Latoya Benson is a phenomenal woman. Her story is real. Her journey is amazing. And, her strength through it all is unmatched. She stays busy being a mother of two, business owner, Editor, and Evangelist—none of which she takes lightly. She was called to ministry in her 20’s—a time when most women aren't fully aware of who they are or where they’re headed. Since then, Latoya has been on a mission to touch lives and hasn't looked back.
During the summer of 2011, in the midst of a divorce, she created Kingdom Voices Magazine, a magazine that has now reached thousands of people. Instead of allowing her divorce to destroy her, Latoya used it as a catalyst, a process she highlights as important in her journey.
Latoya took time out to do an interview with Our Womanhood where she discusses her life, how she created her businesses, struggles she encountered, where she sees herself going, and advice she has for women looking to pursue their dreams.
Interview: Latoya Benson Shares Her Powerful Story on Ministry, Business, and Redefining Herself
Jasmine: So Latoya, thank you again for doing the interview with Our Womanhood. I know a lot of women are going to be inspired by this interview. I was inspired just from what I saw from your website and magazine. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Latoya: Well, I am a woman of God and I am a mother of two: a boy and a girl who’s six and four. I serve as an Evangelist in my church. I am also a CEO and entrepreneur. I’m just an all-around fun and energetic person! I just really love the Lord and am passionate about the things that he has given me to do.
Jasmine: That’s awesome! You definitely sound busy. So I’d like to know, how many years have you been in business and ministry?
Latoya: As far as business goes, I officially launched Kingdom Voices Magazine in July of 2011 and before that, I think I’ve always been practicing business. I think that I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.
Latoya: But, officially—really stepping out there and taking on the title of entrepreneur and business woman—it’s been since July of 2011.
Jasmine: Yay! Yes-
Latoya: Yes! It’s been really exciting. Something I realized like “wow, you are perfect for this! All of this time you were trying to decide what you wanted to do.”
This is my purpose.
As far as ministry is concerned, I accepted my call in ministry to preach in October of 2004. So it’s been a good little while! It’s been a journey and I’m just glad that I could be used as a vessel to share the message of Christ.
Jasmine: So that’s awesome because you’re coming up on ten years. That’s a long time to have accepted your calling and still be doing it. Not a lot of people can say that and you were in your twenties! During that time a lot of women aren't really sure about what they should be doing, so that speaks volumes.
So let’s talk about Beyond the Surfaces Ministries. What was the purpose behind creating it?
Latoya: Beyond the Surface Ministries was created out of my personal journey. Before that, I had a women’s ministry that I had launched in 2007.
But, during that time I went through some personal struggles and felt like I needed some time to regroup and get myself in order.
So, because of that, I didn't do a lot of things as relating to my ministry in terms of events or women’s conferences, workshops and things like that.
In 2011, I went through a separation in the process of a divorce. So in my time of healing and really rediscovering myself, one day the Lord spoke to me. He said that every time I was on the cusp of something great, I would shut down. After that I started to pursue the business more seriously.
Jasmine: Wow, you know what, a lot of women do that—including myself. I’ve done that so many times. I really admire that you went through--your struggle-- and said “I’m going to create something out of it.”
Latoya: Yes, that’s how it evolved.
It’s really a global call to evangelism to empower women to go beyond the surface and really see their greatness.
I want them to pull back the layers so that they can see their fullest potential. So that’s really the purpose of the ministry.
Jasmine: So this is all about a “peeling” then. Am I right? To get inside of who you are?
Jasmine: Well peeling is tough work, so I know you have something serious on your hands. I mean, I can relate in some ways because of what I do. I’m all about women digging deeper into themselves. And it’s hard work!
Right now, I’m just amazed with your story thus far—going through a divorce and creating your ministry and business at the same time, the way you are touching women’s lives—it’s all just amazing to me.
Were there any other struggles besides your divorce that helped to shape your vision and catapult you into your purpose?
I would say that my divorce was the defining moment or the catalyst that got me here. See, my struggles were different. It wasn't the streets, or drugs—it was an internal struggle.
I was trying to figure out who I was. So even in this ministry—Beyond the Surface—we focus on reinventing and developing yourself.
I definitely felt like I didn’t have a lot of things or people to identify with, especially being called at a young age into ministry, and balancing business and marrying those two journey’s together. And on top of that, just dealing with those natural things we face in life. Because I didn't see to many women with those same struggles I had, I internalized it.
Latoya: So as far as the ministry goes, starting it at least, I had the tools already there. It was all about discovering it again and trusting it.
Jasmine: You just had to make sure that this is what you were supposed to be doing, going through the process and accepting it.
Latoya: Right, but, it wasn't overnight an overnight process.
Jasmine: Kingdom Voices was not your first go at reaching the masses. Tell me about your humble start with the newsletter.
Latoya: The newsletter, again, it came out of a personal journey. I don’t call myself a writer—you know like someone who loves to write—
Jasmine: Ha! Okay...
When I got this vision, I was literally sitting at work at my computer. Then, the idea came to me: “you should write a newsletter.” And I’m like “Huh? Okay!”
So I went home and began the process. I started with a two page article with some encouraging words. It was called “Relax, Relate, Release.”
Jasmine: Wait, what! Say that again!
Relax. Relate. Release.
Jasmine: That’s it. I love it.
Latoya: I think it was me just saying “Hey I need to do this.” I wrote a couple of encouraging pieces and sent it to about 25 women. The women consisted of family and close friends that I normally keep in touch with anyway. They responded by saying “this is really good!” From there they sent it to their email contacts and people started asking if they could get on the distribution list. And that’s how it started!
Jasmine: So what did it grow to before you branched out and started Kingdom Voices Magazine?
Latoya: It grew to about 300-
Jasmine: Wow, that’s amazing-
Latoya: Close to 300 women. I got one other writer who was doing it with me. I was very consistent. People told me they printed it out and read it on the Metro. From there another vision came to start a magazine and I shifted from there. It was totally unexpected.
Jasmine: Who did you have in mind as your audience for the magazine, what was your vision for it?
Latoya: Well, it is for men and women. It is a twofold mission where it is speaking as a voice to our readers as empowerment and encouragement, and equipping our readers with tools that they may need to renew their minds to continue the journey. It is also a vehicle to empower the reader to become a voice themselves. Our slogan is “Your Voice. Your style. Your Truth.”
Your image is a voice. I believe we have a voice but we don’t always allow it to be heard.
We encourage our readers to let their voices be heard. Let your truth be heard and not be afraid. Most of the people we put on the cover are of the faith, but some are not. The main purpose is to encourage our readers.
Jasmine: That’s good because there’s a lot of criticism in the church. So people don’t realize you can be inspired and influenced in a positive way by people that don’t necessarily have a title in the church.
So, let’s switch gears. When did you know it was time to start Kingdom Voices Magazine?
Latoya: I believe that each individual is made to do something, and when you know that the timing is right, there is a flow to it. But, for about six months I didn't do anything. I waited. I did not want to be ineffective when I did it. But during those six months that I didn't pursue it, the magazine just kept coming back to me. So I said, “I really feel like I should be doing this.”
When I did start it wasn’t easy, I didn’t know everything.
I did the research. I talked to people and tried to get as much knowledge as I could.
I said “If this doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. But if it does, I know that I’m on to something great.”
Jasmine: You didn’t just hop into it. I think it’s important to note that doing it this way saves a lot of headaches. Sometimes we’re so quick to do things that we mess up our own process.
Do you keep Kingdom Voices Magazine and Beyond the Surface Ministries separate, or how does that work?
Latoya: For the most part, I keep it separate because Beyond the Surface Ministries is just for women and Kingdom Voices is for both men and women. Also Kingdom Voices Magazine is a different ministry.
They still kind of tie into one another as the common denominator is myself and my journey goes.
Jasmine: Where do you see Kingdom Voices Magazine going?
Latoya: Wow, I definitely know that it is going to make an impression in mainstream media. There are so many other things that are connected to it, but it’s just not time to reveal them yet. I want to step into print publication although I know it’s risky. Right now we are online and I want to have it to where if you’re sitting in a hair salon you can pick it up and read it...I mean, I have people asking all the time how they can get a print copy.
I see it going places, and becoming a trusted brand beyond the four walls of the church.
Jasmine: Absolutely! What advice would you give to women starting their own businesses?
I would definitely say gain clarity on your vision.
You have to be clear on your vision. If not, it opens the door for us to entertain opinions. You may not know 100% what you want to do. It will unfold as you move forward. Just have a clear enough idea of what you want to do.
Don’t give up.
There’s been so many challenges that I’ve been through where I’ve felt like I’ve stepped into the wrong thing. But, it’s all a mindset. When I began to change my mindset, I became empowered and was ready for the next challenge.
Jasmine: Is there anything you have coming up or want us to know about?
Latoya: Yes, I just launched my consulting company, Inner Visions, a professional consulting service. The official website will be launched next month. I do vision consulting where I assist people with developing their visions. I believe a successful brand starts with a vision.
On November the 16, 2013, I am having a Women’s conference right here in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Beyond the Surface Ministries titled “No More Crumbs.”
It’s an empowerment event that I call our declaration day. We are doing what I call “Faith Conversations with Latoya and Friends.” I have three other speakers. We’re going to be talking about relationships, personal finances, prayer—how all those things tie into our declaration and how we are not going to have any more crumbs in our life.
In the early part of 2014 I am looking to release my book that's based on rediscovery and reinvention. It’s a 40 day guide for women that helps them discover who they are. It’s not just going to be a book, but a brand as well.
Jasmine: Well you have a lot going on! I want to congratulate you on your business endeavors and I hope that it explodes. Keep me updated on the release of your book! I’ll be buying a copy. I’ll make sure to share that with Our Womanhood readers.
One last thing, where can we find you on the web?
Latoya: Here are all the places,
Kingdom Voices Magazine: www.kingdomvoicesmag.com
Facebook: Kingdom Voices Magazine
Beyond the Surface Ministries: www.beyondthesurfaceministries.org
Facebook: Beyond the Surface Ministries
Inner Visions Professional Vision Consulting Services is on Facebook under that full name.
website will launch Nov 1 - www.ivprofessionals.com
Jasmine: Thank you so much for sharing your powerful story with Our Womanhood, Latoya! Truly inspiring.
Latoya: You’re welcome. Thank you! I’m very humbled. I consider myself an everyday girl and I just want to be there to encourage other people.
(Interview originally published October 30, 2013)