Usually in March, my weekends are filled with birthday celebrations, March Madness Basketball games and spring photo shoots. However, this March has been very different because of the Coronavirus, which has affected many people all around the world. With all that is going on around us, I hope my blog provides a source of inspiration or at the very least a break from your new normal. Enjoy!
March is a time to recognize women’s achievements and raise awareness against biases and challenges that women face daily all around the globe. This month, I am recognizing one amazing sister friend, Alleysha Mullen. Our recent conversation was filled with relatable themes from being a new mom to her view on balance and why it is important for her to support women owned businesses.
From the moment Alleysha arrived at her photoshoot in late October, I could see her confidence illuminate behind her voluminous hair and radiant smile. Alleysha always has this warmth about her and immediately embraced me in a hug. As she strapped her young son into his stroller, I noticed her t-shirt with the words “Dope Moms Need Dope Moms” written across the front. She explained that this shirt recognized mothers who serve in the birth world by helping other mothers enter into motherhood. She mentioned how intentional she is about supporting women businesses especially those founded by black and brown women. She was super encouraged to see women succeed by identifying gaps in the market and creating businesses to meet these needs. Later she shares four women owned companies that she is currently supporting.
As we started to talk about women’s equality, Alleysha abruptly stated, “Could we replace equality with equity?” Equity talks to fairness and meeting people where they are. She went on to say, that as a society, equity means giving people what they need to be successful, such as making spaces that allow black and brown women to thrive and then putting support systems in place to continually uplift them.
Alleysha shared one of her favorite inspirational sayings, “You belong in every room that you step in, so act like it!” (insert mic drop right here please). This powerful phrase resonated with her because in the work she does around organizational development and corporate learning, she often doesn’t see people that look like her – a young, black woman. Alleysha says she constantly reminds herself that she belongs in these rooms because of her education, experience, and accomplishments.
I asked Alleysha to describe the role that mentorship and sponsorship has played in the trajectory of her career. She mentioned that immediate leaders throughout her career tried to put her in a box or stunt her growth through words and actions. This led to her experiencing feelings of not belonging, having been dismissed and overlooked for promotions and even being told she was too loud for a leadership position. As a woman of faith, she brought her concerns to God and waited on Him to move on her behalf. She believes God connected her with influential leaders that supported her in ways that others had not. They became her biggest champion and when leadership roles opened up, they encouraged her to apply.
Shonda Rhimes in her book, Year of Yes!, said this regarding balance, “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.” Alleysha similarly shares this view but elaborated on her personal view towards balance. “Balance as we perceive it, doesn’t exist. It gives you the notion that we are doing everything all at once at 100% and I just think that’s false”, explained Alleysha. She went on to say, “I can’t do it all. I define balance as finding a time and the place to do what I need to do and to feel comfortable enough to let the ball drop.”
As we talked about mom guilt, we shared a laughter both acknowledging that we have experienced it from time to time. Alleysha said that mom guilt is a real feeling but that she is in a place where she is figuring it all out daily. She went on to say that she is a person that has her own needs and desires that also have to be met and its ok to meet those needs.
As if being a loving wife, a present mom, and a boss at work doesn’t soak up all of her time, Alleysha also manages her own business as an executive coach. Her coaching business is birthed out of something she loves but doesn’t get to do much in her full-time role which focuses more on facilitating and consulting.
In conclusion, Alleysha shared women owned businesses, some led by women of color, that she is intentionally supporting:
1. Mented Cosmetics. Its founders KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, started Mented because they believe every woman should be able to find herself in the world of beauty. Although they create nudes for a variety of skin tones, they started by creating the perfect nudes for dark skin tones.
2. Jewelle (Skincare) – Aubrey, owner of Jewelle, transferred her culinary skills to skin care production, and began producing natural products for the face and body with the best ingredients from nature.
3. Melanin (Haircare) – Founded by two sisters, Whitney and Taffeta White, Melanin is a haircare line rooted in passion for natural hair care using natural and safe ingredients that also benefits the community that it serves.
4. Pattern (Haircare) – Started by Tracee Ellis Ross, Pattern was made for people with curls ranging from 3B to 4C textures. Alleysha especially loves using it on her son's hair .
When asked what does she say to a woman trying to follow their dreams in the midst of challenges and adversity, Alleysha said “Nothing worth having comes easy!” which is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and I would love to hear from you whether you are a mom boss, a woman of color trying to achieve her dreams or a woman struggling to find the right mentors. I would love to hear from you! Also, enjoy the pictures below from our recent photoshoot.