Shawna Whitehead has always been an entrepreneur, motivated to make her own path. With a bodacious and outgoing personality, she has a way with people and has dedicated her time to improving the lives of others. In the past, she ran a daycare center, beauty salon, nail salon and recruitment center, but it wasn’t until two years ago that she founded the company that brought all of her passions together. That company is called Destined to Succeed. Her newest business trains people in cultural diversity and job preparation to help them adapt to the workforce. More than that, Whitehead structures the programs to help people find what they are “destined” to do.
The idea to train people in cultural diversity came from Shawna’s personal experience in 2015. When she applied for a human resources job at Northwestern Mutual, Whitehead understood her audience and specifically dressed the part. “My hair was professional, I had my French manicure, short lashes; I had my gold teeth, but I had my suit on,” she explains. The image she put on for the hiring manager was far from how she usually chose to express herself, but she knew she had to appeal to a corporate team. Even with her efforts, her recruiter told her that she likely wouldn’t make it to the second interview because “you have gold teeth. You do not look like our demographic.” Whitehead felt belittled by the situation and chose to pour her frustrations into helping others navigate diversity challenges in the workplace.
After starting Destined to Succeed, she hasn’t looked back. In addition to cultural diversity workshops that teach people how to communicate with others from different backgrounds, she offers certifications for corporate etiquette and customer service. The company also assists people in getting their GED, aids in job placement and hosts mock job interviews. As if that wasn’t enough, Whitehead instituted her Pipeline Program, which helps those coming out of prison to re-enter society and find work.
The Pipeline Program gives previously incarcerated men and women a chance in the job market, especially when there are few resources available for them when they leave prison. Whitehead was tired of seeing these people in her community struggle, so she began enrolling them in a two-week job preparation program. She contacts local employers that are looking for new hires and are willing to hire these potential employees the moment the program is finished.
Whitehead is not only changing the lives of the participants in the program but is encouraging workplaces to hire previously incarcerated people. She is fighting the stigma associated with incarceration by showing companies that these are hardworking people and they just want to get their lives back on track.
These programs barely scratch the surface of what Whitehead has done to effect change in the city. Her other two business ventures called Second Chance Transportation and her Christian talk show “Walking in Your Destiny” contribute to the work she is doing to give the underrepresented an advantage. And she’s not stopping there.
Read the article in the Shepherd Express.