The only difference between a girl with a dream
and a woman who has done it, was the decision to say,
“I Can and I Will!”
Jordan Brand Women’s Collective Members, Shema Turner, IB Majekodunmi, Laci Jordan, CaSera Heining, Sydney Zenon, and Naja Crawford talk Creativity and Entrepreneurship with Her Grails.
By Monique Lorden
“I’m super excited. Y’all look like you had a blast during All-star. When you all get together, it's a good time. The Jordan Women's Collective is more than what we see online and it goes way beyond what we see on social media. How important is the representation of women of color when it comes to the realm of sneakers and sports?”
Shema Turner: Shema confidently laughs and responds cleverly with, “we are taking up space where we were not previously allowed to.” You could interpret her laugh as a joyous exhale. The reminder that Black women are creating the spaces they see themselves in is something they all celebrate. Shema adds, “they want us to be so competitive especially as Black women working in the same industry and now that’s not such a niche market. It’s less competitive. There’s more of us and we’re all being our excellent selves while doing different things.”
Laci Jordan: Laci adds, “representation is important because people can see what’s possible.” Black women can look at each other and see beyond their own experience. Representation further strengthens their sisterhood giving women a greater opportunity to find inspiration in each other and their collective experience.”
Sydney Zenon: “Representation is so important. Little girls see you going to WNBA games and see how you can wear sneakers and lashes at the same time and still feel confident. They’re like, 'I just love your outfit, or you're so pretty.’ Just seeing that and having a space where Black girls and women can grow and find their niche.” Sydney speaks on the dualities of women. She goes on to say, “when it comes to sports, you're not allowed to be pretty and be good and I don't think that's fair so giving little girls the platform to see something otherwise is very important.”
Naja Crawford: “What I love about being a part of the collective is how different we all are and yet how there are so many commonalities that intertwine us and it fits perfectly. Every collective is perfect. I think growing up and being a part of Black communities with other young Black girls there were so many nuanced things that you don't realize because you're just in it. You don't realize how much your commonalities and collective experiences connects you and makes you feel seen.” These women are a total vibe! They are passionate about Black girls and women knowing that they can be their authentic selves no matter what that means to them.
Sydney Zenon: “It's okay to be the weird Black girl or the quirky one. It’s okay to be the sporty one. It's okay to be the girly one. It's all okay.”
CaSera Heining: I'm also going to say queer women of color. I represent this intersectionality. Being a plus size person and a very masculine energy forward person there are not many people that I can look at immediately and even when I was a kid, there was nobody that I could say, ‘oh yeah I relate to that person’. I don't see myself in a model. I don't see myself in any of that. Natural hair was never my strong suit, makeup, none of that at all so for me to be able to just show up as me in my basketball shorts and my t-shirts, my sweatpants, hoodies, braids is crucial for me. I guess I'm saying, knowing that there's younger people that can look at me and see a part of themselves carries weight.” Representation is our responsibility and CaSera holds that responsibility so well. Black capacity is immense. With the weight of the world on our shoulders we still have space to hold love and joy in the palms of our hands. We plant it. We spread it. We nurture it. We watch us bloom and look fly while doing it. CaSera also says, “being able to be heard and recognized by the Jordan Brand is insane to me and it's made me realize that I sleep on myself sometimes.”
Let the church say… All women agree with an “Mm hmm. We all do”.
Tausha Sanders: “I think that is important because sneakers and streetwear are often seen under a narrow lens. Influencers online are often seen one way when there’s a wide variety of women rocking sneakers and streetwear that may not look like what we see online.”
“It's okay to be the weird Black girl or the quirky one. It’s okay to be the sporty one. It's okay to be the girly one. It's all okay.”
Entrepreneurship and the many experiences we have running a business:
Tausha Sanders: What did you think running your own business was like until you became an entrepreneur?
Laci Jordan: Laci Jordan reminisced on memories of her mom. With a bit of spunk in her response, Laci says, “my mom always worked for herself. I grew up seeing the pros and cons because of her tenacity and drive. I’m still figuring it out for myself. It’s definitely better than I thought it would be.”
Growing up with a mother who was an entrepreneur during a time when securing a good job with good benefits is inspiration in itself. Often the toughest part to being an entrepreneur is having the courage to say yes, I can and I will.
Tausha Sanders: “There are pros and cons. I totally agree. It is also the little things that no one tells you like staying on top of even the smallest details. No one glamorizes that part.”
This conversation just got even more real. Owning a business goes beyond the final result. It’s also in the little things that happen between start to finish. Most of us didn’t get a special class on how to budget or understand our finances while studying in high school or college nor is it something discussed at the dinner table.
Shema Turner: Shema is in total agreement adding, “operating as a business was an adjustment. I also learned that you go into entrepreneurship thinking you’re gonna do your talent, the thing you’re most passionate about, but then you figure out that you have to wear multiple hats. That’s been the toughest part and like Laci, I definitely didn’t think it was easy. I was so excited about putting whatever I was doing out into the world that I didn’t realize I had to play accountant, agent, and manager until you get into a position where you can hire those people. There are always new things that we are figuring out. There’s no rule book for this and that’s okay because as creatives and people of color we’re making our own rules.”
Sydney Zenon: “It’s glorified. People don't take into account that now you are your own financial adviser, your employer. You do accounting, social media, management, and marketing. You're everything. You're your own PR person and you didn't even sign up for that. That's one thing that people glorify. And, they don't tell you about the days where you might be broke.”
Naja Crawford: “First of all, I didn't even realize that I was moving in the entrepreneur space. I was like, ‘Well, I'm going to do what I want to do and it has nothing to do with going to school. And that just is what it is.’ So, I teach yoga and model. I have a yoga community for kids. In modeling, I have my agents and managers so there's a little bit of a team aspect, but with Yoga Little, it really is all just me and it’s something that I thought I would be able to do on my own. Now coming to understand that it's important, just like what I have with modeling, to build a team. Naja reflects on having those self-awakening conversations with herself the way we all do. A wake-up call isn’t just for the AM. Naja goes on to share with us what she told herself. “So, have your financial advisor. Have your CPA. Your web designer. Outsource when you have the capital to. Because you know that your time as a creative and as the driving force for your business is more important than you being able to do everything yourself. Something that I'm realizing is the importance in building my own version of a team and giving myself grace for offering work to people who specialize in that and who want to do that. ”
Tausha Sanders: “Great gem! I think in the beginning you’re like, ‘I got this.’ We think this is our baby and nobody could do it like us. Then you get to where you're like, ‘no, I can't do it all’. That’s where building a team of like minded driven people is gold. Cash, is there anything else because DJing that’s a whole ‘nother lane, baby.”
CaSera Heining: “I haven’t hit the part where I started building a team out. The Virgo in me is like, ‘y'all not going to do it the way I need you to do it so I’m gonna do it myself so I can get it done right. I don't even see it as entrepreneurship. This is my life. Entrepreneurship feels like a small family business. My mom is my financial person. I go to her when I need money advice. I also lean on friends. Not only that but, when I was in college, I would take random classes because I'm like, ‘yeah, you make flyers, but if I learn what you know, I can now make my own flyers.’ That's how I go about entrepreneurship. Yeah, I could outsource, but if I know what I can do, I can do it too for myself. So, I take pride in being able to say,, ‘I built this,’ I think a lot of entrepreneurship looks like community. I feel like the communities that really had me from the start of my career really hold me down. I feel uplifted and surrounded by love.”
Naja Crawford: “I agree. Entrepreneurship is like your baby. You can’t raise them kids by yourself!”
Tausha Sanders: “You are dropping gems today. You need to get a couple t-shirts made. Perfectly said. Business is business and often tough, but having the strength of community as our support and network is what strengthens us.”
“I agree. Entrepreneurship is like your baby. You can’t raise them kids by yourself!”
Tausha Sanders: “What are some challenges being a female, let alone Black or Brown female, that you have faced while on your entrepreneurship journey?"
The women take a brief pause just enough to collect their thoughts. Entrepreneurship ain’t easy so as expected neither are their responses. Having so much respect for what they create and the responsibility of it all, they become even more vulnerable with their responses.
Laci Jordan: “One of the challenges I found is that entrepreneurship is very isolating. The benefit of working in a corporation is that you have resources and people you can go to, however being an entrepreneur means a lot of just me time.”
Shema Turner: “Yes, there’s that corporate protocol.”
Laci Jordan: “With entrepreneurship you’re seemingly by yourself. It’s even more isolating as a Black woman because we don’t have the same networks that our White male counterparts have. Staying sharp in your craft is also challenging”
Sydney Zenon: “I think not having the opportunity to have a voice. We always have a voice. We always have our opinions and we always have something to say. That's why Jordan Brand is so special to me, because it not only provides an opportunity, but gives a chance to have a voice within that opportunity. That speaks volumes to me because as a makeup artist, we're usually pushed in the corner, and told to do your role.”
Naja Crawford: “The inaccessibility of something that has been heavily monetized is a challenge. It's expensive to have a yoga membership when you could do it in the grass outside. That's also why yoga is so important. I can offer healing modalities to Black and Brown kids that would otherwise not be available.”
IB Majekodunmi: “Feeling like I need to have it all figured out was a challenge. As a Black woman there are a lot of expectations for us to have it all together. When embarking on my entrepreneurial journey I didn't know much of anything so it's been a challenge to not adhere to other people's expectations of me. In addition, grace to make mistakes, stumble, and get back up is an ongoing challenge that I work on daily. Another challenge is the self-guilt I have for periods of rest. I know that I perform well when I'm rested and have some time away to dream and scheme, but the grind culture, especially as a Black woman, is often difficult to combat.”
Tausha Sanders: “So many good points! We have to be ourselves and not what people expect us to be. I alsoI think entrepreneurship can be lonely and we don’t talk about that enough just as we don’t talk about money. It's a faux pas. “
It’s not cool to talk about when it is just you and your creative ideas, how to find or create networks, and the biggest faux pas, money. The reality is we would benefit from knowing that working in solitude doesn’t mean you’re truly alone. We benefit from knowing that when you find your community and collective of support, they become your networks. And as Tausha Sanders added, “if we knew more about what we should be making we wouldn’t get out of bed unless it’s a respectable amount. Point blank.” Period.
Shema Turner: “There’s a lot of work outside of what I already come with. In a room of creatives that don’t look like us we not only do what we do as creatives, but we also have to convince them that it matters. Not only do I show you what it is but I have to convince you of what it is and that’s exhausting.”
Tausha Sanders: “Cash, being a queer woman of color in a male dominated industry, what are some challenges you face on your entrepreneurship journey?”
CaSera Heining: “I’m still taken aback by Naja’s answers. I'm a mixed kid. I grew up only knowing one side of my family. I never got to meet the Black side of my family. I also went to private Catholic schools all the way up until high school. So, I kind of grew up somewhat ignorant to the difference of color. Once I hit high school, that was when I came into my Blackness and my queerness all at once. Then going into entrepreneurship, I picked very White, male dominated fields all the way around. Radio is very White male. Even your urban radio stations are run by older White men. I think my entrepreneurship is knowing how to exist in the different rooms I have to take ownership in. It's a balance of honing my Blackness and my queerness.”
Laci Jordan: “We have to be “twice as good” when we are already great. We have to work at this elevated level all of the time.”
Being a Black Woman entrepreneur is innate. Ever since we were young, we’ve been telling each other to “mind the business that pays you” before we knew what that truly meant. We are business owners before we know the business. We were introduced to financial literacy while playing numbers with our friends. We create something out of nothing. We hone those natural skills and find courage in saying, “yes we can.” You will never find a guide to being a Black woman entrepreneur. No pen could hold enough ink. No book can carry the weight of that excellence. It doesn’t exist. I looked. I looked in the back of bookstores where the section on Black Women holds the same dimensions as a closet. I looked in classrooms, boardrooms, and how to guides. It doesn’t exist and rightfully so. Black women entrepreneurs don’t just fill spaces, they create spaces. Jordan Brand Women’s Collective believes in that excellence.
Tausha Sanders: “Those challenges are what make us better, but they are still challenges.”
Tausha Sanders: "What lessons have you learned in your entrepreneurship journey?”
IB Majekodunmi: “I learned that you have to ask for help. It's impossible to grow, scale, and stay sane when doing it all by yourself. Most people want to help you and are happy to support you. Community truly is everything in this space.”
Sydney Zenon: “If you can't stay motivated, stay consistent. There's beauty in consistency because consistency means growth. It's just showing up as yourself, staying motivated, and staying consistent.”
CaSera Heining: “My biggest lesson has been to look at my Ls as lessons. I look at it as like, if I didn't get this, that means that I wasn't meant to be in that room. I could’ve wanted it more than anything in the world and if I didn't get it, It meant that it wasn't the space for me. It probably wasn't a safe space, a welcoming space. I also learned not to hold on to the disappointment of that. I can take that energy and feel okay that I didn't get that so onto the next thing. That's been my biggest lesson. I still learn from it often.”
Your lesson is but a blessing and life goes on. Cash keeps it simple as it should be. Every space isn’t for you. Your lesson is often the opportunity you didn’t know you were seeking.
Naja Crawford: “To Cash’s point, perspective is the most important aspect of entrepreneurship because something can seem like it's the worst thing that has ever happened or you can see it as a redirection towards what is actually meant for you. That comes with trusting your intuition and following what is inside of you.”
Shema Turner: “Patience! There’s a feeling that I have to do it now because I don’t know if there will be another opportunity to do it again. As a creative with so many ideas I feel like I gotta show the world everything I got in order for them to receive me as the person I know that I am.
I learned that’s not the case. I learned that it’s okay to ride the wave and it’s ok to take a break even at your biggest peak. Shema also adds, “social media also plays a part. It’s tough. It has you thinking that you have to compete with what’s going on right now when that defeats the purpose of creativity. I’m not trying to do what’s happening right now, I'm trying to create what will happen in five years. Have patience.”
Tausha Sanders: “I agree especially with social media and rush culture. People see what’s hot now and you’re like, ‘nah bruh we’ve been working on this for years without any recognition’. Patience is necessary. I would definitely go back and tell my younger self that.”
Laci Jordan: Laci poetically adds her lessons on entrepreneurship. “Realizing that you don’t have to do everything by yourself and being open to help. To grow your business and as a person you need help. I’ve had to lean into this. There are people who are good at other things for a reason. I had to learn that it’s okay to allow them to help me. I also learned that I am in control of my creativity and things happen in divine time.”
Tausha Sanders: “Yesss, having patience, staying consistent, and building your ecosystem are all phenomenal lessons. By doing all of this you are also creating resources for other women that’ll in turn build opportunities and generational wealth for us all.”
Tausha Sanders: “How important is it to stay authentic in your craft?”
Naja Crawford: “Oh, it's everything. You can't be anybody else, there's no other option. To show up as yourself is your only option. And if you don't do that, you will see how it leads you down paths that have nothing to do with your end goal, because you're trying to take a walk in somebody else's shoes. Essentially, it's not possible. We have different styles. We have different shoe sizes. I might have a wide foot. You might have a narrow foot. I can't walk in your shoes and you can’t walk in mine. I'm becoming every day. I know that I'm completely different than I was yesterday because of the time I take to grow and to evolve. Sometimes you don't even know what it looks like to be just doing you, but knowing that what that looks like on that day is enough and how you're showing up is enough. Ultimately, to know that everything that you go through is growing you and it's about your character and not your comfort. That's the most important thing that you can draw yourself back to, but you can only do that if you know who you are and really what you are. We're all just divine beings, right?”
Syndey Zenon: “When it comes to identity and showing up as myself, I have to continue to do that because that's what people love. People are going to love that you show up as yourself, and love that you have a love for yourself.”
CaSera Heining: “If I'm not being me, then I feel like I'm nothing. Being an entrepreneur and the type of work that I do, I have to constantly be on. I have to authentically find ways to be me and feel my emotions while showing up for the communities that I serve. I can’t be anyone else because everybody else is taken.”
Laci Jordan: Without hesitation, Laci adds, “I don’t have a choice. it would be hard to show up differently than who I am. I can’t not be myself. In fact, I can look back at old pictures and see that I tried to follow a trend but I never stuck with it because there’s an innate rebel in me to go against the trend and always show up as me.”
Tausha Sanders: “You can’t fake the funk. Just be you because no one else can be.”
Shema Turner: “Laci’s right. There’s this look that people want to align with but as an artist I can’t make myself create what someone else is creating because that defeats the purpose of being an artist. There is inspiration. It’s crazy not to think we aren’t inspired by others. Whatever you look at can be an inspiration. My eyes take in color pallets and people. When you’re aligned with yourself and you are really comfortable in that space the work is gonna create itself.”
"I can’t be anyone else because everybody else is taken.”
Next topic (Question only asked in interview with IB, Shema, and Laci):
Tausha Sanders: Absolutely, there is also a misconception that creatives are always creative, but we know it doesn’t work like that. When are you most creative and what helps you stay creative?
IB Majekodunmi: “I am most creative when I have time to myself. Also, when I am reading, journaling, and having conversations with myself. I am my most creative with my ideas & that's when the vision is the most clear.”
Laci Jordan: “I’m the most creative when I’m on vacation because that’s when I feel the most at peace or the freest. I take a break from being busy to release my thoughts and get creative. Not only that but If I have a creative block I either sit there until I figure it out or I walk away from it. I like to tackle it with a fresh mind or sort out my thoughts and figure it out.
Tausha Sanders: “You do have great content when you’re on vacation so maybe you need to go on vacation more often.”
Shema Turner: “I became an entrepreneur full-time very recently. When I was working for a client, I was under a deadline. There was this feeling like I have to get this done. Having a lot of open time to explore is a new space for me.” Shema Turner is as radiant as her experiences. She says, “I love different cultures and seeing new things that inspire me. I lived in my friend’s New York basement. I would sit in that basement and plan out projects when there’s so much going on in the world around me. I realized I needed to come out of that space and actually open myself up to new experiences. Getting out of your normal day-to-day sparks creativity. It’s new and ever-changing to me. Inspiration can be different for different projects but stepping out of my routine and, even as an introvert, talking to other creatives inspires me.”
Next topic (Question only asked in interview with IB, Shema, and Laci):
Tausha Sanders: What does success mean to you, how would you define success?
Shema: Turner: “Sometimes these questions make you feel like you have to give the most profound statement when really I’m gonna give you the real answer. A recent successful moment was me starting therapy. When you put success in perspective you feel more accomplished each day. There are big goals that I have and I’m waiting to achieve but there’s so many things along the way that are getting me to that point. Success to me is accomplishing something every day that I didn’t do yesterday. It’s refreshing to identify the moments where I realize that getting good at something or I’m approaching my goal. If you don’t identify those little moments everything feels like a failure.”
IB Majekodunmi: “Success is being able to wake up everyday and choose what my day looks like.”
Laci Jordan: “I just started my Blessings Jar to be proud of all my moments, not just the ones rooted in career success. Also, shout out to therapy! Success is also rooted in my mental health and working on myself. The more I expand mentally I show up better in other areas of my life. Talking it out is so important. I’ll have these deep conversations with my friends that unlock new levels of awakening and free space for creativity. If I can define success it’s showing up for myself.”
Next topic (Question only asked in interview with IB, Shema, and Laci):
Tausha Sanders: How has the Jordan Brand Women’s Collective supported you in your entrepreneurship and the women within the Women’s Collective?
IB Majekodunmi: “It has truly been one of the biggest blessings of my life. Being able to have 22 new like-minded friends across the country has been incredible and doing it representing a brand that I have admired for most of my life feels like a dream come true. It really feels like we are part of the Jordan Brand team and I'm thankful to be able to help push the culture and represent Chicago on a large scale.”
Laci Jordan: “Community! There are so many people I’ve connected with from this experience. Being in this group of women created an extended community for me. It’s been about building and expanding community between both the Jordan Brand and the women who share this experience with me.”
Shema Turner: Like Laci, community is important to Shema. “We are growing with the Collective which is what Jordan Brand wants. They brought women together from all parts of the world who are more connected than they knew before going into the experience. Jordan Brand is an amazing brand to work with and an amazing opportunity for Women. Jordan Brand is investing in us by fostering this experience.”
Next Topic: (Question only asked in interview with Shema, and Laci):
Tausha Sanders: What is your favorite project that you worked on thus far:
Laci Jordan: “The pint I designed for Ben and Jerry’s is my favorite art project for several different reasons. I made a goal of doing things that exist in a tangible sense, to make art that is accessible to people, and to work with a brand whose values align with my own.”
Tausha Sanders: “That was epic girl!”
Whose sipping tea? We are eating a pint designed by Laci Jordan.
Shema Turner: “I have a pint in my freezer. I support Laci heavy and I am fan of all the work she does. My favorite project occurred during the pandemic. I worked with a brand called, Leader. We created an initiative to provide masks to those who needed them. It was a beautiful opportunity to create and give. It felt less transactional. When I am my most free, I feel the most creative.” It feels good to Shema to create art that people can use. She also worked on a campaign with Nike Swim. “It was so meaningful because I was able to creative direct on this project.” Shema is proud of this campaign because it also provided representation in a space where Black Women aren’t as visible.”
Tausha Sanders: “This was so much fun. Our conversations advance our entrepreneurship and creativity. This is the meaning of community. This is the meaning of collective.”