At age 14, Alexis Williams started building her resume. That's why it shouldn't be a big surprise that she has been self-employed since her early 20s and is well on her way to earning her MBA with a concentration in marketing from Saint Leo University.
The 30-year-old, who affectionately goes by "Lexi," is a native of St. Louis, Mo. where she lived until age 20. She then moved to Savannah, Ga. before relocating to Atlanta. She attended University City Senior High School and completed dual enrollment while there and at South Technical Senior High School where she earned a cosmetology certification.
Williams has two feline companions, Minion and Idris.
"Minion is my right-hand man, and Idris is a black tuxedo cat who always looks like he's heading to a big gala," she says with a chuckle.
Her Path to Saint Leo
It was a former coworker who helped Williams discover the benefits of earning a degree from Saint Leo.
"What motivated me to enroll was the flexible schedule the university was offering," she says. "The traditional 16-week courses didn't work for me. When I tried out their eight-week courses, I loved them. The classes didn't waste time, and the instructors were super supportive. Plus, I felt like the environment was more work-oriented with students who had careers already and were going back to school."
She started at the Savannah Education Center in 2011 when working on her associate degree in liberal arts. In 2016, she transitioned to the two Atlanta centers to pursue her bachelor's in business administration. Upon completing that degree, it was on to the online Saint Leo MBA.
Early on in her higher education, she launched her own small business running a salon, and she believes she has been able to excel because of the format of the curriculum.
"Everything I've learned from Saint Leo I've been able to apply to my business, including labor relations, employee management and marketing," she confides.
While she's enjoyed each aspect of her time at the university, she says attending the Gwinnett Education Center offered a fantastic environment.
"I loved the instructors there. They were funny, informational and committed to the community around them. They always provided up-to-date education and incorporated current events into it. They truly gave me a new perspective about the world around me."
As for professors she has enjoyed in her time at Saint Leo, she points to Dr. Frances Davis, Dr. Duane Scott and Dr. Randall Blevins. Another individual has also made a very positive impact on her.
"Lan Pham, the director of the Gwinnett Education Center, has been an excellent advisor for me," she says. "I've always enjoyed going to the center to talk to her. She makes me feel incredibly comfortable about everything and truly relieves my anxiety."
Williams explains how she landed on business administration as her major.
"If you think about it, everything is a business, from libraries to schools to more traditional corporations. So, no matter what kind of work you do, it's important to know how to run a business well."
The Online Saint Leo MBA Program
Williams explains what being in an online MBA program is like compared to taking classes in a more traditional classroom environment.
"It definitely challenges your self-discipline when you don't have professors you are actually looking at and talking with in a classroom. You have to compartmentalize things and find that inner motivation. Overall, like my mom would say, 'How would you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' You have to take everything week by week."
She hopes to finish up her studies in April and collect her Saint Leo MBA diploma at commencement in June.
Chasing a Cosmetology Career
Williams was first introduced to the world of cosmetology as a teenager when she began helping out in a hair salon operated by her mom's friend.
"I first started out as a receptionist and then started assisting in other roles," she recalls. I've pretty much been at every level of the business."
Years later, she now runs The Blush Life Salon, a salon suite in Atlanta in which she employs two team members. She also travels to work on production styling for bridal events, along with some behind-the-scenes styling work in TV and film. Plus, She has also done radio shows, podcasts and has been published in several magazines.
"My job is very artistic, but I still have to handle the business side of things. I've had to brush up on all types of skills like accounting, inventory, marketing, web design, social media and so much more."
For any aspiring entrepreneurs out there, she offers up some guidance.
"Just follow through and go for it. Create a strong vision for yourself. Also, network, network and network. Make as many connections as you can."
She has met longtime pop stars Usher, Rihanna and a number of others in entertainment.
"I met Rihanna a few years ago when she was having an event at Macy's in Atlanta. The first 300 customers to buy her product had the chance to meet her. So, I bought it and was awestruck when I saw her. She even took the time to take a picture with everyone. When I came up to her, she immediately said, 'Your hair is so dope.' I lost it because that's the highest compliment you can get, and I was floored that it actually came from someone like her."
Helping Cancer Patients Improve Their Self-Image
Aside from her varied entrepreneurial endeavors, Williams has volunteered with the American Cancer Society. She has assisted in the "Look Good, Feel Better" program to help women feel better about themselves and their physical appearance while battling cancer.
"I've trained ladies with cancer about how to enhance their beauty," she says. "I provide hands-on techniques and share best practices, product knowledge and recommendations on hair loss solutions. It is more about the emotional support and their well-being to keep them motivated and positive. It warms my heart each class to see them transform themselves and share encouragement with one another."
Photo credit: The photograph included with this blog article was provided by Alexis Williams and is used with permission.