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‘Minding Their Own Business’
“When I started this process, I didn’t expect to write about these five women,” said Joanne Dowdy, PhD, a professor in Kent State’s School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies in the US. Fifteen years later, Dowdy published Minding Their Own Business: Five Female Leaders from Trinidad to Tobago, which shares the stories of successful female entrepreneurs and leaders of African descent and their journey to success.
This is Dowdy’s 14th book published throughout her career, and she began working on it in 2003. These women were found through Dowdy’s social network. She shared how she started with someone in her family circle, which then extended to people she had attended high school with.
“I interviewed them for the first three years and then I let things sit for a while. Later, I would follow up on their progress and success.”
As the research continued, she became interested in documenting the women’s journeys in business, a process that took years and determination.
“My persistence came from my curiosity because I never thought about what it was like to be an immigrant and what it took to succeed in a foreign place without a support system.”
Dowdy realised that choosing these women to follow was risky because there was no guarantee that they would be successful. She had faith because she knew of the women from going to high school with them, and she knew this meant they had a quality education.
She also highlights in her book the idea of the “Trini” approach and how it’s an approach all the women she speaks about have.
“I would use my grandma’s words to describe the ‘Trini’ approach, and it means that you do your best with what you have and where you are.”
Dowdy’s favourite chapter is named “Gina” where she shares a story about the party of a lifetime which resulted from one of the women’s experiences with the “Trini” approach.
“This woman began a business in her home, where she made food and began taking it to festivals in the park and private gatherings. She now has her own building, owns her own truck, has developed several businesses under catering (provide waiters, linen and cutlery), developed a subsidiary food business, and adapted to accommodate clients who needed more types of takeout food.”
Dowdy talked about how this woman didn’t want to meet and talk with her in the beginning of her journey, and she had to convince her to meet. The woman was amazed to look back in the book and see where she had travelled, the choices she had made and the risks she had taken. She was surprised herself at the level of family support these women received as she followed them throughout the years. “I wasn’t looking at family and how it related to their businesses at first. I realised how important family is to the success of someone running a business. Family in this sense doesn’t have to be blood, but the people nearest and dearest who offer themselves when you need help.”
She also realised that networking is invaluable to success, and no one does anything alone because there is always layers of support that have to be recognised in order for things to be successful.
Dowdy has spent her career publishing works on black women and their successes and how they have countered stereotypes. She specifically chose to publish this work now because the oldest member featured in the book is 92 years old.
“I couldn’t wait any longer being that she’s 92, and I know she needed to see her name in a book after 15 years.”
Throughout the book Dowdy wanted to build a community of women who know each other, know each other and celebrate each other’s successes.
Kent State student
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