Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, “What are we doing for the well-being of others?” To endure difficulties for a meaningful purpose is a sublime pleasure, and there is no greater pleasure than utilizing one’s life, wealth, intelligence, and words for the welfare of others. People leave a great legacy behind by helping in the well-being of others and will be remembered by the lives they touched and made a positive difference in people’s lives. Great leaders live in a spirit of compassion and generosity along with humanitarian and philanthropic approaches helping them contribute significantly to the world without expecting anything in return.
Dr. JoAnn Ajayi-Scott is one such humanitarian and philanthropist making a difference in the lives of youths positively through educating, empowering, networking, mentoring them, and helping them attain greatness. As the Founder and CEO of Essence of a Lady Inc., Dr. JoAnn ensures that each girl aged from 6 to 19 is provided an opportunity to receive a mentor. These mentors help guide them through the trials and tribulations of growing up, graduating from school, becoming productive citizens or future entrepreneurs.
In an interview with Insights Success, Dr. JoAnn Ajayi-Scott shares her journey and her contribution though Essence of a Lady, Inc. in the overall development of women and girls.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Essence of a Lady, Inc. What challenges do you have to overcome to reach where you are today?
I founded Essence of a Lady over 32 years ago. What started as a social club with over 23 women supporting each other in their side hustles in May 1989 evolved into a sustainable 501©3 nonprofit organization in 2003. Over this 32-year period, I have had partnerships with schools, school districts, Big Brother Big Sister, MENTOR, Susan B. Taylor’s National Mentoring Cares, Point of Light, and President Obama’s PRESIDENTIAL LIFETIME AWARDS commission. In addition, I have been in partnership with over 400 local, state, and national professional and entrepreneurial women who helped support the mission to educate, mentor, and empower over 1000 youth, especially girls, in three states and six school districts. My vision is ALL women and girls will gain maximum health and wealth!! Now, after over 30 years, I have retired from the educational arena, and I run Essence of a Lady, Inc. full-time. Through my journey, I have received awards in education, community, and entrepreneurship, including national philanthropist of the year, congressional award and recognition, and an international humanitarian award. The biggest challenges have stemmed from a lack of funding to support the mentoring programs.
Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.
The mission of Essence of a Lady is to educate, mentor, and empower girls through the philanthropy of women. I work toward this goal with a team of women to provide youth, especially girls, with tools, resources, and financial support to develop a career, leadership, and social skills. With women joining our network of philanthropy to give their time, talent, and treasure to help develop these skills, girls graduate from high school and pursue further education and/or entrepreneurship. The mission of education, mentoring and empowerment, allows me to carry out the vision of helping women and girls gain maximum health and wealth. The hidden benefits of women giving to girls are the connections they make with other philanthropists and the joy of seeing girls reach their full potential, knowing they contributed to their growth.
Enlighten us on how your organization has made an impact on the lives of people.
Over the 32 years of supporting women and girls, Essence of a Lady has provided a platform for women to share their journey to success, revealing the struggles, pain, and heartache they went through and the tenacity and resilience to persevere, despite the struggle, to become the women they have become. Women have started and or leveraged their businesses. Girls have developed high self-esteem through mentoring sessions, workshops, webinars, special events, and scholarships to attend college or technical schools. Long before self-care was trending, Essence of a Lady, through a researched-based curriculum created by me, conducted weekly mentoring sessions to help girls develop mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
The core values of Essence of a Lady are we are our sisters’ keepers. It takes a village to raise a child, and the village has changed in the 21 century. The village is not our neighbors but caring and giving adults who are passionate about supporting youth and their families. I believe in providing positive interaction in a positive environment to motivate girls to strive to reach their full potential, believing someone cares about them. The goal is to provide non-judgmental support to girls through mentoring: group or one-to-one.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
I recognized the importance of being in the technological space over 15 years ago. Although I was scammed on several occasions with people supposed to build websites for us to leverage opportunities to support more youth, I have had a website, social media presence, and online forms and payment systems for over ten years. I am in the process of rebranding and upgrading our websites with a branding specialist, branding photographer, automation, and strategies coach as I speak.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in mentoring?
The change I would like to bring is more support from adults. Most adults believe when youth get into high school, they need less support; my experience in working with youth and teaching at-risk students in high school for over 16 years proved that is inaccurate. Additionally, I wrote my dissertation on mentoring. USDOE (2012) stated, “every 26 seconds a child drops out of school, and 12th grade was the only grade girls dropped out more than boys.” My goal is to provide opportunities for parents to be involved in their children’s lives all the way through graduation with Essence of a Lady’s continuous support and mentoring programming.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the empowerment of women?
Women understand the power of collaborating more now than ever before. When I first began Essence of a Lady in 1989, women’s mindset was, “Women don’t want to work together; they only want to tear each other down.” Well, it was true then; the women who helped create Essence of a Lady listened to the then-president and disbanded the organization and dispersed the money equally. Four of us took ours, and I created the first “Ladies Only Conference” then, I created a non-profit and received the 501©3 status through the IRS so that would never happen again. With influencers, strategic partnerships, and collaborative partners, women can leverage their business and provide support to each other and girls, who are our legacy!
How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
Essence of a Lady, in partnership with the Females are Fabulous Empowerment Series, is providing a media, marketing, and PR platform to allow women to live out their passion and share their journey to their FABULOUSNESS with the world! We work with them to provide the tools, resources, and support to leverage their businesses as a philanthropist, leave a legacy through their stories on different platforms, and ultimately become LEGENDARY in the world!
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Essence of a Lady, Inc?
I see myself as a global philanthropist, women empowerment speaker/emcee, and legacy builder, providing a media, marketing, and PR platform for women to share their stories of triumph and providing the audience to hear their stories through Essence of a Lady’s women and girls events. Additionally, I see Essence of a Lady establishing partnerships with girls’ and boys’ programs by providing a mentoring component to their established clubs. The goal is for every child to have an opportunity to get mentoring support from adults in their community. I have created an action plan to connect with established mentoring programs in the community to provide support and guidance to them utilizing research-based, data-driven strategies to help them leverage their programs.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to mentor and empower youth?
You do not have to worry about re-creating the wheel. I have mentored and empowered hundreds of budding entrepreneurs; that is my passion, that is God’s purpose for my life. I have been out here for over 40 years as an entrepreneur, over 35 years as an empowerment speaker/emcee, and over 32 years as a philanthropist. I am here to support you; all you have to do is be willing to support girls. By coming together, we create a win-win opportunity for everyone. Remember, we are not going to be remembered by the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, or the house we live in; we will be remembered by the lives we touch in a positive way. Philanthropy provides you that opportunity to give…without expecting anything in return, knowing you can be gifted 100-fold! Contact me at Dr. JoAnn or Schedule a 15-minute Consult at ConnectwithDrJoAnn.as.me and learn more about leveraging your business as a philanthropist to build generational wealth.