Quyionah Wingfield. CEO and Co-Founder. Cool Moms Dance Too. GSU
First Job Ever? Assistant to the Communications Director of DeKalb Police Department
Who are your mentors and icons that have influenced you the most and why? My mother was my first and most influential mentor. She shaped my worldview and taught me the importance of pursuing continuing education and empathy, which I believe are my greatest attributes personally and professionally. Her drive to help her community by providing resources and education on intellectual property nurtured my passion for social entrepreneurship. Also, Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba is someone who has influenced me as well. Her relentless pursuit to maintain, uplift and fight for her country has inspired me to find a cause worthy of my relentless pursuit. She is an iconic figure to me and her story ended peacefully unlike many of those who fought for injustice and didn’t live to see their work manifest. Beyoncé’s work ethic is unparalleled, and I’ve always looked to her for inspiration and I live by her infamous words “How we’re smart enough, To make these millions, Strong enough to bare the children, Then get back to business.”
When did you first realize that you were born to be an entrepreneur / business leader and what course of action did you take in terms of following that passion? I’m naturally a creative and have worked in the arts community as a dancer and songwriter since I was a teenager. My mother founded a family owned publishing company so entrepreneurship was a big part of my growth. I was taught early on entrepreneurship was the path to freedom. Prior to Cool Moms Dance Too I’ve worked as an entrepreneur on other ventures. I’ve always had the passion to create but the loss of my mate in 2013 is what helped me start the journey of refocusing and refining my passion. The journey of surrendering myself to my passion was wanting to be a better mom. I knew I would not stop until I provided the world with my gift and it’s difficult to do so when you’re a multi-passionate creative and single parent. However, realizing I wasn’t doing well as a parent, juggling life and business pushed me back to my first passion… dance because it was something my two girls and I had in common. It enriched our relationships and set me on a path of peace and an honorable purpose helping my family and families worldwide find creative ways to engage, connect and grow.
Being an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse. We have to work 20 times harder and learn to sacrifice a lot to arrive to our destination. What advice would you impart to future entrepreneurs and to strong business leaders? I would tell future entrepreneurs and change-makers to take your time and learn yourself. The best thing you can bring to an organization is a clear understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and what drives you so you can help others help you. Also, do not underestimate the importance of time spent on R&D. Your business is like being in a relationship so put into it what you want to get out of it. Most importantly as Jay-Z says “a loss ain’t a loss it’s a lesson”. If you take this approach you will learn, pivot quickly and find your way to success.
Leading a successful group is a challenge. How do you consistently inspire and motivate the team to extract the most optimized version of themselves to bring to the table? I check in with my team often and not solely to regard business but to see how they are doing in general. Our organization is built on family values, engagement, communication, empathy, health and this included mental health. I place a focus on balancing a regard for the business associate and the human being. They are intertwined, and many businesses fail at keeping morale high beyond a paycheck simply because the person is disregarded and the bottom-line is the main and many times the only focus. By doing this and being mission driven it inspires us all to want to do the work and remember our why.
When you have to put out a fire, what process do you have that’s proven to be effective? The combination of EQ and mindfulness has been a lifesaver in situations like this. My approach to life is to be proactive instead of reactive. I use the same practices learned in mindfulness meditation and my EQ research, take a second maybe six, relax and breathe. Depending on the situation and time allotted to find a solution I regard the big picture and how my next response or action will domino affect a reaction. Thinking ahead and composing myself to think rationally and not emotionally has helped our organization navigate issues and sudden changes.
How do you decompress in order to keep that balance? To keep balance, I turn to a few key activities to remind me of my blessings. I love going on nature walks. Looking at nature and trees helps me appreciate the fact many trees have sustained storms, sunlight, darkness, all the elements of life and many are still standing tall. Also, first thing every morning as soon as I awake, I conduct a gratitude talk with the universe. I speak of all the reasons I am grateful starting with life itself. When I have an unsolvable problem or feel the need to connect, I reach out to my community, not to find the solution but to hear about their experience that day. It is most definitely a perspective shifter and helps me maintain a healthy balance.
What’s been the most gratifying business or personal role that you had that led you to be where you are now? Being a mother has been the most gratifying role for me personally and professionally. I take my experiences I have and apply them by finding solutions to our issues at home. I get to work with my children, as my co-founders, and watch them grow as young ladies into kidpreneurs and it brings me so much joy to nurture their minds, bodies and spirits.
Life lessons learned that you carry with you to keep the fire alive to stay on top of your game? Stop tracking time and just do the work, what is for you will be yours. It doesn’t matter what others believe it matters what you believe and what you can prove through your work. People will say it’s impossible until it’s done. If it changed your life it can change others’ lives stick to your passion.
How do you define success? I define success as impact and joy. If I’ve helped a family in any way engage more, connect while using our programming, and grow their relationship with a healthy lifestyle, I am successful and joyful.
What’s next for you? What’s next is the launch of our dance fitness programing online. We are crafting a video collection so families can workout to our dance fitness videos in the comfort of their home. We are also launching an instructor training certification online for fitness professionals and those interested in providing dance fitness classes to their community. Collaborating with communities nationally and internationally to teach and promote family integrated fitness is our goal. Maybe you’ll find us performing or conducting a class in a city near you.
Interviewed by Maryan Aiken. Publisher. WireTap Media.