Cantrece Jones The Founder, & CEO of ADG
By Cynthia Washington
(This story first appeared in Women Leadership magazine)
Mrs. Cantrece Jones is the founder, and CEO of ADG (Acuity Design Group) with sturdy skills in Community Outreach, Public Involvement, Advertising Project Management, Urban Planning, Marketing Communications, and Strategic Planning. She has over 20 years of experience in the professional services industry, managing solutions for clients in the engineering and construction industry. Her dynamic experience includes creative strategies and delivering engaging ideas across multiple channels. Mrs. Jones is a proficient, creative, and intelligent professional who maintains her vision of “do what you love” in her constant devotion to equipping others to accomplish their vision and goals.
What is your message to women in business?
Never underestimate your capabilities. Women can master the balance of being a wife, mom, and business owner. The understanding that women are capable of doing all of these, removes the adage that you must choose one. Once you recognize your capabilities do not stop there. Move Forward! It is time to start your own business. Now more than ever, we have access to a variety of resources to support our entrepreneurship ideas. Women continue to prosper and accomplish their goals. The opportunity is there and we need to seize those opportunities. We’ve shown, we’ve proven our capabilities and our ability to “DO” and maintain work-life balance and successfully. Challenge yourself to take the first step and show your unique abilities.
What are some areas of business you want help for women business owners?
Firstly…Opportunity! The chance to compete in any arena we choose… Not to be seen as inferior based on our DNA. Second, Equity. We cannot stay quiet with our knowledge of business, products, economics, the market, and different topics in general. We can be an ally to someone else’s success. The rule is that if I have not done my job to teach someone, who wants to start a business something, then I have not done what I needed to do as a business owner. I must share, share, share, and share… it is not going to hurt us to share. It does not cost anything, does it? Nothing’s going to be taken away from us if we share. We can be the ally we needed at some point in our careers. I recognize we live in a competitive market, but it is abundant in opportunities. We have the opportunity to rise and empower ourselves and others like never before. At the end, our networking should work sideways. I can learn from others while teaching those around me.
What have been some of your challenges in business?
Early on it was access to capital, which has improved significantly over the years. Next would be the knowledge of how to access information and resources in the same way more established businesses had. Now, I am more aware of resources that can support my business, such as training and financial education. Magazines such as this one can help spread information, experiences, opportunities, and relatable stories to inspire hundreds of women. It was hard to learn the inside of engineering, branding, contracting, projects, because I was still considered an outsider. I had to prove my experience with efficient results. Something I always find negative is the differentiation between women and men, professionally. I had to earn my place, recognition, experience, and reputation battling a variety of stereotypes. I had to work hard to achieve my goals, while minimizing stereotypes about women in a professional area mostly dominated by men.
What do you see as the future of women in business? For women of color?
The future of women in business is bright and I think it’s wide open! Women are starting to feel more confident in the fact that they can be business owners. Now, they can do it! We can embrace the opportunities in our environment. Not only do you have to be a business owner to be successful, but there is also the advancement in the mentality of women, business leaders, and organizations. In regards to women of color, I see us excelling beyond what we have in the past. In the future, we need to support each other by working together more. I think that women of color will be the fastest-growing group of small business owners. We are unique and we have an interesting perspective. We are oftentimes very clever when it comes to being strategic. We’ve had to be in order to succeed. American Indian, Hispanic, Asian, African, Native American, and many others; we must be proud of our culture and our heritage. I see a lot more acceptance in who we are as individuals and acceptance of our differences can only increase our success. Once you identify and accept the core essence of who you are, your culture and your heritage, you become unstoppable. The appreciation of who we are will make us excel.
What would you say are the major needs of women in business?
Some of the challenges I think are very apparent, but I’ll answer based on things that I’ve experienced. It has not just been a matter of not being professional or knowledgeable enough. I think that we don’t stick together. We don’t find a level of acceptance and enjoyment amongst ourselves. We feel like we can’t grab the hand of the woman who’s coming behind us and pick them up to help them too. We feel as if there’s going to be something that you take away from me, instead of something that you give to me.
I think that sometimes we’re looked at as, okay, I can give them this little piece of it and then they’ll be happy with that. The mental barriers of overthinking our limits are another hinderance. Thoughts like, you can’t be the prime; like you can’t possibly be smart enough, have enough, nor be financially stable enough to be the prime in certain situations. Then, I think that we don’t get a seat at the table as much as we should. We have amazing ideas and ways in which we can plan strategically to be successful, but oftentimes, we’re not given that single opportunity we’ve asked for. Because we have a different perspective and a different way we see things and experienced things, finding the right place to flourish is a challenge.
What are your suggestions for addressing these needs?
We need to increase the participation goals for women-owned businesses. If we want to be seen as equal, then we have to act as equal. We need to learn to understand the legislation, its opportunities and challenges. Then, we need to get support and fair opportunity. We need to recognize that I’m asserting myself, because I know I deserve to have that seat at the table for which I deserve respect. While I am sitting at the table, LISTEN to what I am saying! Another key to improvement would be knowledge. You have to make sure that you’re always extremely knowledgeable about whatever situation you’re going into and then you have to validate whatever it is that you’re attempting to accomplish. Don’t be combative, however you must be confident in your knowledge. You can be an intellectual when you have an opportunity to do so and you need to know the details. Next, you must pay attention to what’s going on in “your world”… in your clients world, in the environment that you’re in and bring ideas to the forefront. Be alert…you can always improve, but never give up! Also, we must learn to build our respective toolkit. Your toolkit for success in identifying the factors around you and what you have to offer. The toolkit is a condensed force of your abilities, talents, knowledge, and input. The last and one of the most important keys is mentorship. I used to be a mentee now I’m a mentor, yet I still have a mentor that guides me. People before me paved the way and shared knowledge with me. Therefore, I learned from their success and mistakes and how to apply them in my business. We need to collaborate with the progress of growth as an individual and then growth within our business. We can prepare people in our business, families, and close circle and we can help the next generation to empower their vision in the business world.
What advice do you have for women who want to be in business?
Recognize your potential and YOUR power. You must be ready to embark on a journey to conquer your goals with hard work, perseverance, and dedication. You cannot let fear dictate your decisions. People might have higher positions, titles, and different talents but you have a vision. You must do your homework and learn as much as you can about the area of your interest. Be relatable, prepared, knowledgeable and ready. With experience and consistent work ethic, your reputation will speak for itself. Be authentic, being you is your signature; no one else has that! We must empower ourselves into following our goals. Like I said before I am a mother, a wife, and a businesswoman and I can be great in each role. We do not need to settle down when we have the chance to achieve our dreams. We live in a time where we can follow our professional goals and dreams with so many growth opportunities. Empower yourself, your idea, your entrepreneurship, your life, and learn to do what you love!