Success against the odds
These days marketing company CEO Jodi Lewis is the epitome of a successful, young woman.
She has two Masters degrees — including one in professional counselling and another in public relations — and is making a name for herself through her marketing business, JD Lewis Group, But Mrs Lewis admitted none of the accomplishments she has today came without hard work and determination.
“Everything I have was built from absolutely nothing,” she told The Royal Gazette. “I got pregnant while I was in college and ended up having my daughter and still finishing my degree in three years. Thank God for two professors who let me bring her to class with me.
“At one point, I was the girl on welfare and food stamps living in the projects in the States. I was the girl who went through evictions and had the lights get cut off.
“I experienced all the typical things that would hold people back and hold them down, but I was able to pull myself and my family out of a rough situation and achieve what I have today.”
Mrs Lewis said her life came to its breaking point in 2008.
She had just given birth to her youngest daughter and had been evicted from a home in Texas. She was completely broke and had to appeal to her best friend in Bermuda for some financial help to get to her mother's house in Atlanta, until she got back on her feet.
“We packed everything up to go to Georgia.” she said. “It was a long drive with two kids and a dog in a U-Haul truck, but something manifested in me on that drive where I said ‘This isn't it for me'.
“I got to my mom's house and two days later drove to North Carolina and went on an interview with a mental health company and I got the job on the spot.
“I became like a phoenix because nothing could stop me,” she continued. “I realised I never wanted to go back to the projects and be on welfare. I had this overwhelming drive where nothing could stop me from achieving my goals.”
Over the past few years she has worked with dogged determination to prove what she's capable of professionally — even if its meant creating jobs and opportunities that weren't there.
“You have to put yourself in a position where people are able to see what you bring to the table and that might require volunteering or offering services at a discounted rate by taking a financial downgrade,” she said. “But even those are opportunities to find work and get people to know what value you possess.
“I have even had people take notice and even if it didn't turn into a job on the spot, it eventually turned into business for me.”
Another lesson she learned on the road to success is the importance of networking and maintaining good business relationships.
Her connections in the US music industry helped her to get rising star, 17-year-old Jacob Lottimore to come to Bermuda (see sidebar for more details on the upcoming event).
Mrs Lewis didn't originally intend to go into marketing. She found work helping mental health agencies get their businesses off the ground. “I didn't know what that kind of work was called, so I told everyone I was in mental health. But really I was still doing marketing and sales, but in a different industry.”
Although she enjoyed that career, she wanted to focus on the public relations side of things and founded JD Lewis Group a few years ago.
“I initially came back to Bermuda in 2011, after a job opportunity presented itself,” she said. “I had left the Island in 1999, so I had to relearn a lot of things.
“I took up every opportunity to go out and network and reintroduce myself, so I could come in guns a blazing.
“In the past two and a half years I've been back, I have achieved a lot. I finished my first master's degree in 2011 and got a second one last year. I have worked with really great clients in Bermuda and I think it all comes from the big dreams I have for myself and my family.”
Some of those clients include Luxe Hair Salon, which has incorporated social media in an innovative way to engage customers; as well as Chewstick, which Mrs Lewis helped with stage management for its BeachFest event.
She said it could be challenging trying to balance a busy career with being a mother and wife to Edwin Lewis.
However she admitted she is still living her dream.
“The most rewarding part is seeing a strategic plan come to life and helping my clients achieve their goals,” she said.
“Of course there are challenges, especially being a young, black professional, but you have to work on it.
“My ultimate goal is not a professional goal, believe it or not. It's to provide for my family and children and give them the life I never had.”
If your teenager is already wondering what they’re going to do this spring break holiday, JD Lewis Group hopes to have you covered.
The marketing company has invited Atlanta based recording artist Jacob Latimore to the Island for a concert event, entitled ‘What Are You Waiting For’ on April 5.
Known for hits such as ‘Like ‘Em All’, featuring young rapper Diggy Simmons, the 17-year-old has also landed some exciting film roles recently. Last year, he starred in the ‘Black Nativity’ alongside stars like Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Forest Whitaker, and Mary J Blige.
Organiser Jodi Lewis said she wanted to bring the multi-talented artist to Bermuda to give middle and high school students something exciting to do over the break.
“My stepdaughter goes to TN Tatem and was wondering what’s there to do in Bermuda for Spring Break. I had no clue, but figured I could try and organise something.
“I called a really good friend of mine, Askia Fountain, the CEO of Timeless Entertainment, and he suggested we bring Jacob Latimore down.”
Mrs Lewis said she was hoping young people would come out to the event and enjoy themselves.
She said: “What I love about him is he is 17. He just acted in the Kevin Hart’s movie ‘Ride Along’. He is also a singer and is very, very driven and has goals.
“There’s something about people who don’t lay down and accept the status quo that I like, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for him, as well as for the young people here. This is also the only official Spring Break concert that’s being put on for local students, so it’s going to be an exciting time.” Mr Latimore had one of his first chances in the spotlight when he appeared on television show, Maury, on its ‘Most Talented Kids’ episode in 2006.
Two years ago he was nominated for the ‘Young Stars Award’ at the 2012 BET Awards. Music is also known to run in the young star’s family — with his father and uncles making up The Latimore Brothers.
Tickets are $50 and are available at 27th Century Boutique, Kit & Caboodle and online at www.bdatix.bm.