I met Gabrielle Deculus a few years ago during SXSW and we've stay connected ever since. I would be doing you a disservice if I tried to put her in one category because she wears many hats flawlessly. She's a businesswoman, visionary, philanthropist, and changemaker who is empowering women and serving others in need. Dedicated to her community, the Louisiana native recently led recovery efforts in response to devastating floods, mobilizing the public while raising over $30K in the process; a feat that later earned her the "Hometown Hero Award" courtesy of Beyonce and Essence Magazine. She's the founder of Business Rules for Women, who has created a thriving digital media platform for emerging entrepreneurs and ambitious businesswomen; using a diverse network of contributors to share unique tools and resources to an audience of over 190K success-driven women online.
I had the opportunity to speak with her and her mentor, her mother, Ramona Deculus. Ramona is a business coach, entrepreneur and motivational speaker that prides herself on being her kids biggest fans. Being that family morals play such a important role in her life, we first chatted about her family and the values they instilled in Gabrielle early on. Her mother shared, "My parents instilled these things into me and these were transferred to my children. The first thing is integrity. It's not about doing the right thing, but doing the right thing when noone is watching and holding them accountable. The next thing is work ethic. My parents still to this day, my dad is 81 and my mom is 73, they continue to serve others. That is what keeps them young and going - waking up to help others. The third thing is to be a person of your word. If you tell someone you're going to show up, you show up - on time." She continued on and said that, "Time is money and you shouldn't waste anybody else's money or time."
Being that her mom plays such an intricate role in her life I was curious to know how she encouraged Gabrielle to follow her dreams and find her purpose when she was younger. "I never encouraged my kids to do one thing in particular, instead I encouraged them to find their passion. My grandfather told me as a young girl, that if you do something that you love to do, you can make as much money as you want, but if do something for the money you'll never be happy." She said from that moment, that stuck with her and she passed that lesson onto her children.
As a teenage girl, Gabrielle was interested in being a part of an organization so she joined the Junior Knights of Peter Claver. Her mom explained that, "Being apart of that organization really inspired her to help others and she lit up anytime she had a chance to do community service. It didn't surprise me when she chose a career that gave her that same type of energy, excitement and passion to serve others."
"The seeds that you plant early in life, you water and nurture them and they will show up in places that you don't expect them to." - Ramona Deculus, mentor and business coach
It's no doubt that finding your purpose is truly a journey and everyone finds that at different moments throughout their lives. Gabrielle found hers in college and has hit the ground running ever since. "My teenage years gave me some idea of what I enjoyed, but when I got to college I met a group of friends, who are all business owners and entrepreneurs now, that wanted to create events for our peers because we didn't like the events that were being held in Louisiana. I realized from that point on that I liked being in a position of being the problem solver, the innovator or the creator of giving people what they need.
After that moment of being in college and starting my first company and realizing that people are actually coming to me to help them with their ideas, business plans and marketing ideas - way before I was ready because I put myself out there. That showed me that they saw the spirit in me where I can help them get things done and get that stamp of approval and love from my peers that I appreciate."
"If you answer the needs of the people you will always have a job." - Gabrielle Deculus, founder of Business Rules for Women
Being a business owner comes with challenges and regardless of what you're taught in school somethings you just don't read in the books; you have to find out through trial and error and adjust as you go. I was curious to know how Gabrielle has overcome obstacles in her career and what was a tool(s) that helped her improve her skills. She most definitely put it into perspective and reminded me the importance of being intentional in all that you do. "Being that I have a problem solver attitude, I don't look at things as setbacks, but opportunities. Language is very important to me and I look at challenges as opportunities to get better and improve. I've had plenty of challenges and I would say one of them was figuring out how to balance multiple projects. When I was in business school I was taught how to run a business for someone else, but not for myself, so that was a learning curve for me. Years later, I was introduced to basecamp and found that there are tools out there that can help me manage projects and serve my clients efficiently."
There's no doubt that in order to be successful, you must believe in yourself and be confident in your craft because if you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect someone else to? Gabrielle shares how her family, especially her mother, instilled confidence in her at an early age and that has played a huge role in being the businesswoman she is today. "Confidence was something I learned early on. Of course you have your small doubts and insecurities, but I never felt like I was less than the next person. My peers, my family and my purpose really helped me navigate things. I saw my mom leave Louisiana being somebody's staff member to owning her own insurance agency, which was huge for me. Seeing her putting in work, building a home for her parents and giving people what they need to build their legacy and keep people safe in case something goes wrong."
Her mom modestly responded, "It takes a lot of hard work to do what I do, but I enjoy it. I learned early on that to whom much is given, much is required. Once you know better, you do better. When you have somebody who can lay a roadmap in front of you, it's a lot easier for you to lay a roadmap for yourself. It gives you confidence and instills pride in what you're doing and a feeling of accomplishment when you see the result of the fruits of your labor. I'm very proud of the work that Gabrielle has done and I know one day she's going to build me that house. Family matters and supporting each other is important to us. We take pride in that."
I couldn't end this conversation without asking Gabrielle her #1 rule for businesswomen, "Invest in yourself. I tell this to everyone, what are you doing to become a better person? What are you doing to make your business better? What are you doing to make yourself more competitive? What are you doing to grow?
Thank you again to Gabrielle and Ramona Deculus for sharing your wisdom, time and experiences with us. I admire all the work you're both doing and appreciate you for reminding us the power of mentorship, family values and serving with a purpose.
This post was created in partnership with SheaMoisture around its focus on Community Commerce, a purpose-driven business model that creates opportunities for sustainable social and economic empowerment throughout its supply chain and communities in the United States and Africa. Community Commerce focuses on entrepreneurship, women's empowerment, education and wellness. It's bigger than beauty. It's about investing in local and global communities, striving to eliminate generational poverty and empowering women. A portion of proceeds from select SheaMoisture Community Commerce collections are invested in its Shea butter, coconut and African Black Soap cooperatives in Ghana and others that supply their handcrafted natural ingredients. In the United States, their women's empowerment programs focus on entrepreneurship and education, including fellowships to attend the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Minority program and Babson College's summer entrepreneurship program. Most recently, through the $100,000,000 New Voices Fund -- created to invest in women of color entrepreneurs to help them build sustainable businesses -- SheaMoisture is working to transform the landscape of business and what it means to live a more beautiful life.
Who are women who have inspired you along your journey? Share your story with us in the comments below.