Today, Distinguished Young Woman LaShawn Reed-Kendricks runs her own business, Essentials 4 Success, which helps women turn their hobbies into sustainable businesses. She also founded its nonprofit arm, Success Her Way, in addition to serving as a leader of two local non-profits. However, her path to success was not a straight line.
LaShawn went from dropping out of her freshman year of college to going back to school years later and earning three degrees after having her third daughter. She then began working at COSE, the Council on Small Enterprises, and the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council.
With diverse professional experience and degrees in hand, LaShawn wanted to take what she learned and share it with other women in her personal and professional network to help them succeed as entrepreneurs.
“I always take something away” from those “amazing learning experiences” of sitting down and learning about the businesses women are starting, she explains.
One client launched a line of scrubs (and soon shoes and stethoscopes) drawing from her career as a nurse. This client is now turning around her own experience transitioning to business ownership into empowerment work for others to ask themselves “How can I leverage this [experience in healthcare] to run my own business?”
LaShawn proposed to some contacts that she wanted to do a networking event for 30-40 women. The women she was “rallying with” to organize the Success Her Way Summit encouraged her to make the event the start of a nonprofit enterprise (called Success Her Way) because they saw the potential of her initiative to be something bigger… a full day conference.
The Success Her Way Summit is now an annual networking and education event for woman entrepreneurs with panels, keynotes, and vendors. Launching the conference in 2016 really enhanced Essentials 4 Success at a speed she was not counting on.
Although her first summit was in 2016, she started her business as a legal entity about four years prior because mentors encouraged her to establish her entity “to be ready” for when she really wanted to start her own consulting. Now she is so glad she did.
Her speaking engagements have grown through the networking and platform that she gained through Success Her Way, subsequent networking, and last but not least, Steve Harvey.
Cleveland native Steve Harvey’s show invited LaShawn to be on a panel on an episode about business owners. Unbeknownst to her, an attendee from her first Success Her Way Conference had written the show multiple times about LaShawn’s example. The Steve Harvey Show started following her on social for about a year before inviting her to be on the show. Right before she left to travel for the show, the executive producer called to announce the episode was just going to be an interview, not a panel. She left, “super nervous.”
The interview was about women launching businesses and finding success. She explained to Steve Harvey, “Women don’t often see the real, true potential within themselves.” What LaShawn did not see is that the interview was part of a set-up in front of a live studio audience to reveal that she had won a new Ford Explorer to take her event on the road to empower other “Girl Bosses.”
She did take her show on the road and now has had speaking engagements as far as Houston, Texas and she plans to speak in Charlotte, North Carolina in September. She has also been traveling to other women’s events, like in Detroit and Indiana, to network and learn from them.
She even took her entire conference to Columbus in 2017 and is now planning her next Success Her Way Summit for October 6, 2018 at the Beachwood Embassy. According to Reed-Kendricks, the increase in speaking engagements has helped her grow her work more organically, instead of pushing herself into other markets, through meaningful connections.
Reed-Hendricks is a self-made woman, but she credits three women for giving her inspiration as the busy entrepreneur that she is: her mother, Oprah, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Her mother, Dawn Reed went back to school when she was forty to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees. As a child she watched her mother work in various positions through her life, asking for raises, being looked over in the workplace for not being male, and persevering through it all. She inspired LaShawn to know that “there’s no reason I can’t do it and get it done.”
Antoinette Whitt, who nominated LaShawn for the Distinguished Young Woman honor, said that one of LaShawn’s favorite quotes comes from Oprah: “There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It is why you were born and how you become most truly alive.”
Reed-Kendricks feels that calling Oprah refers to every time she is “able to work side-by-side with minority business owners to make that introduction to a larger corporation and see them elevate their business, take it to a next level.”
LaShawn admires Jada Pinkett Smith partially for her Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk. It features three generations of women in her family, with three different perspectives, keeping it “transparent, open, and honest… taking ownership of” whatever they are going through as women, LaSahwn explains. She loves that Jada “has grown and flourished as a young female actor, got married, and had kids, and not let any of these things stop her where she’s been going with her career.”
Beyond her own nonprofit, Reed-Kendricks is on the board at PLEXUS and co—chair of Women in NAACP (WIN).
Chair of the Supplier Diversity Committee at PLEXUS, she loves how PLEXUS has made a huge name in advocacy work and LGBT businesses connections, both with local resources and national resources. She thinks, “It is important to have a safe place” like PLEXUS to get business resources, whether you are an LGBT business or employer or if you are running your business as an ally to the local LGBT community.
Reed-Kendricks is proud that her WIN committee is 75 members strong and that they are a part of a national advocacy organization, as well. They keep their work local, through focusing on projects like meals and gift bags for women experiencing homelessness. WIN is looking forward to a special day of companionship and pampering at a senior citizen center in Wade Park soon.
July 21st, she and her husband, himself a construction business owner, launched a co-ed effort called “Boss Life” at the Tremont Cityside Ballroom that attracted over 130 business owners for peer-based education and networking about business challenges and solutions. (Before she planned this event she said guys kept asking her, “What about us?”)
When she is not busy supporting women and children in the community through WIN, diversifying corporations with PLEXUS, or running her own organizations, she is enjoying the restaurants in Cleveland. She says she is particularly excited about Boiler 65 on Detroit Avenue near W. 65th that specializes in seafood with “amazing seasonings and amazing atmosphere.”
To find out more about LaShawn, her work, and her social media platforms, go to: https://www.essentials4success.biz.