EFOC 2024: Navigating Entrepreneurship And Innovation – Essence


At the Author’s Stage, the first panel of the day featured a conversation with innovators Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and DeRatta Cole Rhodes moderated by Melissa Noel. Bracken-Ferguson is the founder of CEO of BrainTrust Agency–Cole Rhodes is the chief capital officer of the professional sports team, the Atlanta Braves. The topic of conversation spanned qualities needed to succeed in the workplace and also how to lead with resilient qualities when navigating tough stages in one’s life.

Career journeys are often riddled with moments of perseverance. Bracken-Ferguson noted that she set out to be a communications specialist at six years old when she spotted a press secretary while watching television with her mother. On yearning to be a press secretary: “I wanted to be the one that’s writing and giving all of the feedback.” She shared that studying public relations at Purdue University and working at FleishmanHillard were additional stops in her life. These formative moments gave her the tools to get to where she is now, a serial entrepreneur and communications expert.

Rhodes says she never thought about corporate climbing throughout her professional career. “It was about thinking things one step at a time,” she said. Regarding the qualities of a visionary leader, the executive vice president explained remaining true to herself has been of high importance to her. Notably, she mentioned showing up as herself is a skill that she can attribute to her success. Using her voice during this era of her career has also been pivotal. 

As someone who has assisted with building brands and raising $15 million on behalf of her company, Bracken-Ferguson says she’s kept going due to resilience. “It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder,” she said. Falling, getting up, and living a visionary-inspired life are significant to Bracken-Ferguson. When she’s been making pivotal decisions she says standing in her power became a non-negotiable for her. Another tangible asset she feels got her through tough moments included celebrating the good and positive moments. 

Before the panel concluded Rhodes shared a few insightful tips for succeeding. One was particularly profound: “Always believe in yourself [and] always use your voice.” Bracken-Ferguson expressed that carving out the things that are important to you will help you navigate uninspiring periods. “Make the hard decisions,” she added.

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