had happened and it always brought me right back to it. I keep coming back to this. So, they say if you do it for free that is something you love. I think everyone can be successful with that. Everything is scary. Everything is a chance you take. You’re taking a chance in a corporate job. You’re taking a chance with a relationship. You’re taking a chance with everything you do. Why not take a chance with something you love? I encourage women and men to always keep pushing forward. Don’t let anything detour you because this is your life. It’s attached to someone in your destiny, but when you leave this earth you leave by yourself. So make sure that you live a life that’s worth it. I don’t want a funeral. I want a party. I want a social funeral. Of course, people are going to cry. But I want pictures that show… like my Facebook page. If you go on my page, you’d be like, “Oh, my God! She’s got 4000 pictures.” But, they are all smiling. I’m saying I want that memory. I want to be able to have good things said and leave quotes. Some of the poets, Ayanna and all the people that left those beautiful quotes that we’re still quoting. I want to be more than just a cute face. I just say push until you can’t push no more. Believe. Always love yourself because that’s where it all begins. Everything was made and built on love.

If you could tell your younger self anything about pursuing your dreams or her dreams, what would it be? I would say, never give up. I really wanna say real quick that our upbringing is kind of the molding that we will be, and we need to kind of break that depending on how we were raised. I believe that change is very important. You can’t be afraid. You gotta open up your mind. We are taught that money is the root to all evil, and we are not patting ourselves on the back. We aren’t telling ourselves we’re beautiful, or smart. I encourage people to look in that mirror for real and find something beautiful about yourself. Don’t wait for other people to validate you because if you wait on other people to validate you, you’d be dead. I’d be dead if I had to wait on people to tell me, “Oh, you did a good job!” “You think?” Never give up!

When you hire someone to do a job, do you consider it personal or just a project? It’s always personal for me. I like to interview my clients too. Just because you hire me that doesn’t mean we are a good fit for each other. One thing about lifestyle managers depending on what the capacity, you get in people’s business. That’s why we do confidentiality agreements, and it’s aligned with who we are too. You don’t want to work for a celebrity that for instance does drugs and I mean real drugs. I don’t want to work for you if you’re around that. I don’t want you to ask me to go get it. It is a personal aspect to that because I got to get to know you. That’s what lifestyle management is, I need to know what your life is like, and what you like in order to be successful in fulfilling your request.