On the heels of Women’s History Month, I am uplifted by the many articles I have read of exceptional women whom I have either newly discovered or learned more about. Each of these women resonates with me for different reasons, but a commonality they each share is an appreciation of friends, family and community, curiosity, a clear vision of how they want to live their lives and a determination to have that dream realized. In short, they get stuff DONE. And, equally impressive, they do it with their own signature style and boldness. Renae Griffin is a woman I would like to add to that inspirational list.
The pandemic has affected us all in subtle ways and with seismic shifts. Its impact has also changed the way we work, and the way in which we think about our lives. For some people, the pandemic has deepened their resolve to live life as they have imagined it. For Renae Griffin, who has a history of working hard to create the life she has envisioned for herself, this was simply the next, thoughtful step in a process she began decades ago.
Born and raised in Fresno, CA, Renae was a precocious entrepreneur with an interest in fashion who founded her first business designing headbands, after learning to sew at the age of 12. The headbands were such a hit with her friends and neighbors that the young Renae approached her local department store, Gottschalks (which was later purchased by Macy’s) with her collection. They immediately placed an order.
I was fortunate to spend some time with Renae in her beloved city of Miami, where she has relocated to recently after spending over a decade in Oakland, CA. As one of the first people I met when I first moved to Oakland, and who extolled its numerous charms, her move came as somewhat of a surprise to me.
Renae says that beginning this new stage of her life was a result of her “COVID reflection” of thinking about what she wanted to experience. A new environment was the answer. And for this determined woman, Miami was the place.
Following her early start in the fashion business, and after graduating from the University of San Francisco with a degree in economics, Renae launched another fashion company that she operated for almost a decade. Wanting to find out how money works, to better understand how it could work for her, Renae took a job in the financial industry. In 2001, Renae founded RG Associates, to combine her creative and business interests. From its inception, Renae had one goal for her company that planned conferences and events that provided a space for emerging (BIPOC) fund managers to network and gain a foothold in the financial industry: to create a company that existed beyond her. She looked at various business models and realized that companies buy other companies to scale quickly. A strategist and a visionary, Renae wanted to create a business she could sell when she was ready to.
The challenges she faced were what every business owner faces- how to grow the business, managing employees, funding. Proactive in reaching out to those who could be helpful, Renae soon found mentors and formed an advisory board for her company. One of those mentors shared words of advice that she remembers today, “Focus on what you do best, hire people for the rest”. For Renae, it was not “how” which implies that you alone must come up with a solution, but instead “who”, a collective approach that encourages you to think of how other people may be able to help you. And because she had often given freely of her time in helping others, they were eager to help her in return. An SBA loan, certifications for government work, focusing on areas with good profit margin, partnering with larger companies, and then later creating those same type of events and managing them herself were instrumental in scaling the business quickly.
Renae’s dedication expanding the conduit for educational and professional opportunities within the African American community was not limited to her business, however. It is also reflected in her continuing efforts to support women. Whether that is Women of Color in Investments group that Renae founded 5 years ago to make sure that newcomers to the financial industry were having their needs met, and now has over 200 members, or her efforts over the last 13 years to assist senior women to launch their own funds, or her mentoring of women and seeking to create more opportunities for women of color, OR her work to create an equitable world where all girls are included, embraced and belong through her actions as a board member of Girls Leadership, Renae is serious about having an impact that is felt for generations.
Having sold her company in 2018 to GCM Grosvenor as planned when market saturation and competition grew, Renae has stayed with the company to expand its emerging, diverse manager platform. That, too is a position that Renae had carved out for herself when she developed her business model.
And now, I am even more eager to discover what Renae Griffin has planned for her life in Miami.
What do you miss most about Oakland? The typography of the Oakland hills, local farmers markets, the individual characteristics of each neighborhood, and of course the undeniable creativeness of the people.
What brings you joy in Miami? The sun on my skin, watching the boats and water skiers at play from my balcony, the international flair of the people, and the underlying vibe that something new and exciting awaits me at every turn.
What makes for a great evening out in Miami? Where do I start? There are so many options... Going to an art or music event and meeting new people, and then ending up at one of Miami’s noted restaurants for late dinner springs to mind.
What is your favorite Miami restaurant? Hmmm, since I’m still a newbie, so far, Mandolin, Zuma and Sunny’s Steakhouse are my go-to spots…
What is your best discovery in Miami? My building. It has a resort- like feel. I’ve never lived in a building where everything you need is at your fingertips: interesting and welcoming neighbors, thoughtful and helpful staff, roof top pools (one lined with cute cabanas) and a fitness and wellness center. I definitely feel blessed!
What has surprised you about daily life in Miami? My new pace. I walk more slowly, eat more slowly, and appreciate my surroundings in a way I didn’t before moving here. I’m also surprised how many
people I know that I run into in Miami- either those who have moved here, or who are visiting.
How would you describe your style? My style is playful, feminine, and classic with a twist. I love natural fabrics and designs that accentuate my best features. My mentors always told me to ‘work with what you got’! I take that to heart. LOL!
How has living in Miami affected that style? As I prepared mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to move here, I committed to myself to living life at its fullest. I would not set limits or boundaries as to how I express myself. I would no longer try to tone my true self down, or make myself smaller for others. So, now Renae is in full bloom. I smile a lot, laugh a lot, my dresses are shorter and more colorful, my heels are higher, my hair is wilder, and I am free. That’s me and I’m loving it.
Any last words to those who are following their dream, whatever that may be? Set big, bodacious goals – and don’t sit on them too long. Just make up your mind and do it.