We had the good fortune of connecting with Derek Ross and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Derek, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think about risk as a prerequisite to success. Risks are uncomfortable, nerve-racking, and scary, especially if it’s your first time taking one. It’s like the first time taking a test in a new class. You go to class, do your homework, and study but you’re still nervous because you don’t know what’s going to be on the test. But once you take the test, you have a better grasp of what to expect the next time and it makes your next test a bit easier face even if the material on the test gets progressively harder.
But more than anything, I believe it is the fear of uncertainty associated with taking risks that can paralyze us from taking action; that unknown outcome from saying yes to something you have no personal experience with can be debilitating.
But when you stop and think, everything we dream about and aspire to have in our lives is on the other side of uncertainty. Without risks how can one expect to grow and develop into the best version of themselves. Yes, you can stay where you are and remain comfortable, but the world is full of an abundance of opportunities waiting for each of us to add our unique stamp to the world’s passport.
We get one life, and we get to decide how we live it, but to live life requires action and actions and risks will always be a pair we will have to contend with at one point or another during our lifetime.
Personally, taking risks has opened up the door to so many amazing experiences, but it has also challenged my perspectives, tested my values, and as a result, made me a better version of myself… one who has a voice and not afraid to speak up when the situation calls for it, and to trust in my own abilities; because when it comes to taking risks, you’re really betting on yourself.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
For 16 years, I’ve worked on and led the branding, marketing, and communications for some of the largest and notable HBCU brands and events in the country.
What sets me apart is my ability to relieve the stress and pressure of my clients by unpacking their ideas and breaking through their creative roadblocks to design strategies to amplify their voice, visibility and impact while staying true to the core of who they are.
I’m proud of the impact my work has on the lives of others, some who I will never meet, and I get excited about working with clients who and on projects that pour back into the community and creates a positive impact in the lives of those who may not have the same level of access to resources and opportunities as others.
My journey wasn’t easy at all. I worked years building my experience, networking, and always being of service to others because I wanted everyone to win. I was young, so I wasn’t really aware of how to recognize my worth at work and ask for my value, but my mom and other mentors helped me to see my value, which opened my eyes to how I was being taken advantage of in certain situations.
I learned quickly how to create opportunities out of challenges, and used the situation to further my experience, expand my network, and plan my next move while I pursued my MBA. I realized in those moments, I had the skill set to start my own business, but I didn’t think it would be something that would happen so soon.
I ended up in entrepreneurship because all of the other doors where closed; entrepreneurship was both a necessity and an opportunity for me. I remember after graduating with my MBA, I was blocked for a job opportunity that I really wanted because of a non-compete that had nothing to do with me directly to being passed over by job-after-job on the corporate level.
At one point, I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that the success I had experienced early in my career was just luck; but that was far from my actual reality. My work and personality were speaking up for me in rooms that I wasn’t even in, and it led to me receiving an opportunity for a job that sustained me until a received a call to bid on a 6-figure contract, which I won and used to start my business in 2014. And now seven years later, I’m better, bolder, brighter, and still in business.
All of the challenges, rejections, victories, and encounters have all worked together to help me navigate through other obstacles I would face during this new chapter of my life. Nothing is ever wasted. Not one lesson, experience, or skill. Everything goes into our present and our future.
I want my story to be an inspiration to others who may feel like the odds are stacked again them and they can’t seem to catch a break. Please don’t give up on yourself, but instead keep trusting, encouraging, and speaking life to you and your situation. It’s hard for others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First I would have to map out all of the food places we would have to go while in town, and then build the rest of the activities around food, because for me, if the food experience is bad the entire trip can be thrown in the trash lol (that’s just me though).
For food, we would have to go to:
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Slutty Vegan is a must for lunch a few times (too goo not to go more than once)
Hot Hattie B’s Chicken
Ponce City Market for the food court. Sometimes you want a few options.
Zesto’s for a hotdog and crinkle cut fries. Sorry, but this is a guilty pleasure for me dating back to my college days.
Roasters for some good ole BBQ
Ms. Icey’s of course
At this point I know we will have leftovers, and plus I like to cook too, so this should hold us over.
From an activity’s perspective, we gotta hit Stone Mountain, mainly to work out since we are going to be eating all of this food, but I have fond memories as a kid, and my grandmother used to have this old school Stone Mountain cup the glowed in the dark that she used to drink her water from, so it is a must visit for any guest who have never been. Outside of that, we would hit some of the other attractions like the Georgia Aquarium. I love amusement parks, so Six Flags Over Georgia is on the list as well, oh and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and I love a good escape room, so The Escape Game Atlanta.
Otherwise, I would hang out with some of my friends, maybe do a game night with some drinks because it is always good to wind down and enjoy the company and vibes of great people. Oh, and maybe some shopping, so we would need to hit up Lenox and Atlantic Station; just for a second. Maybe catch a movie while we are out there as well.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would have to dedicate my shoutout to my Mom. She has played a major role in helping me to find my voice, belief in myself, and establishing a relationship with God, which is the most important relationship in my life; because without God I would be nothing. I thank God for assigning her to be my mother, because it was through her life’s experience that taught me the importance of faith, being a person of integrity, taking responsibility for your actions because we don’t always get it right, and loving God, myself, and others as I love myself.
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