Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Danielle Cornelius.
Christina Danielle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have always had a passion for business and community. My mother used to give me a word a week to learn. When I was three years old, my word was an entrepreneur. She really wanted me to understand what the word meant, so she invested in me and we opened a candy store. My first summer I was able to pay her back, pay my tithes, and save $1000. I believe this planted an entrepreneurial seed in me. Also, I come from a family of female entrepreneurs. My mother has five sisters. She and three of her sisters are business owners. I have worked in each of their businesses at some point in time. My passion for community, I believe comes from both of my parents. I have literally never met a more caring heart than my mom. My late father was a pastor who led ministry not only domestically but internationally as well. He truly had a servants heart. I began my career with JPMorgan Chase in the retail bank and I was eventually promoted to the commercial bank. While with JPMC, I became really involved with the firm’s community impact efforts. I was engaged with the Volunteer Leadership Group (VLG) and Business Resource Groups, serving as Communications/Marketing Co-Chair of the Women’s Interactive Network and Membership Chair of the VLG. I am passionate about connecting corporate and public efforts in order to build brand awareness and strengthen community impact. I am a natural networker. When my friends need to be connected with someone or need direction, I am usually the person they call, even when it is not my area of expertise. My passion for business, love of community, and natural skill of networking led me to found the non-profit Women Exceeding.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was personal. On January 1st, 2015, my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Three months later, I lost my job. At the end of the summer of 2016, things really took a turn for the worse. In August, I witnessed a traumatic death. While attending that funeral, I learned that my grandmother died. Two weeks later, my childhood friend was killed in a car crash. Two weeks after that, on October 24th, my father passed away. A month later, my mother was in a bad car accident. The next month, I lost my mentor, Dr. Paul Magelli. By the time I got to New Year’s Eve, I was simply happy to get out of, what I called, “Hell Year.” These life experiences have definitely matured me. I value time with my mother and other loved ones much more. I am a more calm and appreciative person. I’ve learned how your personal life can greatly affect your professional life. More importantly, I’ve learned tools to help limit the overlap. These life experiences also taught me a couple of things about how I ran my business. First of all, Women Exceeding was solely funded by me. When I lost my job, Women Exceeding lost its funding. There are so many great organizations who are making a wonderful impact, therefore the fundraising space is competitive with both donors and grants. Also, Women Exceeding was primarily run by me. We needed a succession plan, and plus there was no strategy. I would have ideas and then we would implement them. Like, I previously stated, I was young and inexperienced. Taking these lessons into account, when we relaunched, we had a totally different approach. Everyone has designated roles and responsibilities. When I attempt to deviate from the plan, which happens because I’m naturally a visionary, Leeandria usually keeps me on track. I work primarily on strategy, impact, and relationship building. I also have a role, sometimes minor, in every project and program that we are developing. I attend multiple meetings and events on a weekly basis, sometimes having 3-4 events in one day. This is a challenge because we all work full-time jobs and have other obligations. Our passion for the organization’s mission keeps us all going.
I like to be transparent so occasionally, I will go live on social media and share the challenges that we face. Also, I wrote about the challenges we battled surrounding the relaunch in the blog post: Finding The Work Around
Please tell us about Women Exceeding.
In 2010, I was a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I had some really awesome friends, both male and female, who were achieving amazing accomplishments. I found myself especially inspired by my female friends who really going after their dreams. I started making a list on my phone of these women which grew over the next three years. In 2013, this list of women was literally driving me insane. So, one day I said, “I am going to start a website and every month I am going to highlight a different woman and tell her story.” So, I hired a publicist and she told me, “Christina, I think you can do more with this.” She was right. I asked my college friends, Nina Dace and Maya Harris, to join as my co-founders. At 22 years old, I began filing the proper documentation for Women Exceeding to become a 501c3 non-profit organization. My larger vision was to be able to provide scholarships and business grants to women across the nation. Women Exceeding was established March 12th, 2014 and launched in May 2014. In our original model, we featured one woman a month. We conducted an interview, wrote a blog post, and facilitated engagement with the featured woman. (Vlog, survey, sweepstakes, etc) It was a lot to manage. Being so young, I made a lot of mistakes. I had no idea what it took to be a strong leader and I had no clue how to delegate. Eventually, life hit and it hit hard, but through this period of growth, I kept Women Exceeding in existence.
In 2017, I was invited to join Class V of Houston Black Leadership Institute. It was here that I met Simone Rixey, Leeandria Williams, and Janae Winfield. Being around young passionate women reignited the fire I had for Women Exceeding. I asked these ladies along with my college classmate, Brittney Williams to help me relaunch the organization. With all of us having different backgrounds and areas of expertise, we had a strong team to bring Women Exceeding back to life. We relaunched with a new board of directors, a new logo, and a new website. We also had Katie McBride join our team to handle all of our social media marketing. In our current model, we have a consistent web presence through our Women Exceeding blog, social media channels, and partnerships with area nonprofit organizations and corporations. Our target audience is women between the ages of 24 and 35 who are seeking professional transition and/or development. Through our four main initiatives mentorship, education, networking, and business development, Women Exceeding continues to strive to spread the message of unity and collaboration to achieve greatness. Our programming includes skill development and industry webinars, informative blog posts, directory of women-owned businesses, as well as a Pitch Competition taking place on September 23rd, 2019.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My youngest sibling is 11 years older than me, so growing up my cousins were like my siblings. Growing up at the Park of River Oaks Condominiums generated some of my most cherished memories. I loved being snowed in with my cousins! We also had a pool, so I would spend my summers swimming with my cousins Ciara and Mario. My cousin Paris and I would make up games and create our own reality. One time, my cousins Paris and Timothy and my “brother/uncle” Will and I made a big feast of breakfast food. We basically cooked all the food in the house. I do not remember if the food was good. To be honest, I’m pretty sure it was awful. I also do not remember how much trouble we got into, but I do remember how we felt spending time together.
- Website: www.womenexceeding.com
- Phone: 8325352567
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/womenexceeding
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WomenExceeding/
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/womenexceeding
Fred Brown Photography (Christina in Blouse with Jeans – Primary Image)