For most of us, being a parent, building a rewarding business, and fulfilling our civic duty within the community aren’t simple tasks one can juggle all at once. Nicole Williams makes it look easy. She is the epitome of style, faith, and grace as she works towards becoming a paradigm to all entrepreneurs while lending a helping hand to those in need.
Born and raised in small town Marshall, Missouri, Williams was surrounded by a community of loving and helpful individuals that shaped who she is today. Her self-efficacy and modesty have led to her winning multiple awards, including the Shooting Star Award for National Marketing Specialist of the Year when she worked in Pharmaceuticals and the Emerging Leader Award of Who’s Who of Black Atlanta in 2014. While one may relish the accomplishments she has achieved, personally and professionally, she has certainly had her share of trials and tribulations.
During her junior year of college, she got married and had twin boys, Elijah and Ishmael, a year later. The fairy-tale marriage didn’t last long, as Williams found herself in an unhealthy marriage with no support for individual growth. She realized her need to become her own person and to gain independence in order for her and her sons to thrive. If her circumstances were going to change, it would have to be up to her to change them. It didn’t take long for Williams to garner the strength she needed to leave. “I literally walked out of our house in Florida…with not a dime to my name, and only plane tickets for my sons and I to return to Missouri. We moved back to my home state, Missouri, and humbly started over.”
Her newfound courage gave her the strength and determination to pursue higher education while raising her children with the help of her grandmother, who she fondly refers to as “the angel that saved my life.” Williams never forgets to express her gratitude for “the village” that helped bring up her sons. “I definitely didn’t do it alone; I had help from my sisters, grandmother, and a community of co-workers and football and basketball moms,” Williams recalled, remembering the trips she took with her kids to school and practices. It was her village that allowed her the opportunity to graduate in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Missouri State University.
The support she received during her time of need has influenced her commitment to pay it forward; Williams continuously searches for ways to give back to her community.
“One of the reasons I am favored and have been so successful is because people can see that I’m genuine… it’s always about how I can help other people get to the next level. It’s important that when you meet people, you tell them who you are and your personal mission statement. I always question, ‘How can I help other people develop and grow?’”
When Williams relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 2011, her network was fairly small. She only knew five people in Atlanta. However, what she lacked in quantity, she made up for in quality. One of Williams’ early mentors was Thomas Dortch, a Founding Member and Chairman Emeritus of 100 Black Men of America, Inc. With Dortch’s direction, she quickly acclimated to the city. “It’s nice to have someone like Mr. Dortch in my corner to advise me about civic duty and understanding my role and place here in Atlanta.”
Williams was selected as a New Leaders Council Fellow, a leadership program in Atlanta full of a diverse group of politically and civically engaging leaders in the community. After she finished the New Leaders Council Training Institute in May 2015, she was appointed to Fundraising Chair in July for the Atlanta Chapter. She is focused on partnering with corporate sponsors and companies based around social progression, social entrepreneurism, and political activism for progressive initiatives.
Most notably, Williams served as the President for the Atlanta Chapter of the National Sales Network for the last three years, earning National Chapter of the Year during her tenure. The National Sales Network is a non-profit organization whose goal is to meet professional and developmental needs of sales and sales management professionals. Williams loved empowering members of National Sales Network to gain new employment, switch industries and further develop their business professionalism.
“If you are not involved in some type of civic duty, community service, or giving back, then you are not fulfilling your full potential. Atlanta is the place where the Civil Rights movement originated, so it’s in the city’s roots and culture.”
Summer in Israel
Williams considers that it is the civic duty of everyone to understand a country’s complex challenges, as well as the challenges other countries face. She believes it’s important to stay informed of worldly issues and spread awareness.
In July of 2015, Williams was invited by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to attend a conference to further educate African American leaders about international security issues and expose attendees to Jewish culture in Israel. “The trip couldn’t have been more perfect,” Williams said, when asked about her experience.
Williams was most inspired by a settlement near the Gaza Strip; she admired how the natives worked together to provide for each other and their elders, along with their focus on family and education. The territory she visited was a highly contested part of Israel and constantly defended from violent attacks due to the Israeli habitation. She observed how the people of Israel have Friday night dinners and come together once a week to honor the Shabbat. “I think in today’s American society, we don’t really take the time to sit down and religiously connect with our family on a weekly basis; something I wanted to be more conscious of and implement more often into my life,” Williams said.
Williams makes it her responsibility to be culturally, socially, and politically aware of society’s happenings.
“It's 2016 but it seems like 1965, again.”
As a 10-year resident of St. Louis, Missouri, Williams actively discusses racial discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement, post the Michael Brown killing. Recently, she participated in the 20/20 Leaders of America, Presidential Justice Forum in Columbia, South Carolina. The “2020 Approach” brought together stakeholders at all levels to address community concerns at the highest level. The goal was for each “presidential candidate” to develop a plan of action that would result in measurable, positive outcomes by what would be the end of his or her first term as President -- in 2020.
Williams acknowledges that Trayvon Martin was the first eye-opening experience for her, being a mother of two teenage boys. She fears her children might also be subjected to wrongful discrimination that could lead to their demises. In addition, she expressed parents need to have conversations with their sons and daughters on how to interact with police.
“We lived in a neighborhood here in Atlanta where there weren’t many black families. “On one early evening, my son, Ishmael, wanted to ride his skateboard to a friend’s house in an adjacent neighborhood. After Trayvon’s case, the simple act of my son riding his skateboard at dusk, in a hoodie sweatshirt, in an all-white neighborhood inflicted major fear and anxiety into me,” Williams said, as she remembered a time her children were exposed to racial issues.
“It’s 2016 and it seems like 1965, again.”
Williams recalls working for corporate America during the Martin case that led to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement and being told by a co-worker not to talk about it at work because it was too political. She was in such shock and dismay. He was a “white male, married to a white woman with white children. This was something he never had to experience. He never thought about the safety of his children walking or skateboarding to a neighbor’s house.”
Her teenage son, Elijah, first experienced racism at Harrison High School in Georgia when he was called a racial slur for accidentally bumping into a Caucasian female in the hallway. Williams expressed how upsetting it was for her son to have experienced that feeling after moving to the South, when her family had never experienced the racial slur name calling in the Midwest.
“Some confuse racism with ignorance. It can be said that if you believe there is no racism, then you are a part of the problem. The Black Lives Matter movement is non-partisan. It’s an issue that affects all of us. This is a civil, human-rights issue, so everybody should be concerned.”
Sales and Success
Her involvement and dedication to her family and community have not halted her triumph in her career.
Williams has worked within the sales industry for over 14 years, working for companies such as State Farm, UCB Pharma, TAP Pharmaceuticals and Edward Jones.
Williams recognizes the hardships she faces being a woman in the sales industry and the aging factor, which affects women more than men. She didn’t want the aging factor to cause her to lose her job in the future to someone less qualified and willing to work for less money.
In 2009, a popular Lead News Anchor in St. Louis, Missouri was “downsized” from her position and many concluded it was due to the news anchor getting older. Williams was worried that one day, the same situation could happen to her. This incident motivated Williams to go back to school to pursue an MBA, and later, pursue a promotion within the biotech pharmaceutical company she worked for at the time. The successful promotion led her to relocating to Atlanta. Fast forward two years, she understood the importance of not being “phased out of corporate America,” and this is one of the reasons why she wanted to become an entrepreneur. “I would not be an entrepreneur today had I not witnessed this “downsizing” happening to a public figure like the news anchor. I want to be able to control my own destiny and not have anyone phase me out.” It was time for her to evolve to the next phase of life. In July 2014, she opened the Nicole Williams State Farm Agency in the West Midtown area.
In July 2015, Williams celebrated the one-year anniversary of being a State Farm Agency Owner. “My mission at my agency is to create generational wealth within our communities. We lead these rich lives, but when we pass away, many are unprepared. We have no riches to pass along to our family, for our legacies.”
Nicole Williams’ self-assurance and commitment has allowed her to expand her career, her life, and be a role model to young women everywhere. She is definitely on the RYSE, and you can certainly look forward to seeing more from her in the future.