Motivation: How One Company’s Story of Perseverance Can Push You to Press On
In the 1980s and 90s, little Black girls growing up in places like Memphis, Tennessee, where Jiljuana J. Coleman grew up, dreamed different dreams than they do today. The idea of owning a company and traveling the world wasn’t top of mind for a lot of young women in Coleman’s peer group. The definition of attainable at that time encompassed more traditional ways of earning a living.
Nevertheless, growing up in the shadow of her hometown’s civil rights history, Coleman knew possibilities existed and that great things lie ahead in her future. Belief in the possibilities someday would fuel just the sort of spirit this promising young Black businesswoman would need.
As the chief executive of Jamerson Strategic Consulting, Coleman, 42, is presiding over rapid growth and limitless expectations. The Memphis-based company, which has operated domestically in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, and Jackson, Mississippi, now has partnerships in Toronto, Canada, South Africa, and Nigeria. Along with the territorial expansion has come a marked increase in revenue and productivity.
“Everything I do in my life is a reflection of how good God has been to me and the doors he’s opened,” Coleman says.
When a young company experiences as much success as Jamerson has in its five-year existence, it changes how executives view the landscape, their strategy for the future, and the image they sculpt. Coleman is keenly aware of what a substantial task she faces. But, she doesn’t fear tomorrow, when she remembers her yesterday.
Nine years ago, Coleman sat in her doctor’s office listening as he presented his grim view of her forthcoming reality. He advised her to contact the Social Security Administration and apply for disability – she would never work another day in her life he said.
That doctor couldn’t have missed the mark much more. Not only did she continue to work, but Coleman went on to earn an MBA, become a certified project manager, and start her own company – Jamerson.
Jamerson provides customized strategic consulting for its clients. The company specializes in guiding organizations through a web of project management challenges allowing them to operate efficiently and profitably. As a consultant, Coleman adds value by showing clients how they can boost performance. As an individual, she inspires people she encounters with her triumphs in the face of personal challenges.
In 2007, doctors diagnosed Coleman with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a rare and painful neurological disorder that amplifies pain from ordinary injuries. Nicknamed the ‘suicide disease,’ CRPS is considered one of the most painful medical problems since it has no cure and a limited range of treatments.
Hurt soon became Coleman’s constant companion, testing her limits and pushing her to the brink of the unthinkable. Particularly in 2012, when a work-related injury worsened her condition and left her virtually unable to perform even the most basic daily activities like walking, CRPS seemed poised to defeat her.
But, as always has been the case, Coleman pressed ahead and accomplished things not even she might have imagined. Things like her visiting the United Arab Emirates last year with a delegation of American Black businesswomen for a conference there.
In Dubai, Coleman attended Trade Winds Middle East and Africa, the largest U.S. Government-led trade mission and business development forum. The initiative particularly suits companies like Jamerson Strategic Consulting.
“Dubai was a dream come true for me,” said an exuberant Coleman. “I’ve always wanted to be in international business. For my company, that represented the culmination of five years of positioning Jamerson Strategic Consulting to be a player on the international business stage.”
The Dubai trade mission is the latest in a series of carefully planned steps Jamerson has taken toward establishing an international footprint. Never satisfied to be pigeonholed as just another Black woman-owned business, Coleman has intentionally positioned Jamerson to operate as an equal among peers.
It’s all so many miles and memories away from the Memphis community of Westwood where Coleman grew up attending Montessori school and playing clarinet in the high school band. During those formative years, she developed a work ethic, tenacity, and unmitigated faith that would serve her as an adult when the going got especially tough.
Besides her unshakeable, strong will, Coleman has had the good fortune of a rock-solid support system in the form of her mother and husband. Carolyn Coleman, Jiljuana’s mother, retired and moved in to be closer and see her daughter through the grueling months of five-day-a-week therapy sessions. Meanwhile, husband Tyrome Jamerson, who Coleman calls “a hero,” did the rest – covering household expenses, including his mother-in-law’s, and purchasing the family a single-level home to save his wife the burden of climbing flights of stairs.
“It takes a strong man to be with me. It takes a God-fearing man. He’s been incredible,” Coleman says of her 14-year-long marriage partner. “He was always there. He’s been doing exactly what he said during our vows, and I honor him for that.”
One way Coleman has honored her husband is by making him her company’s namesake; he’s the Jamerson in Jamerson Strategic Consulting. In that way, he’s with her wherever the company travels including the trade mission in Dubai. Coleman’s mother will physically accompany her daughter on the trip making it a whole-family experience.
Coleman’s story illustrates the complexities of small business ownership. A successfully growing business such as hers requires its owner’s drive and perseverance in equal measure to a long client list and strong balance sheet.
Since the Middle East trade mission, things have been full speed ahead. Opportunities come quickly in Coleman’s industry and making moves leaves little space for idle time.
Nevertheless, Coleman does occasionally take time to reflect. As with many women-owned businesses, her company’s path to success has had its share of hurdles. But, with the hurdles have come lessons about perseverance, resilience, and what happens when, as Coleman instructs, you “wake up grateful every day for that day.”
Pushing through the pain and standing among her peers on the world stage is greater than a mere business opportunity, it’s a case study in grit and a roadmap for women who would follow.
As Coleman sees it, “I can talk to other women who look like me and I can say, ‘you can do this and I’m going to teach you how.’”