About 150 entrepreneurs and business women gathered for a night of enrichment and inspiration at The BOSS Network’s “Ladies That Lead Tour” series presented by Prudential, which featured the notable supermodel Beverly Johnson.
Cameka Smith, founder of The BOSS Network, a former Chicago Public Schools Administrator, made a tour stop in Houston on Wednesday night to connect women of color that are entrepreneurs and professional women who are in need of support and resources for their small businesses.
The boss herself, Smith, found that her defining moment was when she was laid off in 2009 from her Administrator position, which eventually opened up doors for her to start her own company and to create her own legacy, The BOSS Network. The moniker, BOSS, stands for Bringing Out Successful Sisters, which connects an online network of over 57,000 professional women. The BOSS Network was listed 5 times over the past 6 years in Forbes Magazine; with its first listing occurring 6 months after being founded at which time it was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Career and Entrepreneurial” sites.
Connecting ladies of color with other professional women online was a pleasure for Smith; however, she was inspired by her mentor to take her series that initially started in Chicago on the road.
“Meeting the women online was great, but I wanted to see them face to face and talk to them personally so that I can see what their needs are and how I can connect them with other influential people,” Smith said.
The Houston series, featured Dorinda Walker, director of multicultural marketing, Prudential U.S. Businesses, Dr. Simone Ellis, founder of Smile Design Studios, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, CleRenda McGrady, speaker, life coach and CEO of Project PUSH, and Deavra Daughtry, CEO of Excellent Care Management and founder of TWEF International. The series also included a sit down with model and entrepreneur, Beverly Johnson.
Every woman has a story, whether it’s a successful one or a failing one, everyone’s path is different but they both include the ingredients of trial and error. The women on the panel expressed what they found to be their keys to success and what brought them to this point in their lives as we know it today.
“I was once classified as an at-risk youth, my father died of AIDS, my mother suffered from drug abuse, and I dropped out of high school at the age of 16,” Walker said. “People told me I was going to be a victim of my circumstances, but God told me I have a better plan for you and I followed that intuition and it lead me into a totally different direction.”
Dr. Ellis’ journey was quite different from Walker’s experience. She came from a family who worked hard and challenged her to become nothing less than mediocre. Her father who introduced her to dentistry and her mother, a principal, encouraged her to follow her dreams of being a dentist as well as opening her own dental practice that is operated on a daily basis by women.
Walker and Dr. Ellis’ upbringing may have been dramatically different, but their road to success was same. They surrounded themselves with a diverse crowd, continued to believe in themselves and they never let go of their vision even when the road was getting tough.
A couple of strategies that McGrady, the wife of ex-NBA player Tracy McGrady, expressed were to always invest in yourself by finding a mentor or join organizations that can help you grow mentally and professionally; read books by leaders that you inspire you and your brand, and to always stick to your vision.
“Be flexible about the plan, but don’t tweak the vision,” McGrady said.
When Smith asked the question, “what would they tell their 25 year-old self?”, the entire panelist stated the same thing – have patience, take care of yourself and stay balanced.
As women we tend to wear different hats that stretch us thin, like working 10-12 hour days while taking care of a family. At times, we seem to forget to treat ourselves so that we can be refreshed to take on the next day.
Daughtry said she was all work for a while and forgot to love herself, but now she makes it a point to work hard and play even harder.
The ladies encouraged the audience to remain focused because once the vision is set in stone, the next step is to take a leap of faith and continue to pursue your dreams from the aspect of your heart.
The panelists are all successful in their own way. We may not get to see the ups and downs of their lives, but for the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine (Johnson), her life’s highs and lows were played out in front of the entire world.
Most recently Johnson, 62, has been in the news for stating that she was also a victim of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations back in the 70s. Just like she was encouraged to speak her truth about the Cosby incident, she couldn’t speak her truth without sharing about her drug addiction, losing her daughter in a custody battle and other poor life decisions. These truths lead her to being the woman she is today, a super model and an entrepreneur – a “modelpreneur” as she likes to call herself.
While growing up in Buffalo, New York, Johnson did not know what her destiny was, but she knew she didn’t want to earn little to nothing like her father did. She thought about being a lawyer, but didn’t act upon it. Instead she fell in love with modeling; a career that brought her fame and fortune, and with those two of course pain and mishaps are soon to follow.
Throughout her tribulations, Johnson did not give into fear. Her yesterday may have been disastrous, but she didn’t let that define her tomorrow.
“I am an introverted person, I used to force myself into uncomfortable situations so that I could learn and better myself,” Johnson said. “Now, every day I start at ground zero, no matter what my day was like yesterday I ask myself what are you going to do today.”
Today, Johnson is the owner of multiple businesses including her money maker Beverly Johnson Hair Extensions, a trendsetter in hair and beauty products. Johnson’s compelling story is documented in her upcoming memoir “The Face that Changed it All,” which will hit the bookshelves August 25, 2015.
“If you are going to do something do it now; there are no ends only beginnings,” Johnson said.