From ‘America’s Next Top Model’ to Co-Owner of The Nation’s Oldest Black-Owned Business

Dominique Reighard-Brooks is truly a model citizen and if you think she looks familiar — then you’re right. She was on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 10, a spin-off show called Modelville, and ANTM Cycle 17. She served as the face of beauty brand Carol’s Daughter followed by her debut album Spend It All.

That visibility has aided in her role as one of the co-owners of the nation’s oldest black-owned business, E.E. Ward Moving and Storage. Founded in 1881, E.E. Ward has received multiple awards for high level of service and philanthropic endeavors, including the highly coveted Agent of the Year Service Excellence Award from the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), OMSDC MBE Supplier of the Year Award, and Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Ohio’s Torch Award.

In this interview, Reighard-Brooks shares transitioning from modeling to entrepreneurship and co-owning the longest running black-owned business in the country.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: How did your career as a model prepare you to run and operate a multi-million dollar moving and storage company?

Dominique Reighard-Brooks: Honestly, I have never been the type of artist, model, or entertainer to wait and expect anyone to create opportunities for myself. My mindset has always been to take the initiative, be curious, do research, find a way, and to use my voice to advocate my own best interest. I had a team, but I was always willing to roll up my sleeves and to act as supporting staff and give guidance as needed or direction. I believe when it comes to creating a quality body of work, the execution of the vision can never be sacrificed. This mentality of being resourceful in using actual experience, relentless in forging my path, self-awareness and never allowing rejection to keep me from knocking on doors, and even the same door that I had been rejected from has given me this incredible amount strength and empowered me. I never allow fear or rejection to keep me from making moves. There has been many life lessons, experience, courage, character, skill sets, and wisdom that was developed and deposited on the inside while I was in that era that I have found very useful and relevant in entrepreneurship. I want to be proof that you can pivot from one industry to the next and still find success by fusing your talents, passion for creativity, learned skill sets, life experiences, and connections.

BE: E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is the oldest African American business in the country. What has attributed to its success as a whole?

Reighard-Brooks: Earlier this year, we were recognized nationally by the American Moving and Storage Association as one the most trusted moving companies in the country by being awarded the Agent of the Year for Service Excellence. We are committed to continually strengthening the legacy of E.E. Ward while fostering growth and innovation. Being the oldest continuously operating African American business in the country was achieved by perseverance, accountability, service with dignity, community service, and best practices. These attributes created a culture that fueled the viability and success in giving E.E.Ward a competitive advantage for over 137 years. I am proud to say that E.E.Ward is proof that a company’s culture is the most critical component when it comes to sustainability. Prior owner Eldon W. Ward, who led the company for 50 years, had a legacy statement: “Do what’s right, come what may.” That sentiment has been adopted as the backbone of our daily operation and each individual member on our team.

BE: What career advice do you have to offer an aspiring business owner to achieve success?

Entrepreneurship is hard, but rewarding in many different ways. I many times reflect on my challenges today, but am ever so humbled by the era in which E.E. Ward was founded, a time of struggle and fight for freedom for the African American community. I say this to remind us that it’s all been done before. So many trailblazers like the Ward family were dealt a deck of cards that none of us have had to experience in the modern era. John T. Ward was a fearless trailblazer who served many years as a conductor on the underground railroad before establishing Ward Transfer Lines in 1881 with just two horses and wagon. We all can draw inspiration from learning about the Ward’s legacy of enduring slavery, the U.S. Civil War, Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession, and 26 presidential terms.

(Photo Credit: Kristen Yates)

BE: What steps do you take to keep yourself motivated during challenging times?

Reighard-Brooks: The biggest step to keeping myself motivated is having the right perspective and mindset on a daily basis. We all have tough times in life. When I get down and out, I allow myself to experience those feelings, understand what I am feeling, and then snap out of it by telling myself a different story! Its sounds funny, but this daily practice has created a strong inner dialogue. I listen to my ego, say thank you for sharing, then say girl bye! My momma always told me to ‘Take the meat and throw away the bone.’