Profiles
Black migrations:

How our journeys shape us

Growing up in a large family, Kyleen Walker was taught the value of entrepreneurialism and serving with purpose at a young agequalities that are invaluable to success in her role as office manager, where there is no such thing as a “typical day.” 
Read On
Read On

We have long-running family reunions that bring together over 100 family members from across the country every year. We started in 1984 in Ashburn, Georgia, which means we’ll be having our 35th reunion this year! Many branches of my family migrated from the South, including my maternal grandparents who settled in Detroit so that my grandfather could work in a copper factory during the prime of that industry. Some family members remained in the South, including a group who had an entrepreneurial spirit. In 1973, my cousin Therman McKenzie introduced Cornell McBride to a homemade hair product he had been using on his afro, and together they invented Sta-Sof-Fro, the first product made to moisturize and manage natural black hair. The product was a runaway success and is still used today. 

Cornell McBride (L) and business partner Therman McKenzie (R) with the Sta-Sof-Fro product (credit: Black Enterprise)

Growing up, my three sisters and I were taught to be entrepreneurial and to have a strong work ethic. With my mother’s help, our stepdad ran a very successful roofing business in Detroit, often employing young men in the neighborhood. We all helped manage the family business and celebrated when revenues hit over a million dollars one year. My father also taught Bible study in a local men’s prison and even employed a few of these men as roofers after they exited prison. Many of these men are still roofing today! I consider him a pioneer in social entrepreneurship. He was effectively operating a returning citizens program in the City of Detroit throughout my entire childhood.

kwalker dad roofing
kwalker kids today
kwalker parents sisters
My dad working on a customer's roof; sharing the holidays with my parents and sisters; and spending quality time with my children

We were heavily involved in the church, with my dad becoming an assistant pastor and my mother leading the missionary department. Eventually, they relocated and started their own church in Ferguson, Missouri, until my father’s passing last year. I learned at a very early age how to serve the community. As a family, we often visited the sick and volunteered in community programs. Every holiday, we opened our home to entertain guests, and it was during these gatherings that I developed my people skills.                      

The entrepreneurial and serving spirit instilled in me by my parents stayed with me into adulthood. In 2000, I cofounded an educational nonprofit to teach Detroit inner-city children financial literacy with an emphasis on investing. Having just received our 501c3 status, my mother introduced us to a local grant on the eve of the application deadline. Overnight, we designed our pilot curriculum and submitted the application. Not only did we receive the grant, we were referred to other funders and were able to launch soon after. We ended up serving 300 youth each year for seven years and eventually changed our model to include parents. In 2008, I began assisting other visionaries in setting up their nonprofits, and in 2015 began teaching a program-planning and grant-writing class in the evenings for nonprofits. I’ve worked with around 76 organizations to date. Community volunteerism is still something I’m very passionate about and something I’ve passed down to my two beautiful children.

I bring my entrepreneurial spirit and passion for service to my work as the Southfield office manager. My mindset is to be solution-oriented, to lead with compassion, and to get the job done with excellence.

This story is featured as part of our Black History Month series "Black migrations: How our journeys shape us", which highlights black professionals at AlixPartners recounting how their family migrations have influenced their paths both professionally and personally.