Lilisa Williams; Entrepreneur
Williams overcame many obstacles before becoming the success story she is today. As The founder of Brand New Beginnings, A Word Empowerment Ministry, and Performance Strategies Unlimited, she also maintains positions as a professor of business at Union County College.
Profile In Victory
Lilisa Williams is a successful business woman who is an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs.
Williams overcame many obstacles
before becoming the success story she is today. As The founder of Brand
New Beginnings, A Word Empowerment Ministry, and Performance Strategies
Unlimited, she also maintains positions as a professor of business at
Union County College. She’s an author, a PhD candidate, a motivational
speaker and a radio personality.
Williams has also received the Dr. M.
L. King Community Service Award. She was a speaker at Continental
Airlines Black History Month Celebration 2006 as well as a panelist for
the Horizons Black Alumni Career Panel held at Farleigh Dickerson
University where she received her BA and MBA. Here’s her conversation
with The Black Star News’ Shene James.
BSN: I understand that you were a high school drop out. Who or
what made you decide to change your life and move towards a more
LS: I initially dropped out of
high school because I felt that I was dumb and that school was too
hard. After dropping out of school I obtained various menial positions
such as a janitor and a factory assembly line worker. I worked within
these positions for years but something inside of me wanted more. As a
filing clerk I soon began to realize my surroundings. I saw new workers
come in and receive better jobs and a higher pay than I. I asked
someone why this was so and they told me these people had college
degrees. Although I was already 32 years old at the time, I decided I
would go back to school and get a degree. I attended Essex County
College and received a degree in Business.
BSN: I have noticed that your
organizations are somewhat centered around being a Christian. What
impact has religion played in your life?
LW: Religion has played a major
role in my life. Growing up my father was a preacher yet I didn’t find
God for myself until I was incarcerated. Finding God helps me stay
grounded and empowers me to keeping pushing ahead---- As a youth
growing up I got involved with some people that were into doing drugs.
I was very rebellious and hard-headed. I let one of my boy friends talk
me into prostituting as a way to make money. Since I was the type
of woman who was easily led down the wrong path, I did what he said and
soon found myself on the streets as a prostitute. I got arrested a
couple of times and ended up going to jail several times for up to 30
days. During one of those incarcerations I decided that I could not go
back. I called my mother and asked her if I could come and live with
her until I got myself together. I was so blessed that she loved
me enough to say yes. From that day on, in 1985, I began building a new
life for myself. I was on a mission to do something
BSN: How did you obtain the initial capitol to start your own business?
LW: The way I obtained my
initial capitol was through basic money saving tips. I saved and saved
until I had enough to start my own business. The method in which I
saved money was by not spending money on unnecessary pleasures like
eating out, shopping, etc.
BSN: As a Black Women in this
society, what racial and sexist opposition have you faced with trying
to start your own business? How did you overcome those oppositions?
LW: The opposition that I could
have faced escaped me because of my faith in God and always having the
right attitude toward people. I have learned that having the right
attitude will take you far. I am fortunate to be in a field that is
tough for everyone regardless of their race. I am in the field of
training/motivation. This field is somewhat like the entertainment
field, either you got it or you don’t. Race is not a big barrier in
this field. There are enough organizations that use African American
speakers/trainers. When opposition comes my way I just turn and go
another way. Personally, I have not experienced such opposition mainly
because of my education. My degrees along with my ability to network
with people of all races have prevented me from seeing too much
BSN: Now that your businesses are fully established, how do you measure their prosperity?
LW: I knew that my business was
prospering when we grew from just an idea to an actual business with
clients, profits and our own office. In addition we have several
websites and other corporate partners. The loyalty of my consumers is
another important factor of prosperity. We will be hosting a TV show by
the end of the year.
BSN: What impact does your business have on the Black community?
LW: Based on my observation of
the inner city, business people such as myself challenge other
minorities to start their own business. As Black women in this field I
feel I am an inspirational role model for Black youth who aspire to
BSN: What is the key to instilling confidence in youth for starting their own business?
LW: Well there are two types of
people, those with intrinsic and those with extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsically motivated youth have an inner drive that will enable them
to achieve their goals. Once their inner drive is established then
their business ideas can be formulated. However, when working with
extrinsically motivated youth, the mentor must focus on outside
motivation for them to achieve their goals. Since they look outward for
support they need to be constantly coached through their process of
BSN: After becoming motivated, what are the initial steps in starting a new business?
LW: The first thing you should
do is research. You must know if you are even cut out to be a business
person. You must question whether you have entrepreneurial qualities.
Are you a self motivator, do you encourage yourself, do you have
confidence and energy? You must also find a business that fits your
style and personality. These are questions you must ask yourself. You
must be a creative person who is relentless and doesn’t give up easy.
Most importantly you must know how you will obtain your initial capital
to start your business. You must be financially stable and your credit
history must be in good shape. If not than it would be harder for you
to receive bank loans to start your business.
BSN: What is the importance of leadership in starting and then thriving within your own business?
LW: Leadership is everything
because you must know how to communicate with others and persuade them
to want to take any part in your business. As the leader it is up to
you to steer the company in the right direction and help if things go
wrong. The leader must be prepared for any situation. They must be able
to see the big picture.
BSN: What are the key methods to developing leadership strategies?
LW: Start with a self
assessment to see what you know about leadership and different leaders.
Do your research on various business leaders such as CEO’s and
presidents to see how they operate. You must also realize that everyone
is a leader of at least one person. That one person is yourself.
BSN: How do you ensure the success of a business?
LW: Well I believe that your success is ensured if you believe in and are guided by the most high.
BSN: Gentrification has been
plaguing Harlem's business district. Many small businesses are
suffering from increased rent and are being replaced by franchise
businesses. What do you think these small businesses should do to
overcome these fates?
LW: First they shouldn’t look
at this problem as a failure. These businesses should take this
opportunity to regroup, band together and re-strategize. There is an
old saying that goes ‘If you can’t beat them you might as well join
them.’ What I mean by this is join in on some of the strategies that
keep them strong; like partnering and networking and staying ahead of
your competition. These businesses not only develop partnerships with
each other but also globally.
BSN: Why do you think it is important for these small businesses to survive?
LW: In the United States small
businesses provide 75% of job opportunities. Many people’s first jobs
are at a small business. Even big businesses and corporations had to
start small and large corporations often use the service and purchase
products from small business. Our community especially needs the
services provided by these small businesses.
BSN: How do small businesses achieve costumer loyalty when franchise businesses tend to win the loyalty of most costumers?
LW: Small business owners need
to realize that they don’t have to cater to everyone. Cater to the
customers that keep coming back and put most of your marketing effort
into satisfying them.
BSN: Now I also understand that you are a self published author. Tell me more about your new book Release Your Power.
LW: The book outlines eight
strategies to help you become who you are. A lot of people don’t know
their purpose in life and this book helps them find their purpose.
Unfortunately a lot of people think a lot of negative things about
themselves. People must find the positives within and bring them to the
BSN: What is the first step in knowing who you are?
LW: You must first be able to make some changes especially your thinking.
BSN: Also you have a talk show. What is the importance of your show and what goals do you have for this endeavor.
LW: The purpose is to get the
word out; to empower people and share information. The talk show also
exposes different entrepreneurs and leaders to the community. Our
mission is to increase the number of entrepreneurs in our community and
inspire others to take charge of their future. Our goal is to be a
leading voice on economic and wealth building strategies for African
Americans and Christians.
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