In January, I had an opportunity to be featured in an article for the publication, My Journey to Refresh by fellow writer and blogger, Erica Relaford. The article was centered on providing encouragement to aspiring entrepreneurs. Below are my responses to the initial questions from Erica. I pray that you are inspired as I was writing and sharing:
What Aspiring Entrepreneurs Would Like to Know
ER: Where are you from?
LO: I’m a Georgia Peach, originally from the small, rural city of Dawson, GA. Many don’t know this but the late, great soul singer Otis Redding was born there.
ER: When did you encounter Christ and how did your life change as a result?
LO: Although I was ‘churched’, experiencing my first baptism at age 9, leaving the church a year later after my parents’ divorce, rededicating my life back to the church at 16 years of age just to end up with hardly any connection to the church for years, I truly encountered Christ at the age of 24 through my interactions with one of my former coworkers during my Accounting days. I distinctly remember a conversation we had where she asked me if I knew what salvation meant and it challenged me because it was never a question I had encountered before. My parents never explained salvation and neither the church I attended. I just remember attending church because I was told to and because my father felt it was time to join a church. I encountered religion more than anything related to salvation and the Gospel. It’s interesting I knew everything else when it came to school and different facts, but I didn’t even know how to answer the question and I became defensive because I felt at that time I was being judged not knowing that eventually my heart and spirit would continuously be regenerated and transformed. When I moved to Atlanta in 2008 there was so much brokenness that I didn’t know existed. It was those tough questions and me finally understanding God and Jesus Christ as my Lord that yielded me to submit my brokenness and other iniquities to fully heal. Has it been easy? No, but it’s been worth it and a beautiful process because it changed my life where God answered my prayers for His will in areas of my life from family, friendships, career, and experiences.
ER: Share a fun fact many people do not know about you.
LO: I associate everything within my life to music and film and so one of the things I love to do is mimic my favorite movie or TV show lines either in conversation or while I’m working on a creative project (blogs, editing). I remember while working as a staff accountant, my coworker and I would answer each other with a movie line and we would have random moments of laughter where no one knew the joke behind the movie lines we were saying. It was definitely a great stress reliever for the environment I was in and it is something that I still do to this day just to be silly and carefree. I’m such a nostalgic person and an old soul with an appreciation for all things creative.
ER: What do you do as an entrepreneur? Share your story. Provide your why.
LO: As an entrepreneur, my business is centered on writing, editing, blogging, and social media (brand ambassador, admin, and influencer). My story of entrepreneurship officially began in 2012 although I recall at a young age being fascinated by logos from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel. I remember reading Black Enterprise magazine and drawing my initials as a logo to see how it would look. I didn’t know then that entrepreneurship would be part of my experience. I later learned that I come from a family of entrepreneurs and creatives. As a teenager, I enjoyed reading the inspirational columns of Susan L. Taylor, former editor in chief for Essence magazine which unknowingly would inspire my writings later. Fast forward to 2012, I’m 26 and working as a staff accountant. I remember providing suggestions to my coworker for an email she was writing to a client. I remember how writing during my school days was a dreaded task for me because I felt the topics were boring so I was into free writing more. I remember being asked by my coworker have I ever considered blogging as a possible career. At that time the blogging I was familiar with was the blogging I only did on social media via my Myspace and Facebook pages. I never thought of any writing for me as a business or career. At that time, I was in graduate school for my Master’s in Accounting and Financial Management (finished in 2013) and I needed a stress reliever so I decided to create a blog through Tumblr and Blogger. I was on Tumblr mostly and only posted on Blogger twice. Surprisingly in 2012, a church member asked me to create content for her blog which focused on educating students and the community. I graciously took the assignment and it was my first freelancing opportunity. The following year I was laid off and I finished my degree a month later and from there I really had to do a self-assessment on where God was leading me next. It was difficult getting back into the field of accounting right away so I took on a contract position with a local CPA while simultaneously working in education as a substitute teacher. I loved the flexibility and when the contract ended with the CPA, I was back to working in education. While navigating my next career move, I joined, Just Write, a writer’s group in 2014 which connected me to writers who were self-published and in other facets of writing. I remember coming to the first meeting with the thought of just wanting to form connections around other creative people. I didn’t desire to be an author or anything related to writing as a business. The only thing I knew at the time was blogging which was something that many in the writer’s group were not familiar with. At that moment, I became an expert on blogging which led to me taking on the task of creating a writer’s blog entitled The Write Moment (https://thewritemoment1.blogspot.com) which I still maintain today with engaging monthly posts. Through that responsibility, I was able to meet more writers and in one particular moment where I helped a business owner and author with some social media ideas, she helped me see that there was a potential business for myself along with the members of Just Write. At that time, I had revamped my personal blog DivineGift317 (a name analysis revealed that my first name means “divine gift” or “gift of God” and the numbers 317 is the time I was born) (https://divinegift317.blogspot.com) and had just finished editing a client’s book and typing out poetry for another client along with being a social media admin for a women’s ministry. I’ve always been a fan of acronyms so I remember thinking about the significance of the business and everything it encompassed. The majority of my clients and people I associated with were unique individuals who had ideas about their projects but they didn’t know how to expound and convey their messages through any form of media. I knew that my writing abilities were a gift from God so the word divine was descriptive of how my writing came into fruition. Only God could give me the words and messages to write. I recognized that I am a messenger and scribe by nature who has a way with words where I could decipher what people needed to express and that’s how my business D.I.V.I.N.E. Blogger, LLC (https://www.divinebloggerllc.com/) was birthed. The acronym for D.I.V.I.N.E. represented my ‘why’ which was to help “Develop Intellectual Visionaries Individual Needs Exceptionally” through writing, blogging, editing, and social media. Even though I was steadfast in working in one field for the rest of my life, God orchestrated moments in my life that led to my entrepreneurial journey which freed me from my own limitations. I’m thankful for my previous studies in Business, Accounting/Financial Management, and current studies in Professional Writing along with me working for business owners which prepared me for my present and future endeavors.
ER: What are some of your most memorable moments and highlights throughout your career? Struggles? Challenges?
LO: My most memorable moments throughout my career which has spanned business, education, healthcare, and writing are the lessons I’ve learned and my ability to connect with people in any environment. I have been blessed to have worked with and for some amazing people who challenged me and encouraged me in my gifts. It has been a blessing to meet other creatives who share similar beginnings to how their projects developed. It’s that constant edification and creative momentum that keeps me going. The struggles and challenges I have faced stemmed from me initially trying to meet these unrealistic expectations which caused me to almost abandon my gifts. I was allowing others criticism of what they thought I should be doing as a career control me and didn’t allow myself to let the creativity and inspiration from my gifts flow organically.
ER: What stage are you currently in? Aspiring, beginner, intermediate, expert? Are there any new business ventures, projects, or collaborations for you this year?
LO: I consider myself an expert who is always learning and perfecting my craft. I always joke that I am a Queen of all trades but there’s nothing like beginning with one trade and mastering it which in my opinion opens up doors of opportunities for one’s other gifts. This year I’m excited to announce that I have collaborated with 7 other women for the book, A Woman’s Journey, an anthology of stories of substance, success, and survival. You can find it here with Balboa Press and on Amazon.
I share my testimony of brokenness and abuse and how I overcame it. Another project I’m on will be released in February. Outside of books that I’ve contributed my story to, in 2019, I finished editing a fiction book where I was written in as a character as well as a CNA school policy book for a school in California (a collaboration with nurse practitioner Victoria Randle MSN, NP-C, a CNA school consultant). I am currently a 2020 brand ambassador for iwi Fresh Garden Spa, a farm-to-skin local spa in Atlanta that will be opening a 2nd location, a 24/7 social wellness holistic retreat in February. I’m excited about this collaboration because in the last 2 years I have begun to eat more healthy with vegan and plant-based options and love self-care. Also, I love sharing good news and it feels good to be a social influencer for a well-respected brand. Since 2017, I have utilized my administrative skills to serve for a local nonprofit, Protocol Saints, Inc., a basketball mentoring program that provides cultural, spiritual, and practical guidance to young men of Atlanta. I am a certified MoneySmart financial educator and one of my goals with Protocol Saints is to provide the young men with financial literacy tools through the FDIC MoneySmart Financial Education Program. Finally, I have been requested to share my views about my experiences of being a woman of color in America through the podcast, Love Thy Neighbor, which dissects the tough topics of race and the cultural influence it has within business, politics, education, and other sectors of society. It is a great podcast that I’m honored to share my views with. Check out previous sessions here: https://open.spotify.com/show/4dnbpNrbEhYROqwjoSQiXJ
ER: What are your prayers for 2020?
LO: My prayers for 2020 are to continuously utilize my gift of writing and content creation for the Kingdom, submit to God’s Word and will for my life and to see many people saved by the Gospel and come to the knowledge of who they are in Christ. I know many are searching for their purpose but as believers in Jesus Christ, the overall purpose for all of us is to go into all the earth to spread the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever God has placed us. One of my sisters in Christ, Brittany Jay, summed it up best in a 2018 social media post: “In order to know our purpose, we have to submit to the Creator of purpose. We were created for God’s purpose: to know Him, serve Him, glorify Him, and exalt Him in all that we do.” There’s nothing like living in the fullness of who God created you to be and I would like to see many people experience that. Remember everything we do is an assignment and mission. And one more thing, I also pray that student loan debt for everyone is forgiven, lol.
ER: What would you like to accomplish in 2020?
LO: In 2020, I would like to travel to some new places, support more Christian businesses, publish more of my individual writings and challenge myself to even more writing projects and collaborations. I would also like to do more with financial literacy and investments. Basically, continuing to live, love, and laugh through creating memories and learning.
ER: Today many individuals (believers too) are affected by their communities, schools, homes, environment, etc. What advice would you give to those who are interested in moving forward with what God has called them to do, but they are afraid considering their circumstances? What practical tips did you take to get past that hurdle in your life?
LO: From my experiences, my gift of writing was birthed from my circumstances meaning I used my adversity and a negative environment as a way to push myself to go forward. I’ve always said that when people told me “no” or when I received rejection notices from companies, it was just another opportunity to go in a different direction. I encourage others to use their obstacles or circumstances as stepping stones for what they are trying to accomplish. It’s better to try and fail than not try and not accomplish anything with regrets. One of the scariest things I did in life was leaving my family and everything that I knew behind to move to a new city for a fresh start. I just remember putting one foot in front of the other and just doing it while trusting that God would take care of me. I had moments of doubt and fear and numerous mistakes but I pushed through it and stayed consistent with whatever I was accomplishing until God moved me elsewhere. Everything has a season and a place. The important thing is to look at everything as a learning opportunity. It’s a natural reaction to always question why certain things happen to us but it’s the lesson behind the trials that strengthen and perfect our character. Remember to pray about everything, have faith, and work at whatever you would like to accomplish as the Lord leads you.
Thank you Erica for the opportunity to provide encouragement to other creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Click here to read what other entrepreneurs had to say about their experiences and be sure to follow and support her writing and entrepreneurial journey: https://myjourneytorefresh.com/4-brilliant-entrepreneurs-share-their-journey-to-success-stories/