TAMPA — Keith and Monica Harris, married in 2013, today share a home, busy professional lives and a blended family of six, including 1-year-old son Myles.
But Keith, vice president of human resources for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Monica, a labor attorney, for Jackson Lewis, have still found time to launch their own business: KeMon Connects, an online business and social directory for Tampa Bay professionals.
Need a Realtor or barber, or looking for a great steakhouse? KeMon Connects will help you find what you need.
It's an idea that Keith, a Florida A&M University graduate, said was inspired by events like the Black Heritage Festival, where dozens of authors, business owners, consultants convene in one place to sell their services or products.
But instead of just once a year, KeMon Connects aims to put those same businesses in one place online and make them accessible year-round.
The Harrises said they had a hunch they could work well together in business when more than 250 teens showed up for a youth forum they hosted shortly after the death of Trayvon Martin.
But taking the leap together into entrepreneurship developed much like their relationship: slowly and after much consideration. And it turns out that working together in business has some of the same requirements as a marriage.
For example, the pair are careful to avoid using words as weapons, Monica said.
"The words you say you can't take back," she said. "We're never disrespectful."
"Monica is the peacemaker in the relationship," Keith chimes in.
But that doesn't mean the Harrises and KeMon Connects aren't making moves.
They recently teamed up with music producer and artist Paul Anthony and actress Vivica Fox to host The Full Force Celebrity Talent Search Experience on Friday, May 19 at the Cuban Club.
The event will feature live performances by Full Force and male entertainers from Fox's male entertainment troupe and a talent competition, with the winner selected as the opening act for a Full Force show and a cash prize of $500.
The partnership with Anthony – a cancer survivor – developed after he and Keith met through their work together on H. Lee Moffitt Center's George Edgecomb Society, a new outreach program named after the man who became Hillsborough County's first African-American judge.
"We exchanged numbers and the two of us just connected," Keith said.
For the Harrises, there's a personal narrative that runs parallel to this business venture: both have lost a parent to cancer: Monica's father and Keith's mother.
"For us, it was a natural fit and we will continue to do events," Keith said.
But are male dancers an effective way to spread awareness about cancer? Well, yes, Keith said.
"We're leveraging the power of events to bring attention to causes," he said. "Once we get that captive audience, we can preach wellness and health."
It's been a little over a year since the formation of KeMon Connects and so far, so good, both say.
The easiest part of the business is the most obvious and, also, the most personal.
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"The name of the company was easy," Monica said. "There was no debate about that."
But it was a little tricky when it came time to decide how to divide duties, said Monica, also a Florida A&M graduate and attorney at Jackson Lewis.
"We're both "Type A" (personalities) but you can't have two chiefs," she said. "Somebody has to lead."
That person is Keith. But Monica — naturally outspoken and a University of Florida-trained litigator — has no problem expressing dissent when necessary.
"I will make my opinion known," she said.
Contact Kenya Woodard at firstname.lastname@example.org.