In The Spotlight: Dr. Arleana Waller
Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer
BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—African American women have made incredible marks in shaping American history and history throughout the world. Women continue to crash through glass ceilings in whatever fields where ceilings exist and enter boldly into rooms that once only existed for men. In honor of Black History Month, the Bakersfield News Observer (BNO) celebrates one such woman, in Kern County, Dr. Arleana Waller. Waller brings her own style of “She Power” to every room she enters and every community she serves.
Dr. Waller joins an expansive stage of strong resilient black women whose gifts have made room for them and they make no apology for showing up to sit at tables. In this week’s edition of IN THE SPOTLIGHT, the BNO reached out to Waller via email for a Q and A session to celebrate her many accomplishments by sharing her story.
BNO: What is your name and age (if you do not mind sharing?)
A: Dr. Arleana Waller; grown. (LOL)
BNO: What’s the name of your company/practice?
A: ShePower Leadership Academy Circle of Life Development Foundation (COLDf) aka MLKcommUNITY Initiative
I am the founder and SheEO of ShePower Leadership Academy, and the founder of Circle of Life Development Foundation/MLK CommUNITY Initiative. I am the author of numerous books. I am a professional speaker and leadership expert and have presented for numerous universities, community organizations, and Fortune 500 companies.
I serve on multiple executive boards including the Forbes Coaches Council, Black CEO Women Council, and Kern County Sheriff Advisory Council. I am the recipient of multiple awards such as: the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, Congressman TJ Cox Valiant Award, CSUB Inspirational Award and Diversity Award, Senator Shannon Grove She Honors award and Woman of the Year Award. I have been nominated for the Beautiful Bakersfield Humanitarian Award and California SBDC Small Business of the Year Award.
ShePower is a girl-only leadership academy. We collaborate with girls through mentorship, personal development, and diverse leadership opportunities. The mentorship part is about creating a safe space where girls can be exactly who they are in that moment. Through the mentorship and the power circles, they can see other girls in the same space where they are, and be perfectly okay with that. It is okay not to be okay. Through personal development, we bring in speakers who cover assorted topics—leadership really being a key component. Through diverse leadership opportunities, we try to partner the girls with situations that will allow them to be comfortable in power and walk into leadership owning their ShePower.
BNO: How many years has your business been in operation?
A: 6 years
BNO: How are you adjusting to the pandemic and how has it impacted your business?
A: For ShePower, it has really been hard. The magic sauce in what we do; it’s by being in the same room, building trust, and feeling each other’s energy, and to know when I can say something and when I cannot. It is about being present in that very moment with her, so that everyone knows that I am fully committed.
With COVID, you cannot do that. If you are on Zoom parents are being nosy, so girls are not going to open as much, or you are not really connected because it is not personal.
But with the COLDf MLK Community Initiative, it really has launched in a way that I could not have imagined. COVID-19 ripped the band-aids off so many issues in our society; however, we are addressing as many needs as we can.
A: Those issues are very heavy and very disheartening as an African American woman with two African American boys and an African American husband. It is extremely hard to stand on the side of love, which is where we must be to navigate this, and to see your race politicized, legislated, and demonized in a way that you know is not what you and many of your friends are about.
BNO: Do you believe in dreams? Why or Why not?
A: I believe in dreams because it keeps you Hoping and Hope fuels Change.
BNO: Who do “You” say that you are?
A: I am She. I am Hope.
BNO: If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?
A: You are more than enough, stand in your nerd light and shine. Life really is a marathon, not a sprint. Your definition of success will change as you go and that is ok. Do not be scared to fail, just learn from it. Walk in the room like you own it, even if you don’t feel qualified.
BNO: Since wealth constitutes more than just money, what does wealth mean to you?
A: Wealth is realizing what you already have around you makes you wealthy.
BNO: Did you face challenges such as: rejection, ridicule, lack of support or resources, if so, how did you handle it?
A: I felt like the Queen of failure and rejection; being talked about, judged, and excluded. But, I never gave up and I never stopped showing up. I never stopped hoping. How I deal with it now is that I acknowledge my emotions and I understand rejection is proof that I am trying. I give myself some grace. And I refuse to let the temporary lack of support of rejection define me. I am who God says I am.
BNO: Do you believe that it is important to be personable with people who have not made it as far as you have? Why or Why not?
A: Absolutely! True power is the ability to be present with a person, especially someone whom you cannot benefit from. The ability to care and give each moment of your undivided attention to people, and to refer to them by name when you talk to them, is vital to building meaningful relationships. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they are speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation.
BNO: What has been your greatest accomplishment(s)?
A: Being mom to Kadar and Bentley, two amazing humans, who remind me with their love, that I am God’s friend to grant me this level of favor of being their mom.
BNO: What advice would you give to an aspiring businessman or business woman?
A: Find something you love; do not chase money. To be successful, do what you love and do it as much as needed. You won’t find the work challenging, but rather a blessing to be able to do it.
-Focus your effort on sales first
-Postpone collaborating with big companies
-Drop bad customers, no regrets
-Do content marketing
-Figure out how taxes work (or hire professional help)
-Hire slow, fire fast
-Make mistakes and learn from them
BNO: Share something about yourself that (I) didn’t ask and (we) don’t know:
A: As loud and opinionated as I am about things that I am passionate about. I was a shy, quiet, sensitive, nerdy knocked knee little girl, who escaped the teasing by reading books and traveling the world through words.