By Wendy Campbell
My Grandfather was one of my favorite people in the world. He was the first entrepreneur I knew personally. He owned land and rental properties in the little town of Rillito, where my family grew up. We even have a Campbell Street there. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was building a legacy for his children to leave to their children.
I did not know if he partnered with anyone; I never saw anyone but him handling the business. Perhaps I was too young to know what was really going on. When my Grandfather passed, he left his business to his children. It seemed that running a business was easier with one person at the helm than it was with multiple. Everyone had their own ideas of what should happen, and everyone ended up doing their own thing with what Grandpa left them.
I went off to college to get my business degree. I knew that was going to serve me well. I wanted to be like Grandpa. I wanted to own a hotel and live the life they led on the television show “Hotel”. Growing up in Tucson was much different than life at the HBCU I attended. There were a lot of ambitious black men and women there “getting theirs”. Attending college in the south was a totally different experience for me; probably because I used the word “totally” more than almost everyone on campus.
I did not feel I belonged.
Although I looked like them, I felt like my aspirations were not high enough. Maybe I wasn’t even black enough to be there. Most of the students didn’t know there were black people in Arizona. I felt alone.
I found myself back in the band and it was good to be surrounded by people that had a love for music, and loved being around each other working towards a common goal. My second semester in college, I became a member of the band sorority, Tau Beta Sigma because I wanted to serve the band while enjoying being part of the band. I was part of the dance committee, captain of the Flag Line, and drill sergeant. There wasn’t room for personal agendas with over 100 people that needed to learn, master, and perform their parts in excellence. I wore my letters with pride, but never with arrogance. I loved being a leader. I loved teaching others, and I loved that the band director could count on us to do what was necessary so everyone could be great.
After college, I got married, had kids, got divorced, and got a 2nd job to support my children. I don’t know what happened to my dream of owning a hotel. I’m sure it got lost in my everyday—my new normal as a single mother. I had no time to consider a business, but I told myself after they graduated high school I would reconsider. When I thought about it again, I assumed I would align with the industry I was already in—the restaurant business. I researched what it would take to open a restaurant. When that began to get overwhelming, I “back-burnered” that dream, too.
Someone spoke to me about the travel business and I started hearing phrases like, “You are in business for yourself but not by yourself”, “…personal development system with a compensation plan attached”, “Everyone has the same opportunity”, and “COLLABORATIVE ECONOMICS.” I thought to myself ‘ok, ok this is the business spiel; I am sure you don’t mean that.’ Soon after, I found myself on a Disney cruise with Carmen Ray and Shontina Gladney.
I knew I was out of my league being on a cruise with these powerhouse women. I figured I would be the odd woman out, doing my own thing on the cruise while they were doing their thing. But it was their first cruise and I had something to offer them.
Knowledge of cruising. They had something to offer me. Knowledge of the business. It was an equal exchange of information, and my first glimpse of what this business was really about. My connection with these ladies provided clarity of what Collaborative Economics looks like in action. I will forever call them my Sisters because they never made me feel out of place, or less than. I have learned to speak up, be brave, follow, and lead. We can be great together. We can build together. Everything we do as an organization is done together. We move, grow, build, and live life together. This is Collaborative Economics, and we are better together.