Interview Series: Entrepreneur Woman
The “Interview Series” is a chance to look at women who are in school, working, or entrepreneurs. The women answer questions about why they do what they do, what they love about it, & what interests they had that led them to the place they are in their careers or in school. This is the Business Woman Series, where entrepreneurs talk about the process that they had to endure to starting their own businesses. They also talk about what they learned along the way and give advice to women who are thinking about jumping into the same career path.
Name: Raina Vallot & Sherin Dawd
School: Louisiana State University (both with Kinesiology degrees)
Occupation: Founders of Power Pump Girls, Inc. (PPG) and Faith 5th’s Event Planning
- What inspired y’all to start your own business (Faith 5th)?
Raina: When Sherin & I met, we met through mutual friends & we were planning a birthday party. In doing that, we were both like, “You know, I’ve always had a passion for this. My dream job would be a celebrity event planner & throw parties all the time.” (we were joking!) Everyone at the party-even the venue host-said, “Y’all should really do this!” And then our mentor, Dr. Leon Elliot (who is now on our board for PowerPump Girls) pushed us to start our first business. So then we sort of thought about, prayed about it, played with the idea, and were like, “OK! Let’s start our own business!” It was very unconventional!
Sherin: Yes! Raina had just finished school & then had the age-old question: What are you going to do when you graduate? She didn’t really have a plan and I was just floating through life at the time, and it kind of made sense to the both of us. We started small. Everything we did was free; we paid for everything for the party. Then we did $500 events, discounted our work..in the beginning, we really were just getting the experience and putting our names out there. Our degrees did not set us up for this path, but we just took a leap of faith & did it!
- So how did y’all go from event planning to Power Pump Girls?
Sherin: The notion that we just did something & did it was alluring to our friends & they started getting interested & thinking that they could do it too! So they came to us with questions & advice & resources we used along the way. With this, while we were building our event company, we wanted to find a way to give back to the community. Giving is our core; it’s our purpose & we wanted to incorporate that in something that we love doing. While Raina was at lunch one day, and she was wearing these fuschia pumps & she took a picture of it on Snapchat & said, “Power pump girl” & she was feeling herself! She was feeling powerful while in these pumps, & feeling productive while going to back-to-back meetings. So I asked her, “What was up with power pump girls?!” and apparently her DM’s (direct messages) blew up! And everyone wanted to know what it was, & I thought-This is it! This is what we have been looking for. It kind of formed organically.
Raina: It was really exciting when we got the name because for us “power pump girls” is a playoff to “Powerpuff girls”, which is our favorite childhood cartoon. These average little girls are actually superheroes and they saved the world and they helped their community. & for us as businesswomen, we are always in our pumps; we love shoes, we kind of have a superpower of helping other women in our community but we are just like you! We wanted to open that gift to every woman: I am a PowerPump Girl too!
- Even though you didn’t use your degrees, how did it help you work & build your companies?
Sherin: It required a lot of discipline-there were a lot of group projects & a lot of solo studying & organization. & outside the school aspect of it, Raina & I were both very involved at school on some level. So the importance of community & leadership & it was instilled in us. So the experience was really what we got away from it then the actual degree. Because nowadays, it’s like, you HAVE to have a degree but there’s no assistance; there’s no financial help with it. Even though it’s good for you, what am I really benefiting from it? Yes, you went to college & got your degree but those techniques still help with what you do.
Raina: Project management through extracurricular stuff played really well. Plus the people that we met in college ended up being the business connections that we used. Now they are doing their own things & we can work on things together. The sense of community that LSU has the city of Baton Rouge kind of fosters that and translated it over our business. So even though we didn’t use our degrees, we use the experiences & connections that we had. That’s invaluable. I think the degree is a piece of paper to say that you’ve completed something, which is important; to show that I can start & complete something. But what’s invaluable with getting a degree are the experiences & the growth that you go through because you have to complete this goal.
- What advice would you give women who are thinking about taking the leap of faith but might have doubt or have people in their corner who are doubting them?
Sherin: First piece of advice: GET RID OF THOSE PEOPLE! We are very conscious of the people who we keep around us & it’s important that everyone shares that same energy & mindset as us. We have experienced were some of the people were not pushing forward the vision & were naysayers & we cut that at the root so that we could flourish.
Raina: Just do it! Put yourself out there! It doesn’t have to be packed completely or perfectly. People relate to vulnerability. Just try & start; people will appreciate that & appreciate that. That’s inspirational in itself. Surround yourself with people who are going to help facilitate whatever you’re doing is going to push you forward faster. But be wise when doing it; we aren’t saying quit your job today & just do whatever! Have a plan but don’t let the plan or the BIG vision keep you in fear of doing it in the first place.
Sherin: *MILLENNIAL MOMENT* There’s a meme or a saying that says: The climate will never be just right-so if you want to work out, it might be too cold out or it’s raining but if you want to get it done, you’ll find a way to do it. It’ll never be right; you might say I don’t have enough time or money & ALL of those things might be true but there’ll always be a factor. So you have to find a way to make it work.