Dawn Sykes

Founder of J&D Enterprises

“To have compassion for others is one of my greatest gifts”. Dawn Sykes found this compassion more than twenty years ago when she volunteered at a local hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Her community engagement eventually led her to nursing school, and over the next several years, she continued her education while working. A dedicated and headstrong individual, Dawn took interest in the business landscape, hoping to one day run her own venture.

In 2006, Dawn established J & D Enterprises LLC, – a consulting business focusing on human resources, training, and the management of employees. J & D Enterprises, LLC mission is to help the underserved populations in Richmond, Virginia. By offering her unwavering support to at-risk youth, Dawn works diligently to help individuals find employment while continuing their academic education.

In her free time, Dawn Sykes enjoys time with her son and fiancé. Seeing so many young entrepreneurs growing in the ranks around her is inspiring. She often shares her expertise and experience when the opportunity arises.

Where did the idea for J & D Enterprises come from?

I saw the need! Since I was young, I have always paid attention to how the world around me works and looked for ways to help others. While I loved being a nurse, I have always wanted to own my own company. My Dad always said don’t work for someone else if you can avoid it. When you work for a corporation, there are limits. I knew I wanted to do more. It was a desire to connect with the community and really have a positive impact on their lives. To do that, it meant I would go out and work within the community. Learn what is needed in order to provide solutions. As a team, we have helped many people find education and find jobs.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day at home, I get up every day around 7:30 am. I read my Bible in the morning and drink my tea to help get in the right mindset for my day. My workday consists of a lot of meetings with clients and local businesses. I’ve done consulting for many businesses in the area. This allows me to bridge the gap between employers and employees. I also attend community events. I like to use these as opportunities to expand my reach, both within the community and within the business world. The more people I have connections with, the better I can connect them together.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a visionary and solution-based individual. I can envision solutions and concerns. It’s not within my personality to moan about what is needed. I work to find the solution. I like to listen to what is missing or needed and resolve it. Having that vision and having an open heart really guides me in the right direction.
My parents were raised in the south and moved to New York when they were young. That has given me a great mixture of New York attitude and Southern charm. I am empathetic and creative, which helps me see the path we need to take.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I love that this new generation is ultra-independent. We’re seeing the younger generation do their thing. They are opening up companies, being creative, doing some great stuff. I love it. That makes me excited. You know, I’m a dinosaur, LOL. People from my era really think they just don’t want to work, but that isn’t it. It’s the nine to five. This generation just doesn’t want to work for anybody. They want to do their own thing, which is great. We need people who are innovative. Back when my dad was born, it was more about not bucking the system. Now it’s more about stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s more about creating and about enjoying what you create. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I will never give up. If I think of something, I will chase it until I can’t anymore. There is no giving up halfway. I love to find solutions and I love watching each step get me closer to my goals. I make lists. As I complete a task, I check it off. This builds consistency and reliability. When I am working on something, the people I am working with know they can depend on me. They know I will put my all into it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Never give up. I don’t care when people say you can’t do it. Never give up. Believe in yourself. Do what is necessary. Find the resources necessary to show them you understand what you’re talking about. You can’t expect somebody to invest in you if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Do the background work that you need. You have to believe in yourself and you have to be educated about what you’re doing.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That under my tough exterior, I am actually a very sensitive person. I would empty my bank account; I would empty my closets out to somebody else if they were in need. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. You may not be able to see the reason when you are in the storm, but any time I have had a setback, I use that to fuel the next success. My experiences have helped make me a stronger person, but I haven’t lost that empathy or compassion for others.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Prepare, prepare, prepare. That’s the biggest thing. Preparation and consistency are the keys to my success. Before presenting a new idea, I perform extensive research. I want to make sure I have looked at all the options. I have to take all outcomes into consideration and have a plan for any. Be ready for anything and ready to try a different approach if something doesn’t turn out as expected.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

The biggest strategy that helped me become successful is trusting myself. I know that seems like such a simple thing, but when I get a “crazy” idea, I don’t want to just dismiss it. I need to trust my instincts and believe that I can make it happen. My creativity has always helped me find solutions. The trust I have in myself has helped me present my ideas more thoroughly, and that has been a great strategy for me so far.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

A failure I had was trusting the wrong people in my business. It caused the demise of one of my businesses, but I overcame it by not taking it personally. Of course, I was devastated, but that didn’t stop me from getting back up. I dusted myself off and got back to doing it again. And this is nothing wrong with starting over. You don’t need to undo anything. Use it as a learning experience. Of course, you will go through setbacks and feel kind of discouraged. If that happens, take a little break, whatever you need to do to get back on that horse.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Public service, as there’s always a need for it on both sides. We need people to see the issues facing our communities and work together to find solutions. There is such a high rate of suicide right now, as young as middle school-aged children, higher than it has been before. We need more people working toward a solution.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I took $100 out of my account to help feed the homeless community in downtown Richmond. It was great to see. It warms my heart to be able to help. Who am I to judge someone else? How would God feel if I ignored an obviously hungry person? I help when I can because I love to help. Knowing that I have impacted someone’s life positively, even for a short time, keeps me going. Nobody in America should be hungry.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

My calendar and Microsoft Office are my go to’s during the day and week. The software provides literally everything I need to keep track of my day-to-day appointments. They are vital to my productivity.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend Becoming by Michelle Obama. It is her history and life leading up to the White House. It is really an inspirational read for anyone. I think I relate so much with her because I see many similarities between herself and me.

What is your favorite quote?

“See the good in people to help them” by Gandhi. Again, it’s the simplest things that can make the most difference. This quote sums up the thought pretty well.

Key Learnings:

  • Lead with compassion
  • Help when you can
  • Never give up
  • Trust yourself first