Girl Boss 2018: Kimberly O’Neil

“Service to others is a part of life, and our involvement is not an option. This is my personal motto. I truly believe that,” says Kimberly O’Neil, founder of Cause Studio.

Coming from a family that ingrained in her the importance of helping others, the New York native has a 20-year history of working in municipal government. She was the youngest African-American woman city manager in the United States, for the City of Glenarden, Md. After years of consulting and leadership positions throughout the community, Kimberly founded Cause Studio in 2015 with a mission of giving nonprofits the tools to succeed. 

Cause Studio is known for its incubator program that involves a rigorous application process. The studio helps these nonprofits build a stronger infrastructure, concentrating on a strategy to bring in income, what they offer, what they should offer and which services make sense for the organization. The program happens over the course of three years, each year scaling back what it provides so these nonprofits aren’t as dependent. Only 10 organizations are accepted into the program but the studio does provide free and low-cost training to anyone in the community.

Kimberly not only believes nonprofit organizations are important, she will tell you a community’s economy depends on them. “The true value of nonprofit organizations is not just charities doing good. They are businesses that happen to be providing some level of a tangible program or service,” she says. She mentioned My Possibilities, an organization in Plano that gives adults with cognitive disabilities the education and training to be successful, reliable employees in the community. An increased quality of life is the result, which creates a positive impact on the city and its economic development.

Kimberly is also an associate professor of political science at Collin College. “Most of what I do, whether it is consulting, teaching or nonprofit work, all touches Plano first in some way, or Collin County. It is very rare now that you’ll see me doing a lot of work outside of Collin County because this is my home and my responsibility. I can’t complain about stuff if I’m not willing to help or utilize my skillset in a way to increase my quality of life or those around me,” Kimberly says.

As much as she does for her community, Kimberly believes women need to take time for themselves. She makes sure to take a yearly sabbatical out of Texas to go off the grid completely. And she’s a big fan of saying “no” when she needs to – without apology. 

“Women have to stop apologizing for saying ‘no.’ Stop saying you’re sorry. I try to empower women from that perspective,” she says. “Sometimes women don’t want to admit that they are great. I have no problems understanding my value.”

See all of the 2018 Girl Bosses >
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