When Sherry Williams thinks back to her time at Crossroads, she remembers the experience being much more than financial assistance to attend high school. As a scholar attending Oakland Catholic High School, she had the opportunity to grow academically and focus on her ability to nurture and develop her whole self. It was during these years that Sherry's confidence matured and she began to see how she could make her mark on the world. She generously credits much of her character development and personal growth to her experiences with the people and services at Crossroads Foundation.
After graduating from Oakland Catholic High School in 2006, Sherry enrolled in college courses over the next several years at both Carlow University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While studying Pre-Med for her undergraduate degree, she took a management position for the Social Events Division at a Hilton Hotel. She became the top sales manager with over $2 million in sales in less than 10 months and discovered her passion for event planning and building positive relationships with clients.
CR: Tell us about how your interest in becoming an entrepreneur was sparked? How did the idea for Events by Elaqui come to light?
SHERRY: I wanted to be an entrepreneur as young as 9 years old. I have always wanted to be a catalyst for positive change in Pittsburgh. Through surrounding myself with mentors and other entrepreneurs in the city, I was able to see how I can make a difference. When you are a business owner you have the ability to steer the direction of the company's influence in the communities it serves. That is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
When I was in high school I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew business ownership was my calling. When I was working for the Hilton brand, and held the position as the Sales Lead for the Social Events Division, I found my calling. I thrived at being able to be a strategic part of the planning process for my clients and built lasting relationships.
About 2 years into my career one of my closest friends, Parrish Davenport, approached me to start an event planning company, and that is when I knew this was the right path for me. Little did Parrish know, that I had been praying and waiting for confirmation on what direction to go. God used Parrish for just that purpose. We met at a Starbucks and over a cup of coffee Events by Elaqui was born.
CR: Why do your clients select Events by Elaqui instead of your competitors?
SHERRY: Our clients choose Events by Elaqui over our competitors due to our track record and our ability to focus on the needs of the customer. We strive to work with all of our clients’ budgets and we have a team in place that is able to execute any vision. Customer service and quality work is the focus of our company. Parrish and I have well over 20 years of combined experience in this industry. We built our clientele on referrals and that is the key to our success. We also participate in charitable events annually and one of our most memorable events was doing a fundraiser for the Flint, Michigan water crisis. We were able to deliver over 600 cases of water as well as recruit volunteers to go up to Flint, Michigan and provide support during the height of the crisis. We believe in using our platform and resources to help those in need and we strive to do this as much as possible.
CR: What three pieces of advice would you give to Crossroads Scholars who endeavor to become future entrepreneurs?
SHERRY: The first thing I will say is DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FAIL. It is easy to dream but when it comes to the execution many allow fear to cripple them and snuff out their desire for business ownership. Entrepreneurship can be scary. You are responsible for the success of your business and those you employ. That alone can be a scary feeling but do not allow it to keep you from pursuing your dream! Every successful person has failed at multiple things at multiple times in their life; trust me I definitely have. Embrace it and allow it to shape and mold you into a better business owner. The second would be, READ & STUDY & SURROUND YOURSELF WITH INDIVIDUALS SMARTER THAN YOU. One of the worst things that an entrepreneur can do is think they know everything. Always be a student. Always strive to perfect your craft. Always be surrounded with the company of people who are qualified to provide mentorship and guidance through your journey of entrepreneurship. My last piece of advice would be HAVE FUN! Business owners have a lot on their shoulders. There will be seasons where you may be overwhelmed but if you can have fun and truly enjoy what you’re doing it will always carry you through to the next season of your business. Entrepreneurship is like a roller-coaster. There are high and low moments in any business, in any industry. Keep this in the back of your mind and know that you have what it takes to be successful.
CR: How do you feel that Crossroads Foundation contributed to your ambition to become a small business owner? Was there anyone at Crossroads who was influential in your life that encouraged you to pursue this passion?
SHERRY: Crossroads helped develop the confidence needed to be a business owner. I knew no one when I started my journey at Oakland Catholic and, though I am an extrovert, I was timid about attending a school of 500 young women and not knowing anyone. Crossroads gave me the tools to be able to be in a room of people who I do not know and come out knowing everyone. My ability to believe in myself and walk in that confidence was cultivated through the mentorship of our advocates, especially Mr. Charles. The team building exercises during the summer sessions also were inner-self building exercises for me. To believe you could get to the other side of the challenge and learn to trust the team in place are all qualities I keep with me through my journey as an entrepreneur.
To learn more about Sherry and her small business, Events by Elaqui
, please visit her website.