We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Motley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always enjoyed serving others. I was a barber in high school, and really enjoyed not only helping my friends look good, but also the conversations that took place as I was cutting their hair. My view is that every individual is a small business, and if we can help others achieve their goals then our “business” grows. Since then, my thought process was to leverage my strengths to build the skill set and network to serve others in scalable ways. My professional experiences at Goldman Sachs, and then at a global manufacturer, 1888 Mills, revealed that much of my success was serendipitous. I realized that there was a massive opportunity to leverage technology to create career serendipity for people who look like me; to serve others in a scalable way. Mentor Spaces, a virtual mentorship platform, was born.
Do you have a budget? How do you think about your personal finances and how do you make lifestyle and spending decisions?
Yes, and I think about personal finances in a similar way that a business owner thinks about business finances. The goal is to grow in terms of security, fulfillment, happiness and impact – holistically. What I mean is that my wife and I think about our spending decisions as a way to enrich our lives through serving others. Besides saving and investing to support our family now and in the future, we create intentional experiences for ourselves and others that make us the best version of ourselves. If we aren’t healthy and sane — the people we touch lose.
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance?
I don’t think about my life in that way. I generally focus on being clear about my goals and acting in a way that reflects the goals I want to achieve. Some goals are short-term in nature, and others span over a longer horizon. I’m not always perfect in my execution, but I follow Charlie Munger’s advice and try to avoid being stupid. Sleep, exercise, a healthy diet and relationships with others make it much easier to get things done. Especially the hard things.
What should our readers know about your business?
I’m from the South Side of Chicago and a first-generation college graduate raised by a single mother. I also spent a lot of time in the church, which provided a community and many role models. Needless to say, my upbringing made an incredible impact on who I am today. The opportunities I was given due to the ties I had to my community led me to realize that others like me needed that same support to succeed. Now, our mission at Mentor Spaces is to help high-performing, underrepresented talent navigate the road to success through mentorship from people in the know. The vision of our company is to unleash the career potential of underrepresented career professionals while making organizations more diverse, equitable and inclusive. We found that social capital is incredibly important in underrepresented communities. Specifically, the advantage one has by virtue of who they know, who knows them, and the context by which they know one another. Covid-19 has revealed health disparities within the Black community. The isolation that we all suffer from will disproportionately impact this community as well because there are limited opportunities for serendipitous connections that help individuals build social capital. We want to change that with Mentor Spaces. The success of Mentor Spaces comes down to authenticity. Everything about Mentor Spaces is from a very personal place. There are nearly 7.8 billion people on earth and each one of us has a distinct fingerprint. Each of us has our own unique story, and embracing that story is the most authentic and distinct thing we can do. Mentor Spaces was founded on the idea that “a person can only be who they have seen.” I saw a Goldman Sachs trader — and then I became a Goldman Sachs trader by embracing my story and maintaining my authenticity. I saw a Black technology entrepreneur…
Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career?
Risks are about expectations and the degree of certainty we have about those expectations. Life is about risk — those we take, those we don’t, and the psychology that drives those decisions. It literally shapes everything we do because as we all have certain expectations around the lives we lead. On one hand, starting my company was a big risk. On the other, I didn’t forget how to do the things I did before starting my business that allowed me to be employed. If anything, starting my business allowed me to get comfortable being uncomfortable. My sense is that given the year we’ve all had in 2020, learning how to embrace discomfort and uncertainty is a pretty valuable skill.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a recent Denver transplant who only moved to the area a few months prior to the pandemic, I, unfortunately, have yet to experience all that Denver has to offer, but look forward to exploring and discovering new places and once it is safe to do so. Currently, I’m partial to the outdoor activities that make Denver and the surrounding areas special. If a friend were visiting, we would likely start our day with a workout in Wash Park. I would then recommend we check out one of the many ski resorts, like Beaver Creek, Winter Park, or Breckenridge.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As I learned in the church — it takes a village and there are literally too many people and organizations to name. That said, I’d dedicate this to the latest addition to my family — the Techstars Workforce Development cohort, team, and mentors who have stretched my thinking and helped to significantly improve the likelihood of success of not only my company, Mentor Spaces, but for me as an entrepreneur.