Friday Friends with Amy Bovaird, Spotlight on Tonika Williams

Post Title – Tonika Williams: The Life of a Visionary Entrepreneur from Jamaica

Hello everyone, welcome to this exciting addition of Friday friends. This is a true birthday present to me. I encourage you to sit back relax and enjoy reading the true facts about me. This certified Diva.

Who Am I?

My name is Tonika Williams, I am from the beautiful Caribbean island of Kingston Jamaica. I was born on the 18th of the May,1995 to parents Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Williams.

Who am I? I am the first of three children, I am a certified Diva, which stands for Determined, Independent, full of Vibes and Always Awesome at what I do. I am also a proud Bachelor’s degree holder in the field of Entrepreneurship along with a minor in Law and Spanish. In addition, I am also a motivational speaker, amazing international podcaster, elevator pitch business trainer and a disability advocate.

What are my hobbies?

My hobbies include writing, surfing the Internet, interacting with people, going shopping, watching movies, and visiting different tourist attractions, such as Mystic Mountain in Jamaica, Niagara Falls in Canada, and the Coca-Cola factory in Georgia, just to name a few. What are my favorite food and fruits? Let me tell you, favorite food, true Jamaican fried chicken, jerk chicken, and barbecue chicken. What about seafood? Only shrimp and lobster. Favorite fruits? Bananas, grapes, oranges and watermelons. Let’s not forget milkshakes and ice cream, only vanilla and grape nut. One more thing, animals? I love rabbits, poodles and fish.

Nature of Disability and Educational Background

My mantra is focus on my ability and not my disability.

Let me give you a brief insight to my eye condition. And my premature/stormy birth

I was born prematurely at six months and two weeks and weighed 2 lbs,15 oz. Once the eyes are exposed to oxygen, they have to be covered and there must be consistent, routine visits to ophthalmologists to prevent retinal detachment, but my parents were never advised by the doctors.

In simple terms, the name of this diagnosis is called retinal detachment, visually challenged.

Landmark Malpractice Case in Jamaica

The errors at my birth serve as a famous Jamaican malpractice case in 1995, in which lawyers and judges use to make references to other medical negligence matters. The case is now a landmark one in the sense that it has opened the eyes of the medical fraternity in taking more meticulous ophthalmological care in dealing with infants or neonates like me who were exposed to oxygen at birth.

At school, I experienced some tough challenges, as I had teachers questioning my ability to meet the tasks of schooling without going to the Salvation Army School for the Blind, but I defied the odds and proved them wrong.

With the help of my parents, younger sisters, friends and other family members, I was able to complete my formulative education.

“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” ~ Martina Navratilova

Educational Background

My schooling started with pre-school. I went to the Mary Melodies Daycare, after which, my parents wondered what was next for me. They approached a cousin of mine who was and still is a teacher. She completed an assessment on me. She made the letters and the numbers out of sandpaper in order for me to feel them. I passed the assessment; thanks be to God. Thereafter, I attended the St. Hugh’s preparatory school, after which I moved on to the Queen’s preparatory school.

In 2008, I sat the grade 6 Achievement Test, better known as G Sat, in order to go to high school to further my education. I passed and went to Ardenne High School.

Interestingly, they had physically-challenged persons, but they had never had a visually challenged person. So, we needed to sensitize them. A representative from the Ministry of Education, a Special Education Needs Officer—who was also blind—went to the school to educate the teachers as well as the students about me and my disability.

I feared I would be treated differently, but they treated me normally. I was a Student Council representative. I also participated in different club activities, such as the 4H club, the Red Cross Society, the school choir, and the Key Club. In addition, I even served as the President of the Junior’s Achievement Entrepreneurship Club.

Entering the University

I graduated from Ardenne High School with eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and four at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination level.

Before entering the University, I had a hard time choosing from the different career choices. So, I applied for the following: law, entrepreneurship, Spanish, international relations, marketing, language and linguistics. I was accepted for each of these majors. Then I had to choose which to follow up with. So, with the help of God, my parents and the university faculty advisors, I chose entrepreneurship, along with a minor in law and Spanish. In 2015, with my major settled, I entered the university.

Let me just make a clear confession. My first year was really challenging, and in particular, using a white cane—or not using it. During my first year, I remember one night, my father was picking me up from the campus, when I thought I was walking towards his vehicle. Instead of walking towards the vehicle, I walked somewhere else, and fell into a trench. That’s because I didn’t have my cane with me. It was folded up in my bag, so my feet slid into the trench, and I fell forward, hurting my chest/heart. Guess what? I learned my lesson – the importance of always using my white cane. Using the white cane became a part of me, it will never leave me.

Special Accommodations

I was facilitated with special accommodations by the Office of Special Students Services, but in regard to the mathematics/financial management courses, I was assisted by the Academic Support Unit and the administration of the Special Students Services. Student volunteers took notes for me and guided me to and from classes. Let me also add that my father actually attended some of the lectures at night so he could assist me also. For example, he took notes, described what was on the board, or what was on the papers, read notes, drew diagrams, especially mathematical diagrams.

Bachelor of Science – Entrepreneurship

Entering the Work World

It’s a joy to rekindle those nostalgic memories of my work experience and how this has helped my entrepreneurial journey. Let me hasten to say, though, I know it’s very difficult for people with special needs in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world to get jobs, let alone work experience. It is rough so I understand and know what it’s like to have a disability and not getting any jobs.

So what is work experience?

According to definition.net, work experience is any experience that a person gains while working in a specific field or occupation, but the expression is widely used to mean a type of volunteer work that is commonly intended for young people — often students — to get a feel for professional working environments.

The American equivalent term is internship. Though the placements are usually unpaid, travel and food expenses are sometimes covered, and at the end of the appointment, a character reference is usually provided. Trainees usually have the opportunity to network and make contacts among the working personnel, and put themselves forward for forthcoming opportunities for paid work. Many employers in the more sought-after professions demand that every new entrant undergo a period of unpaid “work experience” before being able to get paid work.

What are the benefits of having working experience?

  • Gain insight into the world of work
  • Develops your skills
  • Helps you figure out what you like and don’t like
  • Gets your foot in the door
  • Gives you exposure to management

My Volunteer Experiences

In high school from Grade 9-14, students are required to do community service. So, during my high school years, I had to do community service. I volunteered my time at the following places:

  • a law firm as a (receptionist)
  • a truck parts’ company (receptionist)
  • a nonprofit organization (distributing packages)
  • an old age home (assisting in taking care of the elderly)
  • National housing trust, part-time (approving business plans and business loans) This was facilitated by a lecture based on two courses I did. The first was called “Introduction to Entrepreneurship.” The other was “Social Entrepreneurship.”
  • Epidemiology Unit at the University campus of Jamaica (receptionist) Working here provided a fabulous opportunity for me to stretch my skills. I was able to plan and coordinate an educational symposium in which the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Minister of Education, the Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, among other stakeholders were invited as well as the Jamaican public.

The Positive Impact of Volunteering

How has these different types of work experience made a positive impact on my life as an individual and my entrepreneurial journey?

Each one improved my communicative, speaking, technological, and mobility skills as well as my social and entrepreneurial abilities. In particular, work experience helped me get my foot in the door.

With the last internship—planning the Symposium–I was able to successfully plan, coordinate, speak with confidence, write letters, send out emails, direct, create flyers, amongst other things. This event was a real success. I pulled it off with flying colors. 
flying colors – again, focusing on my abilities and foregoing my disabilities. 

I was able to sit in the conference room amongst influencers, CEOs, managers, accountants just to name a few. This also taught me the importance of organizational behavior and structure.

What does Being Authentic Mean?

In addition, this also influenced me to be authentic. Being authentic means to influence people in a positive way by being true to yourself – that’s what being authentic means.

“Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique, to listen more.”

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

And the final way, this has influence me, is to be an expert. As an entrepreneur, one thing I have learned from Mr. Carnegie, is that everything we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships.

A Typical Day

Podcast host with some of my guest speakers

Sometimes I tend to be disorganized, which isn’t good, especially for an entrepreneur. But with disorganized days, it allows you to become more organized, comfortable and know who you are as a person.

An Entrepreneur’s Reality

Running a company isn’t always glamorous. It’s not as fancy as the entrepreneurs’ Rolex watches or BMWs. In fact, it’s often downright monotonous. However, a well-planned routine leads to efficiency and creates a sense of security inside of an organization. Whether we like it or not, business owners end up wearing a lot of hats.

A day in the life of an entrepreneur might include sales calls, marketing meetings, client lunches, press interviews and dozens of other things that advance the progress of the business. Let’s not forget those who have different disabilities and are entrepreneurs, we have to take more time in ensuring that the accessibility is well provided to our clients and for ourselves.

Come on in! Let me share my day with you.

My Schedule

7 – 8 am

I am up, out of bed and switching on the computer to start the day. Let me also emphasize that before even getting out of bed in the morning, the first thing I do is grab the phone to see all the missed calls, text messages, and emails that i need to respond to. I usually respond to everything while lying in bed. Most of the emails are from people asking for help, or people who are looking to meet up or schedule a call for a podcast, meeting, training, courses.

9.30 – 10:15 am

I get dressed up for the day. From showering to styling my hair, I spend around 30 – 45 minutes every morning getting ready while watching some news on TV. Now that I have my Alexa Amazon device, I am able to listen to meditation music, do workouts, check my appointment schedule, inspire me plus so much more.

Since I have an online-based business. I work from home. Even so, I dress properly, managerial and business type clothing. People might think that I am wasting my clothes. However, I have seen with the little vision I have people online dressed in pajamas, ladies in clothing showing their breast areas, men wearing shirts that are cut up, or showing the top part of their body. Friends, whether you take a shower or not, dress properly for the workspace.

10.30 am – 12:30 pm

It’s time to communicate with the world.

For almost two hours in the morning, I try to talk to potential clients and other entrepreneurs to figure out how the company’s revenue can increase or how more cash can be drawn into the business through other means. I talk to web developers to ensure their sites are accessible for persons with different challenges.

Other Tasks:

  • Designing
  • Coordinating
  • Developing
  • Planning
  • Testing courses in order for the public to purchase
  • Planning
  • Scheduling
  • Speaking to potential candidates for podcast interviews.

The Challenges

Sometimes it’s rough. Take, for example, when you have a podcast guest lined up, and one minute before the podcast, they call you and tell you they can’t make it, or they just never show up. It just spoils my day and sometimes my mood.

But once you have the passion and love for what you do, it gets done. The work has become easier now that we are in an online space. However, sometimes the reverse can be true. It can be difficult to navigate through online space because the new keystrokes are taking place, new updates with the Android and iOS versions, not to mention Jaws (a screen reader) and NVDA. There are also new platforms to learn, ensuring that my podcasts are published. I also need to confirm the listeners are able to play all my shows. It’s a lot but I enjoy myself.

3 – 5 pm

Since a few hours of phone calls during the morning aren’t enough, the next two hours are spent on phone calls or online meetings with web developers, especially from the deaf community. I was once approached by someone on Twitter to ensure my podcast platform is accessible to those who are hearing impaired. That was an awesome big hit in which I am most grateful for.

World Global Accessibility Day was Thursday, May 20.  I want everyone to recognize it because of the importance of accessibility and how we can allow our podcasts and websites to be accessible to those with blind or visually impaired challenges.



7 – 8:30 pm

I handle some of the larger strategic deals that don’t fit into any category. Sometimes this means doing demos or crafting presentations.

9 pm – Bed 
Dinner and some ‘me’ time. Whether it’s writing in my journal, hanging out with friends to relax or watching TV, this time is used for refueling.

Weekend Schedule

11 pm – bed

I communicate with the world again. If still awake, which I  usually am, I end the night heading back to the computer and complete more web work,  answer emails if any have come through during the evening, send out different tasks for my Studio engineer, speak with my virtual assistant to plan out for the weeks and a couple of months ahead, speak with my accountant to know the difference between the balance and income statement, any cash flows what the sales forecast is and how I can best improve my business, and most importantly, write down my schedule for the next day and program it to my Alexa device. Let’s not forget sending all the different podcast programs to different radio stations on time so it can be aired at the scheduled time given.

That concludes my day.

Core Values

In this next topic of focus, we are going to be taking a look at core values.

Core values are quite a broad topic so let’s narrow this down. We are going to be looking at what our core values are, in general. What are core values of a business and what our core values of one’s life. We will be also looking at my core values of life, business and in general.

What are Core Values?

So, first things first. The general definition of core values: they are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong.

Let’s now look at the definition of core values in an organization and examples: According to nps.gov, they define core values of a company. They are those values we hold, which form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. We have an entire universe of values, but some of them are so primary, so important to us that throughout the changes in society, government, politics, and technology, they are STILL the core values we will abide by. In an ever-changing world, core values are constant.

Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how we interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do. So here are some examples of core business values:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Boldness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Fairness

My Core Business Values

With that being said, let us look at my core values within my business, and personal/general life.

What I’ve learned is that your core values are not something you choose for yourself. Rather, they’re feelings and beliefs that operate in the background of your mind and influence your behavior. You discover what your values are through life experiences and during the process of building self-awareness. Previously, I interviewed a lady from Canada. She has operated her own business for the past twelve years. She has a virtual assistant service, and does social media marketing amongst other services. She is also a business coach. (Our podcast together will be released soon).

During a consultation, she asked me about my core values. I couldn’t answer her, but when I went back to my drawing board and restructured my business, the model canvas to my plan, itself, I was able to find the core values. So, here are a few for my business:

  • Honesty
  • Trust worthy
  • Adventurous
  • Boldness
  • Customer experience
  • Learning and accountability

I carefully selected these core values at my drawing board because my clients trust me. They accept me for who I am. They connect with what I have to offer. They see I know my organizational structure in my business and as a result, the connections are  very genuine and strong.

The definition and examples of core values in regard to one’s personal life: according to developgoodhabits.com, define personal core values as:

Those values that encompass your foundational beliefs, which then dictate your behavior and guide you to make the decisions that you do.
Your values are broad concepts that can be reapplied many times over in your life in various situations to guide your actions.

Core Values for my General Life

  • Family
  • Freedom
  • Creativity
  • Honesty

So above, I have listed my personal values. Why? Family is important to me. Connections are important to me. It’s crucial you stay connected with your loved ones, especially during this global pandemic. It’s important for you to have a creative mind and creative thinking in order to better sustain yourself in life. To conclude the topic of core values: When it comes to core values, there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Everyone is different.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this very special article, I hope that this was a true source of inspiration to you.

Thanks to Miss Amy Bovaird for giving me this awesome opportunity to write an article for her Friday friends, this is a really true birthday present. Virtually of course. This birthday, this month will be one to remember.

Before I go friends, I would like to leave with you a thought to remember in your hearts

I always tell people that, “People will always throw stones in your successful path. Now it depends on you what you make of it, a wall or a bridge., Remember, you are the architect of your life.

Bio:

Tonika is from St. Andrew, Jamaica in the Caribbean.  She was born on May 18, 1995 to parents Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Williams. Tonika is the first of three children. She experienced a stormy birth, in that she developed breathing complications, she was born prematurely and her eyes were damaged due to medical negligence. This case is a famous 1995 case, and law students along with lawyers and judges use this case to make references to other medical negligence matters. The term of her diagnosis is called Retinal Detachment, (visually challenged). Despite that, she is able to do all things through Christ who strengthens her. Tonika is known as a Certified DIVA, which stands for Determined, Independent, full of Vibes and Awesome at what she does.

Educational background: Tonika did not attend the Salvation Army School for the blind, like other blind or visually impaired children did.  Instead, she went through regular preparatory school and high school systems. She attended the St. Hughes Preparatory School, and the Queens Preparatory School. In 2008, she sat the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in order to go to high school. In 2008, she attended Ardenne High School. In 2013 she sat the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). Her educational background did not stop there.

In 2014 to 2015, she sat the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) administered by CXC in order to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI). Interestingly, in 2014-2015, Tonika also went to Quality Academics, to pursue a course in law at the CAPE level. After graduating from high school, in 2015 she got accepted into the University of the West Indies, Mona campus where she studied a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Law and Spanish. During her years at university, Tonika developed that passion and love for broadcasting and media. She took part in several motivational speaking programs at the University of Technology in Jamaica(UTECH).

She was also heavily involved in activities hosted by the Jamaica Society for the Blind, the Combined Disabilities Association and the Jamaica Council for persons with disabilities. Thereafter, she formed her own company called Kreative Minds Business Development Services. The first and one of a kind business in Jamaica that specializes in podcast services, audio production editing and so much more. This Diva is a motivational speaker, a certified trainer in business elevator pitching, an international podcaster, a Spanish language interpreter and an entrepreneurial consultant. Her company, whose target audience is persons with special needs, seeks to ensure that flexible platform is provided in order for persons to come and promote, create their brands and feel that sense of identity, belonging and purpose. The business also provides that platform for persons to come and develop that art of speaking with confidence. Her motto stipulates: “Focus on your ability and not your disability.”

Connect with Tonika

Check out the following links:

It takes passion to be an entrepreneur

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