How Entrepreneur Onika D. McLean Jumped Into Standup Comedy

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Onika McLeanOnika D. McLean goes where her passion takes her–and it has been good for business. First, she created Lexington Development Group LLC (LDG), which assists the small business owner and the community by providing coaching, marketing strategies and networking events.

McLean actually spent 20 years or so in the legal profession, and in addition to running her own company she is a manager and legal advisor at an 800-attorney international law firm. She’s also been featured a number of times on Bravo’s hit TV show “The Singles Project” as an advisor.

“The Lexington Development Group was birthed because I experienced the need to merge the two worlds that I am a part of.   I’m always helping people, creating connections and giving advice. I handle networking events in my office and I really love networking; it’s fun.  Corporate America knows a couple of things: people aren’t going to do business with you, one, if they aren’t familiar with you, two, if they don’t realize how the connection can be mutually beneficial and three, you need to be good at networking to build connections,” she says.

She continues, “I wanted to help the small business owner without tons of time to have a space (my events) where they could cross network and build connections that would advance their business. I, therefore, started hosting these events. In Corporate America, networking is commonly done with individuals in the same line of business, but my premise was to have lawyers, financial people, marketers and such in one room in an effort to build business connections while socializing.”

On top of all her other achievements, McLean is also a standup comedian. Again, it was passion that spurred this journey. “I’m an undiagnosed crazy person.  I’m the person making everyone laugh and I love to make people happy.  I’ve always admired people on film, particularly in comedy settings.  I’ve been taking acting classes for about a year and I felt, if I can do stand up then I would be a beast.  My thought was, what am I most afraid of and it was being judged. Hence, I needed to face judgment in a realistic manner,” she says. “A comic is subjected to the highest degrees of vulnerability. You want to please the audience and what’s staring back at you are other people’s judgment.  What better matter to tackle than fear? I’ve learned to really depend on my own opinion, especially as it relates to me.”

Standup has taken McLean into a whole new sphere. “It’s really hard work, yet it’s smart and and extremely rewarding when you are able to connect with the audience. As a comedian, the main component to remember is that you aren’t always going to do well. That part sucks of course, but I needed to face the most vulnerable part of me,” she shares.  

What has been the biggest surprise with this aspect of McLean’s life?   “That I’m going to bomb in order to grow. Ordinarily, I’m a superhero; but, maybe not so much in this new venture,” she says with a laugh.

McLean’s various ventures have taught her a few important lessons. “My biggest lesson is not to allow people to treat you any way they want because you are a woman, or a minority.  I see myself as an equal in business,” she says.  “I feel we are all a part of a team; some parts are bigger than others and egos are bigger than others, but when you are dealing with me there must be mutual respect or the situation won’t be as comfortable and productive as it could be.”