Ever since she was a little girl, Dr. Tana M. Session said she always knew she was destined for greatness, for something far better than the life that was handed to her.
Now the bestselling author and motivational speaker has made it her life’s mission to transform the lives of a million women struggling to get out of their own way and onto the path to both personal and entrepreneurial success.
“I knew there was something better I needed to be doing,” she told Atlanta Black Star in an exclusive interview. “I knew I wanted to be a part of the solution and not the problem.”
Session now works as an organization development strategist at her own consulting practice, where she’s built a fruitful career in public speaking, as well as life, career and relationship coaching. As a consultant, she has served over 200 clients and dedicated an estimated 5,000 hours coaching those looking to reach their full potential.
Although the journey has been far from easy, Session, who was born into the New York City foster care system and experienced homelessness and abuse at various points in her life, has used her adversities as power to rise above difficult situations. These days, she encourages her clients to do the same as part of her plan to helping them become what she calls “unstuck.”
There is no shortage of challenges when it comes to launching a business, and Session, 50, helps with that, too. For budding entrepreneurs fighting an uphill battle, the seasoned consultant said the key to key to getting over the hump is to “remember your ‘why?’ “
“Why did you start this? Why did you decide that this was something you wanted to do?,” she said. “Sometimes you get lost in the day to day, you get lost in trying to get those goals done, [or] closing with a client. So you have to get back to the basics, and understand what is your why. What’s making your feet hit the floor? What’s driving your passion?”
Her second tip? Make sure you’re coming from a place of service.
“Whether you’re selling a widget or your own personal knowledge as a consultant, being able to really tap into that and know that ‘I’m here to serve.’ “
Recalling a lesson from her own coach, she added: “There’s two types of people in the world — one takes the napkin and tucks [it in their shirt] to make sure their clothes don’t get messed up. The other is going to put the [napkin] across their arm and ask ‘How can I serve you? What can I do for you? ‘ So as entrepreneurs, we have to decide which we want to be.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs run into a number of challenges when trying to get their business off the ground, from building a successful brand consumers can’t get enough of to balancing the quality and growth of their companies. Lack of access to venture capital funds has proven to be a monstrous issue for African-American businesswomen in particular, seeing as less than 0.2 percent of all venture deals have gone to Black women-owned start ups.
Kathryn Finney, researcher, investor and founder of digitalundivided‘s Project Diane, likened the state of tech to a “living, breathing example of a Catch-22.” Finney noted that non-white founders rarely receive the crucial seed money needed to grow businesses that “lead to an exit.” Yet such exits are needed to create diverse investors who have the capital to pour into the next crop of diverse start-up entrepreneurs.
“The larger investment community cites the lack of investment in black and latino led start-ups on a pipeline that is more of a intermittent ‘drip’ when it comes to diverse founders, versus the massive ‘drops’ of the ‘young-white-guy-from-insert-big-name-school’ founders,” Finney wrote in a 2015 piece for Medium.
Every entrepreneur will faces challenges on the road to success, both large and small. In those moments when all your ducks aren’t quite in a row and giving up seems easier than pushing through it, Session said having a solid support system is key to getting out of that funk.
It’s about “believing in yourself, then surrounding yourself with people that love on you, and that cheer for you, that pray for you, that want to see you succeed,” she told ABS. “People who are truly in your corner; that’s what is going to motivate you.”
Session said she too has had some dark times, both personally and professionally. Still, she credits her adversities with pushing her to make a difference and “to do something different” in order to provide a better life for herself and her son.
“I really kind of just used those things to help push me forward versus just holding me back or making me stay stuck in that time, in that space, in that condition,” she added.
Session returned to school and completed multiple degrees as she worked her way through the ranks as an administrative assistant. She said it was the guidance of a director who “took her under her wing” and peaked her interest in human resources — a career she’s enjoyed for almost 30 years now.
In just a seven-year span, Session went from an administrative assistant to a vice president of HR.
“I was just that driven,” she said, “because I had determined this was going to be a career path and this is how I’m going to be able to make a difference in me and my son’s life.”
The international speaker has since authored three books, including the best-seller “Get Your Career Life in Order,” which made Amazon’s Best of Business and Leadership reads in 2018. Her fourth book is currently in the works.
In June, she was bestowed with an honorary doctorate from Global Oved Dei Seminary University and recently shared her story of triumphs with the graduating class of 2019 at American InterContinental University, her alma mater.
When asked about her own purpose, Session said it’s her impact on people’s lives that gets her out of bed each and every morning. And she doesn’t plan on stopping, as her goal is to touch the lives of a million women and the men who love and support them through her speaking, coaching and consulting.
“I know it sounds cliche,” she said. “But I feel like everything I’ve been doing in my business, whether I’m inside a company as consultant, I am changing lives.”