Mikki Williams is a motivational speaker of twenty-seven years and a nine-time entrepreneur, in addition to being a trainer, consultant, coach, author, multimedia personality, and self-described mensch (Yiddish for “very real human being”). But listing Mikki’s many labels and accomplishments hardly begins to get to the core of who she is. One look at her website, and it is clear that Mikki is one-of-a-kind.
It is no surprise, then, that Mikki’s paper napkin is also one-of-a-kind. Making use of all its space, Mikki included a visual aid to help illustrate the message of her Paper Napkin Wisdom, which is, fittingly: “Be outrageous! It’s the only place that isn’t crowded!” Below her quote is a series of three sequential photos of the same woman, each accompanied by a short caption.
The first photo shows the woman with a somewhat exaggerated but generally unassuming hairdo. The caption reads, “big.” In the next photo, the woman’s hair has now begun to take on the shape of a beehive and the caption reads, “bigger.” In the third photo, the woman’s hair is a full-blown beehive, evocative of Marge Simpson, and the caption reads, “just right.” It is now that we are beginning to get to the core of what Mikki Williams is all about.
Like many of the leaders I speak with, Mikki lives her Paper Napkin Wisdom and, in this case, she always has. She has always been outrageous, which she attributes to her upbringing. Mikki grew up in show business to a single mother who taught her, “Quit trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.” Mikki says lessons like these empowered her with the self-esteem to be different. Not only does she live outside the box, she is not even aware of the box!
This mindset, says Mikki, is what makes her a natural entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is risk-taking and risk-taking is uncomfortable. But, after a lifetime of being at ease in her own skin – no matter how outrageous – Mikki is comfortable being uncomfortable. Furthermore, by always being true to herself, she has developed an instinct which she refers to as the entrepreneurial knot in her stomach. In business – as in life – she listens to her gut and believes that problems arise when she doesn’t heed the call of that entrepreneurial knot.
In her role as a speaker, Mikki tries to pass these lessons along – no doubt with a healthy dose of outrageousness and humor. Utilizing tools like Play-Doh instead of PowerPoint, she brings to her presentation a playfulness that she thinks enough people do not embrace in life or business. She says that, when people hire her, they know they’re getting a personality.
And, as someone who was a brand before “branding” was a buzz word, she emphasizes how important it is for each of us to find our USP – our Unique Selling Proposition. That means manifesting and exploiting what makes us different. But, Mikki reminds us, that might look very different for each person or company. For Mary Kay, it is as simple as the color pink. For Mikki, finding her USP began by paying attention to how people remembered her. She says she has always been known for her outrageous hair so that became the genesis of her brand.
Proof that Mikki’s approach works came from the author who chose feature her on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, in conjunction with an article about the National Speakers Association. When she asked him why, out of 3,500 speakers, he chose her, he told her that he went to the National Speakers Association website and, “You stood out.”
Listen to the conversation with Mikki here: