For the Month of April we are sharing stories of hope and inspiration for National Month of Hope. Sometimes hope is the deciding factor on if we will continue our journey or stop right in our tracks. As we share the stories of these amazing individuals we hope that you are filled with hope and are inspired to keep on your path of greatness.
Author Celina Shands shares with us her story:
Born and raised in North Carolina, Celina approaches business like a true southerner—relationships first, business second—and surrounds herself with a great team that is committed to excellence on each and every project. As a communications expert, Celina has helped more than 500 workforce development and K-12/postsecondary education organizations across the nation build high-performing outreach campaigns that empower vulnerable populations, students, and job seekers to embrace their potential and motivate employers to be part of the process. She has earned 75 global awards, including a 2021 Stevie® Business Award for Communications Campaign of the Year, and is a former American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year and a two-time Women Who Mean Business Finalist.
What Inspired your start in entrepreneurship?
I’ve had three primary motivators for entrepreneurship.
Motivator #1 was survival. Early on in life, I was driven to become an entrepreneur because I craved something better than my childhood.
Motivator #2 was a cat named Sheldon . Yes, a cat. I had a dream one night that I had a cat named Sheldon (even though I was a dog lover) and two days later found an abandoned baby kitty. I ended up starting a company, in part, so that I could spend more time with him working from home. He was with me for 19 years.
Motivator #3 was a drive to innovate. As time went by, the “survival” motivator was replaced by the drive to find innovative solutions in my field of workforce development and education. I get inspired every day by seeing how lives can completely change by learning the right skills and leaning into what you love to do.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get where you are today?
I was born and raised in North Carolina and like so many of the millions in this country had a tumultuous childhood where alcohol played a negative role in our family dynamics. Fortunately for me, my sister was a constant in my life. She raised me and consistently told me that I could do anything and be anything if I dreamed it. Even though I doubted myself, she didn’t, and more importantly led by example by starting her own company. To this day, I have her listed in my contacts as Shero Sister.
Through her guidance, I was able to go to a small private school and play sports so that I could channel all of that negativity into something positive. I played every sport the school offered so I could be somewhere other than home – – basketball, softball, volleyball, track, and field. It was there that I met my best friend and her family who took me under their wings. I spent summers with them cropping tobacco and afternoons playing sports. I was able to get a scholarship to play basketball in college and continued to follow my educational path studying business and marketing, all the while meeting mentors along the way who helped me (teachers, coaches, and teammates).
I call them my pivotal people – – those that made a huge impact through their mentorship. When I graduated, I took a break for three years to figure out what I wanted to do. I did odd jobs and waitressed and played at the beach. Hurricanes are a common occurrence in my hometown, and I remember in 1984 Hurricane Diana hit and I decided I had enough of continuously packing up my things and moving off the beach to safety. So, I stayed packed, bought a new car, and decided to drive to California to try something new. I had a whopping $50 in cash and a credit card when I left to see what life could offer in California. The transition from a small town where I knew everyone to the giant city of San Francisco was definitely a trip! From trying to figure out how to get on BART to making eye contact and saying good morning to everyone (because I’m Southern polite) I soon realized that I was “no longer in Kansas” anymore.
It took me about three years to learn the new culture and find my way to the next step in the journey. I followed my passion for being an athlete and ended up getting a master’s degree in sports medicine. For many years, I had a company that helped doctors integrate sports rehabilitation as part of their practice. But when insurance laws changed, the model became outdated, so like any entrepreneur I had to reinvent myself. I decided to utilize my business and marketing background and took a job in the public sector as the marketing director for the San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. I happened to write a business plan for a foster youth facility as part of my work there and someone on their board approached me about working with his organization which focused on workforce development. I had no clue what workforce development was all about but once I understood that it was an industry helping youth and job seekers find their career path through education and training, I was hooked! After all, that was something that I had done my whole life through the help of my mentors – – finding the right path and next steps. After four years with the workforce organization, I began to realize that I could use my talents to help similar organizations how to build an effective brand within their respective communities. That’s how my company was born 21 years ago.
What message of hope do you have for upcoming entrepreneurs?
Find the right people to mentor you. There are so many ways to get to your definition of success. Sometimes the more traditional paths, like a four-year university, don’t work for everyone. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful and the right mentor can make all the difference in helping you find your path quickly. Take setbacks as positive. Having strong faith that the universe has your back is important. Whatever is meant for you will not pass you by. While I’m disappointed when we aren’t awarded a contract or project, I don’t look at it as a setback. Rather we try to learn what we could do better for the next one and realized that the project ultimately was not a match for us. It’s the universe saying, I have something better in store, so trust and be patient.
Let go of the Energy Suckers. Have you ever been around those constant naysayers who can’t get behind your new ideas and innovations? While it’s always a best practice to shoot holes in any new business concept, there’s a difference between constructive thought and negative projection from someone. Find the people who can support your dreams and let go of the rest without resentment or fear.
What is your definition of a pretty woman who hustles?
A pretty woman who hustles is a strategic mover and shaker who trusts her instincts, follows her heart, and always looks for a win-win in business. It’s her confidence and fearlessness that make her “pretty.” I love how so many women entrepreneurs are changing the workplace by bringing their unique brand of feminism to the world of work. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
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