Anyone who has met RISE member Kesha Kent, a bubbly, vivacious entrepreneur, would find it hard to believe that there was a time she didn’t speak at all. After a long-distance move in her teen years, Kesha was angry and felt alone. “I was just livid. So I decided to stop talking,” she says.
Her struggle continued into high school. “My grades were a mess and I got in fights until around 10th grade. I had an amazing history teacher at that time. One day I wasn’t paying attention in class and he said, ‘Here are my notes. You teach the class.’ He saw an opportunity to empower me, and I was actually able to do a really good job. Something shifted in me: I knew I had something to offer the world.”
That lesson of walking through fear and embracing her innate talent has also paid off in her adult life. She received a master’s degree in organizational leadership, and worked in recruiting and human resources for nearly two decades with companies like Allstate, Retail Technology Group, and Connections to Success. But today, she is taking her most courageous step yet to empower young women just like her.
In January, Kesha decided to devote herself full-time to her own business, Mrs. Kesh Speaks. “Born and raised in the city of St. Louis, I know what it’s like to be a woman of color without resources,” she says. “But the second I made the decision to start my own business, to bet on me, and to build my own legacy, doors started opening up.”
Her business, a foray into company-coaching and entrepreneurial mentorship, happened organically through her career in recruitment, as she built a strong community and network. Connections began coming to her, asking for support. “People in my network would say, ‘Can you come work with my team?’ or ‘Can you do a workshop with my employees?’” she recalls. Though Kesha was working at Connections for Success at the time, it became clear that there was more to explore than just a few one-off coaching sessions or company workshops.
As she became better acquainted with her unique skill set, Kesha felt her self-assuredness growing, which empowered her to take bold risks. “When departments and leaders within companies are working together and communicating well, there are so many benefits: employee morale improves, retention is better, and quantifiable measures of success, like profits and quotas, also improve,” she says.
As with Kesha and so many of our other members, we’ve observed that when women have a steadfast belief in their talents, they become empowered to make career-defining choices that may have evaded them otherwise. This embodies the theme at RISE this month: Empowerment + Confidence, two concepts that we believe go hand-in-hand. It’s a mentality we strive to help our members cultivate.
Since Kesha joined RISE after winning the On the RISE contest earlier this year, she has found much opportunity and continues to make empowered choices: she is participating in the St. Louis Regional Chamber Diverse Business Accelerator program, has developed an evolving roster of clients, and is now finishing her first book, called “Networking: It’s Your Superpower.”
“RISE has been a safe haven for me where I can collaborate with other women who are also business owners. That has helped me so much. It’s been a real catapult, and has connected me to other women who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. We’re all business-minded, and we all want the same thing: to scale our impact, sell our services, increase the bottom line and succeed.” At RISE we hope all our members find the same level of collaboration and connection within this community as Kesha has. Each month our programming theme helps direct our conversations, and we’re so excited to focus on Empowerment + Confidence for March. This topic impacts so many women, and fostering growth in these areas supports success for years to come.