Jessica Dawson, a Sales and Empowerment Coach, is the Founder of Empowered for Sales, a strengths-based coaching practice that helps ambitious entrepreneurs and sales leaders sell in their own way to six figures and beyond. She helps her clients harness their natural talent in pursuit of elevated experiences as trusted partners in finance, insurance, marketing, and more.
Jessica is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, PCC with International Coach Federation, and holds her MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. After beginning her career on Wall Street, this former stockbroker transitioned to coaching and leadership education. For almost a decade, Jessica worked as a Senior Workplace Partner for a premier management consulting firm where she coached and advised tens of thousands of executives, including some of the world’s top leaders. She now runs a thriving speaking and coaching business from her home base in Chicago
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up a certified ‘Jersey Girl‘ about 30 minutes outside of New York City. I have two brothers and I am the middle child. My parents both believed in education and putting God in the center of one’s life. My parents always made sure that we had enriching experiences and I remember being in a lot of activities. Girl Scouts, soccer, track, ballet, youth group, summer camp. We were always on the go. The part of NJ I grew up in is very diverse so I got to know different cultures through my friends. My friends ranged from East Indians to Koreans to other Black people and beyond. I ALWAYS had a fascination with people. My Mom still tells a story of me witnessing a little girl faint. I asked about that little girl all night long. I was about seven years old. People are all so different and our differences should be celebrated. My parents both grew up during the end of segregation in America and they instilled a pride in us around our Black American culture. My Dad is from Georgia so we would spend a lot of time in the surrounding Atlanta area and my Mom is from Los Angeles. We would spend a lot of time in Los Angeles as well. We had no blood relatives in our state so my friends were also my family. Growing up I had a goal of being a track star and I ran track from the age of 9 to 18. I remember watching the Olympics in awe of people like Flo-Jo and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. One thing that running track taught me was how to speak over myself and dig deep. Track practice was hard and I really enjoyed the challenge. I also loved to dance. There was something about being out on that stage and expressing myself through movement that I very much enjoyed. I would practice in my room for hours choreographing different dances to my favorite songs. My other big dream came from the annual ‘take your daughter to work‘ days I accompanied my father to. My father was an investment banker and commuted into NYC daily. I found myself looking up to the lifestyle and dreamed about becoming a high-powered woman that lived in NYC and worked in finance. Overall, my childhood was filled with great experiences. It wasn’t perfect but it gave me a great foundation to springboard into the person I am today.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
Post college, I did get to live out my dreams of living in NYC and working in finance. In 2008 I was working for Lehman Brothers and that was a turning point. The reality is that I did not find joy in my stock broker role but I pushed myself to stay in it. A catalytic spark for change happened in 2008 as I tried to save client assets as the company collapsed and went into bankruptcy. The aftermath of this unprecedented experience unveiled that there were many people unfulfilled in their jobs. I pivoted to focusing on studying all I could about a company’s greatest asset, the human being. I left finance and never looked back.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
After years of coaching and facilitating learning interventions, it hit me that I wanted to create an impact on my own terms. Turning this initial thought into action did not come without hesitation as I had a lot of psychological conditioning to break through. I had given so much to my career and when I hit 40 I said to myself if you don’t pursue your dreams now when will you? 2020 made us all be still, and while there was vast devastation, there were also some benefits that came from being still. This was a huge life change because I was on the road 75% of the time and could be resourced anywhere in the world. The pandemic allowed me to go inward, and take a diagnostic of what I want out of life. This was a gift. What made me say yes and take the plunge is knowing that I could not NOT try and there is a knowing inside of me that this is the work that I am meant to do.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
My coaching business allows me to bring all of my worlds into one. it’s not only about helping my clients gain buy-in and more sales. There is an evolution that happens when my clients build their confidence and step into their power to generate revenue for themselves, their families and beyond. Empowered for sales is about understanding yourself at a deeper level. It’s about pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits, and it’s ultimately about generating great impact through your product/service as you increase your bottom line. More importantly, we are selling all the time. Much of my work is helping my clients build their confidence and find their voice. Often times it’s spiritual because we’re tackling limiting beliefs to allow the person to be their full, authentic self, and unleash their full power and potential. Although it is about selling and getting buy-in my business is really about taking oneself to the next level and stepping into the life of their dreams.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
One of the most challenging parts of running my business is learning the rules of this new game. Corporate America is also a game, but it’s different from entrepreneurship. In entrepreneurship, you have to learn to package and market yourself and you don’t have a big name behind you. You are building from scratch. I have found tremendous support in building relationships with other women that are building their businesses. It is about finding the right people that are going to elevate you. The other piece about entrepreneurship is that we all get there in our own way. There is this amazing journey of mastery through failing fast and iterating to perfect your business. I am having fun with it all watching my vision come to life and finding security within myself. I am in the business of helping other people and I am an empath. I have to make sure that I have proper boundaries in place and that I’m filling my own cup when feeling drained. I do a ton of self-care to sustain my own level of positivity and engagement. Activities such as meditating, yoga, hot Pilates, the sauna, going on walks and eating as clean as I can all play a tremendous part in being able to sustain and maintain. My tribe of support also plays a big role. Family, friends, and fellow entrepreneurs (that get it) help me to keep a nice balance. Lastly, nature is a game changer being out in nature allows you to get inspiration and also just get inspiration.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
The pandemic was a game-changer. For the first time in my consulting career, I was able to take a pause. As stated earlier I traveled 75% of the time and it could be resourced anywhere in the world. I was constantly living out of a suitcase. I didn’t understand how much that took a toll on my well-being until we all took a pause and had to be still in 2020. This is when I started to think more deeply about my next move. My move to entrepreneurship would not come until a couple of years later, the pandemic did allow me to think and plan my next move. Personally, my dad had a stroke and that was devastating. It continued to solidify that tomorrow is never promised. I watched my dad work for huge companies and make those companies so much money. Yes, we lived comfortably but my Dad never really got the fullness of his impact monetarily and now he also has health struggles. I got serious about my health and I also got serious about going after my dreams in 2020. I realized I had been taking some things for granted. I knew this was something that I had to do for myself. Nobody is coming to save you. You have to embody and step into what it is that is needed for yourself.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
Recently, I was part of a co-authored book called Voices of Impact. The book is an Amazon, number one best seller in entrepreneurial management. In my chapter, Journey to Empowerment, I was able to share my story. It was such a beautiful project to be a part of because it allowed me to realize how far I’ve come. The reality is for much of my life I would second-guess myself and I was always trying to find my voice. Putting my story out there, allowed me to understand myself in a brand new way.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
The change I push for is for each person to celebrate their uniqueness. My business pushes people to not emulate anyone else. I push my clients to fall more deeply in love with themselves, their spirit, and their soul each and every day. Entrepreneurship is a beautiful journey that pushes you past your limits and allows you to try and try again. I love being a beacon of encouragement for my clients. More importantly, I allow space for them to truly go within and know that anything is possible. You are no different. All you have to do is decide.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
Life is a mirror. It is not happening to you, it is happening through you. We are more powerful than we realize and what we think about grows. Hold your focus on the things you want to manifest and come to fruition. Leave the rest.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Women have statistically been proven to be better managers than men (Gallup research). Because of our feminine nature of love, kindness, and empathy, as well as being able to be stern, we are strong leaders. I encourage any aspiring leader to start by going within and reflecting on the types of leaders that inspire you and the type of leader you want to be. It’s not about emulating anybody else. Find your voice and practice speaking up whenever you can. When I first started consulting in 2014, I tended to focus on social labels Less-tenured, Black, and a woman. I gave so much power to those labels, and while I love the fact that I am a black woman, what I would find is if I gave too much power to what I thought people would think about those labels it often made me shrink and feel less than. Where I had more success is when I would speak to people from a soul-to-soul level. I became a universal player in boardrooms, stages, and classrooms. I was able to win over any size audience and gain buy-in. It didn’t matter the industry or geographical location. Lean into the fact that we are just having a conversation that I deserve to be in. That is what I would encourage.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Don’t give up! You got this! You would not have the desire if you couldn’t do it so keep going. Better is on the other side. Do whatever you need to believe and hold your vision. No one is coming to save you. Lean into consistency and discipline.