This year, Women’s History Month has been especially significant to me. So many of my personal dreams are unfolding and in the process of it all, I’ve had the blessing of being able to observe and support other women who are experiencing the same. In honor of this month-long celebration I’m highlighting various women of excellence who have inspired me via their accomplishments or life journey. Hopefully, they’ll serve as a source of inspiration for you too.
Now, if there’s one thing that I’ve realized about this journey, it’s that I could not have accomplished all that I have without the support of my fellow beautiful, audacious and powerful women.
One such woman is Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, owner of On Point Communications which is a communications and brand management firm based here in Philadelphia. Haniyyah has not only been my friend, mentor, co-founder and business partner, she’s become a sister to me. We first met as students at Temple University; we were two women who possessed a relentless sense of ambition [we still do] and had a hard time taking “no” as an answer when it came to our dreams [truth is: we’ll never accept ‘no’]. Haniyyah was a mother of one who worked a full-time job and was headed for marriage, and I was a single mother of two working multiple jobs to get by. Our non-traditional student status was what brought us together, but it was our love for the grind–the pure grit that comes with pursuing your dreams and accomplishing the seemingly impossible–that opened the door for friendship and sisterhood.
We pushed each other day in and day out, one obstacle after another…and never once would we let the other accept defeat. Never once would we let the other fail to recognize her worth.
Damn it, I’m starting to tear up. She’s a crybaby at heart so chances are if she’s reading this, she is probably doing the same and telling me to either “shut up” for calling her that or in agreement that she is, haha!
Anywho, we saw each other through our college graduations, the growing pains and joys of motherhood, our love lives, family issues, career milestones and more.
Haniyyah, you are, without a doubt, a blessing to my life and constant source of strength, inspiration and motivation. It is an honor to feature you as the first Woman of Excellence.
Ladies and gent’s, say hello to my sister, Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown…
Sincerely Syreeta: Who are you? Tell the SS readers a little about yourself.
Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown: I am a proud Temple University Alum with a B.A., in Journalism. During my college career I was the ultimate juggler. I was very engaged with the Temple community. Whether it was through Temple Non- Traditional Student Union where I served as co-founder, my role as President of Temple Association of Black Journalists or during my time as the chapter intern for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, I found that I was always in a service role. I was managing all of this while having two children, a husband and a full time job. When I turned 30 last month, I felt like I was starting a new chapter in my life. I decided that for once, I was going to take time to focus on Haniyyah. I have always wanted to own my own business. Through various internships within the communications field I gained an interest in being the person to connect the dots; provide resources and managing opportunities of a business or individual that ultimately impacts their reputation.
I founded On Point Communications on January 27, 2014. On Point Communications (OPC) is a communications and brand management consultancy firm. OPC’s areas of expertise include writing and editing; designing and implementing communications strategies; public relations; and social media consulting. Our target audience includes not-for-profit organizations and young entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia region.
SS: You also have two amazing little ones! Tell us a little about them!
HSB: My son Khalil is six-years-old and my daughter Zariah is one (15 months). My children are the reason for…for anything. My children have
raised me to raise them. The lessons of that I have learned about myself from them, the motivation they give me every day, the reason they give me a reason is absolutely a blessing.
SS: And that shows in all that I’ve watched you do! Okay, so at this point in your life, what do you believe your purpose to be?
HSB: My purpose in life if to lead, motivate, encourage and always, always, always pay it forward. My drive is other people’s success. I don’t get satisfaction because someone publicly recognizes something that I have done. My satisfaction comes from knowing that someone’s else’s dream came true, someone learned something or was inspired because of my story or because of a resource or service that I was able to provide.
SS: What are three things that personally motivate you?
HSB: My family. New Challenges. Knowing that hard work does pay off.
SS: It definitely does! Can you give us some insight as to how you got started in communications?
HSB: I was 26 when I started my very first internship in college. I majored in journalism so in terms of an internship I knew I needed to start there. I applied for an internship at Georgetown University‘s Semester in Washington. The program offers a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience, where students learn from key policymakers and elected officials in the heart of Capitol Hill. I was selected and immediately needed to figure where I wanted to intern on Capitol Hill. Long story short,
I accepted the challenge to become a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) communications intern. I lived on Capitol Hill for five months, interning in the office of the [Congressman] Chaka Fattah.
I also served as the chapter intern for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. It was this internship experience that really fueled my interest in communications and media relations. As a chapter intern I worked as the assistant to the president. My
role ranged from managing social media, communicating with members and the community, making public appearances and being an overall ambassador for the organization. I fell in love. CBCF & PABJ set the tone for every single opportunity that followed in my academic and professional career.
SS: And what a tone to set! What do you love most about your work?
HS: I love bringing people’s vision to life. I guess the best way to describe it is that moment a client sees their name, business or brand on the marquee…that moment for me is priceless. And I love giving back to the community.
SS: You do a damn good job of serving our city–even in the midst of your busy schedule! Given that your schedule can get so hectic, what is the most challenging aspect of your work?
HSB: Balance. When you are pulled in multiple directions AND you have a family, balance is extremely important. I struggle with that because I am always in networking mode. A typical day for me begins at 5 a.m. and can end at 2 a.m.
SS: Ha, we spent many a night talking each other through our exhaustion as we worked! But balance is definitely important; it pays off in the long run for everyone’s well-being. Speaking of paying off, what has been one of your proudest accomplishments?
HSB: My proudest accomplishment was graduating college. My last semester of college was THE most challenging and rewarding experiences. I was taking my capstone class, Philadelphia Neighborhoods, while working full-time and I had a newborn. My daughter was just 3 months. On May 16, 2013, as I walked down the aisle and looked up in the stands to see my husband holding my daughter, and as I approached my seat, my son was there and sat with me as they called my name—I couldn’t do anything but cry and thank God for that very moment.
SS: I was so proud of you! And that moment is so surreal! What’s an obstacle that you faced as a woman in your industry and how did you overcome it?
HSB: One of the biggest obstacles I faced is that I started college later than traditional students. I had an internship every semester from 2010 – 2012 in addition to 7 years of previous work experience within the healthcare field. Not to mention the life experiences I had to offer. However, I found that when I started looking for jobs, on paper I was a 22 year-old fresh out of college so the job offers were not conducive to what a mother of two would need to support her family. So I treated every internship like it was my job. By doing this, I demonstrated to potential employers that what I lacked in experience, I made up for in my dedication to any tasks put in front of me.
SS: It’s hard to beat a flawless work ethic; that’s something I’ve always admired about you. What have you had to sacrifice to work towards success in your industry?
HSB: Time with my family. Sometimes after my 9-5, I have to go to an event and unfortunately, by the time I get home my children are sleep. Personally and professionally I felt guilty for wanting more. I felt guilty as a mother. But then I realized that I couldn’t teach my children that you have to work hard for the things you want if I wasn’t giving my all to the things that I wanted. And life comes with those kinds of sacrifices.
SS: What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned thus far when it comes to your industry?
HSB: It is absolutely, 100 percent, without a doubt all about who you know. And while what you know is important, your network is extremely essential to your professional development…period.
HSB: Professionally, being a woman has completely empowered me. Throughout both of my pregnancies, I was often asked, “how do you manage it all?” and I simply say it must be done. There is an extra ‘swing in my waist and joy in my feet’ being a career woman, a mother and a wife all at the same time.
SS: In your opinion what three traits makes a woman a strong and influential leader?
HSB: A strong and influential leader is selfless, knows when to pass the torch, and never stops learning.
SS: What’s the best piece of advice that you would give to a woman who is in pursuit of her dreams?
HSB: Only YOU can stop you. Yes there will be challenges in life but do not throw in the towel and if an opportunity doesn’t come your way…create it.
HSB: God Bless You [laughs)]. In all seriousness, communicate with one other but you also have to do what works best for your relationship. In my case, my husband [Charles], has been my number one supporter since day one. Damn near every program that I hosted while [serving as] President of TABJ, every community service initiative, when we only had one car and he would wait in the parking lot for an hour and a half until I got of class so that I wouldn’t have to catch the bus—he has been there. He invested in me and he believes in me.
SS: He’s amazing! Shout out to you, sir! Being a woman with a demanding schedule can often leave little time for oneself to recuperate. What are some ways that you take care of yourself and/or de-stress?
HSB: I am still working on this. Finding time for myself is an everyday struggle. When I do get a moment to myself, I turn on my girl Mary J. Blige, I get a pen, a book and I just write.
SS: I’m overdue for a session like that—thanks for inspiring me to fix that! What has your journey thus far taught you about life and your purpose in it?
HSB: It is teaching me that every day is a new opportunity to learn something new and that we are all stakeholders of life. Be invested.
HSB: The On Point Communications blog which will feature professional development advice, how to really maximize the resources available through your network and OPC client news.
SS: Okay, we’ve reached our last question: what’s your key to ‘Sincerely Lovin’ life?
HSB: ‘When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. – Erma Bombeck
SS: Trust me honey, you’re using it all and I have reason to believe that there’s even more to be discovered.
Haniyyah, you are truly a Woman of Excellence. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
– Sincerely Syreeta
Interested in connecting with Haniyyah? You can contact her via e-mail at Haniyyah.Sharpe@gmail.com or follow her on Instagram: @OnPointCommunications.