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Dominique Reighard-Brooks with her mother, Dellon Reighard. Reighard-Brooks says her mother taught her invaluable lessons by setting an entrepreneurial example. (Credit: E.E. Ward)
Dominique Reighard-Brooks with her mother, Dellon Reighard. Reighard-Brooks says her mother taught her invaluable lessons by setting an entrepreneurial example. (Credit: E.E. Ward)

Dominique Reighard-Brooks proudly identifies herself as her mother’s daughter.

The former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant now co-owns moving company E.E. Ward, the nation’s oldest black-owned business at 138 years old. She also launched a clothing line, 1881 Apparel, last year.

I recently interviewed Reighard-Brooks (you can read my profile of her here) — and she told us that her success as a boss is largely thanks to the skills she acquired as a model and performer. But she also gives plenty of credit to her mother, Dellon Reighard, whom she looks to as her entrepreneurial inspiration.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Reighard-Brooks’s mom also worked as a model and business owner, founding of What It Takes, a life coaching firm that has sustained for 15 years. She also worked as a government contractor. And Reighard-Brooks says that she learned invaluable lessons from watching her mom’s career journey.

[Related: Mom’s Advice Helped This Young Entrepreneur Get Her Vegan Perfumes into Neiman Marcus and Urban Outfitters]

Reighard-Brooks says her mother taught her…
1. … to do the hard work.

“One of the things my mother always taught me was that if you see something that needs to be done, do it. Always roll up your sleeves and be ready to work,” Reighard-Brooks says.

Growing up, her mother imparted that bit of advice in the most literal way, by taking the time to each her how to build with her hands and lay bricks, skills she acquired through her contractor experience. Reighard-Brooks also accompanied her mother to numerous job sites while growing up. It was a common occurrence to “step outside” of her comfort zone and “get uncomfortable” for the sake of learning, she recalls.

As a performer and model, Reighard-Brooks says she embodied that work ethic by pursuing opportunities as they arose, frequently traveling and working long hours for jobs — even after she became a mother of two.

At E.E. Ward, Reighard-Brooks says she brings the same drive, wearing numerous hats to keep costs at a minimum, while simultaneously pushing for innovations in the company’s branding efforts.

2. … to be a leader.

Her mother emphasized to her the value of inner strength and beauty, Reighard-Brooks says. “My mother’s strength and confidence in her ability to do the job well — and at times better than her male counterparts — definitely impacted me as a young girl.”

That came in handy as an entertainer and as an entrepreneur, where “I have always managed a team of people.” When she was a model, she coordinated her career moves through a team of agents, lawyers and publicists, and made it her personal responsibility to advocate for herself every step of the way. “You have to find your voice, and be able to articulate what you want. No one else is going to do that for you.”

Today, those lessons guide her as she manages a 50-person team at E.E. Ward — which shoots up to 70 team members during the company’s peak times — spread between its Columbus, Ohio headquarters, its Grove City, Ohio hub, and its newest outpost in Charlotte, North Carolina.

[Related: This CEO is Leading Her Mother’s Company Into the Future]

3. … to be flexible.

Reighard-Brooks shifted from one industry to another to begin the next chapter of her career. She says the courage it took to make that leap came, in part, from watching her mother.

Like her daughter, Reighard made several major leaps during the course of her working life. “My mom’s example shows me you can reinvent yourself at any time and that you can do anything when you put your mind to it,” she says.

As the entertainer-turned-entrepreneur reflected upon her mother’s influence, and compared it to her own career trajectory, she concluded: “I am my mother.”

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