This week we spoke to Krysta Jones – CEO and founder of Virginia Leadership Institute. After a stint volunteering with the Peace Corps, Jones returned to Northern Virginia ready to use her experience by improving her community. VLI works to give African Americans training for holding government positions as elected representatives in Northern Virginia as well as throughout the DMV.
Check out the full episode above or some highlights from our chat with Krysta below.
My background is basically in politics. I majored in political science and after that I entered the Peace Corps and served for two years doing international community development. It was really in the Peace Corps where I developed the desire to make a larger impact. I think in a lot of our organizations today and the work that we do, I feel like it’s not as deep as it can be. A lot of us participate in organizations and maybe do something once or twice a month. But in the Peace Corps. it was a very organized way of making an impact and how to make sure the work that we were going continued past us. That made it a lot deeper. I really took that philosophy to the work that I’ve done domestically. When I came back from the Peace Corps I started work as a lobbyist which gave me a deeper understanding of how advocacy works in Washington, D.C. and the power of advocates to make decisions and impact congress. Soon after that I started Virginia Leadership Institute in 2007.
Our goal is to increase the number of black elected and appointed officials. We have impacted over 300 leaders through individual training, group training, scholarships, honoring them as our top 10 under 40. We’ve also had 30 people actually run for office. 10 were actually elected and 10 were appointed positions and countless others serve in other community leadership positions. I brought together some of my friends and acquaintances who each had particular interest or specialties. We came together and realized that we only had 2 black congress people in our history. We wanted to change that and realized that there were also so many issues impacting African Americans and being elected office is one of many ways to do something about that. We decided to start this organization to really focus on not just group training but we realized out community needed something a little more. We needed some extra guidance on how we could get a seat at the table. What VLI specializes in is our consultations. It’s almost like a mentorship. We will match you up with somebody who has the particular specialty to help you through your leadership journey. We want to identify where you need help with and we want to help you with that.
Advice for Business Owners
Stay the course. Have a plan and stay the course. I have a good friend who owns a million dollar plus business and she would definitely tell you it’s not all about passion. So many people try and tell you it’s all about passion. When I think about my life my perspective on that has changed. I’ve been lucky enough to be in something that I’m really passionate about. When you’re talking about making money, they may not always been the same. Sometimes it’s hard to make money in the field that I want to do. I will say that if you believe in yourself and have a plan and think that what you’re doing is the right thing for you, you will eventually get to where you want to do. So the best advice I can give is to stay the course and believe in yourself.
What Makes the DMV Great for Businesses?
I think that there are so many opportunities – being close to the federal government. Unfortunately with the sequester and a lot of things that have gone on with the federal government has decreased over the years but that is a natural attraction for so many people. Whether it’s contractors or something to do with politics I think that’s something that is a natural magnet to some people. The area is also so vibrant and growing. Northern Virginia in particular is different from the rest of Virginia. It’s definitely a growing community in so many aspects. Not only its involvement in politics but the general economy is growing and it’s outpacing the rest of Virginia. Also, Virginia in general is known for being one of the best states for business. With the political economy and the amount of things there are to do in the area makes this a great place for entrepreneurs.
CEO Chat powered by Blue 16 Media is a podcast for entrepreneurs, startups, and business owners. Every episode we sit down with an entrepreneur or business owner to discuss the trials and tribulations of building a business as well as the triumphs which come along with it. We learn more about their backgrounds and what led them to find their true calling in the world of business.