To have hope means to have a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. In this series, we are highlighting women who possessed hope and trust that the desires of their hearts would happen.
Michelle Harris Jefferson, better known as “HJ” is a Henderson, NC native. She is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of NC State University and the author of “What doesn’t kill you” a memoir, which details her own life’s struggles with poverty, mental health, and her journey to overcome trauma despite the odds.
She is the owner of WhyWe LEAP Consulting, LLC a firm that focuses on helping individuals and organizations operate through a trauma-informed lens. She is a mother and wife who speaks at conferences and events and conducts professional development far and wide while currently serving as a curriculum facilitator for Guilford County Schools.
What Inspired your start in entrepreneurship?
There are so many things in my life that have pointed me towards entrepreneurship. Struggling to find my place as a black, woman from humble beginnings, I learned a lot about “the way the world works” like a little black girl at a predominantly white institution of higher education. One of the main lessons I learned was that trauma doesn’t “just heal” and that the world doesn’t have a “traumatized only” section so I engaged in a lot of self-education around healing enough to be functional and find success as a young adult.
After graduating top of my class from a major university, I began my career as an educator in 2010. After serving in the public school sector for over a decade, I discovered the impact that adverse childhood experiences can have when they go unchecked. I had seen it in myself but seeing other children and adults struggle to “do life” while carrying trauma made me ever aware that the impact of trauma is both pervasive and unchecked. I knew I had to do something to break the cycle of accepted suffering!
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get where you are today?
As an entrepreneur who serves people, I have faced many obstacles. The first of which was my own confidence as a new businesswoman. I had to really do some inner work in the beginning. We can be our own worst enemy in the beginning stages of any journey. Over time I had to learn to trust myself and the process. One of the beautiful byproducts of that battle was the publication of my memoir in July of 2017, What Doesn’t Kill You: A Memoir which details my trauma. It was both painful and liberating but oh so necessary for the release of the shackles which kept me from walking in my purpose for so long!
In addition to fighting my own demons, I also had to learn to push past the naysayers, particularly the ones masquerading as friends and supporters. I had to learn that when walking in my purpose, I had to be comfortable with sometimes walking alone.
What message of hope do you have for upcoming entrepreneurs?
If I could share any message of hope with you today, it would be to hold fast to your dream. I believe that we are all born with a purpose. Some walk in it. Some hide from it. Others run from it. But in the end, we must embrace our reason for walking this Earth. Despite my past traumas, neglect, molestation, mental health struggles, and doubts one thing remained; I was designed for a purpose with a light that all the darkness in the world could not extinguish. This truth is not just mine, but all of ours! Look within and find your purpose and when you do GRAB IT AND HOLD ON TIGHT! It may not come easy. You may have to drag it to your destiny kicking and screaming but wait on the vision! Though it tarries, wait on it! It shall come to pass!
What are your top 3 go-to songs for motivation to keep going after your goals?
I absolutely LOVE 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000s music. The vibe is empowerment and encouragement. It is beauty and strength. When I feel like I don’t have anything left I turn to a few oldies but goodies: Just Fine by Mary J. Blige, Golden by Jill Scott, and Survivor by Destiny’s Child. These songs remind me that my life as a whole is so much bigger than the moment, the loss or experience I am choosing to live in that moment. They help me connect back to who I am as a whole and the reality that this moment is a part of my journey to fulfilling my purpose.
What is your definition of a pretty woman who hustles?
A pretty woman who hustles is a woman who knows that this thing we call life is a journey that is designed to be lived. A pretty woman who hustles is a woman who is not only a sight for sore eyes but marrow to the soul and love to the heart of every life she touches. She is a woman who can manage the roles of CEO, mom, wife, educator, lover, daughter, sister, and friend while understanding that these are roles that exist only as a part of her and those she is connected to; while walking in the truth that the very essence of who she is is a whole different vibe altogether. Who she stands boldly independent of what she does. A pretty woman who hustles in a gift to this world. She is the epitome of balance; she can grow an empire and a whole new life within her all at once. She was chosen as the portal between heaven and earth, the entryway, the beginning of life is what she was chosen to be. No other who walks this earth can stake that claim. A pretty woman who hustles is beauty, balance, breath; she is power. She is everything!
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