The Boss Network’s JoAnn Ajayi-Scott talks entrepreneurship

JoAnn Ajayi-Scott
Photo credit: Facebook / joann.ajayiscott

JoAnn Ajayi-Scott is an award-winning entrepreneur and nonprofit strategist. As founder and CEO of Essence of a Lady Inc., her tireless effort to educate, mentor and empower young women as well as connect them with professional and entrepreneurial women for over 35 years has earned her numerous accolades and awards, including the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and being named Philanthropist of the Year.

After dozens of years impacting over 1,000 girls through E/LInc, Ajayi-Scott is set to retire and turn her focus to running her nonprofit in addition to being a nonprofit strategist full time to assist others in leveraging their business as philanthropists.

What do you do to stay on top of your game professionally?
As an entrepreneur, I have to continue to evolve and stay educated to the trends to create sustainability. Therefore, I stay up-to-date on marketing trends, speaking opportunities, and ways to brand myself to help my business, JAS Enterprise and nonprofit, Essence of a Lady Inc. The most critical thing I do is to collaborate with other like-minded business owners to help leverage my opportunities to build capacity and grow my brands. Effective networking is one of the most critical components to stay on top of your game professionally and investing in yourself through professional development such as seminars, reading, and going to events and conferences can make all the difference in the world.

How do you balance your personal life with your professional?
As one who has always worn many hats as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, mother, spouse and friend, balancing the two has always been important. Back in June 1993, at our first women’s conference, my topic as a speaker was “The Importance of Balancing Your Life” The three things required to balance your life are finding time for your family, business and community. I still believe that holds true today. It is not about quantity, it is about quality. At the beginning of the year, I meet with each entity to lock in dates. My significant other and I just spent time going through the calendar to set aside important events happening to ensure time is reserved for the year. My family discussed our family get together for the year at Christmas. Then, business meetings were held to confirm events, programs and conferences. Finally, my girlfriend group had our annual sleepover during MLK weekend to solidify our monthly gatherings. Once those days are finalized, everything else is planned around those events.

What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur or career woman?
Establish who you are as a person, business woman, and friend at the beginning of your business. That way no one can convince you to be anything else. You must figure out what is your essence, core beliefs, and true self. Ultimately, self-esteem is the essence of who we are. When we are clear who we are, we develop a high level of self-esteem and we will not be convinced to change our principles or morals.  When we attract the right kind of people in our life, we control who “sits in the front row of our theater!” When I was 12 years old, my seventh grade math teacher told me, “There are four kinds of people in the world: those who like you for who you are, those who like you for who they think you are, those who don’t like you for who you are, and those who don’t like you for who they think you are, so the most important person to please is yourself!” I say all that to say to simply be you and be the best you.

What does being a BOSS means to you?
Being a BOSS means using my knowledge, experience and expertise to educate, mentor and empower others. I am able to use my 19 years in education to help educate girls academically as an English Language Arts, social studies and special education teacher. I am able to educate teachers and parents as a nationally certified educational trainer, curriculum and instruction and literacy specialist. I am able to use over 30 years as a philanthropist working in schools, churches, and the community, and over 26 years as Founder and CEO of Essence of a Lady, Inc. to mentor women and girls as a mentoring specialist and community leader. With all of this expertise, I can continue to empower people around the world on the importance of discovering their essence in order to leverage their life so they can utilize their talents to live out their passion. Bringing Out Successful Sisters is definitely an appropriate acronym to express how I have lived my life since I was ten years old when I began tutoring struggling readers. B.O.S.S., that’s who I am and at Essence of a Lady Inc., that’s what we do.

For more information about JoAnn, please visit or or follow her on Twitter at @JoAnnAjayiScott

The BOSS Network is a community of career and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking. Their mission is to promote and encourage the small business spirit and professional development of women. For more information on The BOSS Network, please visit

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