Pop culture is filled with memorable secretaries and support staff. James Bond’s Moneypenny, The Beverly Hillbilly’s Miss Hathaway, Mad Men’s Joan Harris. But if Kenzie Biggins has her way, all executive assistants will be virtual. The Atlanta native has moved to Greenville, with dreams of building Worxbee into a $5 million company over the next five years. The 39-year-old’s got the vision and pedigree to do just that, and in two short years has planted her “Southern woman with a rebel side” mark upon the local business community.
So, a Southern woman with a rebel side. What’s your definition of a Southern woman? >> I think of being a Southern woman as more of a politeness, genteelness, but also willing to cut you off at the knees when needed. A Southern woman is a little more well-mannered in their presentations than the rebellious woman. You can still give them the ‘bless your heart,’ but there will be a politeness to it. I used to be more like that, but when it comes to growing a business, and running a business, sometimes you gotta put on your big-girl pants and have very direct conversations that are not considered Southern hospitality.
What was it like growing up in Atlanta? >> My mom used to joke, ‘You were born a boss.’ But what a lot of people don’t know is that I went to the Atlanta Speech School. I had a speech deficit and am a little bit dyslexic. It changed my life. I went from a shy girl, who didn’t like reading out loud, to doing professional plays, and I’m a classically trained soprano. That was my outlet.
What a transition! >> Yeah. I heard an interesting piece that children who grow up with different disadvantages tend to be creative people, because they have to learn how to overcome those disadvantages. I feel that definitely applies to me.
Your mom was the highest-ranked female banker in America when you were in middle school. >> I grew up in household where I had the pleasure and joy of seeing a woman who was really killing it in the work field. And someone who was willing to say, ‘I need help. We are going to have a housekeeper. You’re gonna have someone who picks you up from school every day.’ My dad was an attorney and a judge. We did have family dinners together, every night.
“When it comes to growing a business, and running a business, sometimes you gotta put on your big-girl pants and have very direct conversations that are not considered Southern hospitality.”—Kenzie Biggins
After graduating from Florida State University, you had a strong run with Target and Bank of America, in Washington, D.C. Why did you leave the corporate world to get a master’s at SCAD? >> I woke up at Target one day and said to myself, ‘You’re supposed to do something bigger with your life. Go figure it out.’ Coming out of SCAD, I founded and was running Uniquely Defined, a social media agency. That led to Uniquely Virtual, the predecessor to Worxbee.
What brought you and Worxbee to Greenville? >> The Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Accelerator. In Atlanta, I was running this race with Uniquely Virtual to be a tech company, when I discovered I’d have to have a second, full-time job just finding investors. So, we moved to South Carolina and completely rebranded as a service company, providing virtual executive-assistant support to retired executives, nonprofits, and small businesses. The majority of clients are small businesses, under 100 employees.
You’ve unearthed quite a niche. >> The first year in Greenville, we tripled the size of the company. We now have 40 clients. Hiring an amazing executive assistant can easily run six figures. Small businesses can’t afford that. Our focus is how to grow a responsible, sustainable company that focuses on serving our client base, and our executive assistants, to make sure they have the support they need to grow.
How do you find the business atmosphere in Greenville? >> I feel like there’s so much talent in this city. There’s a huge wealth of resources. As small businesses grow, the city will grow, and you can have more open conversations about diversity, and how we’re diversifying our teams, and attracting people to the city.
You describe yourself as outspoken about diversity. >> I am a black woman. I’ve lived in lots of places with a progressive, black middle class. I think more open conversations about diversity are needed. One of my key things is, ‘Do you break bread with people who are not like you?’ Are you willing to have open conversations with people who are not like you? Not arguments, but conversations, and agree to disagree.
You and your husband were married two years ago. Johan is from Brooklyn. How do y’all like living in the Village of West Greenville? >> We recently bought a house. We really like our neighborhood. On our street, people gather on Friday afternoon and have conversations, cocktails on front porches. We walk over to the Village. We have a great sense of community.