Twenty one percent of black business and management majors in the U.S. graduate from historically black colleges and universities. After graduation, our students go on to excel in the world of business while many take that knowledge and create their own paths as entrepreneurs. Alyson Rae Lawson, Hampton University grad and recent winner of the 7-11 franchise contest, did just that.
The Tom Joyner Foundation had the opportunity to connect with Alyson and she has some invaluable advice for HBCU students who want to achieve success, not only in corporate America, but also in life. Read our interview below.
TJF: Who is Alyson Lawson?
Alyson Lawson: I was born and raised in Dallas, TX. I attended Bishop Dunne Catholic School. My hometown church is St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church. I played golf from the age of 8 and received a scholarship to Hampton University where I received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Upon graduating from college, I received a job at the City of Dallas working at City Hall in the Budget Office. I went on to receive my Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce and a Master of Professional Accounting from the University of Miami.
TJF: What advice can you give a student interested in getting into the corporate world?
Alyson Lawson: It is not always about how much information you know coming in. It’s about your ambition and your ability to learn everything once you get in. I know plenty of people who spent their entire college career solely focused on academics and receiving the highest GPA possible. This is to be commended; however companies look at so much more. How were you involved? What can show us that you work well with others? What clubs were you in? I’ve heard plenty of hiring managers, including myself, say that we see tons of resumes with high GPAs and no extracurricular activities. Companies look at GPAs, but they look strongly on your involvement in other areas as well. My advice is GET INVOLVED!!!
My advice once you get into corporate America is to learn as much as you can about the business, not just your individual job or your department. You never know where you will be going in the future in corporate America, but you can only rise if you make yourself more well rounded within the company.
TJF: Why did you choose Hampton?
Alyson Lawson: I knew that I wanted to go to a HBCU. I applied to about four and contacted the golf coaches. Hampton University, already being a number one choice due to its rankings, came back with a great scholarship offer!
TJF: How did Hampton prepare you for your professional life?
Alyson Lawson: I love talking about the importance of how a HBCU prepares us! Hampton University puts you in a learning environment with people who look like you; where you can encourage each other to be the best you possibly can with people who understand the strength and excellence of African Americans and what we go through in society. In addition, they give you opportunities that other universities, outside the HBCU realm, may not be able to give you because they do not necessarily know your needs. So, not only do you come out of Hampton University with a degree from a top ranked establishment, but you have the confidence to walk into any room and deliver. Post college, I honestly have not walked into any room or interview without the highest of confidence!
TJF: As an African-American female entrepreneur, have you faced any unique challenges? If so, what were they and how did you cope?
Alyson Lawson: I honestly don’t see challenges due to the strength of African American women. Black women are the strongest people on this planet. I know because I watched the strength and poise of my mother. I say that to say, if there were to be challenges for African American female entrepreneurs, it is our natural instinct to overcome them, by continuing to persevere as we always have.
TJF: What are the 3 most important skills one should possess to be successful in corporate America?
2. Communication Skills
3. Thick skin 🙂
This is not to say that everyone in corporate America holds these skills. However, the people in corporate America that hold them, tend to be successful.
TJF: In addition to Hampton, who else has played a significant role in your life?
Alyson Lawson: My mother, Terry Smith, a strong African American female. Watching her has been an inspiration to my entrepreneurial path. In addition, she has always been involved within the community and is responsible for my involvement within it as well.
Leonard Jones taught minority children the game of golf for free. Because of him, I received a golf scholarship to college.
Delta Sigma Theta showed me the importance of service within the community.
TJF: As the new franchisee of 7-Eleven, what are you most looking forward to in this next step of your journey?
Alyson Lawson: Leaving corporate America! I enjoyed working in corporate America, but it was certainly not my end goal or my passion. It taught me how to interact with different people, have routine work ethic and learn the inside operations of a business. However, I want nothing more than to be my own boss! I am a person who loves to get up, walk around and talk to people. I must always be moving. Franchising a 7-Eleven allows me to do just that! I look forward to being the best person that I know I can be and being an example to others who are graduating college as well!