The National Black MBA Association held the first ever Women of Excellence Entrepreneurship Discussion panel at Southern Methodist University on Oct. 17 and the turnout was amazing. Entrepreneur hopefuls sat attentively to listen to Gail Warrior, founder and CEO of Warrior Group, Katrina Keyes, president and CEO of K Strategies LLC and Sophia Johnson, founder and president of Alpha Business Images who gave insight to their individual journeys to success. The moderator was another successful business owner, author and motivational speaker, Wil Murphy.
Attendees enjoyed hearing each woman’s story of business success and the struggles they have encountered along the way. For Warrior the struggles included dealing with family, going through a divorce from her husband who helped her start the Warrior Group and dealing with a contractor who was stealing money from her. When faced with possibly having to close her doors after losing millions of dollars on a large contract from the city of Chicago, she tightened the reigns and endured the storm.
“My maiden name is Warrior and the one thing that my father told us is that we don’t have the option to run away, we stand and fight,” says Warrior.
That resilience enabled her to restructure her business and make sound business decisions. Since then The Warrior Group has grown to be one of the largest African American women own construction company in the country and she has no signs of slowing down.
Johnson told the audience that balance is something that must be taken and is hard to maintain as she shared her story of being a single mother of four while building ABI. She admitted that there were times when she had to put her family life on a quick pause while she focused on strategic development but when her children needed her she turned off her business. She advised the audience to make their personal life nonnegotiable.
“On Fridays my husband and I have date night… it’s nonnegotiable,” she adds. “I don’t care what’s happening, if it’s not life or death then it waits.”
The final panelist Keyes brought a great sense of optimism to the panel as she shared the importance of knowing the analytics of their business as well as their resources. Keyes told of how she needed to know more than her competition because her goal was to become the principal or major player in each deal that was presented to her. She warned the audience to use their resources accordingly and not abuse the power that comes from being successful.
“There are several things that are important when building your business… your resources, reputation and the risk you are willing to take,” she shares. “You just have to remember to know your industry inside and out.”
The panel discussion ended with a question and answer session from the audience.