We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Sharla Horton-Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Sharla, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Depends on which business! Lol. I have lots of interests and have figured out how to turn many of them into businesses. Currently, I’m primarily focused on two things: web design and equity, inclusion, and diversity coaching and strategy development.

For my design business, I found that people have great ideas and really great businesses out there, but sometimes their online presence and how they were presenting their business to the world didn’t actually match their potential and the true reach of their business. After asking around, I realized that lots of folks didn’t have a website simply because they thought it was too expensive or out of reach. Those that did have websites were missing out on two critical elements: a clean, contemporary, appealing design and a powerful narrative. They weren’t telling the right story! I am not a designer by profession, but I have an eye for design and I am a great storyteller. So, I put together simple start-up options for any budget because no one should miss out on great opportunities because of a website. I wanted to help them tell great stories and look good doing it!

For my equity consulting, it was pretty much the same thing. Companies were looking to explore the concepts of DEI and figure out what they can do to bring change in their organizations, but they saw consulting was either too expensive or too intimidating, and I knew it didn’t have to be that way. I guess you could say, the idea for both of these businesses was born of my desire to make two things that I’m passionate about and skilled at more widely available to people and organizations who need them. I just wanted to bring things within reach that had previously been out of reach.

Alright, what do you want people to know about you and your brand?
This may sound arrogant but that is not the intent. What honestly sets my equity consulting business apart from others is me; my journey has not been easy! I have had the privilege of a long, rich career in education, but that didn’t come without challenges. I’ve been fired. I’ve been on performance improvement plans. I’ve been overlooked for promotions. I’ve failed at a lot of things over the years. And I got divorced after a 20-year marriage. All of those challenges really just fueled my fire and gave me a really rich set of experiences to draw from. Year after year, challenge after challenge, disappointment after disappointment, I just kept grinding and growing believing that something really good would come out of it all. And it did!

During my work as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, I found a passion for equity in education, and I began to seek out and create opportunities for myself to learn more about the topic and to ultimately figure out solutions to the problem of the achievement gap. In 2016, I decided to apply for graduate school and to pursue my doctorate, and I knew that I wanted my research to be focused on equity and justice in education., Over the four-year course of my studies, I became an expert on the topic. My best friend, who also studied the achievement gap, and I both graduated at the same time and started a Facebook group to share our research and findings with other educators who were interested in equity and justice in education, and that ultimately led to the formation of our consulting firm. We had NO idea how to run a business, but we did it! From there, I expanded to offering similar consulting services to businesses and community organizations.

Starting a business meant a lot of DIY-ing. Including marketing and sales – something I knew nothing about! But I quickly learned how important they were and how important storytelling was in the process of building a business. There was ZERO budget for marketing so I had to learn how to craft a compelling narrative and connect with people. That’s when I learned my art for storytelling. I’ve spent the past two years refining the craft and have ultimately begun to use what I’ve learned on my own journey to help others start on theirs. Pairing my eye for design with all of my newly-acquired skills uncovered some hidden passions and led to the development of Lifted Consulting, where I now help people develop and tell their story through websites, branding, and professional portfolios.

If there were anything I wanted people to know about me, my brand, and my story it’s this: Your story IS your brand. Don’t try to find or create a brand. You’re already living it! One thing that people say after working with me is how authentic and genuine and great I am to work with. That’s because I’ve allowed my experiences to drive my work with people. I know what it means to be disappointed, to not have enough money to do all the things you want and need to do in your business, to have a dream that you feel like you can’t chase, to have big curve balls thrown at you, to be told you can’t. I’ve experienced it all. But I’ve also experienced people believing in me, giving me a chance, and pushing me to do what I never thought I could. So, now, I consider it my obligation to do the same for others. Find your why, create your narrative, tell your story, and go do it! All of it!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Such a fun question! Four things that are definitely going to be on the itinerary: good food, good music, good drinks, and great people. For good food, we are going to grab the best soul food in Fort Worth at Madea’s Down Home Cooking and the best chicken salad and BLT from Carpenter’s Cafe. For good music, we are going to the Free Man in Deep Ellum and to Neo Soul Sundays at Lava Cantina in the Colony. For good drinks, we are getting the honey cinnamon latte from Black Coffee in east Fort Worth and margaritas from the world-famous Joe T Garcias in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. And for an all-around great time with amazing people, music, and drinks, we are definitely hanging out at the Lobby Bar at Hotel Dryce! And since Fort Worth has one of the most acclaimed cultural scenes in the country, we’ll also visit The Modern and The Kimball art museums and swing by Kinfolk House to catch local art by local artists. If it’s summer, we’ll likely wrap the week up at a pool somewhere because Texas summers are HOT!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Kelly Lancarte and Toni Harrison-Kelly are two of my closest friends and two of my biggest cheerleaders. They are constantly reminding me of my badassness and encouraging me to do all the things! They both honestly believe I can save the world. Because of both of them and their constant pushes, I have started two profitable businesses that are really making a difference for people.

Website: www.liftedconsulting.net and www.slsj.us

Instagram: sharlacamille

Linkedin: Sharla Horton-Williams

Twitter: sharla_camille

Image Credits
Baron Fotografix, Natalia Vaughns

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