Most kids dream of becoming a teacher, doctor, or even a pilot. Have you ever dreamed of having your own airline? Meet 29-year-old attorney Rexy Rolle, the vice president of operations and general counsel of Western Air Limited. She runs one of the largest Black-owned airlines, which is owned by her amazing parents.
Rolling out had the pleasure of chatting with this amazing woman about the family business.
As a Black woman, what do you consider your superpower to be?
Women have the ability to make hard work and challenges look easy, Black women especially. And as a Black woman, I like to think I have that power. Empathy is another superpower. I make it a practice to try to understand and feel another’s perspective (even if I may not agree with it) because it helps me understand how best to communicate, interact and move. This is helpful in business, but of course in everyday life, too.
What thoughtful or encouraging piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d tell a young Rexy, don’t panic; it will all eventually make sense. Remove yourself out of the template boxes society has preset for you; it will be more valuable to color outside the lines sometimes. Also, you don’t know the future; only God knows that (it is better that way anyway). Oh, and fad diets don’t work, girl.
Why is it important for women of color to lead or work in leadership roles and decision-making capacities?
We have the fortitude and strong will to guide a team. We are relentless, full of hope, intuitive and attentive. I think any team can benefit from a healthy balance of those traits. No one can intelligently criticize you, calm your anxiety and encourage you, all in one conversation, quite like another sister.
If you could thank any Black woman history maker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
I’d have to thank Oprah Winfrey. I was born in ’88. My mom was a teen stay-at-home mom at the time and Oprah was like her friend that stopped by five days out of the week. Like so many, I grew up loving her because she was a part of my childhood. But only as an adult did I understand how monumental it was for her as a Black woman to achieve that level of success by being exactly who she was unapologetically. And even after public success, she was bold enough to pursue other interests and not be limited by people thinking she should stick to one thing. On a much smaller scale, I can relate. Oprah acts, invests in various businesses, she started her OWN network, etc. Imagine the uncomfortableness of achieving such grand success, but having to build a brand new business from the ground up, go through the trenches, the struggles, get criticized for it, persevere and stick with it because you truly believe in what you’re offering to the world. That type of boldness, I’m so grateful to see that. Thank you, Oprah.
What qualities or values do you deem indispensable in your business partners/collaborators?
Business partners and collaborators must present a united front to external parties. Even if there are internal disagreements, they should be resolved privately and should not result in inconsistent communication or decisions on behalf of the business, to outside parties. I need unity in business.
And I also think partners have to recognize each other’s strengths and use them strategically.
What are your thoughts on taking risks and making mistakes?
I believe risks are necessary for great success. Risks can be mitigated or managed but they are a natural course of progression. I have a lot of faith and tend to take calculated risks more often than not. Our acquisition of larger aircrafts was a risk but it was necessary for our growth.
Mistakes- I don’t like them. I believe a lot can be avoided by learning from someone who has done what you’ve done before. But I do realize it is also a part of being an evolving human being, so I try to learn from them as best as I can to avoid making the same mistake twice.
What are three success habits you implement into your daily routine to maintain your success/sanity/peace of mind, etc.?
1) I start my day by reading the “verse of the day” on my phone and thanking God for everything he has provided and I ask that God’s presence and favor be with us every day. I talk to God often throughout the day though. Sometimes, it is like, “Lord, tell me why he’s trying me today!?” Faith and work go hand in hand. But once you are giving it your best, the rest I place in God’s hands, which to me is the best place it can be. So that gives me a lot of peace of mind and I believe it has been critical to our success.
2) Thinking of a greater purpose outside of money and material things provides real motivation for me. I think of my team of 140-plus people that depend on me every day to make smart decisions and I think about the impact we as an air carrier have on someone’s day. That motivates me to push harder and work smarter.
3) When work gets stressful, it is necessary to take a couple minutes to talk and laugh, read a dumb meme, fluff talk with my mom about what happened on “Housewives” the other night. It resets you for the rest of your tasks, which are usually very serious and intense.
If you could have any person in the world become your mentor, who would it be and why?
I would say Tyra Banks. I admire women who are bold and successful through authenticity. Tyra is versatile, unassumingly shrewd in business, beautiful and relatable. I feel like she would be an amazing person to call upon a wide range of topics and say, “Girrrrlll, what should I do!?”