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When Fearlessness and Clarity meet Mindfulness

Updated: Jan 10

What happens when fearlessness and clarity meet mindfulness in a work setting?

Apart from it being rare, if you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have had the following answers:

  • A convergence of the Occident meets the Orient

  • The perfect recipe for a great leader

  • A Captain Marvel crossover with Marie Curie and Tara 

My answer now is that when fearlessness and clarity meet mindfulness you get the best manager, coach, and leader you could probably ever have the pleasure of working with = Kimberlee West (Kim). 

Okay, time for quick introductions. 

Meet Kim. Mum of two amazing girls (Kiera and Khloe). The world’s best manager. Product Marketer extraordinaire. Social Entrepreneur. Public Speaker.

The multiple intersections that Kim has been straddling as an Entrepreneur, B2B and B2C Marketer, and Public Speaker piqued my curiosity. I wanted to understand a little more about how her learnings in each space influence the other and, of course, get to know a little more about what makes Kim as wonderful as she is. Through this interview, I endeavored to do the same :).

Thank you, Kim- for taking the time out and talking to me.


The interview is structured in the following way to draw connections better: 

  • Kim the marketer

  •  Kim the founder

  • The Intersection of the Founder and the Marketer

  • Kim the public speaker


Kim’s career in marketing has been through a path of being a marketing analyst, then a long stint in market intelligence, and then into PMM, growing from a PMM to being a Director of a product portfolio. 


I. Kim: The Marketer

1. Through your marketing career, what have been some of the important learnings that have helped you grow and evolve in the next role?

I would take a step back and start with my first role: Program Assistant for Rotman School of Management for their Executive MBA program. I worked on the administrative side with C-Suite executives and leaders who already had 10+ years of experience and were now choosing to go back and learn more! It inspired within me the philosophy of continuously learning and constantly adding to my knowledge - be a learn-it-all all versus a know-it-all all. I also observed how good leaders find ways of showing up and wearing vulnerability with ease.

I carried these two learnings into my career. I have approached my career with a learning mindset and seeking to show up beyond what is expected of my role. In each of my roles, I have had to be comfortable being uncomfortable, tackle ambiguity, challenge my preconceptions, and made me learn in a new way. In turn, in every role that I have been in, I have always sought to add depth and breadth to my work by expanding impact to cover adjacent functions as well. When do I decide it is time to move to my next role? It is usually when I feel I know enough, and am no longer uncomfortable in my role.


Kim’s answer made me think of how she is all the time asking questions and allowing other folks to answer and give their perspectives as well. In the organization where we both work, this is important as the GTM motion is complex, covering multiple products,  geographies, and diverse variations in the maturity and readiness of each market for every product.  An additional layer of complexity is the nature of our field itself: Conversational AI in the realm of Customer experience– a space that Generative AI has disrupted, and where partners are also competitors. As the Director of a Portfolio of Products, this quality of learning helps her stay on top of everything related to her Product Portfolio.


II. Kim: The Social Entrepreneur

 The seeds of entrepreneurship were sowed when her father started his own business and hired her as his bookkeeper when she was 13. 

Kim started Kids Swag in December 2016. Kid’s Swag is an online retail store helping parents raise confident kids who appreciate difference. Kid’s Swag is a play on words: a destination for swag (products) to inspire swag (self-confidence).

Kim was inspired to start Kid’s Swag when she was pregnant with her first baby and had gone to her favourite book store to start her baby girl’s collection but found that there weren’t any children’s books with Black characters. When she tried shopping online and asking in online communities, she realized that access to toys, accessories, and books that were representative of the Black culture was not easy. True to Gandhi ji’s words, Be the change that you want to see in the world, Kim started Kid’s Swag to improve access to toys and accessories that show diversity in experience and representation, and also share positivity.

Read more, here.


2. The story behind Kid’s Swag is inspiring :). While I have more questions about your entrepreneurial journey, my question is on the driving philosophy of Kid’s Swag. How did you arrive at Mindful Representation as a philosophy to drive Kids Swag?

There are three parts to this answer: one on mindfulness and the other two on representation. Let me start with Representation.

Part 1:  Up until high school, I had enough peers who looked like me. However, based on the desires of my mother, I went to a high school outside of my area, and suddenly, I was the only black kid in my stream. It was the first time, I felt completely on my own. When I did interact with Black students I was labeled an Oreo as I spoke in a certain way and enjoyed activities that were considered “White”.  During my undergrad year, I chose to spend a year studying in Jamaica. In Jamaica, my peers looked like me, and I was more than just “that black girl.” I was Kim, a Canadian, adventurer, friend and so much more, My identity was more than my skin colour. This experience helped me process internalized racism, and dismiss internalized labels. It also made me realize that being Black is enough. Overall my high school experience, along with my stint in Jamaica, normalized and prepared me for life: being comfortable being the only one or one of the few who looks like me and that my voice matters. 

Part 2: During one phase of my work life, I faced burnout.  When I started learning about how I could help myself out better, I came across meditation, yoga, and being mindful in one’s daily life.

Part 3: When Kiera (my eldest daughter) was two, the lack of access to more representative toys, coupled with her returning from a class one day feeling that she wasn’t enough, tied everything together on what Kids Swag’s philosophy ought to be: Mindful Representation.

Being mindful, i.e. being intentional about diversity in representation and experiences. Mindful Representation is about positively reaffirming to my daughter and every kid that they are enough, they belong, they matter, and they are beautiful.


Thank you, Kim for sharing these stories and for your honesty. 

Kid’s Swag’s philosophy is such a bedrock of power. The messaging is powerful and celebrates being different. Personally, when I heard Kim talk through her experiences, I realized where her clarity and fearlessness stem from.


3. A little more on Kids Swag before I switch topics: how do you go about finding the products? Also, who names these products? (I love STEAM!)

 When I started looking for products for Kiera, I tapped into two sources. The products I found ended up being part of the first group of products I started to sell. 

  • Online Black communities: They had parents sharing details of representative products they were using and were a great source of information. I used to bookmark the products, reach out to the vendors, and buy from them. Some of our products are unique to the needs of the Black community. For example, our swimming caps are larger than the standard swimming caps. They fit large-volume hair. I found Swimma, a company in South Africa that had recognized this as a problem. I reached out and the founder happily agreed to my request for Kids Swag to be the exclusive Canada vendor of her products! This was super cool and helped me realize I could really make this business work. 

  • Google (with some jugaad): I tapped into my marketing skills to use Google to show me the products that I was searching for. Otherwise, Google’s default search results are products that showcase white people and products. I started applying filters or qualifiers connected to how Black people define themselves, such as African American, Black, Melanin, etc, to identify suitable mom-and-pop stores and businesses across the globe. It also opened my eyes to the wide variations of keywords that Black people use to refer to themselves: black, melanin, afro, etc. I would love to meet an SEO expert who has cracked this.   

As Kids Swag grew in popularity and community the products I carried started finding me :).  The products are named by the creators themselves. I don’t name them. Although I do have a few products I created myself namely, SUPER ME and Different is Good Tees. 


III. The Intersection of the B2C Founder with the B2B Marketer

4.Kid’s Swag is B2C, your work as a PMM is around B2B: have you applied your learnings from marketing in each space to the other? If so, how, and could you please give an example? 

My work in B2C through Kid’s Swag has influenced my B2B marketing more than the other way around.  These are some of my learnings from Kid’s Swag that directly influenced me as a PMM in B2B.

  • Market Research: I started Kid’s Swag not really knowing if my idea was something people even wanted. I needed to validate people’s interests before launching my store.  To test market interest, I set up a pop-up store. It not only helped me understand my customers but also expanded what I originally thought was my ICP (Black parents). I got a lot of interest from non-black people as well. 

  • In prep for this launch event, I did all of the digital marketing things you would expect - website, social media presence, mailing list. This is no different from B2B. Field marketing is a critical part of the marketing mix and is only powerful if you have digital assets that your audience can engage with to further learn about  you after their initial interaction

  • Customer Experience: Understanding the customer journey and what it takes to land a customer loyal to Kid’s Swag has greatly influenced my approach to PMM, especially at Uniphore where Customer Experience (CX) is the portfolio I manage. For Kids Swag prioritizing customer experience is how I grew my business. Every touchpoint with my customer matters. I watched YouTube videos, read articles, and took notice of how I was treated when I ordered products online to ensure I was providing the best experience. I started to realize the “unboxing experience” was becoming a thing for e-commerce brands. So I did a complete rebrand and then created custom boxes and added extra swag gifts when I fulfilled orders. I could talk about CX forever, but the investment I put in CX from the start is why now Kids Swag still gets orders even without me engaging in any awareness or demand gen activities. 

  • Power of messaging and branding: One of the biggest learnings was how messaging done right helped us build customer loyalty. I focussed more on retaining and delighting my customers to turn into advocates than spending on ads. I also learned the importance of branding and how important it is to be authentic. When a local channel featured me and I just spoke from my heart, there was a greater influx of people visiting our store than anything I got from spending on ads.

Read here about how Kim focused on building her brand.


Listening to Kim made me think how directly transferable her learnings are. It also made me think of how she always asks her PMM team to be both the CEO and CMO of their product- a direct consequence of her being a founder and a marketer, giving her the unique ability to view PMM through multiple lenses. 


5. You are in the AI space, and one of the biggest advantages that AI brings to the table is automation. How have you applied automation/how have you automated aspects of your business?

As an entrepreneur, you are always looking to fire yourself from a role. Automation helps you with this :). When my business started to scale, I was just a one-person team. I started automating my workflow and work as much as possible. I used Shopify and Shopify’s email automation integrations to ensure communication was automated to my audience and based on triggers: order confirmation, cart abandonment, inventory replenishment payment failure etc. Once my team grew, I started using Asana for Project Management. I also integrated with the Hubspot CRM to ensure emails my team needed to send to my customers still carried my voice and tone. A few years later, I switched from MailChimp to Klaviyo and that was also a game changer on improving my email marketing. They have so many customizations that you can build automation around. 


Sweet, thank you! 

I will be shifting gears now to Public Speaking. Before I do so, I have to add a piece of information. Kim aspired to have a career in International Development and Politics as a student. She always participated in debates and discussions and was a part of the mock/model EU and CARICOM competitions as a student. 

(In the spirit of never saying never, I hope she takes the plunge- the world needs fearless, empathetic, and mindful leaders).


IV. Kim: The Public Speaker

6. I would like to ask you a question about your public speaking. What is it about Public Speaking that captured your attention, and what is it that you enjoy the most when you are speaking in a gathering?

It started with me not doing well with writing at school and one of my aunts asking me to write the way I spoke because I was an articulate speaker. My mum met my teachers at school, and two of my teachers helped me there by signing me up for the Debate Club and asking me to run for the position of student VP. These experiences sharpened my skills as a speaker. For a long time, I just took this skill for granted as I happened to be good and never believed when people appreciated me for it. While working at a consulting agency, I was chosen to represent the department and present to the ELT during a year-end conference. Preparing for this speech not only gave me insights into my department’s work beyond my role but also helped me build workplace relationships and shortly after get promoted into the role I wanted!

It was then that I realized I was skilled at public speaking and how valuable it could be to my career. I am drawn to speaking because to speak is to learn. I need to understand who my audience is and what would resonate with them.  I have to have a stronghold of the subject matter but also be ready to address questions. Every time I have had an opportunity to speak, I learn and am exposed to new ideas from my audience. I now understand the power of quotes and how meaningful speeches can be. Words, ideas, and perspectives have a profound impact on how people see themselves or think about tackling a problem. It's fascinating to me that I can have such an impact. 


This answer made me smile widely as whenever you approach Kim with an asset or even a write-up, her first question is, Who is the audience? It also reminded me of this quote: Storytelling offers the opportunity to talk with your audience, not at them by Laura Holloway


7. It is interesting how each of these spaces you work in, has a big aspect of storytelling. If I were to ask you to pause for a minute and reflect: when you first started Kids Swag, when you first started your public speaking, and when you started in the AI space as a PMM - how did you approach crafting your stories? Also, what are your thoughts on each of these influencing your storytelling in the other space?

Regardless of what the space is, you always need a good narrative that appeals to people’s emotions. Every good story resonates with its viewers/audience and appeals to something they feel strongly about. It builds context, draws them in, and makes them feel a multitude of emotions. I watch a  lot of movies and cartoons, and they have helped me hone my storytelling.

I have always started by knowing my audience and what appeals/would appeal to them. When I don’t know either my audience or what moves them well enough, I stick to universal themes or societal truths, leaning to the Bible for that. For example, treat everyone how you would like to be treated. We all have the desire to be the main character in our story and there is usually some “evil”, an obstacle that you’re trying to overcome. Universal obstacles include feeling like you’re not enough, people don’t understand you, and/or feeling overlooked. You want to learn, be championed, seen. I appeal to that, I empathize with that because I too feel that way. In reflecting on these themes I craft my story. 

For example, in the case of a B2B audience, their strongest feeling is something that is connected to their job, either helping them do it better or aiding their progress. The story has to echo their current reality and also show that I understand their pains. So, I typically start with a personal anecdote or story around the Contact Centre space where there is already so much happening, and AI and Automation are buzzwords but feel like a complex unknown entity.

For Kid’s Swag, this meant talking about my own story as a mother of two girls trying to ensure that their zest for life and love for life is continuously reaffirmed.

I always try to be conscious of observing how other people tell their stories and imbibe the good stuff from them.


That was a quick summary of the basics of a good story! Without really using any jargon, Kim’s answer reminded me of the Hero’s Journey and Andy Raskin’s Strategic Narrative

Hearing Kim talk through her journey and finally, about storytelling, this quote by Steve Jobs came to my mind: “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” I love how, without realizing it, Kim’s storytelling capability has been a strong weapon in her armory, fuelling her growth while she straddled multiple spaces.


8. I have asked many questions, so the last one is here: what inspires you? 

Two things inspire me:

  • My North Star is my two girls: Seeing the world through their eyes and having frequent reminders of how resilient they are inspires me. At times when I think something is too much, seeing them happily accommodating it without as much as a murmur makes me appreciate the world. They also help me get a fresh perspective on things and keep me grounded. 

  • Stories of people overcoming challenges also inspire me. Stories make me pause, reflect, and make me value myself. They also remind me of how so much is possible if you have the right environment and the right people- the kind of people who build you up and not tear you down.


Kim’s answer made me smile again. She is one of those folks who builds you up and provides you with the environment that lets you bring your authentic self to the table to do your best. 


When you interact with Kim, three things always strike you: 

  • How clear she is in what she says and asks

  • How as a PMM, she is always rooted and cognisant of the audience 

  • How mindful and sensitive she is of other people’s thoughts, time, and efforts

This interview gave me a glimpse of all that makes her so. 

Thank you again, Kim, for doing this interview and being so awesome-sauce!



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