Vanessa has always found herself navigating territory where she was an outsider, breaking down the barriers of entry and then bringing others in. As a 24 year old, black female Stockbroker, Vanessa held executive level positions in a middle aged white male dominated industry. But she did not get there by chance. Upon graduating high school, Vanessa found herself sorting through admission offers from multiple universities including ivy league institutions like Yale and Cornell. She decided to obtain her B.A. in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2003 and her Master's degree from DePaul University. Directly after graduation from Washington University in St. Louis, she obtained a position as a Financial Advisor and began studying for her licensing exams. She had no prior experience or exposure to the industry, but with 70 plus hours a week of studying she became a self-taught stockbroker.
She continued to move up the corporate ladder in finance with a focus on educating and helping others who had not been exposed to the industry. She gave the same level of dedication and passion to her career as she had given to everything else in life. However, her career took a turn in 2014 when she found herself unexpectedly in ICU battling for her life with blood clots in her lungs. A health condition which often proves fatal for many. Yet, she fought through a won. Vanessa describes it saying, "What I've survived has killed others, instead it birthed a vision in me." She returned to work even more focused and driven, only to find that her job had began to train her replacement and fired her shortly after her return.
It was then she says, "I reminded myself that I don't become any less valuable after a rejection." Instead of utilizing the skills that she had acquired to obtain another position in finance, she decided to use her knowledge for herself. The same drive and inquisitive nature that fueled her to teach herself about stocks still resided within her. She decided it was time to pursue her first love, Hair. Vanessa had been braiding hair since the age of 8. She recounts the story of how she told her mother that she hated the way she did her hair one day. Her mother gave her the comb and weave and told her she could do it herself. After about an hour in the bathroom, she came out with one braid. She continued to perfect her craft over the years and never stopped doing hair. She decided to combine her business savvy with her love of hair. She taught herself how to write patents and trademarks and learned all the ends and outs of importing and exporting. This new knowledge coupled with her passion for hair and beauty birthed The Curl Refinery in 2015.
I started my company with $100 and grew it to over a million dollars in sales in under one year. However, along the way, I not only spent money in the wrong places, but I lost out on millions in revenue by making 10 mistakes.
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