Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Katherine Russell, CEO of Transformative Justice Solutions, located in Washington, DC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Transformative Justice Solutions (TJS) offers strategic leadership consulting for nonprofit organizations centered on criminal justice reform and social change. TJS provides Speakers Bureau training and design, focusing on supporting people with lived experiences who advocate through their stories, justice internship management, and extensive exercises for advocate and survivor engagement.
Tell us about yourself
I was born with chronic lung disease, and my family instilled the importance of hope, humor, community, and self-advocacy from a young age. No matter the circumstances, even with the odds against me, even when my fate seemed immutable, I needed to set my mind to fighting. At age 22, I survived a double lung transplant. I learned a lot about how important community is in forming our resilience. I thought about other spaces where people encounter hopelessness and powerlessness, and I recognized gross injustice in our criminal legal system.
Our current system amplifies the suffering and separation in communities, families, and generations of people. In the decade since my transplant, I have committed my life to spread my understanding of hope and healing. I formed TJS after years of working with formerly incarcerated women, learning about their journeys home and reuniting with their families, and developing programs to increase self-sufficiency outcomes.
TJS centers its mission on people with lived experiences and works with nonprofits to develop sustainable programs to uplift their voices, empower them to tell their stories, and ensure marginalized people have a seat at the table. TJS works with nonprofits to design and implement social justice internships that create long-lasting relationships and plant seeds in future change-makers.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The first contract is the hardest to get! I have the utmost privilege of starting a Speakers Bureau with the National Women's Law Center to amplify women's voices.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I garnered a lot of encouragement from other entrepreneurs who said, "You have to get comfortable with uncertainty." Before my first contract, I was so uncertain that I couldn't help applying to traditional jobs, telling myself the business would come secondary to that. I gave up my apartment and started budgeting better. Now that I've stuck with it and pushed forward, I've had some significant breakthroughs, and I'm grateful I sat with the discomfort.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Networking is about building relationships, not just handing out your card and telling people about your business. Take a genuine interest in others, and you'll go much farther.
- Be open to advice. Not all directions will be right for you, but open your mind to learning from others.
- Don't take risks you can't explain. Sometimes your gut will tell you to do something but dig deeper to understand why something is worth your time, energy, and financial resources.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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