Featuring a broad cross-section of women who have distinguished themselves across a rich variety of careers, our Portraits of Power series is a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Black Enterprise, and of black women. It’s a place for today’s businesswomen to share their own favorite images and their own stories, in their own words. Today’s portrait is entrepreneur and former professor Dr. Lisa Williams.
Dr. Lisa Williams
Nickname: Dr. Lisa
CEO, World of EPI L.L.C.
My first job was working as an analyst at the University of Toledo in the Upward Bound Program.
My big break came when when my mother told me I could be anything I wanted, including becoming a doctor—and I finally heard her.
I have had to work hardest at not selling myself short and truly believing I could achieve my desires.
I never imagined I would achieve my dreams. I’m still that little girl with big eyes and pigtails from Toledo, Ohio. Yet, somehow she grew up to become the first African American female to graduate with a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. I never imagined I would be the first African American female to earn tenure at Penn State University or receive two multimillion-dollar endowed chairs. So when I became the highest ranking professor in my field, I had to pinch myself.
I never imagined I would create a toy company. After all, I had no experience, no connections, no funding, and no education in toys. But it happened and I’m living my dream.
I wish I’d learned sooner the power of surrendering to a Higher Power. For so long I thought I had to do everything myself. And while I understand hard work is a requirement, I underestimated the power of prayer, meditation, and surrender. What needless and unnecessary burdens I carried.
The risk I regret not taking is to go for my dreams earlier. I remember being in 5th grade and wanting to try out for the talent show, but not having enough courage to do so. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and take the chances I left unfulfilled.
If I could design my fantasy self-care day it would be spent gently swinging in a hammock overlooking the crystal blue ocean. On my lap is a book and in my hand is a fruit rimmed tropical drink adorned with an umbrella, with the sweet smell of jasmine and other florals in the air. The blissful melodies of birds singing is intermixed with the relaxing sounds of the ocean. I take a deep breath and exhale slowly … ahhhhh.
Developing the strategy that both grows the company and maintains its integrity keeps me up at night. I want to leave toys for little girls and boys today and for future generations that will reflect their beauty and brilliance back to them during play.
When I am struggling, I say to myself, “Relax. Breath. Surrender. All is well.”
I am unapologetically a protector of my children. That includes my two sons, and all children in our community. Every day I rise to protect them from the false image that they are not enough.
Portraits of Power is a yearlong series of candid insights from exceptional women leaders. It is brought to you by ADP.