She ignored them. People’s hang-ups are like growing pains, she says. “Then you realize, ‘I don’t have to own this pain.’”
As the agency built its name around ad campaigns targeting African Americans, a challenge for Williams was convincing new clients not to pigeonhole the agency, believing it only wielded influence in the black community. “What I’m an expert in is advertising,” she says. “To try to diminish what we do, suggesting that we only target African Americans, is failing to recognize the huge impact and influence the African American consumer has on other markets and market trends.”
“The strength of the agency comes from Carol’s background,” says Christopher Robinson, director of African American and youth marketing for General Motors. “Carol has been in advertising for over 30 years. They’ve gotten a lot of respect within the organization [GM] and their scope just keeps expanding.” Williams’ career accomplishments speak to the fact that her expertise is not limited by race. Among her most widely touted achievements in the advertising industry: She was the brain behind Secret deodorant’s “Strong Enough for a Man, but Made for a Woman” campaign while at Leo Burnett, where she worked from 1969 until 1980.
Today, Williams says her biggest challenge is monitoring changes in the business world and preparing her staff to take a greater role in her agency’s growth. She says she wants to ensure that what she’s laid out “has vision, energy, inspires continual growth, and achieves superiority.”
Now in her 50s, the best advice Williams has for budding entrepreneurs is to “be wonderfully creative, strategically smart, and never, never quit. And always be prepared for the unexpected, because it’s not the unexpected that determines winners, it’s how you manage the unexpected. Know that nothing will go right at first, but the one thing you absolutely need to go right will.”
No matter how storied Williams’ life is, she doesn’t care to dwell too long on the past knowing that the future has wonderful things in store. The way she sees it, “Life is staircase, keep moving upward.”
As the first black person to integrate her high school in Tarboro, North Carolina, Janice Bryant Howroyd learned at an early age the pains associated with an unsupportive environment. “On the first day of class, I listened to my teacher explain why Africans were so well suited to slavery and how we’d be much poorer as a society if we went any further with this affirmative action,” she recalls. “I cried and pleaded with my parents that night not to send me back. My father gave me three choices: I could try to get back into the all-black school across the street, he could march over to the school and confront the teacher, or I could go back. I did go back.”
But the experience was a defining moment for Howroyd, 50, and it inspires her daily to help temporary and permanent workers find the most supportive working environments through her multimillion dollar employment services empire. Since its inception in