In her book, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, Adrienne Rich wrote that the most important thing one woman can do for another is to illuminate and expand her sense of actual possibilities. And this month, in the spirit of celebrating women, I could think of no better time to pay homage to one who has done that for me. Her name is Marlene Williams.
Quite synchronistically, our paths converged at a time when I was intent on creating radical change in my life. I was a single mother determined to reinvent myself, build a career and make a better life for myself and my two boys. I was based in Mandeville then, working with a major pharmaceutical chain, building brand awareness through blogging and television appearances, among other things. But I yearned to actualise my innate potential and set out to claim space in my chosen field of marketing and public relations.
On a fateful day in 2015, I was approached by Andrea Wilson, Marlene’s sister-in-law and manager of Maxie Stores, Santa Cruz branch, while dropping my younger son off at school. She was aware of my work via Instagram and thought I would be a good fit for the family-owned retail chain.
She arranged a meeting with Marlene, director at Maxie Stores, and Paulette Folkes, manager of Maxie Stores, Portmore branch, which gave me the opportunity to present a proposal. Despite not knowing me and my not having years of experience in my field, they decided to take a chance on me, and I joined the Maxie team as a marketing consultant, and through a retainer fee was able to move from Mandeville to Kingston with my sons and do my job more effectively.
My marketing toolbox grew from blogging and styling to set design, photography, merchandising and a TV segment called Trending with Natalia. Miss Williams, as she is affectionately called, took note of the positive effects on sales at the Mandeville branch and soon expanded my role to the other branches. She gave me the freedom to develop and implement strategies geared toward growing the brand and honoured the value I placed on my work.
MAGIC BEHIND THE SCENES
On the surface, she is a savvy businesswoman with a background in finance. Alongside her husband Terrence, she is a vital part of Maxie’s dynamic leadership team. But Miss Williams is not one for the spotlight. She prefers to work her magic behind the scenes. She is an uplifter who inspires and cheers on her team members. She has very high standards but does not micromanage. Instead, she allows us to take the lead in our roles. She’s not interested in competing but in building a team of winners.
Quietly, she is a loving mother, daughter, sister and friend. She appreciates both the simple and finer things in life, such as cooking, decorating, growing her own vegetables and taking family trips to beautiful destinations.
I applaud her leadership style, which has been a source of inspiration for us all. The culture of female leadership at Maxie Stores is one of rapport, empathy, trust and support. Marlene nurtures a corporate ecosystem that aims to enhance the lives of its members.
She is a thoughtful leader who always took an interest in my personal well-being and that of my children, who gave extra support and encouragement in tough financial and emotional times. Her trust in me fostered a relationship founded on respect, and she quickly became my mentor, confidante and business advisor. She understood my unyielding ambition and encouraged me to pursue my own dreams and goals. Under her guidance, I was able to do my job more effectively and expand my vision for my business. She has been instrumental in helping me to evolve into the person I want to be.
Author Roy Bennett wrote that great leaders create more leaders. They have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own. In a nutshell, this is Marlene Williams, a force of positive change in my life and many others.
Undoubtedly, the journey to becoming my best self has, so far, been a multilayered one. Along the way, I have encountered many people who helped clarify my vision for my life and how I want to impact this world. Today, I stand in praise of women who empower other women, in praise of female leaders like Marlene, who speak life into other women.
I will always appreciate her simple yet profoundly impactful words: “I believe in you, Natalie.”