Shunqetta N. Cunningham is the CEO and lead consultant of KHARIS Group and the Nonprofit Summit of Northeast Arkansas founder and chairwoman. Her company teaches nonprofits strategies to soar in income, impact and influence.
Cunningham is a 2004 honors graduate of Blytheville High School and an alumnus of Arkansas State University, graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and in 2010 with a Master’s in public administration.
In January 2018, she founded the Over-A-Cup Initiative to build connections, advance social equity and empower minority women-led businesses in the Arkansas and Mid-South areas. Over-A-Cup is the only current advocacy initiative geared towards Black women in the entrepreneur space in the state of Arkansas.
Cunningham is married to her high school sweetheart of nearly 20 years. Together, they have four amazing daughters and one wonderful son.
As a small business owner, what is your vision for your business and our community?
KHARIS Group Consulting is a social impact company; meaning we have a call to see and foster transformation for our nonprofit clients and business organizations so they in turn can deliver high-impact to those they serve. We have a mission that supersedes the race to profits.
I started KHARIS to support Delta leaders who took charge to spur growth in their own communities and were ready to create change.
The vision for KHARIS is to create branches in all parts of the state with dedicated consultants capable of building social, fiscal, and leadership capacity of nonprofits and communities. Our vision is to teach nonprofits to build stronger internal systems that operate with business principles to survive for the long haul. Nonprofits do not mean "no profit." I hope to shift the narrative that nonprofits can and should be profitable, and influence our government and economic leaders to devote more resources to these needed organizations.
What advice do you have for keeping a team focused and motivated in challenging times?
If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you already got. This old adage has stuck with me for years. The ebbs and flows of life simply cannot be separated as easily for women. We are at work thinking of doctor appointments and at concerts thinking about conference calls.
We have come through challenging times with a global pandemic, virtual learning, business shifts, and more, yet we survived. As a woman of faith, I constantly share with the wonderful ladies around me to not easily forget how God brought us through past hardships. We never lack a solution or a way out of tough times. We cannot get stuck if we have faith, act upon what we believe, and know that challenging times do not last forever.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
KHARIS hosts the only nonprofit conference for nonprofit leaders in the state every year. We are in our 7th year, and while it is a labor of love, the outcomes always outperform the hard work planning this space for nonprofit and impact leaders. Also, in February, our nonprofit under KHARIS, Over-A-Cup, launched its first business growth program for Black women entrepreneurs in Eastern Arkansas. I am proud I get to do bold things to spark change and call it work!
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?
The biggest influence on my life and career is my children. I do many things to create space and opportunity for my babies. They are my why, and I choose to be in certain rooms, on boards, in activities simply to make their lives better. I am a student of success; and I can happily state I have a plethora of people who have made an impact on my life in various ways.
Tell us the most meaningful piece of career or life advice you have received.
My Pastor teaches, "Preach if you must; use words if you have to." I don’t have time to play games in life or business. I do not act one way at business then act another way in the home.
When we show up as our full selves, we will soon recognize that the world is waiting, so we must act and do things in the appropriate season. Not every opportunity is your opportunity.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
I love to run, read a book, or just sit and pray. Ice cream has its place when I am in a difficult space. I love to cuddle in my bed and just lay still. We do not need much to gather ourselves when we need a moment; we simply need to be unapologetic and take those moments, and watch out for those areas that easily get us flustered.