Would you leave a six-figure paying gig with a minimal plan and only one company you've ever worked for spanning almost two decades on your resume because you were unhappy? Well, Joyel Crawford, owner of Crawford Leadership Strategies, did just that.
After 18 years with Verizon in various management roles and a checkered bill of health from being overworked, Joyel took her transferable skills in management and turned them into a business in life and career coaching. She now warns her clients, both individual and corporate, against making the same mistakes she did and witnessed working in corporate America. I spoke with the Elon University alumna about how a woman with a Bachelor's in Psychology and a Theater minor with secret dreams of Broadway ended up in a career she felt stifled her for so long before stepping into her true destiny.
Joyel Crawford, Owner of Crawford Leadership Strategies
Through our chat, I discovered that the saying "Money and success doesn't buy happiness" was all too real in her case.
You took a job unrelated to your studies, why?
Most women in my family are [in] social services and mental health so that was a natural and safe concentration. My passion was always the creative arts, hence my theater minor – but my parents weren't supportive of that as a focus. My cousin had recently gotten a job at Bell Atlantic Mobile (now Verizon) in customer service. I wanted to get my MBA and knew the company did 100% tuition reimbursement. During my new hire orientation, they presented on their commitment to professional advancement and that's when my love of leadership clicked in. Throughout my academic career, I was very active in leadership roles and was impressed by their commitment to employee development. My main focus when I first started working at Verizon was not the actual job but obtaining my MBA.
How did you climb the corporate ladder?
Networking. Even as a customer service rep, I spoke to colleagues and managers about my goals. They liked my work ethic and personality and encouraged me to go through the ranks within the company. Within five years, I got my MBA in management. I was promoted to a national accounts manager, to a coach for new hires, to finally an HR admin. From there, I settled into being a leadership development training consultant.
When did you notice you were unhappy?
Looking back, I was never happy because I wasn't doing exactly what I loved. I overcompensated by getting promotions. My knack for leadership allowed me to co-create a new leader orientation program, which was something that came out of frustration of having employees complete eight hours of online training. We consolidated it into just two hours and through that, I certified over 100 employees through that program. At one point, I was responsible for leading development and training for 30,000 employees. But I was coming to a ceiling there.
"Looking back, I was never happy because I wasn't doing exactly what I loved. I overcompensated by getting promotions."
Did you develop an action plan?
No, I just knew that my time was coming to an end there. I was exploring different options but nothing planned out. A friend suggested that I start doing public speaking and telling my story to other professionals about how to move up the ranks within their jobs. I realized that's where my passion lied. Simultaneously, I began to get sick and later discovered it was work-related.
What was going on health-wise?
It started with insomnia. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression but thanks to my theater background and being a great actress, no one knew. At home, I was miserable and crying with no motivation outside of work. I started grinding my teeth and cracked a tooth and had to get an $800 mouth guard. I was put on antidepressants and a cocktail of different drugs – one to stabilize my moods, one to put me to sleep and so on. At one point, I was singing, acting, and auditioning while working full-time. On my way to rehearsal, I had extreme abdominal pain and discovered it to be a fibroid. I had to have surgery. The process of discovering the fibroid, scheduling, and having the operation and being back at work was done within three weeks. The surgery didn't help. More fibroids developed. The final straw was when I was five minutes late for a conference call and my manager called to give me an earful while I was sick from the fibroids. I quit on the spot and explained why. He was empathetic and instead, suggested I go out on emotional and medical leave.
How’d you get through that period?
My last salary was a base of $103,500. I also had my pension, 401k, and over two consecutive months of unused vacation. I rolled my 401k into an IRA. I knew I wanted to quit and had saved enough money to survive as far as living for rent and other expenses. A year before I quit, I was contemplating what was next. My husband was consulting and suggested I do the same. I had the skill set and the education but didn't recognize it. He did. So I started Crawford Leadership Strategies in 2014.
"A year before I quit, I was contemplating what was next."
How did you start?
I invested in professional memberships for networking purposes. Thankfully, I had credentials under my belt from all of the trainings I completed at Verizon. Although I had a good amount of savings, I didn't take into account the startup costs of a business. Building a website, membership fees, additional certifications, paperwork, and even business cards added up fast. My survival money was running out within six months. Things were getting bad financially.
How bad did it get financially?
My survival money was gone and I resorted to state assistance and food stamps. I couldn't claim unemployment because I left my job voluntarily – regardless of the fact that I could have attributed it to my health and said I left for medical reasons. I couldn't be modest anymore.
How did you work to get your business booming?
Letting go of pride first and advertising to family and friends. My first paying client was a woman who my aunt was mentoring. She worked in government and desired assistance with a new career and my aunt referred me. I came up with an hourly consulting fee. She hired me for a six-hour session. Through that experience, I figured out pricing and packages because she needed me to travel to her in another state and paid for my accommodations. I ended up working with her for six months and she actually became a test client for a practicum I was doing for a certification. That snowballed into other business.
How do you feel you’ve been able to sustain your business?
The great thing about my work is that I can do it virtually so I'm not limited in the clients I can take. Because of my certifications, education, and background, I can do webinars, life coaching, and career coaching. I can build curriculum and I can facilitate programs. I have a variety of what I offer.
You gave up a six-figure salary. Do you see the return on your investment?
Yes, but I made poor investments in advertising in the beginning that cost me. Now I stick to social media and utilize my network of colleagues and clients for work. My certifications help and I'm a member of the Forbes Coaching Council. I've had a small feature in Essence Magazine and I write and coach for The Muse.
Was it worth the risk?
Absolutely. My father passed this year and one of the last things he said to me was, "If you have the chance to do what you love, then do it." I was in a career that was taxing but had skills that I loved and was able to apply them to what I do now full-time. Revenue has gone up yearly. My health is in tact and although like many, I work to find balance, I am happy!
"If you have the chance to do what you love, then do it."
How is life different now?
Before, I never went on vacation and as mentioned, cashed my vacation time out when I quit my job. Since then I've gotten married to the man of my dreams, I've been traveling, and I make time for the things I love.
What advice do you give to those looking to transition?
Put yourself out there and network. It's about who you know, that's how I've landed all of my clients dating back to my first. Stay the course and have patience. I contemplated quitting because of the financial stress but my clients encouraged me and I ultimately decided to continue my business because I refused to regress into what I'd experienced before. Know and show your value and know your WHY as it won't lead you wrong.
For more information about Joyel and her coaching business, check out her website.
Brenda Alexander is a West Philly native with a love of the 3 W's: writing, wine and Whitney Houston. When she's not working or overanalyzing life, you can catch her praising Jesus with a bomb Gospel playlist or annoying those who love her as she listens to Christmas music all year round (her fascination with the holiday even produced a Christmas book). Her work has been featured on Mayvenn's Real Beautiful blog and CurlyNikki . Follow her excursions via Instagram @trulybrenda_
Kelly Rowland is like a bottle of the Earth’s finest wine; she only gets better with time. Even in her early forties, the Destiny’s Child member and singer has somehow found a way to age backwards, with a level of grace and class that we could only dream of. And she does so while juggling multiple hats and roles at once. In addition to giving us hits like “Motivation,” the multi-hyphenate is also a wife, actress, executive producer, and, her greatest role of all, a mother.
Always proudly doting on her two sons, Titan and Noah, Rowland shares how teaming up with WaterWipes for their Hallowclean campaign and kickoff event in New York City on October 21 was an easy choice for her—as the brand is one that she keeps stocked regularly.
“WaterWipes has been in my household for I don’t know how long. We don’t just use them for Noah; I keep them in the car and my makeup bag, too,” Rowland shares in an exclusive interview with xoNecole. “I also like the fact that they are natural. I’ll definitely have them in my fanny pack for trick-or-treating. This is Noah’s second Halloween, and I know he’s going to be excited and digging in his pail to try the different candy, and his little fingers will be messy. He’s going to want to get dirty. So, I love that WaterWipes is putting up ten Hallowclean stations across the country for parents to use; it’s such a great idea. I just love Halloween, and I really love Halloween with my kids, so I thought this campaign was a really great idea.”
Kelly Rowland and son Noah at the WaterWipes Hallowclean Machine in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo courtesy of WaterWipes.
She and her youngest son, Noah, attended the event, where the two enjoyed a day of family-friendly activities while he sported the most adorable astronaut costume. But the Spooky Szn fun doesn’t stop there for the Merry Liddle Christmas actress and executive producer.
We recently caught up with Kelly Rowland over Zoom to learn more about her Halloween (and holiday) plans, her keys to a healthy marriage, and she even dropped her go-to cold-weather skin routine—finally.
xoNecole: What are your family’s upcoming trick-or-treat plans? Will you do a fun group costume, or is everyone going to do their own thing this year?
Kelly Rowland: I’m preparing for tour, so I’ve been in rehearsals and pre-production. And my husband's schedule has picked up, too. But the kids are going trick-or-treating; we usually go with people we know, so mommy and daddy will definitely be home to take them. We’re actually letting the kids dress us up this year, which means my costume will be a complete surprise to me. I told Noah he could paint my face or even go to the costume store and pick something out—it’s literally up to them. So, I don’t know what that will be. And, right after, I’ll be back to rehearsals.
xoN: Speaking of holidays, what do you look forward to most during the season?
KR: We love having people over, especially during the holidays. It looks like we will be home this year—thank God— just enjoying each other and spending quality time together. I like to decorate the house and go completely ham; it always looks like Christmas threw up in my house. From the stairwells to the exterior of the house and the lights—everything. We go so crazy. I also love the smells, it’s one of my greatest memories with my mom, God rest her soul. So I love to play all of that up.
I like to bake something every day, I like to make sure there is something for the kids to do or make each day, we watch Christmas movies, and we even do a wine tasting sometimes. It’s just all really sweet and cozy.
Kelly Rowland and son Noah at the WaterWipes Hallowclean Machine in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo courtesy of WaterWipes.
xoN: We love that family is so important to you, and it always shows in your posts, especially those with your husband. What would you say has been that “key” to a healthy marriage as partners and spouses for you two?
KR: I would say, each of us doing the self-work. I have not seen marriages last long in my lifetime. I haven’t been given the tools to “make it last forever.” We just try to do the work on ourselves and not sweat the small stuff.
Communication is key for us, too. We communicate everything. Whether I’m upset or I’m not sure about something, I communicate it. I also just like being around him, he’s fun. He’s a really great person and makes me laugh. We can literally sit together and watch a game and not say anything. We understand what true intimacy is, and now we’re almost ten years into our marriage.
xoN: Now, Kelly, we have to ask. Skincare. What is your cold-weather routine and the products you’re reaching for as temperatures drop?
KR: Right now, I’m all about moisture. I will wash my face morning and night, I do not skip. I’m obsessed with this 111SKIN toner. It smells good, but it also feels good on my skin. There’s also this product from Vanessa Lee of The Things We Do. They are these coconut eye patches with these little beads. I place them under my eyes and around the corners of my mouth—talk about a game changer. I like to put them on at night and then rub in the extra serum all over my face. Between that and this lactic acid by Shani Darden, they are both game-changers for me this season.
xoN: So, since you’ve found the key to aging backwards, should we be on the lookout for the Kelly Rowland skincare line anytime soon?
KR: Honestly, that market is so saturated. I wanted to do it a while back, but I have to really think about what I want to bring to the marketplace to really impact culture. It’s not just about a product for me. I love the way Selena Gomez has created a community. I want to be able to create a community as well. When it’s not just about skincare, it turns into a space for people to be their most authentic selves. And that’s what I love.
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Feature image by Natasha Campos/Getty Images for Tres Generaciones
Blue Ivy Carter has had the public's attention since before she was born due to her parents being power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z. While the Carters are super private compared to many other celebrities and make very few family appearances, people are glued to their every move, especially their firstborn, Blue, and her siblings, Rumi and Sir. The 11-year-old joined her famous mother on her RENAISSANCE World Tour this year and blew audiences away with her dance moves to "My Power," and fans are hoping to see more from the preteen as she continues to grow up. Her father, Jay-Z, gushed about his daughter during an interview with CBS Mornings.
“What makes me super proud — and I still get goosebumps seeing her walk onstage — is because Blue’s been ... born into a life she didn’t ask for,” the Brooklyn rapper said. “Since she was born, she’s been in scrutiny and public eye, and everyone having an opinion — even a little girl, how she keeps her hair. So for her to be on that stage and reclaim her power, and the song is called ‘My Power’ ... you can’t write a better script.”
When Blue was younger, she was subjected to many negative comments about her hair and hair texture as it was often worn natural. However, there were others who defended her and called out those who were hair-shaming. The Grammy award-winner continues to wear her hair in natural styles, including braids, which she wore throughout the RENAISSANCE World Tour. Jay-Z continued to praise his daughter and shared how she became a part of the tour. "I know how nervous she was. I know how frightened she was, and she wanted to do it," he said.
"She wanted to do it the first night, and we was like, okay, if this something you want to do, you can't just go out there. You gotta go work with the dancers and go work, and she worked every day and watched her work hard, and she had a little icy pack thing on her back some days."
Fans will get to see more insight into Blue's performance and the RENAISSANCE tour in Beyoncé's upcoming film RENAISSANCE: A Film By Beyoncé, which hits theaters on December 1, 2023.
Feature image by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation