Lenora Wilkinson. Founder & CEO. The Wedding Soda App. Roosevelt University
EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference held last March 14 at Atlanta Technology Village. EnrichHER, founded by Dr. Roshawnna Novellus are local initiatives designed to help entrepreneurs with coaching, capital, and connections. In business, the saying is “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” EnrichHER Spark allows entrepreneurs to advance their businesses by making meaningful face-to-face connections with local leaders, investors, business coaches, and like-minded entrepreneurs.
According to Dr. Novellus, one of the biggest issues that women-led businesses face is access to capital. For this reason, InrichHer program presented an entrepreneur showcase that included a grant to a lucky entrepreneur with shared resources that will increase success of gaining capital.
Meet the EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference Finalist
Lenora Wilkinson . Founder & CEO . The Wedding Soda App . Roosevelt University Chicago (Masters of Integrated Marketing Communications)
What was your first job ever? Painted houses for the elderly.
Who were your mentors and icons that have influenced you the most and why? Christina Murray- she has mentored me for the past 3 years and has given me the best advice in helping me understand how as a woman of color to be taken seriously and make wise moves. In building this app my journey has been extremely emotional. I've been through a lot and I hate being emotional! Christina has always offered me a shoulder, but then told me to woman up at the same time! I appreciate that.
Cory Ruth- Cory is extremely plugged when it comes to knowledge in the tech world. He actually ran for Atlanta City Council last year. Coming from Chicago I did not know much about Atlanta Tech or the connections I should make here or even the steps to take and making my idea and actual reality and Cory gave me the guidelines and also key relationships that were needed to eventually bring this to reality.
My Pastor, Anthony Murray - Oasis Family Life Church & Oasis Atlanta. My Pastor is dope. He wrote a book 'what happens to your dreams'. I pretty much followed the steps in the book and ended up with wedding soda, kind of neat. On top of that my mental and emotional state and losing my father and just going through life starting over here in Atlanta... I never would have survived if not for Anthony Murray being there for me. The fact that he has thousands of members but still cares about and looks out for every one of them seems impossible to me but it's true.
My icon is Oprah Winfrey! This lady is amazing hurdles that she's overcome and the influence that she uses to change the world is so inspiring. When she wrote' what I know for sure' it was groundbreaking for me because she has so many stories that parallel mine from dating, to learning to say no to understanding true friendship. I honor her because some of the hurdles she overcame I will never have to. She also has allowed me to believe that if she can be great I can be great. I am forever thankful.
Lastly my mom and sis. My Parents were married 35 years before my.father died of ALS. I have always had a strong support system. My sister and Mom I now call 'my parents'. When I was down to my last dime about a year ago, I was giving up and ready to move back to Chicago. They wouldn't let me. Financially they both helped me stay afloat, and mentally they were the nicest kindest definition of family. I still stand in awe of the love that they have shown for me. I love my parents :)
When did you first realize that you were born to be an entrepreneur / business leader and what course of action did you take in terms of following that passion? Ok, I never realized that I was born to be an entrepreneur! Lol. I really just wanted to create a tool that would help the wedding team out here. I thought it was a good enough idea to make a reality, and I had made a vow to God to pursue every idea He gave me, without wasting them. So I went for it, and here we are. I can't believe that I actually have users to this day! It's kind of amazing.
Being an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse. We have to work 20 times harder and learn to sacrifice a lot to arrive to our destination. What advice would you impart to future entrepreneurs and to strong business leaders? Research, plan, be ready for delays, ask people for advice but - follow your own gut response. Endure, endure, endure. No matter what. Weddingsoda.com took almost 3 years to be a reality for me.
Leading a successful group is a challenge. How do you consistently inspire and motivate the team to extract the most optimized version of themselves to bring to the table? So far, I give the project, allow them to do what makes them great and when they present their project completed, I give them feedback. Yes this is awesome, or no I don't get it- let's revisit. I have found that allowing other people to be brilliant will make my product more diverse overall with peoples different views and knowledge combined.
When you have to put out a fire, what process do you have that's proven to be effective? Delete, take down, eliminate first, where no one else can see it or the fire can not spread. Then evaluate see what went wrong, find a solution, and rebuild with the solution in hand.
How do you decompress in order to keep that balance? My friends!!! I have awesome friends:) A phone call, dinner and laughs, or a crazy group text and convo is all I need to relax and realize - it's not that serious. Or a facetime session with my mom, we laugh every single time we facetime.
What's been the most gratifying business or personal role that you had that led you to be where you are now? Volunteering at Oasis. I volunteer as lead on the social media team at both campuses. It is the most gratifying experience. Directing the volunteers, getting to know them, learning new techniques, collaborating with our media director on content is just straigth up fun. I love it! Likes, followers, and comments for God is all the way what's up.
How do you define success? Reaching my goals with a sound mind and joy in my heart.
What's next for you? Well I need to grow my user base so that wedding soda can open the vendor portal. The more users I have the more appealing to vendors, so just getting the word out about weddingsoda.com is key for me.
Originally Published on WireTap Media. Interviewed by Maryan Aiken. Publisher. CityBox Media. PaperGlass Media. WireTap Media.
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