In a down economy, where fortune 500 companies are downsizing and jobs are becoming harder to come by, there is a new phenomenon that is actually hundreds of years old; Entrepreneurship! The world is seeing a trend in people engaging in their passions and finding themselves doing the things that they always wanted to do in life. Some of those passions include opening up their own medical practice, interior design firm or wedding and event planning company. Although the spirit of entrepreneurship is as old as our country, there is something new and that is the rise of “female” entrepreneurship. More and more women are joining the ranks of the “good ole boys club” and doing so in stilettos and Prada.
I recently met one of these inspiring women at a networking event in Atlanta called “Pro-networker” which is held once a month in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Her name is Yvonne Druyeh Dodd and she is the newly appointed FemCity Atlanta President. Today, I had the pleasure of connecting with Yvonne and asked her to share her journey with our audience and here is what she had to say :
KF: Good morning Yvonne! How are you?
YDD: I am great! Spring is one of my favorite times of year and the energy has been so fast-paced.
KF: Let’s get right to it. I want you to tell our audience a little bit about where you grew up.
YDD: I’m originally from New Jersey, but I’ve been in Atlanta since I was 11. I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood in Duluth-yes, I’m a Wildcat!-and then went to school at Oglethorpe University. Duluth at the time was and is still a fast growing community. When I graduated high-school in 2007, we had about 3000 students representing 120 different countries and 50 or so different languages. I loved my neighborhood and all of the different cultures represented. I was able to have Afghani food regularly with my neighbors, be a tutor for a Japanese friend who was working to improve her English, practice violin with my Korean classmates who lived nearby, and then go to African super markets on the weekends. As a teenager I felt very lucky that there was a mall within 20 minutes in every direction, and I loved being able to choose from different parks to go to. It was also great that the arts and entertainment available in Atlanta was accessible in less than 30 minutes.
KF: What about your surroundings inspired you when you were growing up?
YDD: I think it’s important to note that my mother is American and definitely right-brained and creative, and my father is from Ghana, and has a background in electrical engineering. Growing up I was encouraged to do my absolute best academically, but also throw myself into whatever activities I was curious about. I did everything from dance and basketball to track, debate team, cheerleading, literary magazine and orchestra. I was able to travel to different cities domestically and abroad growing up, and I learned that people are the same no matter where you are; we just do things differently. So, the wide variety of experiences in the activities in which I engaged coupled with my surroundings and my opportunities to travel, really contributed to my broad perspective; understanding my surroundings locally and globally. Not to mention, Atlanta is surrounded by Georgia! The rich and complex history of the south and Atlanta adds significantly to how my surroundings have influenced me.
KF: Let’s talk about what your journey to becoming the President of FemCity. First start with letting our audience know what FemCity is.
YDD: FemCity Atlanta is the city chapter of the national organization Femfessionals. Femfessionals is all about innovatively connecting ambitious women. Our goal with FemCity Atlanta is to create authentic and supportive connections between business and professional women. I think FemCity is really unique in that it takes a holistic approach to networking. It’s not just about a luncheon and passing out business cards. It’s about having inspirational, social, and personal/business development events where women can get to know each other, endorse each other and have a good time creating community with the support to thrive in their businesses or careers.
What’s funny is that in December, a friend of mine and I were talking about creating a support group for women entrepreneurs and we decided we would start to do it in the beginning of the year. January came and one of my clients said that Femfessionals was looking for someone to re-launch FemCity Atlanta. It was the perfect opportunity; exactly the kind of community I was looking to create all along. I interviewed with Femfessionals and was appointed as president the next day!
KF: When I came to your FemCity Atlanta launch last month there was a word that you mentioned that has stood out in my mind and that word is Femfessionals. Tell us what makes a woman a Femfessional.
YDD: A Femfessional is a woman who is positive, open-minded, driven, and professional. She knows how important it is to form strong strategic connections with other like-minded professional and business women. Not only is she motivated to succeed, she is passionate about the success of others around her. A Femfessional is the kind of woman who is giving of herself and more than willing to help when she is needed. She wants to make an impact in the world, starting with the betterment of her City, and grow as a business professional and a woman.
KF: How can our Atlanta based FemFessionals get connected with the local FemCity chapter? AND are there dues associated with joining the group?
YDD: You can find us on Femfessionals.com, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Yes, we do have membership dues of $100 for the year, which allows you many opportunities to promote your business online and offline, get complimentary or lower priced admission to events, and connect with amazing women here in our city. Our events are held every 4th Wednesday of the month and sometimes we add in an extra event depending on what’s going on in the community. This month we have two awesome events. The first is on Wednesday, April 24th and it’s a workshop called “5 Keys to Creating Your Powerful Presence”. It’s all about communicating confidently and with authority in every situation. We’re also having a book club discussion on Monday, April 29th on Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book titled “Lean In”. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book yet, you’ll still be able to contribute to the discussion!
KF: I know you are a multi-talented woman, but among your many talents, I understand that you are a coach and consultant. Tell us how you got started in that profession.
YDD: My background is in psychology, small business and non-profit management. I’ve done everything from fundraising and development and PR and marketing, to bookkeeping, office management, sales, and event planning. With over 10 years of experience working in all different types of settings with everyone from at-risk youth and families to students, celebrities and high level executives, I’ve been exactly where a lot of my clients are. When I realized that I wasn’t fully utilizing my talents in my last job, I took the jump and decided to start my own business.
My vision is to motivate and inspire people to lead lives of integrity, freedom and style. I love being able to help people and organizations articulate their passions and their visions, and go out and communicate them to the world in a way that is both aligned with who they are and attractive to their particular audience. I help motivated individuals, entrepreneurs and nonprofits who struggle with wanting to take things to the next level and don’t have the time, resources or know-how to get there. They want clear strategies to achieve goals, tools to manage the day-to-day, and a professional image and brand.
KF: What are some of the benefits to having a life and business coach?
YDD: Coaching is a very empowering process. It’s not about someone giving advice. It’s about working together to facilitate those “Ah-Ha” moments to get and keep you moving forward towards your goals. Like having a personal trainer when you want to lose weight, coaching is based on the fact that you already have all the tools you need. You just need clarity and focus to create the plan, get on track, and then tools to hold you accountable.
Because I offer a combination of coaching and consulting, my clients receive mission-aligned strategies to gain clarity and confidence to achieve their goals and increase brand recognition. As a result they save time, money and energy in their quest to be seen & heard, and create lives and businesses they love.
KF: How can people get more information about the services you offer Yvonne?
YDD: They can go to www.evidconsulting.com and connect with me on Facebook (facebook.com/evidconsulting) and twitter @EviD.
KF: Where can we find you and FemCity online?
YDD: www.Femfessionals.com/FemCities/Atlanta or Facebook.com/FemCityAtlanta, Twitter @FemCityAtlanta
KF: What words of encouragement can you give to our ladies that want to start a business but don’t know what to do first?
YDD: Give yourself the mental, emotional and physical space to create.
Mental Space: Don’t talk yourself out of your ideas or opportunities before they even have the chance to grow. Always remember that if you don’t know something right now, you can always learn it.
Emotional Space: You don’t need to share your dream with everyone. Our closest friends and loved ones can sometimes give us really bad, dream-crushing advice out of their own fears and concerns under the guise of being realistic. Find and surround yourself with people who support your growth; who give you space to dream and consider taking risks.
Physical Space: If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else or your business. Your health is a priority, and your yoga/workouts/walks/bike-rides are necessary for you to thrive and also stay sane.
KF: Thanks so much for speaking with me today and sharing your heart with our audience. I wish you well in everything that you do and I know that there are more great chapters to be written in the life of Yvonne Druyeh Dodd and I can’t wait to read them all.
YDD: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share, Karen.