BBBY: What words best describe you?
KAWANNA: Mother, God-lover, loyal, daughter, moody, compassionate, sister, creative, stubborn, friend, determined, family-oriented, procrastinator, genuine, loving......Ok I'll stop there :)
BBBY: Who is one of the most inspirational women in your life? And why?
KAWANNA:I would have to say my mother. It's funny as kids, my sisters and I thought that she enjoyed being hard on us. Now as an adult, it ALL makes complete sense. She has sacrificed so much for us over the years and has consistently been our support system, an encourager, and a prayer warrior. Thank you Momma!
BBBY: What was the inspiration for starting your own business/organization?
KAWANNA: I saw the need for more Lupus awareness. Nobody was talking about it and most people hadn't heard about it. I could no longer sit around and keep silent.
BBBY: What is the mission behind your business/organization?
KAWANNA: Our mission is to bring awareness about Lupus, advocate for Lupus survivors and raise money for Lupus research.
BBBY: What challenges did you face when starting your own business/organization?
KAWANNA: Oh gosh, how much space do I have to answer this one?!?! I'd say the biggest challenges came from not knowing anything about starting a business. Often times we are so full of inspiration and passionate about something but don't obtain all of the professional tools to become successful. I'll just say there was a lot of trial and error during the beginning stages.
BBBY: Do you have a life mission or inspirational quote that you live by?
KAWANNA: I don't really have a life mission or quote but I do have several favorite scriptures that are my "go-to" reminders. One is Isaiah 65:24 that says "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." So before I even collect my thoughts and part my lips, He has already heard me.
BBBY: What inspires you to do what you do?
KAWANNA: In some cases of Lupus it can be hereditary. In my case it is. Prior to being diagnosed I knew that a few of my aunts had Lupus (and one had passed away from it) but that was about all that I knew. After being diagnosed and getting over the fear, anger, frustration etc I wanted to be open and transparent about my diagnosis. I wanted my daughter, other relatives and friends to be educated about Lupus and not just "yeah Kawanna has that but I'm not sure what it is". I'm sure anyone in my circle can tell you a thing or two about Lupus. Yes progress has been made but there's still many people that have never even heard of Lupus. So knowing that there's always someone to educate about this disease keeps me inspired.
BBBY: Tell us about a time in your life, where you felt most powerful as a woman.
KAWANNA: I would have to say that it was the very first time that I shared my story publicly. I had been diagnosed less than a year and was asked by a national Lupus organization to travel to Washington DC (all expenses paid) to talk to legislators about the importance of new medications for Lupus patients. Imagine sitting on a panel in front of politicians and media personnel, not knowing much about Lupus. All I knew was to be transparent by telling them my personal journey. I shared how on any given morning I would wake up unable to walk, or how I would have to look into the eyes of my three year old daughter and tell her that mommy is too sick to play a game with her. I even shared about the inconsistency of the medications that would cause water weight some days and other days would leave me too sick to eat; which would then cause weight loss. As I walked out of the room there were a few applauses, I even noticed one or two individuals wiping tears and although my heart was beating out of my chest, that was the very first time I felt powerful as a women......with Lupus.
BBBY: What has made you most proud and why?
KAWANNA: On a personal level, in spite of all of the "bad days", I am proud to say that most days I've made a strong attempt to carry myself as a woman of God by displaying faith, strength, transparency and humility. On a professional level, there's nothing that makes me more proud than to see one of my Sisters (or Brothers) Against Lupus come out of their shell, use their voice and share their testimony of survival.
BBBY: What's the most important lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
KAWANNA: 1. Always always always put things in writing. 2. Never mix business with friendships.
BBBY: What are 3 tips you can share with aspiring entrepreneurs or someone ready to go after their dreams?
KAWANNA: 1. Pray to make sure your motives are in line with being an entrepreneur. Remember, being passionate about something doesn't always mean that you should be running a business.
2. Find local businesses that have similar missions to partner with. There's no need to reinvent the wheel if your neighbor has successfully built the car. 3. Get a mentor and/or take a business class to gain the basic knowledge of owning a business: 501c3, banking/finances, board of directors, marketing, grant writing etc.
BBBY: Fill in the blank: I feel most empowered when I__________________.
KAWANNA: I feel most empowered when I am assisting, inspiring or encouraging someone else.