February is Black History Month. While The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce celebrates all our members throughout the year, this month we are shinning a spotlight on our members within the African American community. Join us all month long for our 2nd annual spotlight series. This special feature helps our communities learn a little more about some of their business leaders who work so hard to make it a community to be proud of.
Today, we would like you to get to know Felicity Tchoufa ,Owner of LeBonday LLC.
BONDAY “Hearts for a good day”
LeBonday LLC celebrates handcrafted treasures from Africa. They revisit handmade pieces and reimagine them into a functional contemporary piece to wear or use around the house. Felicity uses her voice and her experiences to impact and empower other African women. It is about:
Going from a space of struggles to a space of bravery.
Going from stress to harmony.
Going from fear to confidence.
Tapping into your real purpose in life.
“We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges”
In addition to being owner of LeBonday Felicity is the founder of Felicity Impact (empowering African women leaders), Area Director #61 Toastmasters for District #36, runs PR for MBI Health Services DC, and is the new Co-chair for the Women Networking group at the GBCC.
We asked Felicity three important questions. Read her responses below.
Q1. What are some challenges you faced early on that helped prepare you for the role you are in today and how did you overcome them?
I was born and raised in Cameroon, the country of the indomitable lions. I grew up in a culture that prohibits girls and women from putting themselves first. As a little girl, I regularly heard that girls do not raise their voices, girls must help their mom with chores, girls do not look their elders straight in the eyes when addressing them… and much more. Meanwhile, boys were treated like little princes.
As a result, I spent most of my adult life living for others, trying to please people, seeking validation from those around me, and asking for permission to have a time for myself, all while putting myself on the back burner. All day long, I would take care of everyone, wearing several hats as I had seen my mom and aunts do before me. It is part of the African culture for women to assume multiple responsibilities. I struggled with the fear of not being good enough or being accepted.
In the process of doing what was expected of me, I forgot about me, I forgot to be me. I was in the dark and no one had a clue about what was really going on with me. I would put on a brave face and do what was expected of me as I had always done. How could I complain?
Two years ago, the stress became too much. I was losing sleep, had a constant headache, and began binge eating. I put on 30 pounds, started having heart palpitations, and developed high blood pressure that necessitated blood pressure medication. This was a wakeup call. I knew I could no longer live this way, but how would I take the next step? How does one overcome this? How do you escape the stress when you keep everything to yourself?
I had to shift my mind and my thinking. The first step was acknowledging and admitting that I let myself down. There is no need to put the blame on anyone. It was important that I forgive myself for letting myself down, for thinking I was not good enough or not ready to do what I was expected to do.
My second step was making the decision to work on the relationship I had with myself. It was important to start the journey toward improving my well-being by taking inventory of my own fears, doubts, and insecurities. By recognizing patterns, I could quiet my inner critics and start starving my self-doubts. Tara Mohr says in her book “Playing Big” that self-doubt, when not dealt with, is destructive like “a poison that leads to ideas unshared, businesses not started, talents unused, and joy not experienced.”
I used these new ideas to redefine my values. I learned how to say ‘NO’ and be ok with it. On Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, Maya Angelou stated “There should be a place in you that must remain unviolated. Don’t be afraid to say no.” It is okay to put yourself first and prioritize your wellbeing.
On my journey, I was able to use what I learned to lose the 30 pounds I gained, get off blood pressure medication, and even launched several projects. Among those projects is Felicity Impact, which is a platform that provides tools on how to attract well-being and wealth.
Q2. Who/What is your biggest inspiration in both your personal and professional life?
I must credit two people as my source of inspiration. First my mom whom from an early age, I have seen her raising six children on her own and her nieces and nephews without making any difference; she was a giver. She never raised her voice and she never complained. I have seen her embracing her sisters’ wives as if they were her own sisters (my dad was a polygamist). She was wearing several hats: she would go to work, come back to manage family of 15 people. On top of that she would run a side business. She was an independent woman; I was impressed by how she carried all these responsibilities without any complaints. I helped her carry bags loaded with shoes to go to different markets to sell them. In the process, I learned how to bargain. She taught me how to cook. I would come back from school and go straight to the kitchen and help her cooking for 10- 15 people. Today, I am a great cook because of her. I guess I also picked the business mindset from her.
My second source would be my husband, Roger. We went to college together. He has always been very disciplined. I was amongst those who would tease him because he was too serious about reaching his goals and sticking to them. On weekends while we were out partying, he would drive a taxi to make money. He would remind us he wanted to help his parents pay for his studies abroad. He was teaching us the price you pay today for great results tomorrow. He taught me that self-discipline is vital to fulfill my full potential. Years ago, when I decided to settle down in the US, he sat me down and lectured me about the importance of keeping a good credit score. He warned me about the credit cards offered by stores in the mall and he told me to spend only what I have in my bank account. It was important that I do not live beyond my means. He would always encourage me to set short- and long-term goals. All his advice has certainly paid off as I have maintained an excellent credit score. I would say that our partnership has been a driving force. I have learned to prioritize, to believe in myself, and to remain focused on my goals.
Q3. What is your biggest piece of advice to businesses struggling with diversity and inclusivity in the workplace?
Diversity and inclusion are crucial for competitiveness. According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with more diverse leadership report higher innovation revenues. Additionally, companies with women in their senior teams do very well. Despite this, it is true that women and minorities are still underrepresented in leadership positions. Companies are promising to do better, but the fact of the matter is, that in today's world, companies that fail to promote diversity and inclusiveness policies will face innovative and financial risk.
My advice to businesses that are struggling in this area is to create a culture where people from all backgrounds feel included. Companies should reinforce cultural diversity training in the workplace and shift their mindsets to include promoting women and minorities at the senior level. They also should consider hiring coaches that would provide unbiased guidance. In all, companies should create an environment that fosters diverse thinking.
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