As I drove out of the driveway of my dream home in my exclusive neighborhood, my stomach was in knots as I made my way to the meeting. The radio was on a gospel station, which seemed to be the norm lately. Not in the mood for music, I turned the radio off to be alone with my thoughts. I felt like I needed to pray. I wanted to ask God why this was happening…but I’m sure he was tired of getting that question from me as it seemed to be all I was focused on lately. I was nauseas and the seatbelt was getting uncomfortable, tight around my 5 month pregnant stomach.
As I approached my destination, I circled the parking lot about five times before parking. I sat in my Mercedes CLK 320, reflecting trying to figure out how I got myself in this situation.
How did I end up at social services in need of food stamps and Medicaid? This is not how my life was supposed to be.
For those that need the traditional bio...here you go.
Shelley Willingham is the Founder and CEO of Vision and Passion International, LLC (VPI). Within the VPI portfolio are The Douglas Alexandra Group, a culture, communications and branding consultancy along with Shelleywillingham.com.
Shelley is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her Master’s Degree at Northeastern University. She started her corporate sales and marketing career at Pitney Bowes before starting her own marketing and sales consulting firm, Creative Strategies Unlimited,Inc., based in Raleigh, NC in 2000.
In addition to her entrepreneurial pursuits, she served as the first Managing Director in Charlotte, NC for WomenNetwork, a resource for connecting women-owned businesses worldwide. She also developed a seminar for Duke University’s Nonprofit Management Certificate Program entitled, Purpose-Driven Marketing for the Nonprofit.
In 2003, Shelley founded the National Organization for Diversity In Sales and Marketing (NODSM), a company focused on helping corporate America to recognize the increasing purchasing power of diverse segments. Additionally, NODSM helped organizations effectively market to these groups without using stereotypes or being offensive. Some of her clients included Merrill Lynch, Young & Rubicam, Allstate Insurance, American Family Insurance and Turner Broadcasting. Because of her success in the multicultural space, Shelley was asked to partner with FORTUNE Magazine on a special diversity section in 2006.
Shelley has shared her expertise by serving as a speaker/panelist at various non-profit and business events. As a thought-leader, she facilitates sales trainings, marketing workshops, leadership conferences and tradeshows. She has been a featured presenter at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University as well as the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has delivered presentations to several flagship organizations including, Allstate Insurance, Merrill Lynch, GE Healthcare, Met Life, Radio One and various women’s business groups and leadership summits.
In 2007, when the market turned, her business started to struggle. One of her major clients was acquired by another company and the contract was not renewed. In 2011, she made the difficult decision to close the doors of the very company that got her featured in FORTUNE. She lost it all, but through this loss found her true calling and a new beginning.
Today, Shelley is passionate about helping entrepreneurs build high-growth businesses. Through private coaching, group programs and retreats, she helps new and established entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. Throughout her career, she has gained valuable experience and know-how to help others run profitable businesses. She puts it on all the table for her clients and shares her strategies for success and the important lessons she’s learned from her failures.