Meet Kiaya Carter.
Kiaya is the creative powerhouse and Chief Operator of I Am Kiaya, under her tutelage, lives a conceptual documentary-style photography company, Black woman-centered birth doula services, and a consulting business that assists businesses in incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Her latest photography concept Sunday Love Series took place this past February and celebrated Black love. Since the start of the pandemic, Kiaya found herself shifting from advertising the higher-end photography packages because it’s a pandemic and nobody want to spend all that money to booking affordable, socially distanced photo sessions.
Kiaya started her path to becoming a doula when she was photographing at a birth and the woman that she was photographing needed additional support. Her consulting business came out of a passion to allow everyone to bring their whole selves to the table. For Kiaya, her passion drives everything. She is grounded by her desire to capture overlooked beauty, to aid in the life-giving process of birth, and to be the person to ask hard questions that push the progress of an accepting workplace.
What is your overall mission?
KC: Everything I do centers [around] Black women – as a doula my primary clients are Black women – In my photography, it celebrates rawness and joy, no one is ever looking at me, you’ll see [in photos] the first latch, capturing stories and magic moments you daydream about but you don’t have a record of. I’m a fly on the wall. With consulting – it’s about creating a world where black women can breathe easier.”
If you could go back in time, and send a message to yourself before you started the MORTAR Entrepreneurship Academy, what would you say and why?
KC: Buckle up. Get ready. You’re about to open up a whole new chapter, from being a participant, to starting I Am Kiaya, to winning the MORTAR Entrepreneurial Light Award, to becoming a part of this community, and then now, working here [at MORTAR as the Development and Expansion Manager], MORTAR communicates the long game, that you should be in it for the long run.
What message would you convey to another woman who’s just starting her business? How would you encourage her?
KC: Keep going. I know it sounds so cliché. Whoever you believe in, God, your ancestors, the universe – it planted this in you. It don’t matter if you got 5 likes – the fact that it’s in your spirit is enough. Fail fast. See a grant, apply for it. If you didn’t get it, get feedback on why. Be bold. I don’t care if you want to sell sticks, the people who want your stuff will find you and it’s OK or better if it’s not in your personal network. And whenever the world tells you [that you] need to be this young, sexy, entrepreneur, don’t believe it. Don’t let a dream go unlived no matter how old you are. Do that shit at 60 at 50 at 10.
What do you love about being a business owner/entrepreneur?
KC: The creative freedom. [I’m] not bound to anyone’s permission. I have the means and tools and brilliance to do this. Being an entrepreneur makes me better in every other area of my life… It reminds me I’m smart, I’m better at time management, I learn new skills. I like that my daughter will have these tools, she will know it’s in her DNA, she can do this. Lola will know she can fail and relaunch and she will always bounce back, she will have that generational wisdom.
As Interviewed by Adalia Boehne
Photography © Allen Woods for Kelli Camille Films