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In today’s society, we get caught up in th idea of #couplegoals. But no one really knows the ins and outs of another’s relationship and what they do to make it work. Mark and Brittney McKinnon make it look easy, but if you ask them, they’ll say it takes a lot of faith and a lot of friendship. For the past year, the couple has been quarantining and making moves both in their careers and their marriage.
The two met as friends and started dating in 2013. They share with RoyalTee that neither of them was each other’s type! They officially tied the knot in 2017 and have been building a dynamic team ever since. But separately, they’re forces to be recognized with as well.
Mark, 34, has been filling out his acting resume, with his recent appearances in BET and BET HER’s The Waiting Room, directed by Sheryl Lee Ralph, and BET’s The Available Wife, starring Royal Woman ( Fall 2019) KJ Smith. When he is not performing in front of the camera, the Howard University graduate is mentoring other fellow thespians as a CEO and lead acting coach of McKinnon Acting Studio. The studio started as Mark simply offering advice to actors who were curious about how he was booking jobs and building his career. The labor of love and jewel drops eventually led to a fully-functional, acting studio the Maryland native operates in the DMV area.
Meanwhile, as Maryland’s Most Admired CEO & Huffington Post’s Top 30 Under 30, Brittney lives by the motto, “work smarter, not harder.” This 31-year-old Royal Woman #OnTheGo currently slays as the CEO of B. Carter Solutions. Through her full-service, creative marketing agency, the Claflin University graduate has made her a *heel* print in the field of online and digital marketing space by helping entrepreneurs and brands revolutionize their branding techniques.
Both Brittney and Mark took a break from their hectic schedules to chat with RoyalTee in our first-ever, virtual dual interview about life at home, their careers, and next steps.
#RoyalMenInspire Mark McKinnon
ROYALTEE: Let’s talk about quarantine life. How has life been at home?
MM: For us, it actually has been really good. The first month, of course, was a big shocker to both our businesses. But what I’m proud of is that we both grew up throughout it because we were forced to be together and everything was shut down. So, it was really good to be in a position to learn more about each other because you think you know everything about a person until you’re literally with them 24/7. With the busy lives me and Brittney had, it was really hard to spend that time together. I feel like we managed to grow a lot in our personal lives and in business.
ROYALTEE: Mark, what I found interesting about your movie roles is that they all center around the inner dynamics of Black women. From BET’s “The Waiting Room” (which shed light on the breast cancer epidemic in the Black community) to “The Available Wife.”
MM: Absolutely. The Waiting Room [which was directed by Sheryl Lee Ralph] was an amazing experience. That’s why I wanted to be a part of that program [The Available Wife] because I didn’t want to just be a part of entertainment but something that will make an impact in our community.
ROYALTEE: What would be your ideal role if you haven’t played it already?
MM: For me, an ideal role for me would be a sports movie, whether it’s football, basketball, or even baseball. I was really big in football, coming up. So that would be like a dream role for me. Kind of like how Michael B. Jordan was when he did “Friday Night Lights”.
He [Jordan] was relocated to Texas for about a couple of months to film, I would love something like that. Or somebody who I would love to play alongside would-be Viola Davis. She’s somebody who I highly respect. She does a phenomenal job of tying in the theater world with film and TV. You see her power; you see her presence on that screen. And if you ever listen to any of her videos, she gives a lot of great wisdom to actors and to who you are as an artist. So to be able to sit in a scene with her will be amazing.
ROYALTEE: How did your acting studio come about?
MM: I was directing a show in Maryland, and I had about 30 actors in the room. I was still was on back and forth to New York to build my own career and a lot of those actors in the show saw what I was doing and started asking, ‘how do you do this and that’. And I just started giving them advice, just out of the goodness of my heart. And they started booking jobs. One day my mentor came to me and said, ‘you’re doing consultation? You should make that into a business.’ So he told me, I challenge you to charge the next person that asked you for advice. And I did, I made up a number on the spot. And the person was like, that’s it? (laughs) Next, they refer somebody else and four people turn into 20 people. Before COVID hit, we were averaging about 80 people a week that would come into our studio, we’re almost back there again. It’s truly a blessing.
#RoyalWomenInspire Brittney McKinnon
ROYALTEE: Brittany, did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
BM: Yes. I always dreamed and aspired to be somebody who works for themselves. I wasn’t brought up being surrounded by entrepreneurs. But I knew at like 24 years old, I didn’t want to work for anybody. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was a little girl. I’ve always been the type to be very innovative. It really jumped when I got fired from the government at 22-years-old. So, once I got fired, I never looked back.
ROYALTEE: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a business during this pandemic age? Based on mistakes you have made when started your own brands?
MM: I literally burned myself out because I was trying to do everything on my own. I was coaching clients all day, then trying to squeeze in my own auditions and careers. So, Brittney, she advised me like, ‘you gotta hire help, you need help’. I remember I had a mental breakdown in 2016. And, you know, once I had that breakdown, I said, ‘you know what, I got to start paying for help, I gotta hire other people.’ And that’s when our studio introduced other people. So that’s what I will advise anybody getting into business. Make sure you understand that when running a business, you got to spend money to make money. You got to make sure you’re investing and make sure you’re saving for your business to do things to make sure your business grows. And if you’re only paying yourself and not back to the business itself, you’re hurting your business.
BM: I always have a different approach when it comes to these questions. So I always say, what is your why? Why are you starting a business? Why do you want to start a business, I think, oftentimes people, see us on social media, or other individuals with thriving businesses. It’s like, ‘Oh, I want to, I want to start a business’, but we’re not actually knowing your why to start a business. I teach this in my classes. And then my number two advice for starting a business is have you done the research? Oftentimes, when people jump out there, they have not done the research. Who are your competitors? Who’s their target audience? Train your mind as a young leader on how you’re going to do this.
ROYALTEE: Some couples can make entrepreneurship work in their relationships and others can’t. How important was it for either one of you to find someone who supported your entrepreneurial endeavors?
BM: I have never dated an actor before…But over time, I saw his heart and God showed me like ‘Hey, this man is going be your husband. It’s bigger than what he’s doing on camera, it’s bigger than what he is doing in these films. He’s bringing Me [referring to God] through everything that he touches.’
People are going to be able to see Christ in his performance. I would never sit up here and say, ‘Oh, it’s completely easy being the wife of an actor.’ And that’s not true. But knowing that he’s doing this out of passion allowed me to be even more supportive of his entire career.
ROYALTEE: What are your individual goals?
BM: I want to get a certificate, a Six Sigma. It really helps business leaders be experts in their field. I want to keep learning as a leader. If I’m going to keep having the team and keep growing, I want to make sure that I’m equipped to do that. And honestly, to give back. I think every successful business owner should really be more intentional about giving back and I try to give back at least three or four times a year. So just giving back whether it’s through charitable giving or giving back to my team and allowing them opportunities.
MM: As an actor, I actually want to get back into commercial. For my acting studio, I’m looking to change the perspective of how we’re viewed and how we operate because right now we operate as a studio. But I want us to start operating as a school. I want to get into some business classes and learn what does it take to really turn our studio into a school.
As a couple, the McKinnons would like to travel, open a multi-use studio in the DMV area and maybe add a new edition to their family! We dive deeper into their relationship and how they make this #RegalLove work in our winter edition.
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A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.