Be Teachable — No matter what level you are in your career, there’s always more room to grow. Always make yourself open to learn. Being the smartest person in the room isn’t always an advantage.
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Judith Jacques.
Judith began her career in hospitality at a boutique firm as an Event Producer. Shortly thereafter, she launched her own company, specializing in weddings and other social events. After receiving a dual Bachelors degrees from St. John’s University in Business & Communications, her firm expanded into a Communications firm with a strong focus on small and minority-owned businesses.
Utilizing her great “people skills” as well as her passion for the empowerment of the Black community, in 2012, Judith founded BLACK STREET- an umbrella company created as a means to uplift and empower the Black Community. Their mission is to provide an outlet, which enforces, enlightens, encourages, and educates the Black community. Their focus on the arts, career, politics, education, and food & culture are key components that hold the Black Community together. BLACK STREET also strives in educating and informing outside communities on the Black community’s contribution to every industry. Under the BLACK STREET umbrella, Judith has created platforms such as Black Celebration Awards, Black Women in Media, Black Culinary Coalition, and a few new platforms which will excitingly launch in 2021. As the creator of Black Street, Judith created a platform in which she was able to produce high-level, celebrity-driven events in collaboration with main-stream media partners and sponsors.
Judith has received awards and recognition for her work by NYS Senator, Jesse E Hamilton of the 26th District, been awarded a Tribute Honoree, Patricia Tobin Image Awards, received a certificate of merit from the NYS Mayor’s office, and New York State Assembly.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My personal experiences lead me to create Black Women in Media. From internships to career opportunities, I experienced an unsettling amount of tokenism — always the only Black woman in the room. I’d work twice as hard than anyone else with the least amount of recognition nor career advancement opportunities. I thought of the many Black women within industries in Media, Communications, Entertainment, Digital, and Tech who undoubtedly have experienced the same treatment. Black Women in Media was created as a space where we can recognize and empower each other.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Although the intent was to inspire and empower Black women, I could never have imagined to what extent. I remember the very first conference and awards we held, numerous attendees approached me with an overwhleming expression of gratitude sharing how thankful they were for this experience and that this space even existed. It was at that moment I was certain of our purpose and the work we are doing here at BWIM.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
BWIM began with a strong focus on experiences, particularly our awards and conference. Hence we would reach out to prominent individuals and celebrities in order to secure their participation and/or honor them. As a new platform, I was handling the predominance of the correspondence and accidentally sent an email invitation to the wrong recipient as a potential honoree. The recipient and I eventually laughed about the error and eventually became a team member. I’ve taught myself and team to be extremely aware of our correspondence to avoid making the same mistake.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe particularly the space we have created. Honoring and celebrating Black women. Something which we all strive to be a part of. It has been our experience as Black women, in this country, in corporate and similar spaces in which we do not receive equitable and inclusive opportunities. We expected to produce the very best for little to nothing. Spaces, such as BWIM, are scarce and when we do find them, we are revel in what they provide. We stand out because there are many who are looking for a platform similar to our very own.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we have rebranded and launched some exciting new additions to our platform such as an online publication, a rewarding membership program, numerous digital shows, and monthly experiences. Representation matters greatly and leads to strong future leaders.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be a powerful yet inspiring leader. Learn the strengths of your team and find strategic ways to magnify them. Be clear of your vision and inspire them with it. Allow them to become a part of it. Welcome their ideas and allow them to implement them.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Create a heirachy. An executive team which oversees a management team which oversees each area of focus in your company. Your company is as great as your team.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother. I’m grateful for her. Just like any other entrepreneur, I would struggle and go through difficult times which was followed by a sense of discouragement. My mother knew when those times would come. She had this ability, a superpower almost — an ability to strengthen me at the most convene times. She would always remind me about my “why”. I’m grateful for her presence. It saved my work.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to pay it forward. Mentor and inspire a future leader. Empower women who look like me. But there is always more that can be done. I’m learning how I can be more impactful.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be Kind, But Firm- Treating others how I would like to be treated is a lesson in which I live by. So I’ve always treated others with kindness and empathy. However, I’ve learned my kindness can be taken for weakness. So now, I treat everyone with kindness, but I’m firm when necessary.
- Be Honest – The truth is much easier than being dishonest.
- Communicate – I’ve under-communicated which doesn’t allow my team to fully understand my direction leading to disappointing results. I’ve learned to extensively communicate my expectations in which my team can follow through on.
- Be Teachable – No matter what level you are in your career, there’s always more room to grow. Always make yourself open to learn. Being the smartest person in the room isn’t always an advantage.
- Welcome Failure – Of course no one wants to fail. But unfortunately it happens. It’s also necessary. I have learned my best lessons through failure. My greatest successes were also after my greatest failures.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Imagine a world where we weren’t triggered by our own biases and assumptions and treated everyone with kindness. We’d set a goal for a minimum of kind acts per day. I believe a movement such as this would make our world a much better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt| This quote levels me. Helps me focus on the bigger picture, silence the noise, and focus on what I’m trying to accomplish.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I used to think this would be Michelle Obama. But not until recently, I’ve wanted to have a sit down with Kamala Harris. I guess both of these women for the same reason. Normally a Black woman in any position of power is deemed “difficult”, “angry”, and associated with many other types of negative connotations. Despite this fact, Kamala has accomplished groundbreaking levels of success. I’d love to know how she was able to stay focused? What were some obstacles she faced and how did she overcome them?
How can our readers reach you on social media?
I’m @JudithJacques on IG & Twitter