When Nyesha Stone graduated from UWM in 2018 with her degree in journalism, advertising and media studies, she wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to go into traditional newspaper journalism — and jobs were scarce anyway.
“It’s hard to get into traditional news sometimes, even if you have had internships and worked for local newspapers,” she said. “I couldn’t get the jobs I wanted, so I decided to make my own path.”
So, she started a communications and public relations business, Carvd N Stone. The business has been successful enough that Stone is providing scholarships to help other young creatives, and just moved to Georgia to expand her business there.
Stone started the business in 2017, even before she graduated. Two years in, she was accepted into a business accelerator program through YES (Young Enterprising Society) Blueprint.
“They said I needed a business model to be a legit business. That put a fire under me to figure out the business side of being a business owner and becoming sustainable.”
‘Why do we accept news as just focusing on the negative?’
Initially, her website started as a feature site, more like a blog, she said. The site emphasized positive stories.
“People ask why, and I say why are we OK with the way news is right now? Why do we accept news as just focusing on the negative when news is just getting information out? Maybe we shouldn’t.”
Stone prides herself on doing original, first-source research rather than repeating and reposting stories written by others.
While her site was drawing a few thousand visitors and her newsletters had a very positive 40% open rate, she realized three years ago that she needed to expand to help pay the bills. “A lot of people need help with the media, they don’t know how to connect with the media.”
Becoming her own PR person
Her background was in journalism, not public relations, but she realized she was already doing her own public relations to build her company. “News doesn’t cover other news media, so I had to become my own PR person without even knowing it.”
She started with news releases and newsletters, and has expanded into social media, campaigns and commercials. Clients she’s worked with include Safe and Sound, Quad/Graphics and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. She’s written for publications such as the Business Journal as part of her public relations outreach, and also serves on the board of the Milwaukee Press Club. “What’s cool is I’m Black and I’m young. Most PR companies are white-male driven, so they don’t have the perspective that I have.”
Stone covers all kinds of news and does all kinds of public relations, though her perspective as a young Black woman influences her. Like the focus on positive news, she sees that as a way to offset traditional notions. “We didn’t question why most news articles were about white people. It’s because for a long time so many reporters were white. We cover everybody, but yes, we mainly cover the Black community, which is somewhat natural because I’m Black.”
Her work has paid off: Stone was recently featured in Essence Magazine. Essence is a national magazine with a readership of 20 million.
UWM proves ‘the best decision I ever made’
Stone’s path to her career wasn’t a straight line from high school to college. She was accepted at Tennessee State University, a historically Black university.
“The school was cool. I loved being around all the Black people. It was awesome.” She really wanted to leave Milwaukee and Wisconsin, but then she got the tuition bill in the mail. “I decided there is literally no way I’m going to be able to afford this.”
She’d been accepted to UWM, “which actually ended up being the best decision I ever made,” she said.
In addition to building great relationships in the city, the UWM journalism program gave her the knowledge and the confidence she needed to create her own business, she said.
Stone particularly remembers immersive experiences that helped her master the craft of journalism in real world situations. For example, she traveled with her class to western Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota following the 2016 election to talk to voters about why that area swung from blue to red. “We went to Flint to ask about their water and to Texas after Hurricane Harvey.”
Four years ago, she decided to give back, setting up a scholarship program for young creatives to help alleviate some of the financial struggles that she herself went through, despite Pell grants and three internships. She was able to fund the scholarships through sponsorships, grants, and her own personal and business investments. She’s kept it open to helping young people who want to create, however they decide to do it.
“College isn’t for everybody.” Stone points out that Wisconsin is 49th in the nation in supporting start-ups, including creative people, so she hopes she can set an example for others.
Stone herself is still figuring out her life and her business. At age 26, though, she doesn’t feel that she has to have everything planned out yet.
“Since I started in college, I’ve been doing something in journalism every single day for six years. I tell people, in order to get better at something you’ve got to keep doing it….be consistent and don’t give up on yourself.”
By Kathy Quirk, University Relations