Christina Hall-Payne, Courtney Taylor and Victory Evans-Hardeman, Beanstalk Fundraising and Community Relations
Beanstalk’s Victory Evans-Hardeman, vice president of operation; Christina Hall-Payne, managing partner; and Courtney Taylor, partner, turned their childhood dream of owning their own business into a reality.
Alumna business owners discover growing dreams into reality is a beautiful thing
Astronaut, ballerina, fire fighter, doctor. For most, childhood dreams come and go. But for cousins Christina Hall-Payne (EMBA '12) and Courtney Taylor (EMBA '11), the dream of one day owning their own business together was one that took root when they were little girls growing up in Houston and took full bloom after graduating from Texas Woman’s University’s Executive MBA program.
Along with high school classmate Victory Evans-Hardeman (EMBA '13), Hall-Payne and Taylor capitalized on their strengths, work experience and education, to create Beanstalk Fundraising and Community Relations. With a mission to serve community non-profits and grass roots organizations, Beanstalk specializes in community relations, marketing, volunteer management, capital campaigns and fundraising.
When the timing is right
“We always talked about working together and of running our own business. We didn’t know exactly what it would be back then; just that whatever we did, it would include helping others in our community,” says Hall-Payne. “It’s something we continued to talk about as we got older and shared the dream with Victory. But we all knew we needed to grow as individuals and gain some work experience first before we actually made the leap.”
Five years ago, the timing was just right. Each woman had spent time working for non-profit and for-profit companies, gaining experience in areas such as donor cultivation, strategic planning, media relations, volunteer management, event planning and capital campaigns. Taylor, who had also recently graduated from the TWU EMBA program, encouraged Hall-Payne and Evans-Hardeman to pursue their graduate degrees.
Saying her cousin had never steered her wrong on anything, Hall-Payne enrolled and graduated in 2012. She, in turn, advised Evans-Hardeman to check out the TWU program. “It was the best professional decision I have ever made,” says Evans-Hardeman, who graduated in 2013. “I learned how to run a business from start to end and how to develop a successful marketing plan.”
A successful marketing plan is something the women know all about now. Beanstalk is beginning to thrive.
“It didn’t happen overnight. We spent about a year and a half doing some intensive planning and relationship building,” says Hall-Payne. “We were out in the community, volunteering, meeting people, but there were no operative dollars. We were fortunate we each had a good support system at home, people who believed in us and what we were doing.”
Says Taylor, “We learned a lot along the way, especially how to stay focused. It was a good opportunity for us to not only establish a business, but to learn how to operate effectively.”
Making a name for themselves
Beanstalk’s break came with their first client: Texana, a not-for-profit organization that provides life changing services to people with behavioral health issues and intellectual and developmental disabilities within a six-county area in Texas.
“We’ve found we truly complement each other’s talents and work well together,” says Evans-Hardeman. “We each have a unique skill set that, when put together, creates magic.”
Each woman plays to her strengths, with Hall-Payne taking the lead on securing clients, establishing the contracts and leading grant writing and capital campaigns. Taylor manages all communications and marketing including media relations, branding, and social media. Evans-Hardeman, who the others say has intense organizational skills, is the best at handling the business operations for Beanstalk and for clients.
“While we do break up duties based on the clients’ needs and our skills, in the end, we all work together for the good of our clients,” says Hall-Payne.
An example of this is the recent work they did for the Fort Bend Women’s Center, an organization committed to empowering survivors of domestic or sexual violence. With Beanstalk’s help, the center has received over $600,000 in funding and raised millions of dollars within the client’s portfolio.
“They were great to work with and, as women, we really felt connected to their mission,” says Hall-Payne.
The Fort Bend Women’s Center is not the only organization the Beanstalk founders have fallen in love with. The team says through their work with various non-profit groups, they are seeing needs in the community they never knew existed.
“Eventually, we want to start our own non-profit. We feel there are gaps in services provided to the community that we can fill,” says Hall-Payne. “We want to make a larger footprint on the community. Whether it’s helping prevent domestic violence, promoting the arts, working to help those suffering with mental health issues or mentoring youth, we want to help.”
It’s a bold mission for the owners of Beanstalk, but one they know they can achieve using the lessons they’ve learned already, including a vital one Taylor shares with any woman wanting to start her own business.
“You can’t be afraid to move forward, of having a plan and putting into action,” she says. “You just have to go for it. When you see the end result, it’s a beautiful thing.”