Trusting God's Provision - Katrina Miles

Anxiety and uncertainty about finances are part of most people's lives, even followers of Jesus. Our choice of work, our feelings about money and our faith are constantly intertwined in changing and complicated ways. Our guest today, Katrina Miles started her own company, a step of faith that has challenged her to trust in God's provision to pay the bills while seeking God's kingdom in her work. Her company, Inkyverse Media Group is a creative management agency focused on the fields of fine art, illustration, media and publishing. You can find them at Katrina was featured in The Missional Disciple, Pursuing Mercy and Justice at Work, a six week workbook and video course exploring the intersection of mercy and justice at work. The course was created by the Global Faith and Work Initiative at Redeemer City to City and is available for purchase. You can learn more at Katrina Miles, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.

Scripture References

  • Psalm 112

Additional Resources

Thanks for Listening!

If you like what you've heard, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts! We'd love to hear from you, and it helps other people find us.

< Back to Making It Work podcast episode list


Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.

Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work.

LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.

MR: I’m Mark Roberts.

LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.

Anxiety and uncertainty about finances are part of most people's lives, even followers of Jesus. Our choice of work, our feelings about money and our faith are constantly intertwined in changing and complicated ways. Our guest today, Katrina Miles started her own company, a step of faith that has challenged her to trust in God's provision to pay the bills while seeking God's kingdom in her work. Her company, Inkyverse Media Group is a creative management agency focused on the fields of fine art, illustration, media and publishing. You can find them at Katrina was featured in The Missional Disciple, Pursuing Mercy and Justice at Work, a six week workbook and video course exploring the intersection of mercy and justice at work. The course was created by the Global Faith and Work Initiative at Redeemer City to City and is available for purchase. You can learn more at Katrina Miles, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.

Katrina Miles: Thank you for having me.

LA: I wonder if you could just start by telling us a little bit about the work you do today and about the leap of faith that you took to start Inkyverse.

KM: Sure, so as you said, we are a creative management agency and our mission really is to provide opportunities for underrepresented people in the commercial art space to move them from poverty really into a sustainable living, using art, which I know sounds pretty radical in itself because most people think of artists as sort of the starving artists, but actually that's not true because the commercial art space in the United States is almost a $400 billion industry, of which maybe 20% are people of color. So that is, well, a huge market and something I really wanted to tap into. So we started Inkyverse...

LA: And is... Sorry, I'm gonna ask a follow-up question. Is... So of that huge market, you mentioned starving artists, are some people starving? Are some people making it big? Is the breakdown fairly distributed?

KM: No, it's not, it's not fairly distributed at all. So inequity is a huge issue within this industry. So I was getting ready to say, in about 2018, I participated in a fellowship called the Gotham Fellowship at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. And at the time I was working for the UN, and one of the things that we had to do is something called a community renewal project, which is where we look at our industry and think about the brokenness and ask the Lord how we can enter into that brokenness and bring about change in any way that he would use us.

And sort of cheekily, because I worked for the UN and I worked for the Department of Peacekeeping at the time, I sort of said, well, world peace is the goal, and that ain't gonna happen till Jesus comes. And I tried to sort of get out of the project in a way, but our leader was like, just think deeply really about what you love and what you wanna do. And if you are into gaming, if you are into illustration, if you work in tech, you know there's deep inequity there. And so I would go to Comic-Cons at the time and would be online gaming and sort of the harassment, the lack of representation, it was pretty visceral. And so I thought the thing that I love more than anything is like comics, manga, video games, like all the stuff that you see. Well, you guys, your audience can't see, but in my office it's a bunch of Legos and things like that.

LA: It's very exciting to look at. There's a lot of colour, there are a lot of, it just looks like you have a fun playscape in your work.

KM: Exactly. And so I thought this is a place where I know change needs to be made and the question that I kept reading in a lot of the market reports that I was reading analysis for work was, what is the next future, what is the generation of media content? How are demographics going to change and sway consumer content? I'm starting to think that the next generation will be largely a lot of people of colour, the next generation will be a lot more equitable in their thinking than we are Gen X. And they will look for more diverse content. And how can I offer them those opportunities to get into a market that had been mostly closed to them? And so I just prayed about it. And then that's just pretty much how Inkyverse was born. And the thing is...

LA: But it's a big leap. It's a big leap going from working for the UN to running a media company. That's not a straight shot.

KM: Yeah, so I have a background in media. I started my career in journalism. So for me, it's kind of a straight line. So I started my career in journalism and then I worked in public service. I worked in, for a minute, the first term Bush administration for Governor Bush in Florida. So I was in public service and I went back to media again. And then I had a tech startup here in New York. And then I went back into public service. But for me, it's not sort of a zigzag. It's sort of all the same because it's communication. It's always been about communication for me. How do you tell a story? How do you get your story across? How do you get people to enter into that story? So it's either public service or media or tech, however, it's all the same to me. And so for me, the leap from what I love in this particular industry to what I was doing before, it all feels sort of the same to me, to be quite honest.

LA: Mark, I see you itching to jump into this conversation because it's one of the more fun conversations that we get to have thinking about how communication in lots of different spheres relates.

MR: I mean, yeah, fun, but also so important. Katrina, one of the things I love about what you're doing is you are working for justice in the context of your workplace. A lot of people, a lot of Christians, they see... The Bible calls us to justice, but it feels too big for us. Now you worked at the UN. So you were working on the biggest stage, policy and all that. And that's important, but a lot of us won't be able to impact things at that level, but we can impact things in the context of our workplace, depending on our role, of course, and all that. And so part of what I love about what you're doing is it's such a creative example of entering into a business, running a business, starting a business, with business acumen and communication skill, but also because of this passion you have for justice, and in particular for justice for people who have been excluded from a certain whole realm of work and creativity. So it's just, to me, it's such an encouraging example because a whole lot of our listeners are working, but are not really working in the UN or in government. And yet they have such an opportunity. And what you're talking about, I think, just resonates with the biblical call, but makes it very contextual to where you are and what you're doing. And I think it's very exciting.

KM: I have to tell you that I really was struggling about what to do next when I was in Gotham. I kind of felt like, I'm not sure that I wanna continue. I loved what I was doing, by the way. I absolutely love what I was doing because it was leading global projects and putting it out at tech conferences within the context of peacekeeping. But it was also very draining work. I was doing a lot of traveling into some really hard places. And so when I would come back, the thing that would relax me would be, just quite frankly, just kind of zoning out on Halo for quite a few hours. And then I would get up and start again, but I really didn't feel the call viscerally until the summer of 2020, as a lot of us did in this country with the murder of George Floyd. I read in 2019, an article in Forbes magazine that said, what is the future of work? And so based on that question, I started writing what would be sort of the business plan for Inkyverse. And I remember writing that the future of work has to look like the people who enjoy what they're doing.

And I remember sort of taking this idea around to A lot of people who were, I would say veterans in this particular industry who told me that there was no market, there was no value for people of colour. And that had been the case because I would say traditional gatekeepers put value on work and it didn't always look like people like me and I'm African-American just for the sake of your listeners. And so I was kind of already sort of fighting a battle of, can I get partnerships? Can I get funding to get this thing started? The first startup that I did a little over 10 years ago, I remember what it's like to go into those rooms and not be taken seriously or not being heard because of inequality in the tech industry. So here I was thinking, I'm facing this all again. But then the tragedy of the murder of George Floyd really sort of solidified this urgency I was feeling in my spirit that this change is coming and there is going to be this demographic shift and people are going to start to want to engage with content where they are represented. Unfortunately, it happened in this way. And as soon as the marches ended, my phone started ringing. And the questions that were being asked were...

Do you have an artist who is African-American and would like to work on this particular project? Do you have an artist who is from Malaysia, for instance? Do you have this, this, that? And I started, and at first I was like, yeah, I do. But actually I just have an artist. And I have really talented people who've been shut out of an industry for a very long time. They just happen to be people of colour. And so I decided I'm going to start to change the way that we think about marginalization and normalise what it means to be inclusive. And that is primarily my mission.

LA: I want to tease out a little bit more of this very challenging intersection of justice and money. Because you're doing very important work in justice and you're also in conversations with funders that you mentioned. So there's trying to please a certain segment of people which looks differently from the artists that you're representing. There's the financial aspect of launching a startup. There's the financial aspect of paying your own bills. There's fear around those both. And maybe they do and maybe they don't intersect with your goals for justice and integrity. I wonder if you could share how you thought about that.

KM: Well, the artist is the most important person in this dynamic as far as I'm concerned. And I say that because, I mean, quite frankly I know I can get a job. I have had work, university, I've had some really high level senior positions in some places. So I kind of feel like without it sounding too much like hubris that if this doesn't work out for me, I know I'll get a job. Even if it's just flipping burgers, I mean, I'm gonna get a job somewhere, I'm gonna pay my bills, right? But a lot of the people that I have in my group come from places where that is not so. One of my amazing artists, Khadijah Kappid, she's from a community in Malaysia. And she, before Inkyverse, was in a community where, the community was living on 500 US dollars a month. And so she tweeted, and it still warms my heart, but this was last year, she tweeted about, how working with Inkyverse, she no longer feels exploited because what might seem like a marginal salary for us who live in the United States is enough for her to support her family and her workload has grown.

So now that she not only supports her family, but there is a community of artists that she supports. And then the last time I talked to Khadijah, she said, I'm moving out into my own apartment. So this is two years into this. So she's moved from, there's poverty, there's my family I'm able to support, there's community I'm able to support, and now I can live independently. So that is the most important thing for me. And sometimes that means the little bit of revenue that I'm making, which is not enough for me all the time to live on, I kind of have to trust that the Lord is going to provide for me because I have put someone else's needs before mine. I'm gonna trust that God is going to take care of my needs. I'm gonna be faithful with the little that he's giving me, trusting and believing that he will do what he said. Out of his riches supply all my needs. I feel like I'm being repetitive, but this is the truth.

MR: Well, if you're being repetitive, it's repetition that's worth hearing many times. I mean, as I was getting to know you just before this discussion and looking up stuff and reading and then now listening to you, you remind me so much of this amazing Psalm, Psalm 112, but I actually wanna read a little bit of this Psalm because I feel like you're living this. And it's just, I think it's so appropriate and also inspirational. So it begins, praise the Lord, happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty in the land. The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses. So there is that promise. It says they rise in the darkness as a light for the upright. They are gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with those who deal generously and lend. Now, you're also doing your business with that mindset, but generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved. They will be remembered forever.

They're not afraid of evil tidings. Their hearts are firm, secure in their Lord. Their hearts are steady. They will not be afraid. In the end, they will look on triumph, in triumph on their foes, which in your case are not the people, but are the foes of racism and inequality. They've distributed freely. They've given to the poor. Their righteousness endures forever. Their horn is exalted in honor. So I just... I feel like you're living into that Psalm in your business. And I just... I'm just grateful for that illustration because I think many, many Christians want to do that, but we don't know how, we don't know what it's like. And I also am just so impressed with the risks you have taken and are taking in order to live into this kind of commitment to justice in your life, trusting the Lord with it. So anyway, I just... I wanted to share that Psalm because I just keep thinking of it as we're talking.

LA: Does it speak to you, Katrina?

KM: I was just gonna say, thank you very much. You know, my prayer partner and I, we read through the Psalms twice, like from beginning to the end, every year we read through them twice. And it's always amazing how you can read a thing and have heard it over and over and over again, and then you hear it alive, like for the first time. And within the context of work, I promise you, I've never thought of it that way. And thank you for blessing me with just this words of affirmation. I really appreciate it because it is tough. I mean, last night I was crying into my pillow. "God, what am I doing? Am I crazy? Should I stop this? This is too hard. There is so much to do. I'm just one person. What was I thinking?" [laughter]

MR: Yeah, yeah.

LA: And what do you get? I'm glad you said that, because that's very relatable. [laughter]

MR: Yeah.

KM: What was I thinking?

LA: We don't want our listeners to be like, "Oh, it's all hunky-dory all the time...

KM: It is not.

LA: If you follow God into a new business, you're always flying high."

KM: Oh my God, no. I have to tell you, I have... This last year has been a masterclass in trusting the Lord with all your heart and not trusting your own ways, leaning onto Him. I can't tell you how much I cried [laughter] this last year and how many mistakes I've made and how many times I've fallen and how many times the Lord has had to pick me up and brush me off with so much grace and mercy, with so much forgiveness, and teaching me to be graceful and gracious and merciful and forgiving, because entrepreneurship is like, I don't know, walking into the dragon's den and saying, "I dare you to set me on fire." [laughter]

MR: Yeah, yeah. Wow, you know, so thank you for sharing that. I mean, it's really... It's kind of you to let us in and thank you, but also what you said about how you can read something a lot and never really see it. So the reason I got into Psalm 112 recently was exactly like that. I was in this group and a woman in my group was talking about her fear. And then she referred to that verse it says, "They're not afraid of evil tidings." And I easily am afraid of evil tidings. [laughter] I'm wired for that. And it just struck me so hard. So that's why that Psalm's been in my head. And then I learned about you and the things you're doing, but the connection in that Psalm, it's not just a lack of fear, but it's doing justice in all your affairs. And you are modeling that. And I think that connection is just so important.

KM: Yeah, you know, I hate it that being Black in America sets you up to not fear the everyday things of sort of like, I guess these small things like, insults and things like that. But it sets you up to weather the big injustices, the big sin things, you know, like so like of... I mean, every possible kind of slight, to be honest, and every possible kind of inequity and faith helps you to overcome those things in a way that I think gives you sort of a bird eye view. So it allows you to enter into, I think the pain and discomfort of living in this world and seeing the brokenness for what it is and still having hope. [chuckle]

MR: Yeah.

KM: I just was just thinking, man, like I am amazed. [chuckle] And I am so grateful to Jesus for, gosh, for calling me. You know, I know we all say this as Christians, like, "I don't know where I would be and I don't know what my life would be." But honestly, because of the times that we're in, because of the world in which I was born in and I guess the... And who I am in the world, I say that without any kind of... I don't know what the word is I'm looking for, it's not sarcasm or whatever, but I mean, it's very real, right? Like this is just who I am in the world. I can't get away from being Black. I can't walk into a room. And so all the baggage that comes along with that, particularly in this country, right? And what I've learned about justice is that you can't be afraid to enter into these hurtful, painful situations in love. Like you can only enter into them in love. It's not like... And you know, and Dr. King was right, hate cannot cast out hate. [chuckle] Fear cannot cast out fear. And you cannot... You don't get an opportunity to exercise justice unless you do so in love. And that actually always means confronting the person that hates you the most with the most grace.

MR: Yeah.

LA: I wonder if something that gets in the way of confronting people with grace or loving our enemies with grace is our own anxiety about God's provision, or just the anxieties of our day-to-day life. I mean, part of anxiety of provision is fear of other people. I wonder if it's easier for those who have agency and maybe less anxiety to be more confrontational in their approach to injustice.

KM: I think, yeah, I would say if you had more agency then you... I mean, you're awfully... You're a lot more comfortable, right? I would say if you have a lot more agency, you're comfortable because you know you have sort of a safety net, I would think. And you have the kind of built-in support that someone without it has. I mean, you're always given the benefit of the doubt, if I understand your question. Whereas if you don't have that, then you're fighting for space and the room. You're fighting to be seen. You're fighting to be heard. You're fighting for the agency to actually get into the fight to begin with. So I find myself in that position a lot. Here I am fighting for my illustrators and writers, but I'm fighting to be heard and to be seen, to be taken seriously. I'm fighting for justice and equality for myself while fighting for justice and equality for other people. And it's hard. It's exhausting. You want to talk about, you know, I would be lying to you if I said I walk around without fear and anxiety. I don't want to lie. I do have it. And, you know, I look forward to being on the other side of this journey where I'm in the second year of a startup and things are a lot more stable. I'm actually making a profit rather than just like meeting like the monthly expenses and things like that, or maybe not meeting the monthly expenses depending on how the month is, right?

And I look forward to being on the other side of it. Right now, I'm just right in the thick of it. And I have to believe that not only the sort of cliche that God is on my side and yada, yada, yada, but I honestly have to believe on a day-to-day basis that if God is for me, who can be against me? And that has to be like my daily mantra. In fact, my cousin, I talked to her this morning. I was like praying, "I'm a little bit nervous about doing this podcast." And she texted, "Don't forget if God is for you, who could be against you?" And I was just like, "That's very true, so let me pick myself up and get going here." But it's tough. I wanna be one of these Christians that stands up and says, "You know I started a startup and it was really hard. And then Jesus jumped in and hooray, I won. [chuckle] And that's my testimony." But right now my testimony is, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."

LA: I think I love that you brought up a Psalm and that Mark brought up a Psalm because Psalms are very like in the middle of the struggle. You know, how do we express ourselves when things are maybe not going our way? Psalms really emote in that way. And what I love about this conversation is you're really talking from the middle of your journey. And that's where so many of us are most of the time, like very rarely are you at the other side of the success story. You spend a lot more time in the middle of it. And it reminds me that calling is like not a one-time gig. You know, for one moment you hear a calling and then the rest of your life is smooth sailing. That's really a repeated saying yes to God's leading amidst uncertainty. And I love the Psalms that you both brought up because that's what so many Christians throughout history have experienced while praying Psalms. 'Cause they've experienced this in the midst of trouble and uncertainty and anxiety, God is there. Or maybe we don't see God there, but we can call on God to be there.

MR: Yeah.

KM: Yeah, I agree with that.

MR: You know, Katrina, you're giving us many gifts and us, not just Leah and me, but our audience. And one really is talking about issues of race and business and justice. And even though that's not a new topic, those of us who haven't lived that, it's important to hear and listen to the stories of others. And so that's a gift, right? But the other gift you're giving us, it's like you're sharing in the middle of the battle. Often, especially in the past, in faith work kinds of conversations, the featured speaker was always the one who was super successful. And of course you love that, right?

LA: The old dude. [chuckle]

MR: Well, it was. Usually a White guy. And I mean, he's giving credit to Jesus, which is good and but...

I was at an event like that. I wasn't responsible for it, [chuckle] but I was at this event. And afterwards this guy comes up to me and he is so angry. He says, "I am sick and tired of hearing this story 'cause this isn't my story." And he talked about the struggles and everything. So what you're giving is a real gift also to say, "Yeah, this is really hard and I'm relying on the Lord," because I know there are a whole lot of people listening to this who are saying, "That's where I am." And you're encouraging them to cry into their pillow to the Lord. There's actually [chuckle] Psalms that are like, "My tears have been my food day and night." So thank you. Thank you for your honesty about that because I know that's going to speak to people.

KM: Yeah, [chuckle] I wish it was different. I really do. [laughter]

MR: Well, I also hope that there's some people listening.

LA: We wish that for you too.

MR: I'm hoping there's some people listening and thinking, "Well, I should reach out to her business. Maybe I can... " Seriously. Right? And that would be a good thing. We don't do ads and all that, but there's got to be somebody out there who says, "I could use some of the talents that she's representing." So who knows? It might happen. If it does, we will be very happy.

KM: I would be very happy too.

LA:, that's where we want to send them.

MR: Yes, Inkyverse, which by the way is just a cool name. Inkyverse.

KM: Yeah, so I'll tell you how it came about. If you want to hear that really quirky story. [laughter]

MR: Sure.

LA: Please do.

KM: So I had this idea when we were doing our Cultural Renewal Project with Gotham, that when I think about comic books, one of the things that you do when you're a graphic illustrator, especially for comics, there are the illustrators, there are the line artists, and then there are the people who just ink. [chuckle] So if you ever...

LA: Just do the colouring in.

MR: Yeah.

KM: Yeah, well, there are people who are colourists too. But the inking is really important because it gives you the definition. Also, I was thinking that inking is a very technical skill. So I'll show you, for example. I know your audience can't see it. But so what I'm holding up just for these people to see is a very technical inked drawing where every line creates an image. And in this case, it's a woman whose face looks like a butterfly. But you can see every detail of it, the wingspan, her face, expression on her face. So like the thing that brings the illustration to life. So it's the thing that brings illustration to life that's the inking part of it, right?

And it's a technical skill. You have to go to art school, you have to go to design school, you have to learn how to do it. And inking traditionally has always been black ink. So I was like, "Ah, well, here I am a black owned company. So I'm going to call it inky." But then I wanted to create not just like a monument, but a movement that includes like the tech aspect of it, the community aspect, artists and illustrators talk to each other all the time. There's all these hashtags. Can you do this in my style? Do this in your style. So create a platform so that they can talk to each other and grow and learn from each other. Sort of create sort of a universe, if you will. And we keep hearing about the multiverse, the Marvelverse, DC verse. But I really wanted to create a verse, if you will, a universe where artists could get together and they could share common experiences. They could learn and grow from each other and also collaborate and also have work opportunities. So that's how that, again, so that's Inkyverse. When I was applying for the trademark, the guy at the State Department here in New York was like, "Where did you get the name from?" I was like, "I made it up. 'What does it mean?'" I was just like, "I made it up."

MR: Well, I love the history. I was just thinking it sounded really cool. I did think about the multiverse and other verses, but I had no idea of the technicalities associated with inking. And so that's really...

LA: I didn't either. I thought it was the same as coloring. I totally got schooled on that. And I'm glad I did because it gives me a different picture. As you were speaking, I was thinking like, we kind of live in an inkyverse. I think God kind of created an inkyverse where when we work collaboratively, we're able to generate so much more richness, so much more definition and vibrancy like the art image you held up. When we work together, I think that's the universe that God created. And there's something about this image of taking an idea and flushing it out in ink. That makes me think of humanity's role in co-creation or in recreating things from God's creation.

KM: Yeah, yeah. And it's fun to be a part of that. It's also, you know, lately in my Bible study, we've been really talking about what it means to be created in the image of God. And one of the things I love about what I'm doing now is working with all of these people who create all these amazing, glorious things from nothing. [chuckle] Like they literally create it from nothing. Like, "In the beginning, the earth was void and without form." That's art, right? Like you sit at the blank piece of paper and then you have to let there be light and bring forth grass and animals and whatever else, people. And then they have to create people who are doing things in this, you know, a metaphorical garden that they're creating, and then they shoot out into the world. I love that one of the things that I get to do is to sort of co-labor with these incredibly brilliant people doing this amazing work, and I get to see every day in my inbox just the beauty of that creation. No matter how quirky it is or epic it is or simple it is, like I get to participate every day and the creation story and the beauty of that creation story through these amazing illustrators and writers that I work with.

LA: I think that's a really powerful sentiment to close our conversation on because there's so much beauty and inspiration in that vision of co-creating with God, and it seems like it's a stark contrast to the image we had before of crying into your pillow, like, "God, this is too much. How can I deal with it?" And I think they're not really in contrast. They're existing both at the same time in the fullness of a life where you allow God into your work.

MR: Yeah, for sure. And there's another way in which you and your work are living into the image of God in you. So one way to do that is by being creative and making things. But what you're doing, very much like what God set up in creation, is creating a context for others to be creative and to express their creativity, which is also an encouragement for a lot of us who are not going to be creatives in the way that others are, but maybe we can create a context for that kind of creativity, whether it's in our households for our children or in our churches or our neighborhoods or our workplaces, schools. We can do in our own context a version of what you're doing, which is a version of what God did when God created.

KM: May I just say, I cannot draw.


MR: That's great.

KM: So I want your listeners to know that I am not an artist, but I am a communicator. And this is just an extension of that. But I love what you just said. And I just want to be quite... I wanna be very transparent. I don't want people to call me up and go, "’Can you draw this?’ because I'll send you some stick figures and I hope that works." [laughter]

MR: No, you're the one who allows those who can draw to have the opportunity.

KM: Yeah, exactly. So I appreciate you saying that. This has been an absolute delight. I have enjoyed chatting with you both this afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me.

MR: Thank you.

LA: Katrina Miles, this has just been an absolute delight for us. A deep, like a deep conversation, but also delight. I like that when both exist in the same conversation. Thank you.

MR: Yeah, Amen.

< Back to Making It Work podcast episode list