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 Verelyn Gibbs Watson.
Verelyn Gibbs Watson is a multi-unit franchise owner with Nothing Bundt Cakes, opening the brand’s first DC Metro area location back in 2016. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Gibbs Watson served as the President & COO of a national, education based non-profit and had over a decade of executive leadership experience with a fortune 100 financial services firm.
Verelyn earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Morgan State University, her MBA from the Lubin School of Business at Pace University as well as post graduate executive certifications from Harvard University -Kennedy School of Government and the American Society of Association Executives among others.
She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, serves on several advisory boards for Nothing Bundt Cakes and in addition being a member of the Greater Bethesda Chamber’s board, she serves as the board chair of the Children’s Equity Coalition.
Verelyn makes her home in upcountry Mo. Co. with her husband Sean, daughter Channing and their Vizsla, Bentley.
We asked Verelyn 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?
When I was studying for my undergraduate degree at Morgan State University (Go Bears!), all business majors had to take a mandatory Entrepreneurship course. In the class you were paired with a local entrepreneur that was trying to either start or grow their business. The work we did with them wasn't just about a grade. We were ultimately impacting the ability for someone's dream to come to fruition. (Talk about high stakes!) So much of what I learned through the experience gave me a sneak peek at the hurdles you must overcome if you intend to succeed as a business owner. Especially the awareness that if you are going to get into a business, make sure you know how to do everything in that business. That saved me a lot of headache and heartache during the first year running my business.
Q2. Who/What is your biggest inspiration in both your personal and professional life?
My Father is my biggest inspiration in my personal and professional life. He came to the United States extremely educated and yet had to basically start his degrees over from scratch because those he earned before coming to the U.S. weren't recognized. He never let it stop him or hold him back from achieving the life he envisioned for his family. My Dad evolved from climbing the corporate ladder, while going to graduate school full time, to executive leadership and ultimately starting his own successful construction business, specializing in the restoration of historic Brownstones in Brooklyn, New York. The man is a master of reinvention and has been a perfect mentor on my own career journey.
Q3. What is your biggest piece of advice to businesses struggling with diversity and inclusivity in the workplace?
My biggest advice is to stop overthinking it. It's not about "hire someone who looks like this" or "only promote people who fall into this category" or my personal cringy favorite, host a training (literally, just one) and check it off your to do list. It doesn't work that way, at least not sustainably. It's about having an open, fair and welcoming environment where you look for the possibilities in people. It's like that movie, "If you build it, they will come". Those in decision making positions need to make the decision to look at their corporate (workplace) culture (and have others look too) and determine is it a place that embraces authenticity and differences or are they unwittingly supporting a narrow archetype where anyone who doesn't "fit the mold" never stands a chance.
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