This interview originally appeared on Mr. Refined Lifestyle Magazine, where Ronda is a contributing writer.
She is the President and CEO of 5001 FLAVORS and Harlem Haberdashery. She is a pioneer in couture urban fashion. If Jacob the Jeweler is the first stop for hip hop artists to show their arrival, then 5001 FLAVORS is the shop for a custom wardrobe MTV red carpet worthy. I recently sat down with Sharene Wood to talk about how she balances marriage, motherhood, and a business enterprise working alongside her husband.
Mr. Refined (MR): Several companies started in dorms and garages, like Microsoft and Facebook. You started 5001 FLAVORS in your dorm at Columbia University your junior year. When you were a young girl growing up in Harlem, did you think or know you would be in the fashion industry?
Sharene "Shay" Wood (SW): I didn't realize that I was part of a trend. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just didn't know in what field. I grew up watching my father run his business on Lenox Avenue. I would assist writing checks and doing administrative support. I liked that. I liked the family aspect. It shows young kids what is possible. I liked fashion, classic items that made a statement. So when Guy (Wood) asked me to be his business partner while he was creative director, it seemed natural. We started 5001 FLAVORS with $600 using my Brother Word Processor, no computer.
MR: Who are your female role models?
SW: My mom, Esther Barnett, is my role model for a strong, independent, well-spoken and intelligent woman. She encouraged me to be inquisitive and nurturing. She told me that I was capable of all that I wanted to be. She instilled that message from the beginning. I never realized how important a mother was until I became one. I realized the power of my words could build up or break down my child. I never fully knew the gift and responsibility I was getting when I became a mother. My mother set such a wonderful example for me.
MR: How do you balance being a mother and an entrepreneur?
SW: I don't think you ever balance. It always feels like a compromise. You can't do it all. Don't strive for perfection. Strive for happiness. First, make time for yourself so that you can be there for your family. Second, prioritize your day. I make daily to-do lists to balance being a mom, daughter, sister and business owner.
MR: Your daughter, Sydney Wood, is just six years old and in the store with you. You encourage her to join the family brand?
SW: She is learning. She comes to work with me. It is important for her to be in the workplace to understand that it is not just dressing up going to events. It is work. She understands that it is a never ending job. But she sees it is also fun. She is a hard worker. At the end of each day, she asks about her pay. She recently informed me that she needed business cards.
MR: You built a brand and empire with your husband, Guy Wood. How do you balance being a wife and business partner with your husband?
SW: Guy and I started out dating and living together. Then we broke up and did not date for a long time, about 10 years. However, we were always friends first. At times it was hard while we were not dating, but we built a brand together. Neither of us wanted to jeopardize the brand. Guy is my partner in life and in business.
MR: You will have been married eight years in May. What do you attribute to having a successful marriage?
SW: A healthy family dynamic. Respecting business roles and responsibilities. You have to leave family issues at the door. Remember that you are working on building a legacy together. Again, he is my partner in life and business.
MR: What advice do you have for young girls?
SW: Believe in yourself. Sometimes you can't listen to the extra noise. Being self-sufficient does not mean that you have to do it all by yourself. It just means you know how, if you need to. Get an education to give yourself options. Be independent, so that you are not stuck in a situation. Love the world and it will love you back.
MR: What do you want your legacy to be as a woman?
SW: I want to leave a transferable legacy of wealth and business. I want to leave my family with more than I started with. It's all about the betterment of the family and a business legacy. I want to have made a difference and changed the world, making it a better place. I want it to be said that I created opportunities for people and helped educate others. I want to be remembered as making people happy and being happy with life. I want to know that I made someone feel needed and special.