How a plucky young entrepreneur accidentally found her passion
In my travels, I’ve met some incredible entrepreneurs. Most of them aren’t tech kids; their goal isn’t to IPO. Rather, they work in pursuit of their passion, often founding local businesses that add value to the community. I love talking to these people – they all have fascinating stories to tell – so I’m going to start featuring one every now and then. Maybe some tech entrepreneurs, too. Write me if you know someone I should feature.
This is the story of Lashondra Scott, a mission-focused young entrepreneur whose goal is to change the community via her work in the media. She knows well how powerful a tool/weapon it can be, shaping peoples' views and opinions and influencing their actions - often for the worst. She feels the proportion of negative media about African Americans, especially is out of balance. Her life's work is to start frank and open dialogs about the biggest problems facing the community at large, and to offer solutions.
"I am a deeply spiritual person," she says. "I believe that I can use my powers for good and help to make my community a better place."
A sweet start
Lashondra Scott was always enterprising and independent. She knew from a young age that, ultimately, she didn’t want to work for anyone but herself.
Needing money for extracurriculars and other normal teenage stuff her parents couldn’t afford, at 15 Lashondra started selling candy to fellow students at Milwaukee’s John Marshall High School.
“I figured it would be the best way to get extra money until I was old enough to get a regular job,” says Lashondra, referring to her candy-hawking startup.
She faced some stiff competition. Lots of kids at her school were already doing it and the customer pool was only so big. She needed an edge, and she found a good one: bulk buying.
“I would have my aunt take me to Sam’s Club to buy bulk candy,” she says. Lashondra could set her prices a little lower and still maintain her margin. But she didn’t stop there. She paid close attention to what her customers requested most and kept those items stocked. Eventually, she added juice pouches. She would freeze them together in a plastic grocery bag overnight so they stayed cold all day.
“I learned to upsell by showing kids all the different things I had,” Lashondra says.
But her enterprise came with its own set of dangers. Kids who were caught faced three-day suspensions for a first offense, with escalated consequences for each additional occurrence. Lashondra was an honor roll student, she had plans. She couldn’t get caught – there was too much at stake.
Today it’s called “networking”
Random locker searches were a regular occurrence at Marshall, and Lashondra’s inventory was kept in hers. “So, I made friends with the security guards – it would be called “networking” in today’s terms – and they would tell me when there was going to be a search.”
She also “networked” with a teacher who knew her and understood her need. The woman would hide the candy in a teacher’s closet until after the search.
Then, two weeks before the end of her senior year, Lashondra got caught.
“I got a three-day suspension, but I already had my credits so it could have been worse,” she says. “That’s when I decided to retire from candy sales.”
The accident of destiny
But before that, in her junior year, she found her calling, literally by accident. Marshall had a broadcasting program Lashondra had never heard about.
“I stumbled on it walking by the room in a part of the school I didn’t go to much.” What she saw took her breath away.
“I saw kids playing music, recording, using cameras – I knew then that’s what I wanted for myself. I got very involved and knew I had to work in the industry.” After high school, Lashondra got her Associates degree in television and video production from Milwaukee Area Technical College.
She started NeoSoul Productions in 2003, immediately after graduating. She worked from her home the first five years, mostly doing contract shooting and editing. She started to feel stuck.
“I felt like I had settled into this rut as a freelancer, like I was pigeon-holed. It wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know how to get out.” Believing she needed to develop a better business sense, Lashondra went back to school and got her Bachelor’s in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University.
Today, NeoSoul Productions serves customers throughout the community with video products from TV commercials to explainer videos. Lashondra also produces independent, issues-oriented documentaries like her current project, Trafficked, which reveals Milwaukee, Wisconsin to be a notorious human trafficking hub in the United States. Lashondra is also the founder of The 411 Live,” a 501(c)(3) that offers an internship program for students to spark interest in a career in video and film production.
“I’m happy NeoSoul Productions is evolving.” Says Lashondra. “But growth brings staff, budgets, payroll, equipment, more taxes – and on an on. So, you have to think differently then, about strategy, scaling, and long-term growth. That’s my focus as far as the business now.”
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