Hello, my name is Lakeshia Williams and the story that you just watched is a snippet out of a chapter in my life when I faced being homeless over a four-year period. As a survivor of homelessness, it is important for me to share my experience as well as teach and inspire current homeless women that you can design a new chapter in your life beyond your current circumstances.
When I lost my job, I realized that I lacked the resources necessary to sustain me and my family while I searched for employment. Not to mention not having a supportive family foundation.
The advice given to a homeless individual is typically “get a job”, but it’s not always that simple. Particularly, when you are a single parent, you face greater challenges and you are doing so alone! Supporting your children, responsibility overload, worrying about the safety of yourself and your children, reduced time and energy, childcare and the list goes on and on.
However, the previous year I launched my side business of selling handmade jewelry at various shows and events around Atlanta. I can now look back on that moment and thank God I made such a smart decision. Designing jewelry was not only therapeutic for me during this time, but it is what ultimately gave me the financial stability I needed to transition out of my homeless situation permanently.
Out of that my business evolved and because I would speak affirmations over my life to keep myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically aligned I decided that I wanted to share that part of me with my customers. That is the purpose behind creating affirmation jewelry and gifts for women. I design jewelry with an intention to empower, uplift, motivate and inspire women with powerful words that they can speak over their lives and create change.
I have always had the desire to become a full time entrepreneur but lacked the confidence in myself to rely on it being my ONLY source of income.
Sure, through previous businesses I ran along with my corporate experience I have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs develop, launch, grow and operate their businesses over the years. Now it was my turn to take my skills, knowledge and experience to apply to my own business. Which my situation was actually forcing me to do and at the time I did not even realize it, because, here I was a full-time homeless entrepreneur.
Don’t get me wrong of course I searched for “regular” employment high and low during this time, but the reality was that even though I was looking for “regular” employment my children and I still had financial needs to be met daily and my jewelry business was supporting those needs.
You see each of us possess skills and talents that we use effortlessly everyday.
We don’t realize that we can monetize on our natural skills and talents to support our families, yet we offer them daily to the dreams of others “employers”.
My own entrepreneurial dedication of not giving up through my homeless journey allowed me to finally walk out of the homeless shelter on October 1, 2014 and design a new chapter in my life.
Therefore, I decided what better way to start off my new chapter than to give back to women who are still homeless living in shelters with their children. In 2015, Project Eleven26 was established, which gives homeless women with children the training and entrepreneurial education they need from local community partners to simply monetize on the skills and talents they already possess. Along with my supportive programs Design My Story, Fresh Start and Transitions each play a vital role in supporting women to gain economic independence.
I truly believe that entrepreneurial skills, attitudes and behaviors can be learned, and that exposure to entrepreneurship education is imperative in this new economy we are now living in.
It is my dedication to empower and inspire these women to feel strong and confident while they are trying to regain control over their lives.
My only requirement is that the women I work with have the passion and open mind to shift their mindset, learn how to become entrepreneurs and believe in themselves enough to see they can be their own boss!
My goal is for them to gain so much knowledge and access to resources that they will not have to be dependent on an employer or on state/federal aid just to end up homeless again.
Along with following my own dreams, I have a passion to help other women follow theirs. You have to go through the trials in order to truly understand the struggle and figure out how you can help. I made a personal vow to God that if he guided me and ordered my steps so that I could get my family out of our homeless situation that I would dedicate the rest of my life giving back to other women and that is the heart and soul of Project Eleven26.
Women are our best investment and we look forward to expanding our efforts in order to help them achieve their goals and design new stories in their lives.
– Lakeshia Williams, CEO / Founder / Designer