Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship

By J. Harvard Feldhouse

The Office of Alumni and Events at Youngstown State University promoted personal empowerment through entrepreneurship by inviting businesswoman Carmella Williams, a YSU alumnae, to speak in a virtual lecture last Thursday. 

Williams was interviewed on Facebook Live by Jaietta Jackson, senior lecturer at YSU, about owning and running her own business. Williams said it not only gives her confidence, but also inspires the people around her to find empowerment in their businesses.

“Entrepreneurship– it’s going to show you everything,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a journey for you to reveal to [yourself] who you are. Who you are is an individual with skill sets, an individual who has a passion and someone who can run a business.”

Williams started Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty, a skin and hair care company that specializes in textured and curly hair, in 2013 after being laid off from her previous job. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household, starting a business felt natural to her, and she wanted to do something that helped others.

Black Periodt. is Williams’ most recent endeavor. The business’ goal is to bring awareness to issues faced by the Black community and raise money to give back to Youngstown’s Black community through business grants and one full-ride scholarship for a Black YSU student.

Her skills and success with Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty helped her land a position at the Youngstown Business Incubator as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion. She counsels women and minority entrepreneurs with their startups.

“That is definitely an empowering situation right there, to be able to identify someone’s skill set and show them how valuable they are and what they bring to the table. Because if you know what’s in your tool bag, you know what you can bring to the table. You’ll know if you can sit at the table at all,” Williams said.

Jackson, who knows Williams personally, started One2One Communication Consulting, a diversity training company, over one year ago. Jackson went to Williams for advice on getting One2One moving in the right direction. 

“I saw the need for diversity, inclusion and equity training in our society,” Jackson said. “And then when I started it, and I was going through the ropes, I went to Carmela and said, ‘OK, so how can I make this work? These are some of my ideas. These are the things that I’m doing.’ I gained guidance from her.”

Jackson said, in her opinion, the most impactful message in the lecture was about journaling your successes.

“I love the journaling and seeing your successes,” Jackson said. “Because sometimes … you don’t know you’re as awesome as what you really are. When you’re ready to give up and you don’t think you can go any farther, writing down those successes makes you go, ‘I can do this,’ and then it makes you dream a little bigger.”

Heather Belgin, associate director in the Office of Alumni and Events, invited Williams to speak for their lecture series because she thought it would be a good resource for Williamson College of Business Administration students. 

“Carmella is a very accomplished alum, and her message about empowerment through entrepreneurship we thought would be of interest to entrepreneurs and to students in the college of business,” Belgin said. “She provided a lot of encouragement and inspiration to entrepreneurs when she talked about the tenacity, research and time commitment needed for a successful business.”

Belgin said the Office of Alumni and Events started their virtual lecture series in April to keep students, alumni and the Youngstown community connected and engaged while apart.

“We want as many alumni as possible to find someone that interests them, so we look for a wide variety of topics from presenters that come from diverse backgrounds, professions and class years to make sure that all five YSU colleges are represented as well,” Belgin said. 

The next lecture is tonight at seven, featuring Claudia Berlinski, director of the McDonough Museum of Art, and Chris McCullough, professor of art, who will talk about the Scribe Literary Collaborative and their endeavor to foster a partnership between the literary and visual arts. Follow the Office of Alumni and Events on Facebook for information on upcoming lectures.