Fostering Connections and Making an Impact | The Woman behind Women Entrepreneurs WorldWide: Cheryl Collins
“To thine own self be true.”
Everyone has a unique journey. Mine has been colourful and quite satisfying. I believe it begins and ends with my passion to travel and learn about other cultures. Surprisingly (or not) I got the motivation to travel through reading a book about Africa in elementary school. I was intrigued by a picture of a man standing in a field next to a lion, and I thought to myself, I want to be in that man’s place. I am privileged enough to say, been there, done that, and a lot more. My parents have always encouraged and supported me in my travels, though they were not very well off. My ancestors lived through the slavery era; nevertheless, there was a huge emphasis on education and learning in my family. It is with their support and through their gift of knowledge and acceptance that I am whatever I am.
Being a woman of colour, I have seen my fair share of discrimination, and that has driven me to my goals. Through my various travels, I have seen and appreciated different cultures, and have realized that empowerment must begin early, especially for girls. I engaged in higher learning to prepare for the legal profession and went to school and worked in the legal field for quite a few years. However, I was not quite satisfied.
In 2009, I founded Women Entrepreneurs Worldwide (WEW), which aims to connect female entrepreneurs and business owners, so they can build a network that will help them reach their goals. As WEW grew and gained attention, I was invited as a speaker on to the Women Economic Forum (WEF), and Advisory Executive Council and became an ALL Ladies League honorary member. Within a year, I was appointed as the USA ALL Chapter Chairperson for Entrepreneurship.
My future goals are to continue to build more networks and potential opportunities for women through WEW. I want to bring more women to showcase their talents on the world stage and to motivate girls to be entrepreneurs as a means of self-sustainability.
Like everyone, my life has been a combination of ups and downs. The toughest thing to battle was indecision. I went to school for litigation and even worked in that field for many years. Deciding to take the plunge into entrepreneurship was a major change and I had to compare many aspects, like income. However, I am happy with my decision. Other challenges included the economic hit in the 2000s, and now of course the pandemic. COVID-19 has put all our plans on hold, but I have realized that as plans are challenged, new ones are built. One must always strive on and look ahead, not behind. COVID is challenging, but with the help of technology, we are still together. While we wait for the world to get better, we can make plans for the future and see what we can do now to help.
I learned to be grateful and recognize opportunities within the challenges presented. Counting your blessings puts a lot of your struggles into perspective, especially when you put them in context with the wider world. Right now, we must remember to pay attention to ourselves with a ‘reassessment mindset’ and encourage yourself and others.
The thing I love most about WEW is its diverse culture and people. They bring in new ideas and lessons from all walks of life. WEW has helped me meet and interact with a lot of wonderful people and learn from their stories. Two people who were instrumental in helping me learn about the Indian culture and its challenges are Rachita and Sameer. I love people like them who have empowered girls, and it’s a pleasure to have met and interacted with them.
I wouldn’t change anything about my life. But if I were to give one piece of advice to my younger self, and youth everywhere, it would be to listen more. Your story and struggles are unique, but listening to experienced people can help you avoid mistakes. Their wisdom can help you be successful quicker in pursuit of your endeavors. Though this may sound irritating to hear, things that you feel are important right now will become trivial as you mature. What will continue to be important is what you learned from those experiences, challenges, mistakes, and even your achievements.