7 Boss Women Reflect On Their Biggest Career Lessons Of 2019

Favor ain't always fair, and for these ladies, setbacks gave them the push they needed.


I don't know about you, but 2019 has been one for the books, and not all the stories inside are good. I decided to do a full 360 on my career, and along my journey, I had some wins, cool experiences that brought me out of my comfort zone, and met some amazing people along the way. BUT, because favor ain't always fair, I also had my fair share of setbacks and failures.

Nonetheless, even though 2019 has not been my favorite year, it has taught me a lot, and for that, I can appreciate it. This year, the biggest lesson that I learned was: "You've got to earn it to own it." As a new, full-time entrepreneur, 2019 has taught me that if you want something, you have to literally put in the work. If you don't work, you don't eat, and eating enough boiled eggs, oatmeal, and ramen (not the restaurant-grade kind) this year has taught me how to really work because sis, this boiled-eggs-everyday life ain't for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with some other boss women and they candidly shared their biggest lesson of 2019. Keep reading for all the gems!

Annie Jean Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion, Research, and Activation at Google

Her Lesson: “Intentional living is everything.”

Annie Jean Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion, Research, and Activation at Google

"My biggest career lesson has been that you need to be intentional about using your voice for causes and projects that matter, but you also need to put yourself in the other person's shoes to create a compelling argument. What works for one person won't necessarily work for the other. But by bringing together data and coupling it with human stories, you can get people to care about the causes you are championing. When you can show people that you can do well and do good, they are more compelled to move. When doing that, I've been able to start speaking up around the power of underrepresented voices and how we should bring these voices to the forefront; not only because it's the right thing to do, but because all people deserve to be seen and represented beautifully and accurately."

Briana Owens, Founder of Spiked Spin

Her Lesson: “I can do anything!”

Briana Owens, Founder of Spiked Spin

"Opening the Spiked Spin flagship location in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn while also maintaining my full-time job and planning a wedding was one of the craziest decisions that I've ever made, but it was a decision that I believe was divinely timed. This year I have been stretched to capacity in every area of my life and while there were many days of frustration, there were days of complete joy and gained confidence in my purpose. This year has taught me that when I trust God, get out of my own way, move forward in the face of fear, I can literally do anything!"

W.E. Da Cruz, Co-founder of The VGC Group

Her Lesson: “You are defined by what you decline, not what you accept.”

W.E. Da Cruz, Co-founder of The VGC Group

"This year I learned our power is in our 'no', not in our 'yes'. We must learn to anchor people in our value from the start. People get accustomed to devaluing people unintentionally and intentionally when we as the service provider or product deliver cut prices. Additionally, you have to culture people to transact with you in an environment that works best for you as the provider to grow and succeed."

Ericka Perry, CEO & Founder of The Stork Bag

Her Lesson: “Don't let the medals distract you from running the race.”

Ericka Perry, CEO & Founder of The Stork Bag

"My biggest career (and life) lesson of 2019 is accolades can sometimes deter you from your purpose, but stay focused. Now, don't get me wrong, we all love praise, some more than others, but in a world driven by social media and grandiose images, chasing accolades can sometimes result in swaying away from your purpose--your why. As a minority female entrepreneur with a growing brand, I slowly began to allow the accolades distract me from my purpose. While I work darn hard and deserve all the awards presented to me, I recognized that all the smoke and mirrors started to take me away from my purpose, which is serving women and mothers. I found myself slowly becoming busier with the glitz and really started feeling these accolades so much that my 'why' began to fade into the background.

"The entrepreneurial journey can have a lot of twists and turns and sometimes if you allow yourself to forget why you became an entrepreneur, you can lose focus on what's most important. This year really taught me that, I became so busy with everything else that I started to forget why I started The Stork Bag and why I ever wanted to serve this population. Luckily, I realized what was happening and began to pull it back in, but I had to consciously get rid of some of the distractions and learn how to prioritize my time. If I could share a few lessons with aspiring entrepreneurs, mothers, and women in general, I would say this, find your purpose/passion and follow that path, remain focused and remember why you started."

GiGi McDowell, CEO & Founder of Fêtefully

Her Lesson: “Remember your ‘why’ in the face of rejection.”

GiGi McDowell, CEO & Founder of Fêtefully

"In many ways, 2019 was the year of 'no' for me. While building a technology company, there were so many people who told me 'no' this year. From potential customers, to partners, and sometimes the most painful, investors. When you hear a 'no' as an entrepreneur, so many thoughts run through your mind like, 'Is it not good enough?', 'Am I crazy?!', 'Is this even worth it?!' But 2019 has taught me to ask myself 'Why?' when I'm faced with rejection. Why am I doing this? Why does this matter? Why do I want this? After asking myself 'why' when receiving 'no' after 'no', I realized I am not building a company to hear 'yes'.

"I'm building a company to solve problems, to help others, and to transform an industry; not for applause. By remembering why I started, it was easier to remember why I had to keep going. Focusing on my 'why' allowed me to get back to the basics which enabled me to end the year with metrics 5X my initial projections while also developing customer acquisition channels and partnerships for 2020 that I could've never imagined! Rejection is hard and rejection hurts but remembering your 'why' makes it a little bit easier to persevere when things seem tough."

Marty McDonald, Founder of Boss Women Media Group

Her Lesson: “Dream bigger than big.”

Marty McDonald, Founder of Boss Women Media Group

"My biggest career lesson of 2019 has been centered around the idea of dreaming bigger than big. Over this year, I've learned not to take 'no' for an answer, and simply being bold and confident in whatever it is that I am asking for—whether that's pitching to brands for sponsorships or inspiring like-minded women to turn their side hustle into their full-time gig—keep going after your dreams even when you hear the 'no'! I've challenged myself to look at the no's as stepping stones towards that one 'yes', because that is literally all it takes is one 'yes' to keep you on the path of dreaming bigger than big."

Emerald-Jane Hunter, Chief Storyteller at myWHY Agency

Her Lesson: “Take a pause when things aren’t going your way and trust that the universe knows exactly what it’s doing.”

Emerald-Jane Hunter, Chief Storyteller at myWHY Agency

"My new mindset is now 'If it's not moving, it's not meant to be moved.' As PR professionals, we are used to making things happen. It's what we do. We imagine, conceptualize and snap our fingers and poof--magic! (Or so it feels). Not when it comes to entrepreneurship. There were several moments this year where I found myself pushing hard to force past employees to 'get' my vision, to want to work smarter, to crave the need to win for our clients. I went above and beyond to make people happy, thinking that would equal results with work output.

"I found myself pushing so hard to the point of burnout to meet some goals but for how hard I worked (literally), many things didn't pan out how I wanted them to.

"I had to take a step back and the moment I took a deep breath and said 'Let it go! Trust in God. Believe that what's meant to be will be', things shifted. A complete 360-change. I got clarity on so many pain points and I'm ending 2019 stronger than how the first half went. Lesson learned? When you're pushing, pulling, going so hard and things are stalling or not moving, that's a sign it's time to take a pause. Take a step back. Take a breath. It might not be meant to be -- the people, the place, that thing. It'll happen but perhaps not where, when and how you want it. We get so focused on what we want and forget that it's not by our might."

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Featured image courtesy of Ericka Perry

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping


Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking


If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails


If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms


If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness


Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss


One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness


OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings


Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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