Regina Ann Campbell’s 20 years of hard work in the nonprofit and public sector has paid off. As the newest executive at Epicenter Memphis in Germantown, Tennessee, Campbell is breaking the glass ceiling in the C-suite as chief program officer.
Prior to joining the Epicenter Memphis team, Campbell’s pioneering role in senior management at TechTown Detroit demonstrated her transformative leadership in building profitable economic models in urban communities. Campbell served as manager of place-based entrepreneurship and led strategic program design, development, execution and growth.
Campbell led TechTown’s flagship programs SWOT City and Retail Services. Her vision and drive leveraged place-based acceleration and incubation from its inception to $2.2M in investments into Detroit neighborhood enterprises. She worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs such as House of Pure Vin, Rose’s Fine Food, Redesign and Restoration.
Prior to her role at TechTown, Campbell worked as a legislative analyst for the late Detroit City Council member Mary Ann Mahaffey. During her tenure, she obtained insight to urban planning, real estate and government. But she desired to develop beyond the municipal position. “I was very much interested in opportunities for growth and wanted to move up the ladder. Despite my academic and professional experiences, I just wasn’t getting those real solid opportunities. So, I had to be very creative and use my intrapreneurial skills in order to stay in Detroit and work,” said Campbell.
As fate would have it, while Campbell was searching for careers in urban planning, she saw a social media post for the Wayne State Revitalization Fellowship program. “I thought the fellowship was for college students because they brand it for young professionals. I consider myself a mid-career professional. But, my friend suggested that I apply,” said Campbell.
Campbell is grateful for her friend’s advice. She said out of 650 applicants, her name was selected as one of 29 fellows. This was her dream opportunity to receive coaching and mentoring by industry leaders while fulfilling her goals as the senior project manager of economic development at Vanguard Community Development Corporation. As a result, she successfully launched a business incubator in Detroit’s North End to build an ecosystem that supported entrepreneurs by organizing business leaders and the residents in the North End of Detroit. Her work cultivated improvements such as a new facade for small business owners and a holiday market pop-up.
Campbell opened her doors to rolling out to answer a few questions.
Congrats on all of your success. You have excelled in your profession. As a Black woman, what is your superpower?
I have a third eye-perceptive. I am very forward thinking and a critical thinker. I can see what’s next before others, which is why I’m a great strategist and connector that can build great things from the smallest available resource to maximizing more for scaling.
What key skill sets or qualities make you unique as an African American leader?
As a leader, I have both soft and hard skills. My hard skills are related to my educational and professional accomplishments. We can all go to school and accomplish the technical knowledge for the workplace. That’s not what makes us unique. But the interpersonal qualities are what make me unique. My qualities are bold leadership, influence, communication that’s honest yet direct, along with being flexible and still adaptable.
Who or what motivates you and why?
I am motivated by a variety of people and things. My motivation comes primarily from my family, this means my husband, Terrance, our sons Torrance and Tyler. This also includes our parents, siblings and friends. I am who I am because of my family. How I view and value people has a lot to do with my family. My parents accomplished a lot in spite of racism and inequity. This is why I always knew I had no excuse. As challenging as it was for my parents, grandparents and those before them, I knew my life was nowhere near as tough. I draw on my family and our strength to create change for those after me.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would stomp out racism. Racism continues to cause tremendous harm across the world. With racism gone, the other “isms” will follow and we can be more about humanity.
What are the do’s and don’ts for young women in business?
Do a sales strategy. Sales are necessary to be in business — if you aren’t selling anything you do not have a business. A sale is not easy, so you need to plan for it. Have a professional person with sales expertise to help.
Do start small. You don’t have to have a building before you start testing out your product or service. Pop-ups are great ways to test the market, engage in customer discovery and satisfaction, and more.
Don’t be closed to feedback and advice. Feedback and advice can support customer validation and inform if what you are developing as a product or service is in demand. This includes being open to feedback about your brand.
Don’t let competition scare you or think competition doesn’t matter. Use competition to drive and motivate you to offer the best products or service so customers return.