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Community Highlights: Meet Nan McKay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nan McKay.

Hi Nan, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am the Founder and CEO of Nan McKay Connects LLC, a media, training, and coaching company producing videos and podcasts focused on empowering women to reach their highest potential. Having started six businesses, one of which currently has over 2000 employees, I am well versed in the entrepreneurial journey. Focusing on women over 50 who want to start a business, NMC produces a podcast, TrailBlazers Impact, and a YouTube channel, TrailBlazers Impact Interviews. The TBI series features women with stories to embolden other women to create their own self-discovery stories. TBI features women over 50 saying, “Enough is enough!” who moved forward to live their passions and purpose and bridge from dreams to action to own their future. I am now creating many resources, including a book coming out soon, Gold in the Golden Years, and several courses, plus many how-to resources. My website is

Nan McKay and Associates

After working for housing authorities for 17 years, I decided to start a business, Nan McKay and Associates, in El Cajon, CA, doing what I knew best, with speaking engagements and seminars around the country, teaching subsidized housing staff how to administer the HUD housing programs within the regulatory compliance environment.

I founded Nan McKay and Associates in 1980 in the basement of my house when women couldn’t get a credit card in their own name. We had to have the backing of a man. That business is still in operation and, under the leadership of my son for the past decade-plus, NMA has grown to over 2000 employees.

NMA specializes in providing the largest affordable housing program administration in the country, encompassing the management of over 100,000 subsidized housing units nationwide. NMA is the largest provider of organizational development, consulting, and training to both public and private federally affordable housing sectors with offices in ten cities. NMA is a leader in the disaster recovery area throughout the U.S. and its territories. I am President of the Board of Directors for Nan McKay and Associates, still located in the Gillespie Park Business Center, 1810 Gillespie Way, El Cajon, CA.

Nan McKay was selected as 2019 California Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2018 San Diego Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners.


I had had 17 jobs by the time I was 24, working my way through high school and two years of college. My first job after that was a flight attendant for American Airlines. Since you couldn’t be married, I left that job after a year or so. My real career experience began when I went to work for my first housing authority. I knew nothing about housing authorities. I simply needed a job. I started as a secretary and, over 17 years, worked my way up to Executive Director of my third housing authority. At the time, 1972, you could count the women Executive Directors on one hand.

With my first housing authority, I learned the ropes of neighborhood rehabilitation, federal projects, and administrative assistant work. My then-boss gave me extensive opportunity to learn, and we established a department within the agency and opened numerous site offices. When he tried to promote me to the role of Administrative Assistant, I interviewed before the deputy director of the agency and, even though he acknowledged I had been doing the work, he told me he could not give the Administrative Assistant job title because it was, after all, the Rehabilitation Department, and that was a man’s job. A new job opportunity was presented to me, and I left the agency to go to another agency.

Serving as Assistant to the Director in the second agency, I again had a boss who let me explore and learn. I learned subsidized housing and urban renewal by studying under Executive Director. I was promoted to Assistant Executive Director of the agency within a year, but he had to put his own job on the line to get the Board to approve a woman in the job. Truly, I owe my housing career to that director who gave me the opportunity as a woman to prove myself at the executive level.

I was responsible for the relocation of the elderly and families who were displaced by an urban renewal project. Working with the community on how Concord Street could be rebuilt, I relocated the families but found the elderly were difficult to rehouse.

I prepared an application for an elderly high-rise housing of 132 people which received funding in 1968. I put on my hard hat and supervised the design, construction, and occupancy of the building, and managed the building for three years. The South St. Paul Commissioners named the nine-story building after me the Nan McKay Building.

I also began to explore the federal level and assisted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development staff in writing the Business Acquisition and Relocation Guide used by cities around the country.

I was contacted by another housing authority who liked what we had done and wanted their own high rise. By that time, I had two children and thought taking on another project part-time would be interesting. I compiled the legal documents necessary to establish the agency to become eligible to receive federal funding and operate affordable housing programs. I served as the first Executive Director of that agency.

I supervised the preparation of grant applications which were funded to construct and/or rehabilitate housing for the elderly and families. The agency constructed high-rises for the elderly and disabled and single-family, townhouse, and low-rise multifamily properties for low-income families. This agency was one of the first agencies in the country to receive funding for the Section 8 Certificate/Voucher Program for the elderly and families.

We also applied for and received HUD funding for Community Development Programs on behalf of the County. The Community Development programs included constructing a human service building and purchasing and rehabilitating a shelter for battered women. The programs also included the construction of sidewalks, sewers and gutters, and other projects.

We obtained a historical status for the Dakota County Courthouse which allowed it to be rehabilitated and used both as a historical site and county offices. We also applied for and administered rehabilitation loans and grants for homeowners and funding for weatherization of homes in the County.

Under my direction, this agency received a National Association of Counties Award. The agency was selected by HUD as one of the 13 outstanding housing authority programs in the country. The Dakota County Commissioners named a family housing development after me, McKay Manor, in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

I served on the Board of Directors of the National Leased Housing Association back then and still do. I served on the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) and was on the National Housing Committee, VP of the region, and President of the state chapter.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
LOL – Has there ever been a smooth road for any business or any personal life? I doubt it.

My biggest struggles in the early days always revolved around being a woman in a man’s world. I either learned to work around it, left and went elsewhere, or bulled my way through it. Today, I don’t encounter much discriminatory behavior toward me, probably because I’m not challenging men in their roles. Or maybe I’m just old enough that I would laugh and/or ignore it if I encountered it.

I think the biggest struggle in running a business is that in-between stage when you aren’t producing enough revenue to hire a manager to oversee the operational/administrative side of the business when you are out making the money (I traveled 40 weeks a year for 30 years.)

When you are also raising children, it’s hard to be all things to all people. With all my travel, I missed a lot of birthdays and school events. Fortunately, I had a husband who picked up the slack at home. This was in the 80’s and the 90’s when most men weren’t secure enough in themselves to take that role.

And I would say, “It’s lonely at the top.” Today, women have mentors and coaches. Back then, you did it yourself and lived with your choices. Good or bad.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I chose this business because it is the most relevant for today. I simply wanted to do something more with my life. When you “retire” you sit in your nightgown and sip coffee at 10 AM because you looked forward to this moment for years. That lasted about two weeks. Then you try golfing, shopping, and lunch. Boring. Then you try volunteering. But when you are an entrepreneur at heart, you start searching for something to do that will make a difference in other people’s lives.

I founded Nan McKay Connects for that reason. I started with a podcast called TrailBlazers Impact. I went on to found three additional podcasts but realized I needed to focus on one. I have now interviewed over 225 women and present their stories on a podcast, a YouTube channel, and my website. I seek out women with varied and extraordinary achievements to interview who want to make a difference for the women coming up behind them. I have stories of women of all ages and backgrounds, role models for other women, saying, “If I can do it, so can you.”

What I realized is that I needed to offset my expenses and needed to start making some revenue. I have written a book, Gold in the Golden Years, focused on women over 50 who want to start a business and make their own gold. The book has an exploratory component about whether entrepreneurship is right for you and what business to choose as well as a how-to blueprint on what you need to know about starting and running a business.

I have now written a course which follows the book and includes an Action Plan Workbook and a course called”Is Entrepreneurship Right for You? I will write more. I am also writing Blogs and developing a Resources page on my website.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
Risk taking is a factor of any business. However, how you approach risk taking matters. I think your personality type affects how you approach risk. I am a High D on the DiSC profile which means I am more likely to take risks than others. The downside for the High D is they do not like tedious research. Therefore, it is easier to take a leap faster and possibly regret the quick action because it isn’t as well thought out as it should be. Conversely, a High C will over-think and over-research the potential which can greatly delay both the decision and the action.

The biggest risks I have taken have been about starting other businesses. I would advise research and business planning before jumping in with both feet. I didn’t always follow this advice. And I lost some money because of it.

Risk taking and decision-making go hand-in-hand. Decisions sometimes need to be made fast which intensifies the risk. If time is a primary factor, fast decision-making may be necessary. If trust is a primary factor, more time should be taken. The consequences should be weighed, regardless. When you have employees, the consequences of a business decision are more far-reaching.


  • Podcast – free
  • YouTube channel – free
  • Book – $27
  • Gold in the Golden Years Course $997
  • 6 Steps to Discover Entrepreneurship $97

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