Dr. Natalie Coleman: The STEM Unicorn

Black Woman + STEM Entrepreneur + Politician + Philanthropist + War Veteran

+ TED-Ed Educator + Scientist


Interview by @arron_sain / Photography by @mrdblanks / Styling by @tracynicoleclothing / Makeup by @beautyarchitect / Hair by @natastic_hairlounge / Intro by @octavia.samuels


Coffea May 2021 Digital Cover

Dr. Coleman is the epitome of mythical beings that we were taught don’t exist. Many would have us believe that there is one way to success. Coleman completely dispels that paradigm, as she continues to break barriers and create new platforms. As a combat veteran (Captain), Coleman took pride in leading her platoon in Iraq and getting them back home safely to their families. Much like her shero, Harriet Tubman, Captain Coleman never lost a soldier.


Photography by @mrdblanks / Styling by @tracynicoleclothing / Makeup by @beautyarchitect / Hair by @natastic_hairlounge

As a scientist and STEM Entrepreneur, Dr. Coleman has partnered with Fortune 10 companies to provide tutoring, STEM education, and innovative programs. Inspired by George Washington Carver, Dr. Coleman founded After the Peanut in 2014 with the focus being the power of knowledge and education. Believing that even in the face of adversity and challenges we all deserve equal representation and access, the philanthropist, politician, and advocate continues to build bridges that give families real hope.


In her humility, she begins her story of triumph telling you about the love she has for her mother, turned angel. She celebrates her friends and loves family time. Dr. Coleman might reject that she is a unicorn. Our truth is that in Natalie’s journey we can see ourselves and remain inspired to live this life guided by purpose.


Arron Sain and Dr.Coleman are linked by their hometown and their aspirations. Both are leaders that continue to define new possibilities. On a mission to use his culinary artistry to improve the well-being of others. Celebrity Chef and Trainer, Aaron Sain keeps producing positive results in the fitness industry. Celebrity clients like Nick Cannon, Fantasia Barrino, and several NFL players prove that your lifestyle has to match your dreams. As CEO, Arron expanded his brand to include seasonings that make your healthy meals inSAINly delicious.


When two entrepreneurs sit down to chat during a global pandemic to discuss health, wealth, and moving from self-employment to entrepreneurship what do you get? Black excellence!




Arron:

All right. So first of all, it's a pleasure to finally link back up with you. I know we had talked last time on your radio show, but the tables were turned. You were asking me all the questions.


Natalie:

Oh yeah. I think ...you were one of my first guests, so that was 2017 or 2018.


Arron:

Now it's time for me to put the pressure on you.

I remember the last question you had asked me, and I want to know if you remember my answer. You were like, "Okay, in the next two or three years, where do you see yourself or what do you want?" Do you remember what I said?


Natalie:

I think you said something about going national.


Arron:

I did say that and I was like I'm going to be in charge of my own time.


It's good to sit down with you again so we can reflect on some of the things that you have learned. How have things changed or what have you learned about yourself since the beginning of this?


Natalie:

More recently I've really seen ... you have to think about consistency. So now I wake up every morning doing the little things that give me the energy to do the right things. That routine tells my brain that I can eat right, hydrate, and choose the healthier options. You taught me, it's about consistency. No magic trick. You helped me drop 50 pounds in a year.


Arron:

So with that being said, what was the straw that broke the camel's back that actually got you on this path and brought me and you together?


Natalie:

I didn't like the way I looked. I was eating and drinking, with no workouts. Unfortunate things happen to people, but I didn’t want it to be because I did not take care of my body.


Arron:

Yeah. That kind of runs right into my next question because I find a lot of clients find it really difficult to stay focused with their fitness, with their career, and just their life goals in general. What tools do you use to try to make sure that you're on top of your game in each category when it comes to fitness, career, and life goals in general?


Natalie:

So for fitness, I have a little workout space in my house and I love it. I just bought a Peloton bike and I have to get outside. I will bundle up in 20-degree weather and go outside. The military has me doing push-ups all the time. So for fitness, it's variety. You could almost say that's my career too.



So I have a variety of things that I do as an entrepreneur. My organization, After the Peanut, consults with schools and businesses on best practices in STEAM. I have a tutoring arm. Mostly I focus on STEAM-themed programs; science, technology, engineering, art, and math.


I am working on a STEAM Center next. The variety in my work is about something bigger than me that's going to give back, which ties right into my life goals. If I focus only on myself, it’s limiting. When I look into the world to see who I can help, that’s where everything comes together for me. My focus is really moving from “self-employment” to business ownership.


Arron:

I know you're a war veteran. I know you went across the water and served for the country. Can you just touch on that just a little bit, the progression within that lane?


Natalie:

I was not in ROTC in high school. The University of Illinois ROTC approached me and since I wasn’t going to get a basketball scholarship, I joined ROTC because I wanted to be a part of a team. ROTC gave me comradery and discipline.


Arron:

Y'all were all the cool people.


Natalie:

Now, I consider myself tough. I was ready to lead, but I didn't know, less than a year after graduating from college, I was going to be prepping to go to Iraq.


Arron:

Wow.


Natalie:

I went through officer school the summer after college. I was training to be a Military Police Officer. I was 23, I put on the uniform, I committed to being a soldier, and from that point on I didn't allow myself to think of not doing it. I had a unit and they were depending on me. I had to make a lot of decisions at an early age. I was the only female officer and the only Black officer in my unit. The military set the foundation for me to push through obstacles.


I know there's a lot of people who have opinions about the wars we have fought, and I have my own. But what I'm telling you is the training, the comradery, the leadership skills, that's what I hold on to. I don’t argue whether we should have or should not have been at war.


Arron:

Yeah. I see what you mean. How did those experiences help you move a little different when it comes to self-employment vs. entrepreneurship?


Natalie:

It made me realize I had to build a winning team. You have to have the right people on the bus and you have to have them in the right seats.


Arron:

I love that.


Natalie:

So to move from entrepreneur and self-employed, which is great, to business owner, I have to start putting people on this bus. I can't be everywhere. I have to know when to grab the right people. The other piece is you have to identify the problems that you can solve.


It’s all about knowing when to pivot. I had experienced as a teacher, as a tutor, and as an educator. There was a gap growing significantly wider because of the pandemic with kids not getting access to the same resources, the same teachers, the same classroom instruction. After the Peanut partnered Aetna Better Health of Illinois, to provide tutoring to their members at no cost to their families.


It's true, when we try to do too many things, it just becomes overwhelming and it's like you're spinning plates.


Arron:

Yeah, nothing gets 100% of your focus and energy. If you're giving 80% here, you can't give what you need to the next thing. It doesn't work like that. Recently you started holding a political office. I just wanted to know what makes you so passionate about the community and making a difference, because you do way more than just talking.


Photography by @mrdblanks / Styling by @tracynicoleclothing / Makeup by @beautyarchitect / Hair by @natastic_hairlounge

Natalie:

So what I realized is that I grew up and I had a lot of opportunities because of my parents.


Working in the school system, I saw the accessibility to programs and their benefits. I wanted to expand those positive things to the community, which include economic development, career and college readiness for kids, and addressing sustainability issues.


Arron:

So how does Natalie unwind? Do you take a ride? Do you listen to your favorite playlist? Are you a movie person? Do you come home and plop down and put your TV show on, or is there a book that you love?


Natalie:

I just finished my doctorate degree, now I can read for pleasure. I enjoy catching up on Law and Order SVU. I binge Netflix sometimes. I enjoy board games and puzzles.


Arron:

Okay! So with everything that you've accomplished so far, who has inspired you or what inspires you?


Natalie:

I'm inspired by kids. I meet kids from all over the place and they talk your ear off, baby. They've got all kinds of stories to tell, things they built, what they're going to do when they grow up. I'm like, man, they have no fear. They'll go and jump off a tree, jump over a fence. As you get older, you start having all these reservations about taking leaps, literally and metaphorically. But when you meet a kid, they're like, oh yeah I'm going to be an astronaut. I'm going to do this and this is what's going to happen and I'm going to buy this and that. They don't have any limits.


Arron:

That's the thing that I love because, whenever I have dreams and goals that I want to manifest, I tell them to my children. I don't talk to adults. I talk to my daughter. I'm like, I want to do this, I want to do that. My daughter will look at me like, well when are we going?


Natalie:

Yeah.


Arron:

She doesn't ask how we're going to get there, what may happen. It's great that you touched upon that because my next question for you is what do you do when you can't find a way and you're stuck, and you're looking at that goal that's high up that mountain, and you don't have any energy. You're working on fumes. What is that Rocky Balboa moment for you?


Natalie:

It's funny that you ask that, Arron, because I had a little bit of a short temper when I was younger and sometimes I'm quick to respond when I'm upset or tired. Now I just rest and I meditate because every problem has a solution although it might not be the solution you want. It might not happen quickly. I'm not talking about miracles. I'm saying as far as a business owner. Sometimes I just have to take a step away and come back to it. I'm open to receiving knowledge from this experience instead of, "This is messed up".


Arron:

I used to be like that a lot. Even throughout this journey, worrisome like where's my next client going to come from, how will this happen, how am I going to make that happen. They say actions speak louder than words, and I'm a firm believer in that.


It might look like I’m not going to make it. But I would still get up and work. No matter what negative things I told myself, my actions were still actions of forward progress. That's the one thing that I tell people. Just start!


One thing that's for sure is that whole 9-5 thing, retiring and all that, it's for sure that it will never happen overnight. At least taking a leap, you have the possibility of something taking off overnight. Some people may look at it and see I'm an overnight success, but I know I've been doing this for years upon years. A lot of times God is like, give me a cup to fill up. You're not giving me anything to fill up.


Natalie:

I've tried multiple businesses. I used to call myself the traveling tutor. I made up a logo, got business cards. I've tried the entrepreneurship piece in other areas, but After the Peanut is where I’m needed. My passion meets my purpose! Passion and purpose leads to paychecks.


Arron:

Yeah. I'm going to end this with one last question. Where do you see yourself in the next year?


Natalie:

I will continue moving from self-employed to business owner. Identify a location for the STEAM Center and really maximize my freedom of time.


You know it’s God ...God is who is directing my path. When I get off course, things don't happen the way they should.


Arron:

You have to always remember the connection you found, you have to always remember that it wasn't a conference call. What I mean by that is, you know what God told you. Everybody else is not going to understand.