Legendary Rootz

Written by Raven Nichole 

Raven Nichole is the owner and founder of Legendary Rootz. The 24-year-old entrepreneur from Phoenix, AZ, who loves to create R&B and gospel music, graduated from Arizona State University. She received her degree in Biochemistry and became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.

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Prayer has helped me overcome the many obstacles that arose during my journey. I was raised in a church community and always felt constrained as a child. In college, I chose to step back and take time to build my own relationship with God. When I came back to church, I had a greater spiritual understanding that allowed me to make the journey my own – which then created the breakthrough I needed for my life.

At the beginning of 2019, although the brand was working, I felt the brand was not where I wanted it to be. I started to question if I made a mistake and should change my career path, perhaps go into tech. It wasn’t until one day where I watched a sermon about the time where Jesus was going to be crucified and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. That moment was significant; I realized if Jesus can go to God and just talk to him, plead to Him – why couldn‘t I? I began praying more, whether I was upset, grateful or needed to just have a conversation with Him. God knew what my vision was and only He could help me.

I always stand by this belief – there is a master plan over my life and everything is all about perspective; obstacles are small but they push me to keep creating. 

In the year of 2014 was the genesis, where I went through with the big chop process. We all know the saying “a woman who cuts her is about to change her life.” And trust me, I was more than ready to become the new version of myself. That transformation birthed Legendary Rootz – a platform that is near and dear to my heart. It all started with two simple mantras; “No You Cannot Touch My Hair” and “I Am Black History”.

Our exposure exploded when a Tumblr page shouted out the brand. People began to see the work we were doing and the heart behind the passion that the brand continues to serve. It was then that the business began to soar. Looking back, I had no solid plans to turn the business into the empire that it is today. I loved creating designs that spoke to me; people could read a shirt I designed and know exactly how I felt.

The platform has grown to what it is today simply because of the support of black women. 

We are what we are because of Black women. Black women who purchase from the brand always tag Legendary Rootz in their photos, they share the brand with everyone they know. They are really the ones who have made us who we are. Their word of mouth has been essential to the growth of Legendary Rootz. I’ve realized people DM’ing posts or sharing products with their friends have evolved the reach Legendary Rootz gives. Their influence and love for the brand have gotten dope Black women like Danie B., Chloe and Halle, Jackie Aina, and Cheyenne from Teen Mom to rock Legendary Rootz.

The evolution of the Legendary Rootz has been incredible.

 

While in college, I started listening to podcasts and where I discovered Myleik Teele, owner of Curl Box.

As a business owner, her podcast immediately captivated me due to her straightforward honesty and transparency. I used the tools Myleik gave her listeners like the psychology of colors and how potential customers should be able to walk down the street and recognize your brand. Myleik stressed being methodical with your business. With this, I made sure to use my creative skills in my designs and be more structured with my branding, customer service, and the administrative aspects of the brand. I quickly learned how important it was to think a few steps ahead in business and how it gives you more room to move and grow.

This was an important lesson that was attributed to what the brand looks like today, with over 120,000 supporters. 

Being able to provide a great life for myself is wonderful, but the best part is the great impact the brand has on black women.

Knowing that I can make other Black women feel empowered about themselves with the brand I created truly inspires me. With my designs, I want to empower Black women and allow them to one day embody confidence. Being able to reach so many Black women inspires me to keep going.

A few years ago my line sisters and I went to Flagstaff, Arizona where we had the opportunity to speak to a group of young women. A young girl came up to me and told me that she loves Legendary Rootz. She began to say that she purchased some of my items in efforts to help her sister. She was getting bullied and after gifting her some of our items she said her confidence grew. Knowing that my simple thoughts birthed a brand that can make someone feel better about themselves, more confident, more comfortable in their own skin… that is the reward. That is Legendary Rootz.

FOllow Legendary Rootz and Raven Nichole
continue to support black owned businesses and uplift the work of black ENTREPRENEURS 

Hawwi Edao

Written by Hawwi Edao

Hawwi Edao graduated from the University of Miami in May 2020 with a J.D., cum laude, and in 2017 with a B.S. in Public Health and a minor in Business Law and Health Sector Management & Policy. In college, she received a number of academic scholarships, was a member of the President’s List and the Dean’s List, and was named as a Civic Scholar through the Butler Center for Leadership & Service. She served as a Resident Assistant on campus, a Student Assistant with the Public Interest Resource Center at the School of Law, and a leader in Student Orientation and the College Council. During her time in law school, Hawwi was appointed as Class Governor by the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division and was 1 of 4 first-year law students inducted into the Honor Society of Bar & Gavel. Hawwi also interned at a civil rights firm that primarily focuses on prisoners’ rights, and she served as a student attorney representing kids in the foster care and dependency system. Hawwi is an incoming associate at Foley & Lardner LLP, an international law firm.

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My path to being a lawyer is a combination of serendipity and faith.

I would be lying if I said my childhood dream job was to be a lawyer, or that law school was the plan I set out when I completed high school. Instead, I went with the flow and learned to embrace the beauty of change on my path to law school.

UPBRINGING
I was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to the United States at a very young age. I spent my childhood growing up in Portland, Oregon with my two brothers, but I also knew that I did not want to spend my life living in just one city. Instead, I wanted to challenge myself in a new environment, learn about different cultures, and travel. 

I applied to colleges all over the United States.

When I was accepted to my alma mater, University of Miami, I never once considered visiting the very school (or even the city) where I would spend the next four years of my life before submitting my seat deposit. All I knew was that I felt called to be there and was prepared to experience something different. By the grace of God, I received a scholarship that made this opportunity possible. Looking back, moving to a city that I knew nothing about and did not know a single soul required a huge leap of faith. It challenged me to grow in ways I never expected, define my identity, and rely on God through times of uncertainty. 

The further you get out of your comfort zone, the closer you get to your purpose. 

Growth is hardly ever comfortable. Just like faith, growth requires us to jump without seeing exactly what lies below. In truth, it is in the midst of the unknown, in the unfamiliar environments, and through the mysterious encounters, that we find our true selves. 

EXPERIENCE IN COLLEGE
I spent my early years in college as a Microbiology major and was on a medical school track for the first two and half years of college. It was not until my junior year that I decided to go to law school. This decision was largely influenced by my experience taking elective courses “just for fun” that explored business law, health policies, and the criminal justice system. Simultaneously, I realized that I was miserable in my science courses and needed to recalibrate the direction of my career. 

I spoke with advisors, consulted family members, and prayed again and again for clarity. It all led me down one road – law school. Although I knew it was a risk switching my major during my junior year of college, and ambitious of me to believe that I could complete a different degree within two years while studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools, I did it anyways.

Career paths are not meant to be straightforward.

I knew if I wanted to be successful in the future, I had to make a change and have faith in the process. When I look back at how much uncertainty and fear of failure I felt during that particular season of my life, I can’t help but chuckle. God had greater plans for me than I could have imagined. In 2017, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Public Health and minors in Business Law and Healthy Sector Policy. Around the same time, I received a full-tuition scholarship to law school that honestly changed my life. 

LAW SCHOOL CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES
Oh boy, law school was quite the rollercoaster. Being one of a handful of black students in an academic setting was a feeling I’ve experienced my entire life, but professional school has a tendency of magnifying the “black sheep” feeling even more.  Maybe it had to do with sitting in classrooms that discussed the glaring systemic injustices of the legal system, the lack of black professionals I would encounter at networking events, or perhaps the culmination of all my experiences.

I questioned how I would be successful in a field where black women make up less than 2% of lawyers. 

It is no secret that the legal field poorly reflects society in terms of cultural representation. However, “why me” turned to “why not me” quickly.

I decided to go to law school because I wanted to have a seat at the table. 

The occasional self-doubt did not entirely disappear, but I learned to be conscious of my fears so that I could proactively challenge them. I found opportunities to network with black attorneys in my community, join multicultural organizations at my law school, and seek out mentors that inspired and guided me through my law school experience.   

I took this confidence into job interviews during the second year of law school. I received offers from multiple firms and eventually accepted a Summer Associate position at a V100 global law firm. For 10 weeks, I worked with exceptional lawyers across the country on international matters and built incredible relationships. This dream of an experience led to a job offer as a full-time attorney once I successfully complete the bar exam.

TRAVEL
The best thing I did in law school for my personal growth was to travel as much as I could. During my last semester of law school, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. As excited as I was, part of me was afraid to move to another country that spoke a language I couldn’t speak (despite living in Miami for 6.5 years ha). I had never traveled alone internationally, so I knew this experience would force me to step out of my comfort zone once again. 

I found me a cozy, little apartment just a 15 minute walk away from the law school I was attending. 

Outside of class, I spent most of the week exploring the city, trying the local cuisine (paellas are God’s gift to earth), and brushing up on my elementary Spanish skills at the local bakeries. On the weekends, I would plan trips with my new Spanish friends around Europe. From Italy to Portugal, France to England, and all throughout Spain, I got to experience parts of the world I never would have imagined. By the end of the semester, I visited 9 countries! Although my trip was cut short due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, those three months of my life were unforgettable. 

Life is truly what you make it. 

I could have spent law school tucked away in my favorite corner cubicle at the library all three years, but I wanted to experience life beyond the four walls of my comfort zone. Spain was the perfect opportunity for me to do just that. Traveling is a life-changing experience; if you have the means and opportunity to explore another country, TAKE IT.

You never know what experiences are lying at the other end of the plane ride. 

The next step for me is taking the Florida bar exam this summer and starting my career as a commercial litigator. I am excited to be a part of the 2% of Black women attorneys in America and even more thrilled to serve as a mentor for young women of color, like myself, as they navigate law school and beyond. Paying it forward is not only important, it is necessary.

Black women are capable, qualified, and powerful when we come together and lift each other up. 

This journey has left me with many lessons. Below are my top 10 takeaways from my experiences. 

  1. Step out of your comfort zone. Growth requires it. 
  2. Seek out mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  3. Be kind to yourself. Take a moment to breathe (it’s OKAY, I promise). 
  4. Set plans, but realize that the true quality of a successful person is flexibility. 
  5. Grow in your faith. God’s plans are greater than yours. 
  6. Self-Affirmations will keep you going. Remind yourself that you are capable and qualified, always. 
  7. Take a break when you need to. Self-care and mental health are a part of success.
  8. Be confident in yourself. You are made in the image of God. 
  9. Travel! Travel! Travel! We are the sum of our experiences. 
  10. Pay it forward!!! 

FOllow Hawwi and follow her journey here 

Grind Like a Doll

Written by Dolly Girma 

Grind Like a Doll 

Dolly Girma is a dynamic Houston-based lifestyle and fitness influencer. She’s a new mom to a beautiful 9-month-old baby boy and an owner of a fitness apparel label. She splits her time between being a mom and managing her business which is set to re-launch it’s new line in July 2020.
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Six years ago, a day after graduating from the University of San Francisco I packed all my belongings and moved to Houston, Texas.  At the time my boyfriend, now husband, had a startup business of his own and had asked me to join him in operating it. It was there early on I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship.

Anyone that knows me personally or on social media knows that I have been very transparent about my weight loss journey these last few years. Growing up, my weight/relationship with food played a tremendous role in my life. I always remember starting and failing countless fad diets and unrealistic workout regimes and feeling defeated. However, it wasn’t until 2016 while bouncing business ideas with a friend that I realized weight loss is like a new business, I can’t expect to see change and success overnight.

There is a quote I read some time back and now live by. “success isn’t overnight. It’s when every day you get a little better than before. It adds up.” 

It is basically a commitment you make to continually keep showing up and be consistent for the long haul. So instead of viewing my weight loss as a quick fix, I started viewing it as a lifestyle change with no end in sight.

I cut out all meat and dairy with the exception of seafood and committed to working out 5 days a week.  In a little under 2 years I had lost over 50lbs and in the process discovering a passion/purpose for fitness and a potential for building a business around it.

My fitness journey was initially a personal one, but honestly sharing my experience online really resonated with others and prompted me to consider expanding my goals to help motivate others to reach their own fitness goals. 

I started my business G.L.A.D (Grind Like A Doll) to invite women to join me in this journey as we work together to transform our lives through fitness and holistic wellness. The business had a mantra but now it needed a purpose; I wanted to equip women with the tools that would support them in their fitness journey. I started by publishing eBooks about my fitness journey, detailing the workouts and realistic dietary regimes I followed to reach my goals. G.L.A.D grew to provide fitness gear to women in the form of sweat belts, apparel, resistance bands and more. To my surprise my business picked up very quickly and in the midst of expanding/learning 6 months after launching, I found out I was pregnant.

I sat and asked myself how I could juggle wanting to be the best mother to my son while managing my growing business. 

After thinking thoroughly, I made the decision to step aside from my business and prioritize my growing family. At the moment, I knew I couldn’t commit to my fast-paced business while dealing with pregnancy and everything that came with it. It was a huge gamble I took, but I have always done things on my own terms and stepping aside felt like the right thing to do. And looking back it was the best decision I could have made.

The Ethiopian community I was raised in, to my lingering frustration, wasn’t forthcoming about the many challenges women face during and after pregnancy; an issue I have tried to rectify by being very vocal and honest during and after my pregnancy. To be quite honest, I really had no idea what to expect, from labor to breastfeeding I felt like I was thrown in without a life jacket and told to swim to shore as fast as possible.

I promised myself to be as transparent as possible on this new chapter of my life, in hopes to ease another mom’s journey and find a community of supporting mothers. 

In doing so it has helped me build personal connections with other mothers and find an authentic space to flourish in.


Using Instagram as a platform, I shared my process of getting back to my love for fitness after postpartum and it was one of the most difficult challenges so far in this process. I somehow thought my body would just bounce back and I get back to my old lifestyle/workout schedule and boy was I wrong. I basically had to rewind and start from the very beginning. To put it into perspective it took me weeks to feel comfortable enough to do something as simple as squat.

Almost 9 months postpartum i can attempt burpees and to my surprise i found myself giving myself grace and being gentle. 

If you know the old Dolly, she was entirely way too critical and was always striving for perfection. I realized giving birth to a human actually humbles you greatly with a profound new level of respect for what my body has grown, accommodated and accomplished. To grow in confidence is to understand that perfection is never the goal, understanding who you are and what you bring to the table by simply being you is more than enough. I am so in love and in awe of the new me and of course it doesn’t hurt that I have an amazing little boy who looks at me with eyes of nothing less than admiration.

After a hiatus, I am ready to return to my business full throttle with a new line and a new challenge of staying fit after pregnancy. 

Of course, 2020 wasn’t a year anyone saw coming and while I’m just thankful my family and I are safe and healthy, months of manufacturing delays and logistics issues put a big stall in my plans. But we are finally on track for the relaunch on July 17th and G.L.A.D is relaunching with a new 2020 collection that includes upgraded products as well as entirely new fitness apparel and equipment.

I couldn’t be more excited to continue to help my community reach their goals with all the tools and inspiration they need from G.L.A.D. I’m really looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring!

Follow Dolly on Instagram.
GeT Grind Like a Doll Merch and support black business here or instagram

Noahamin Taye

Written by Noahamin Taye

Noahamin Taye, a wanderlust, a creative, a woman who always challenges herself to pursue genuine love even through fear are some of the ways you can describe Noahamin Taye. No matter where she is, Noahamin stays true to her roots as a woman of faith, coming from a background as an Ethiopian-Eritrean American raised in the suburbs of metro-Atlanta. At this point of time, she’s a 24-year old art director currently based in Los Angeles, and also the founder of the IG blog: @brokebutmakeitbougie.

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I honestly believe it’s been my intimate relationship with art that’s supported me to where I am now.

Discovering my love and skill for art early on shaped a lot of my perspective. Especially when it came to adapting in different social environments, art has always been a way that I communicated and sustained/created confidence. I remember transitioning from private to public school, and bringing my sketchbooks to class as a way for people to start conversation or find some interest in me. It’s always been a way to get people to see me, and never failed me.

It was following my passions that’s gotten me to where I am now.

That process is never easy  because there’s a mix of doubt either within yourself or around you, and sometimes people who just flat out disagree. For me, there were a lot of people around me who were making practical decisions and compromising their dreams, and that never sat right with me. If it wasn’t for my mom’s faith and encouragement that this was “between me and God, I just need to trust in Him.” I don’t know where I would be.

My dreams and passions have always been so personal from then on.

Going to school out-of-state to Syracuse University, studying abroad and interning in Florence, Italy, and then getting to intern and live in NYC. I feel like for some people these things might sound expected based on the performance of work I put out, but honestly it was all faith. God met me where I was at, and simply provided.

As a first-generation student who didn’t come from wealth, I can’t tell you how many times I felt “not enough”. During my most challenging moments in school is when I started to lean on God more.

One of the prayers that changed my life was asking God to help me do my best, and that He’d simply fill in the rest. 

It was getting through school that gave my faith proof that it worked. So when it came to making decisions based off of my passions, that was easy for me. I decided LA was for me through a lot reflection, prayer and journaling. I moved out here to pursue my creative ventures in hopes of being an art director. It was literally by God’s grace everything worked out [because when I tell you the constant transitions that were happening… sis]. I started off sleeping on my aunt’s couch for like a month, working in retail, to then finally interning at an advertising agency which later hired me full time as an art director. 

About to reach year two in LA, and although life has been looking very “uncertain” in 2020. Mind you, I also recently got laid off. It’s been sort of a blessing, a redirection and push for my creativity and also an end to being passive.

2020 is really giving me the time to be still, to align myself even more with my passions, and to really fight for the things i believe in . 

I’m excited for what’s to come, and the change we are going to see. In everything,  I’m putting my faith and trust that God’s next move for all of us is bigger and better than we could have imagined. 

Claiming that part. 

Follow Noahamin’s project @brokebutmakeitbougie
and her personal page @noahamin

Shelby Clayton

Written by Shelby Clayton 

Shelby Clayton, a native from Atlanta, Georgia has made her way to the Big Apple! She is a Client Account Manager at Twitter in New York City. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism with a degree in Advertising and minor in Sociology. She began her career as an intern at ESPN. She also interned at the United States Tennis Association (USTA), UGA Athletic Association and the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

Shelby has been featured in multiple media outlets. Most notably, Shelby appeared live on CNN as a Generation Y panelist with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow, and Jim Sciutto. During her time on CNN, Shelby gave her perspective as a millennial on issues such as race relations and the Middle East crisis. Through this experience, Shelby has developed a passion to leverage sports and social issues to change the world. Shelby has also been featured in the Disney Professional Internships campaign, appearing on marketing materials for the highly renowned program.

At Twitter, she is responsible for collaborating with Fortune 500 advertisers to understand their objectives, recommend best practices, and develop effective campaigns. Previously, Shelby was a Programmatic Analyst at ESPN where she provided programmatic solutions to the Private Marketplace Digital Account Executives within the Customer Marketing and Sales Department.

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I will DEFINITELY say my experience was not the easiest path for me. 

However, I have always been the ambitious type that knew what I wanted to do since I was in middle school. I grew up wanting to work in the sports business industry and I crafted my plan to ultimately hit my goal. We all know things do not always go according to plan, and I had to be okay with that reality. Part one of my plan was attending the University of Georgia where I studied advertising and sociology. In order to gain the most out of my college experience, I took advantage of every extracurricular activity there was available. I mostly became involved with sporting activities like UGA athletics and sports associated clubs. However, I also had a passion for giving back, so I also participated in many volunteer activities around campus.

My time off-campus is what helped me the most for the real world. Each summer, I took the opportunity to intern at different companies which started before I even stepped foot on campus. My internships included experiences at the United States Tennis Association, UGA Athletics, the City of Atlanta, and last but certainly not least, ESPN. It’s always the dream to apply what you have learned in class to an actual internship. I was beyond blessed to have the opportunity to apply my knowledge and of course learn various skill sets, but most of what I attribute my success in gaining these opportunities is… networking.

I cannot stress that word enough because while my degree is essential to my career, getting to know people in the industry and learn about what they do is the key to success for your career. 

During my time at UGA, I attended and coordinated industry conferences and events that brought professionals in to do exactly that…. network with students. I had a chance to meet with many professionals either on a call or out for coffee and those professionals helped mentor me throughout my collegiate years. I appreciated their guidance and support as I was trying to navigate post graduate life. I truly could not have gotten here without the many people I connected with in college.

Each one of my internship opportunities allowed me to grow my resume and experience. While many of my internships were sports related, I enjoyed interning at places that were completely out of my intended industry.

Every job opportunity has transferable skill sets that you can utilize in any position, and it was important to me to make sure I had a diverse set of experiences to show future employers that I was well-rounded. 

It took numerous volunteer opportunities and even unpaid internships that also help propel my career.

With all of the success, I would not have made it to where I am today without the lessons I learned and rejection I faced along the way. There were college groups that I was not accepted to join and even some internships that I did not receive including at one time, ESPN. As you may have read earlier, I did end up interning at ESPN in New York City, but that came after finding the confidence to try again even though I was denied the first time around. I applied and interviewed for an ESPN internship the summer before my senior year. I thought to myself, “this was the DREAM internship before graduating,” so I really wanted to end out my college years strong. However, as I said earlier, life does not always go according to plan. I did not receive an ESPN internship that summer. I was disappointed and had no idea what to do next. I ended up finding a great opportunity with the City of Atlanta to intern with their special events department. I knew it wasn’t sports, and I thought that would deter my ability to gain a sports-related job after college, but after some great advice from my dad, I took the opportunity to improve upon my skill sets and learn a ton about city government. So if you ever need to host an outdoor event in Atlanta, I can help you out.

Now moving forward to my senior year of college, I did three things: I prayed, I studied, I prepared. I prayed that God would direct my steps as I figured out my first post graduate career move. I studied to make sure I would achieve notable grades, and I prepared for every single position I applied for. I researched jobs available, companies’ mission statements, and interview guidance to help land that full time job opportunity, every college students’ goal. However, remember that phrase… life does not go according to plan? Well again, my plans changed but ended up gaining that amazing internship at ESPN in NYC. I took that opportunity as a 10-week interview and after my time there, I gained a full-time opportunity with the Worldwide Leader in Sports shortly after my internship.

Bringing it all back to where I am now, I had a great two years of experience at ESPN in their digital and programmatic department. I met an amazing group of people that I still acknowledge as family. 

I am currently at Twitter as a Client Account Manager working with Fortune 500 companies by helping marketers achieve their business objectives on the platform. I am forever thankful for my time at UGA and ESPN. I would not change a thing about my journey.

I owe much of that success to willing to get out of my comfort zone, go for what I wanted, and allow rejection to motivate me.

I mentioned above, but I will emphasize some of my key lessons below:

  • Network! Network with industry professionals, professors, and even your peers (because one day they will be in a position to possibly help you)
  • People want to help you, you just have to put yourself where they are which is at networking and conference events
  • Research job responsibilities to ensure you are interested in the role
  • Lastly, prepare, prepare, and prepare for every interview. Know a company’s values, mission, the job position, etc.

What are some of the highs and lows you experienced?

Highs
  • Moving to NYC for my internship and exploring the city and all of its beauty
  • My ESPN internship in which we had a chance to meet John Skipper, former President of ESPN and touring the set, of course!
  • Transitioning to my new role at Twitter and training in San Francisco
  • Speaking at Twitter’s Global Sales Conference in San Francisco
  • Making a TON of new friends in NYC
Lows (which I would also called lessons and experiences that helped shape my present)
  • Applying for multiple internships and college organizations that I was denied acceptance
  • Moving to NYC not knowing anyone and trying to find a place to live — definitely a tricky one to accomplish!
  • Letting go of my home in Atlanta, but once I did that, I was able to fully enjoy my new home in NYC

I truly feel that this EXPERIENCE in New York City post college has helped me grow into the woman I am today. I learned to not allow adversity defeat me or let things I cannot CONTROL affect me negatively. 

It took a while to gain this confidence because I was thrown into an unfamiliar place very quickly and had to navigate the fast paced life of working in NYC. I am not longer held against mistakes I’ve made in the past and I can only look forward to the future. While I will always be the woman with a plan, I will not tie myself completely to a binding plan because … well you know by now…. plans change, ha. Looking in hindsight, I have enjoyed the journey thus far even with all the disappointments, adversity, and even personal struggles I have faced. I still have a long ways to go, but ladies, I am along for the ride.

I always loved NYC. It was a city of not just tall buildings and Times Square, but of dreams and opportunities. I always thought I would move to NYC at some point in my life, but that move came more quickly than expected. NYC houses major media companies, advertising agencies, and sports leagues. I wanted to immerse myself in a hardworking and diverse culture. When ESPN called me with my acceptance to the internship program, I knew my only answer was… YES! Do not get me wrong, the move was difficult as the New York City real estate is competitive and expensive, but I was able to be resourceful and found a great apartment in my desired area through an app (thank goodness for technology, right?!).

My first full-time role at ESPN was in a fairly new department and the position was actually brand new. I was a programmatic analyst that helped open new revenue streams for the company within the digital and ad technology space. It was a great role because I was able to interact with senior leadership and all of the sales teams around the country and even parts of the world. I was able to make that position my own and set the foundation of the role as it began to expand into revenue analysis and client solutions.

It meant the world to me to have a company trust me with a brand new role coming right out college. 

I was exposed to so many facets of the digital advertising business and helped arm the sales teams with programmatic training and offerings.

Transitioning to Twitter, I started at the company in July 2017 as a Client Account Manager. I am on the sales team working with clients on their marketing objectives and consulting with agency partners on optimizing strategies for their campaigns. I was excited about gaining experience in social and digital advertising. I think the entire office knew how happy I was to work at Twitter because they allowed me to share that excitement at Twitter’s Global Sales Conference in San Francisco.

Two weeks on the job, I was told I was going to speak, and I kid you not, I thought they meant another Shelby. 

But, sure enough it was me and I was extremely blessed for the opportunity to speak to 800 of my fellow tweeps around the world. I am continuing to grow into my role as I plan to be more involved in Twitter Employee Resource groups and other events. So really, I am just getting started!

I knew I was going to be one of very few African American women in the office when I entered the workforce. I was quite aware of that growing up and throughout my time at UGA.

I am proud to be an African American and proud to be a woman, and I wanted to make sure my IDENTITY WOULD not deter me from pursuing OPPORTUNITIES where I know I WOULD be the MINORITY. 

Advertising, sports, and tech industries are not the most diverse fields, but the fact that I had the opportunity to work in all three fields, I am able to pay it forward to other women of color who are interested in pursuing their dreams in each of those areas. One thing I want to point out is that I never forgot who I was. I maintained a professional work ethic, but Shelby never went away. That took time to understand that if you forget who you are at your core, your entire identity is diminished, which eventually affects your personal and professional life.

I embrace my ethnicity and gender and it’s important you find a workplace that does too. 

Find a place where you can bring your whole self to work because trust me, it will only make you that much more confident to succeed.

 
Social Media and Website
Instagram: @_shelbylena
Twitter: @_shelbylena

Yodit Gebreyes Endale

Written by Yodit Gebreyes Endale 

Yodit Gebreyes Endale, award winning Event Planner, has a passion for making her client’s dreams become a reality. With over a decade of experience, her kind, outgoing personality and ability to make her clients relax is what has garnered her a stellar reputation.

With her Ethiopian family roots, Yodit launched Favored by Yodit Events & Designs with the objective of designing stylish, seamless, multicultural weddings and events to fill the void in the market. Yodit and her talented team are best known for their creative ideas, impeccable attention to detail and ability to bring the best out of vendors to make sure everything runs smoothly and turns out beautiful.

Yodit and her one-of-a-kind work have been featured in various premiere wedding, lifestyle & entertainment publications. She believes that her success stems from the combination of blessings, passion, determination, and the ability to adapt swiftly to change. Yodit holds a Masters in Corporate Communications & Public Relations from Georgetown University & BA in Marketing & IT from George Mason University.

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In high school I always knew I wanted to have a career that allowed me to be creative and utilize my social personality. So when I decided to go to college, I knew I was going to major in Marketing in order to learn how to properly engage any product or service with a target audience.

Early on I interned and worked at companies like AOL/ Time Warner, Ketchum Public Relations, 93.9 KYS Radio which then lead me to become a Senior Marketing Executive at an award-winning international architecture design firm. By day I worked a 9 to 5 job and by night I was the creative planning force behind one of D.C.’s leading nightlife promotion groups hosting up to five events in a week at one time.

After years of building a strong reputation of executing high quality events through brand networking and relationship building, I decided I wanted to see where my talents could take me in a new industry – and that is what has led me to where I am now. 

Whatever you decide to do in life, don’t overthink it. Follow your heart and reject all negativity, thoughts of fear and insecurity. My advice to anyone with an idea for a startup would be to go ahead and just start it.

One thing I heard and has stuck is to remember that if your dreams are big, the work you have to put in is even bigger. 

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. When I first started my business I quickly learned you can’t plan an event by yourself and need to lean on vendors and sometimes even your family and friends when you can’t do something like setup 20 heavy tables in less than an hour. I now make it a routine to ask my peers that also run their own businesses for help trying to figure things out, which I realized a lot of people have trouble with as entrepreneurs. It’s totally normal to find yourself at a roadblock, whether it’s learning about taxes, developing a new website, or creating a new marketing plan. Nine times out of ten there is someone who can help you solve the problem. It’s so simple and it sounds so trite but it’s true. While there are always going to be your share of haters, majority of people want to see a good person be successful.

I think anytime you take the leap of faith to start a business, it teaches you a lot about yourself. 

Out sound of just planning events, I have learned so much about people, business in general and how to prioritize my time. One thing we all have is time and what we do with it is what sets us apart. I know that I want to leave a legacy of love and achieve certain things in life before time runs out so I think that has been a huge factor in the life I am creating for myself and those around me. Of all things, I believe my journey has shaped me to become a person who plans ahead and take the steps to get things done. My career path has also magnified that there is always time to celebrate all milestones big or small.

I always joke that I think event planning was in my blood when I was born. I grew up in a non-traditional Ethiopian household where my super social parents were always hosting people. Whether it was an intimate dinner with 5-6 guests or a house party; that was just a regular weekly occurrence in our household. And since I was usually the only kid present I was forced to help out around setting table spaces, lighting candles, serving guests, picking out music and making the house cozy which I loved to do.

Later in life, I would use those same hostess skills when I began throwing club parties with my friend when I was in college with our company, TALK OF DC, a promotions company that made its mark on the D.C. nightlife scene. After seven years planning high-profile nightlife and corporate events, I started getting a lot of people asking to hire me to plan their weddings and that’s when Favored by Yodit Events & Design was born.

When I launched Favored by Yodit Events & Design in 2012 it was a true labor of love and culture shock. After two years at an award-winning architecture firm, I left my comfortable corporate career to become a full-time entrepreneur and start my own business from scratch so I was definitely nervous to say the least.

But even when people thought I was crazy for leaving something so safe and secure, it taught me to ULTIMATELY learn to not be afraid of BEING uncomfortable and that no matter WHAT situation you are in  – bet on yourself and work your butt off to do it for yourself. Proving others wrong is just an added bonus. 

The entrepreneur journey is definitely not easy and still, some days, I feel like I’m figuring it out one day at a time, but thankfully I have a “CANT STOP, WONT STOP” personality and an amazing husband who doesn’t allow me to give up even if I wanted. So one piece of advice to anyone who is trying to become an entrepreneur is to find something you are truly passionate about and willing to outwork everyone on because early mornings, late nights and weekends might be a regular when you are starting out.

I have a deep love for the diaspora community. Being born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area has allowed me many opportunities to build and support others and vice versa because it’s like a Little Ethiopia away from home. One of the main reasons I started my event planning & design business was to help Ethiopians and Eritreans plan high quality special events and weddings. I honestly love that I’m able to make people’s dreams come true and save them time, money and the stress that comes from not knowing all the options out there and also support other Ethiopian businesses in the process.

Make sure to visit Favored by Yodit and learn more about her services and portfolio. 

Taylor Jordan

Written by Taylor Jordan

Taylor Jordan is an Atlanta native who turned a favorite pastime into a creative platform. Her Instagram food blog, @TayStarEats, is not only a place for her to showcase all the cool restaurants she frequents but also a place for fellowship and community in the name of food! When’s she’s not exploring New York City and taking pics for her blog, she’s studying at Columbia University where she’s pursuing her Masters in Health Administration. Professionally, her focus is leveraging technology to improve operations and the patient experience as well as developing culturally competent organizations. Prior to Columbia she worked at Emory Healthcare as operations analyst.
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Hey Ladies,

When Naome asked me to share my story about how I achieved all my dreams, I initially thought, “little ole me?!” and then shortly after, I realized I could share a few lessons I’ve learned and insights I’ve gained along the way.

While my story about my journey to living in New York City and attending one of the top universities in the world is one of triumph, it is just as equally one of failure, doubt and hard work.

This story really begins with me falling in love with New York after visiting for the first time to celebrate my 21st birthday.

After that trip, I began dreaming of living in New York. 

This was around my junior year of college so I was beginning to think about grad school and began looking up schools in New York City and found Columbia University. So, I applied my senior year and didn’t get in. And while I had an opportunity to return to my Alma Mater for graduate school, it was not what I really wanted to do, so I began looking for alternatives. Through God’s grace, I landed a dream job at Emory Healthcare where I worked for two years as an Operations Analyst focusing on leveraging technology to improve operations. About a year after working, I began thinking about graduate school again.

However, things were different this time. 

I had a good job, lived at home with my parents (saving up) and was living my very social, young black, professional life in Atlanta. Things were great, why mess it up? I had this mentality for a little while. I thought about going to school in state, applying to schools that wouldn’t be hard to get in or complete, maybe going to school part-time etc. All these thoughts were very comfortable and pragmatic. But deep down, a part of me wanted to take a second chance at my dream again. So, I began seeking counsel from my village; friends, family, coworkers, mentors and most importantly God, to really guide my decision. Some people told me to take the safe route and not chase my dream, because it was… well… safe. Who wouldn’t advise someone to keep living at home, make money and avoid massive debt? It made sense, but I took all the advice I received with a grain of salt.

Normally, I’m a very CALCULATED PERSON who listened way more to their head than their heart. This dream was on my heart so I had to ignore the naysayers and go for it. 

However, if I were going to try my dream again, there were things I needed to do and changes I needed to make. So, I began studying (hard) for the GRE, thinking about my essay, plotting on how to improve my performance so my boss would write a strong letter of recommendation, getting certifications, taking skill-building classes, and participating in extracurricular activities that I knew would make my resume and application stand out this time around. I’d like to add that I think a large part of my success was asking for help and leveraging my resources and connections to get where I wanted. I happened to know people at Columbia to give me advice on how to get in, I knew someone who knew someone in a high position in admissions (whether that worked or not, who knows), I asked my old mentor to look over my application and edit my essays, and maintained relationships with people I knew would write me strong letters of recommendations.

As you can see, this took a lot of work. I was in savage mode. I didn’t just proclaim a dream and then hope that the universe would work things out. I worked so hard for about a year to make sure I was doing everything on my part to make this dream a reality. The saying, “prayer without works is dead” is real.

When you want something, you need to be working everyday towards that goal in some way. Every single day. Your dream requires it and DESERVES that attention. 

After submitting my application, then came the waiting game. Even though I felt confident about my application, during that time, I was worried sick. I was so stressed and just anxious. I wanted this so bad and had one shot. But then good news, I got an interview! A couple of months went by, and then the big day came, and I found out I got in! I cried and cried, I couldn’t believe it. I, got into Columbia!  All my hard work paid off.

BUt what I quickly realized was that God’s timing is impeccable and when you trust Him, He will make all your wildest dreams come true. 

Two years earlier, I would not have been prepared to go to Columbia mentally, spiritually, financially, or socially…. or maybe I would have been. But this time around I had perfect work experience that made me an ideal candidate and would later supplement my education. Many of my closest friends moved to New York. I saved up 2 years of living at home so I could afford to not work during school. I received $50,000 in scholarships and my faith was stronger than ever before.  All of these circumstances were vital to the success of this huge life transition.

While I was worried, stressed and anxious during my waiting period, my coworker gave me a great book to read called “The Alchemist”. I recommend you read the book no matter what journey you are going through because it provides great insight into self-discovery and how dreams come to fruition. A quote from the book that really stuck with me goes, “When you want something, the whole universe will conspire to make it happen.” Remember that, believe that.

What is for you will never pass you by. Never. You can never mess up God’s plan for you. Trust me. 

Coupled with my faith, I also wrote out all my dreams and put them in a little prayer box I received for my birthday the previous year. I wrote out everything from high GRE score to get into Columbia, get into Columbia and receive scholarships to pay for Columbia…very specific prayers and they all came true. It was incredible to see me checking off the things in my prayer box. Literally everything! I think sometimes you need to physically see your goals and dreams because it makes them seem achievable.

Leaving my job, my family and my friends was hard and risky, but the reward of living out my dream was worth it. God always provides. I still sometimes step back and think, “wow I really live in New York freaking city!” and attend my dream school. It still amazes me that I’m here in this very moment. I am so thankful and take none of it for granted. And while last semester was challenging and I know there are ups and downs to come, this is still the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I look forward to continuing growing, learning, and loving during this new chapter of my life. 

I’m truly happy. 

Now that I’ve rambled on about my story, I want to leave you with tips to make the impossible, possible:

  • Believe in yourself for you are capable.
  • Take a leap of faith. You may fall, but you may fly.
  • Work towards your dreams, I mean really work. After all, you want them to come true right?
  • Seek and value the opinions of others but in the end, do what’s best for you. You will always know the right answer.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people, people who believe in you, and people who will be honest with you. You will need their support.
  • Sometimes, worry about the logistics later. It will all work itself out.
  • Just because something doesn’t happen when you want it to, doesn’t mean it will never happen, it may just look different, or come at a different time. Be patient.
  • Trust God. He will never leave or fail you.

Hope this helps. Keep Going. #BlackGirlMagic

-Taylor

Make sure to check out Taylor’s Food Blog on Instagram @Taystareats. 


Morgan Pitts

Written by Morgan Pitts 

Morgan Pitts is a twenty-something native of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She relocated to New York City about three and a half years ago where she works as an eCommerce sales specialist at a luxury fashion house. Morgan is also the Creator-in-Chief of her brainchild, Black Girls Who Blog. Faith, family and fun times (usually involving food) are fundamental to making her world go round.
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I am someone who truly believes that everything starts in the home. 

I was raised by loving and supportive parents who made (and continue to make) it their lives’ mission to ensure that my older brother and I wanted for nothing. I consider myself a pretty confident person, and I think that I have my mom and dad’s affirmations to thank for that. Outside of my household, I think that growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland (the most affluent, African-American area in the world) contributed to me having such a strong sense of self and inclination for excellence specifically as a black woman.

While my parents set me up for success, I definitely had to work hard for my own personal achievements from academic to extracurricular (and now, professional). Work ethic and self-discipline are qualities that I do not remember acquiring; I feel like they have always been there. Despite growing up pretty privileged, I was rejected and denied from lots of opportunities (e.g. acceptance into my dream schools for college, jobs that I applied for the first year and a half after undergrad, etc) that have helped build character and humility. I am not a procrastinator because I prefer getting things out of the way and do not like being stressed. I also have this thing where I want to live the same kind of lifestyle if not better than I was raised.

I have learned over the years that while so much of what your parents said or did while you were a kid makes sense when you mature into an adult, they are not right about everything. 

You must follow your intuition on certain things that they may not quite understand or agree with, which will sometimes turn into you proving them wrong. They are still human beings who are learning and growing as well. I have also come to realize that so much of how people treat you has to do with how they feel about themselves versus how they feel about you.

Black Girls Who Blog is an online platform that unites black women bloggers.

It was built unintentionally by tweeting into EXISTENCE that I wanted a t-Shirt with the saying on it. It has meant purpose for me and a resource for other women. 

Glossier is a brand that I love and use multiple times a day in my everyday life. It has really introduced me to the world of skincare as a whole. Prior to Glossier, I didn’t really have a formal regimen.

Because I vocalized my love for the brand so much on social media, I was chosen to be a representative. 

This pretty much means that I keep doing what I have been doing (although there is no obligation to promote) and earn commission when people shop through my link.

I have had a positive experience as an African-American woman in fashion, but I have friends who have not. I have been blessed to be in spaces that I could have only dreamed of; it is still kind of surreal when I think about it. I would like to see more African-Americans in roles of leadership in my field, especially in terms of those who are not just creatives, but also executives who run the business.

I have grown both personally and professionally because I am less afraid to make mistakes and ask for help. 

Social Media Handles: 

Twitter@cosmorgpolitan

Instagram@cosmorgpolitan (personal) and @blackgirlswhoblog (community) 

Brittney Winbush

WRITTEN BY Brittney Winbush

Brittney Winbush is a serial entrepreneur currently following her dreams in Brooklyn, New York. Between acting classes and preparing for her latest project “Alexandra Winbush” you can find Brittney on a plane – wining and dining her way through a new city.

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In March of 2014 what seemed like a dream quickly became a nightmare. My barely conscious body being dragged out my room by my dad as flames engulfed my room.

It was the tail end of Spring Break and I just returned home from a trip to Vegas with my parents and best friend. We got back to the house around 10pm and by 12am our house was burning to the ground. My house was in Southwest Atlanta, a little under two hours away from where I attended college, The University of Georgia in Athens, GA.

I struggled in college. Tests were never my strong suit and I always felt like my creativity was limited by the cookie cutter system of college. I spent the second semester of my freshman year applying for fashion schools in New York and California because I didn’t feel like I fit it in with my student body. Though I had friends and a social life, I still felt like an outsider. I had gotten into every fashion school I applied to but reality sunk in, I could not afford to uproot my life and neither could my parents. So I had to bloom were I was planted but that took time.

My displacement turned into anxiety and my anxiety turned into depression. 

And my depression turned into twice a week visits at CAP’s – our University’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services center. But more than anything…. it all turned into 1 hour and 45 minute drives home to Atlanta every week to escape. I took 8 am classes with full schedules on Tuesday and Thursdays, got a job in Atlanta and spent Thursday – Monday back at home – in my room. In my comfort zone.

I remember standing in the driveway of my house watching the my room explode – there was a BOOM and my entire room flew up in flames, the glass of the windows broke and I saw my comfort zone burning right in front of my eyes. All the progress I had made in CAP’s was burning right in front of my eyes.

Reality sunk – in where would I go now – how could I escape? 

Time passed and I tried my best to find my normal groove. From the outside, I guess it all appeared to be okay. No one even brought up the fire anymore. I don’t know if they had forgotten or found that it may be triggering to me. Either way life went on and on – the ups and the downs of it… just continued. Business as usual.

I looked for new outlets – in people, in clubs at school, in solitude with myself. Nothing cured the emptiness I felt but every day it got a little easier to bear. I couldn’t just be depressed because that wasn’t fair to my dad who saved my life or my mom who continued to help make life normal. It wasn’t fair to my 20-year-old self who still had so much life to live.

I was the phoenix that rose from the ashes. God has a plan and a story for me. 

It was time for me to learn to be okay alone. It was time for me to find beauty and joy and peace and happiness in my moments of solitary. It took time, years… but here I am now.

I found comfort alone when I would play my favorite music and light a candle as I laid in my bed sipping tea or sank in the tub with a candle lit bath.

I would cry – that was therapy for me to let those same tears run down my skin and wash me clean. There was beauty in it all. There was beauty in me. 

It is 5 years later and I excited to share this part of me that God had been working on that I couldn’t see then but I know now.

I present to you, Alexandra Winbush. 

A collection inspired by the calm in the mist of the storm, a collection that is reflective of where we all were while also celebrating where we are headed. A collection that will evoke memories, emotions and most importantly peace.

Whether you are alone, around a friend, or with a lover – this is a reminder of how we rise. 

Alexandra Winbush sells scented candles with messaging to evoke a mood, paired with fresh tea leaves, each purposeful in nature and lastly each set comes with a playlist for an overall captivating experience that can carry you throughout the day.

Alexandra Winbush wants to give back to the community by working closely with mental health awareness programs and events to help young adults RECOGNIZE and learn how to deal with mental illness. 

Find incredible candles when you visit Alexandra Winbush. Support Black Businesses and take a look at all of Brittney’s hard work and Passion. 

Aaron Thompson

WRITTEN BY Aaron Thompson 

Aaron Thompson is currently the Assistant Director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a native ATLien, and likes to upload videos on YouTube in her spare time. She is currently reading “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey and loves to binge watch episodes of “Fixer Upper” on repeat.

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I feel like God has led through me so much in my entire life. All my mistakes and all of my hardships were lessons – and I know that sounds so corny, but it is so true. I have been turned down for jobs when I made it to the final round, I have been in relationships I thought would last forever, but they seemingly did not.

All of the times I felt like, “God, why me” – He was pushing me into a better tomorrow.

I just couldn’t see it at the time. Every day of my life moving forward,  I try my very best to know that my experiences today, whether good or bad, are always a lesson. Figuring out what the lesson is the challenging part!

The lessons I learned that are most striking in my mind at the moment are that you cannot fix anyone, and as you grow older, it’s okay to let some of those relationships go. I have lost many friends over the years. People grow apart and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I felt guilty when I grew out of people, but sometimes it is a necessity for your own light to shine.

My journey has made me truly independent. I feel like I do not need anyone but my family. I am so strong and wise. I have been figuratively beat up and kicked, but I never stayed down for long. My tenacity is something I absolutely love about myself.

When I want it, I get it. 

School has been such an instrumental part of my life. I went to a multicultural elementary school, to an all white, Catholic high school, to a historically black college, and then back to a very diverse graduate program. I have seen it all. It feels good to say I have a master’s degree with NO DEBT, and that I will be pursuing my doctorate as soon as possible. In the field I’m in Student Affairs, a terminal degree is a necessity to climb the ladder. One day I want to be Dean of Students or Assistant Vice President of Student Support, and I know my education will be the foundation I need to get there.

Finding what I was good at was hard. It was not easy AT ALL. I went to college and got an education degree, graduating in 2013. I took a year off in 2014 and decided to continue and get a Master’s Degree in teaching. Once I got in the program and started my student teaching, I absolutely hated it and I thought to myself, “What have I done?” I took an entire year to figure out what I wanted, and I still was not happy. However, I got an assistantship, a job on campus where they pay for my tuition, in the Dean of Students Office, and this is where I found my love for higher education and Student Affairs.

Going back to my earlier statement of asking god, “Why me?” He knew all along I was meant for higher education, I just didn’t know it at the time. 

And even after I graduated from my master’s program in December 2016, it took me 7 months to land my first job, all the way in El Paso, TX at that! I have learned to be patient, and know God is always with me and always has His plan.

My YouTube channel, TeAmoAaron is for me. I started it in October 2014, and it really is a place just for me to express myself. It’s like an online diary. I am so happy with the progress I’ve made, and it has made me so confident in myself. I love interacting with women online, and that’s the true reason I do it.

I want to be a light in someone’s life-like so many YouTubers have been for me. I want to inspire and encourage young girls to know that it is okay to be yourself! Because I did it. because I went to college. because I went natural. because I got a master’s degree. because I PRESERVED through my times. I want them to know they can do it too. 

I think going to an amazing historically black college changed my life. I saw so many gorgeous black women with natural hair that it made me want to embrace who I really was too. They inspired me so much and they’ll never know how much that meant to me. But I never thought of myself as someone with a “brand”, it sounds really cool typing it! I think I have been myself, and people just gravitate towards that for some reason. It is so much easier nowadays with social media and YouTube to find people who look like you and be inspired. That’s all I ever wanted to be for others. If I never get one more follower, I know that I did my job by touching the lives of so many thus far.

I love being a black woman. there is nothing like it in the world! I love seeing black women support me. sometimes I just cry to myself at all the support. it is a beautiful thing to see.