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Vernisha Crawford: Empowering Resilience through a Vision of Mental Wellness for All

The business field welcomes every individual to make a societal impact. It’s not just about making profits; for some entrepreneurs, it’s a battle for survival and a chance to leave a mark of success that changes lives. The agenda adapts to market dynamics as competition and technology evolve. In this competitive business world, a few entrepreneurs are facing real challenges, and the black business community shines here.

One of these remarkable figures is Vernisha Crawford, the CEO of Trauma Informed Institute. She established a company dedicated to aiding individuals in managing their emotions. Personal experiences motivated her to launch this venture, and her journey is a testament to her exceptional entrepreneurial qualities, offering invaluable insights to share.

Vernisha’s Journey from College Graduate to Successful Entrepreneur

Vernisha began her academic journey at UNC Charlotte, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Her thirst for knowledge continued as she pursued a Master’s degree in Leadership at Grand Canyon University. Her commitment to personal and professional growth is evident in her numerous certifications, which include Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Master Level Certified Professional Life Coach, Business Coach, and Certified Scrum Master. Currently, she is working toward a Ph.D. in General Psychology, specializing in Trauma & Disaster Relief. Despite these impressive achievements and degrees, she values something that has taught her even more. Vernisha states, “While my professional achievements are remarkable, I consider motherhood to be my most profound source of learning.”

One of her most significant role models is Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, a Pediatrician who made history by becoming California’s first Surgeon General in 2019. Dr. Burke-Harris is renowned for her work connecting adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress to negative life outcomes. Vernisha deeply admires Dr. Burke-Harris’s passion, integrity, and commitment to making a positive impact on a large scale. This influence forms the foundation of Vernisha’s work. The fact that Dr. Burke-Harris, a woman with a similar background, has succeeded in a similar field resonates deeply with Vernisha and provides her with an important role model in the business world.

Trauma-Informed Institute: Easing Professional Stress

In 2016, at 26 and as a new mother, Vernisha embarked on a transformative entrepreneurial journey. She realized that the modern workforce often did not consider the unique needs of parenthood, especially when it involved caring for the most vulnerable among us—children. This realization followed her completion of a Master’s Degree in Leadership, which she recognized as a powerful tool for creating positive change. She saw the potential to secure not only financial stability but also to carve out a professional path that would allow her to nurture and care for her daughter in a meaningful and responsive way.

The Trauma-Informed Institute is a leading force in certifying professionals as experts in trauma-informed approaches. Their primary goal is to reshape workplace dynamics, with a clear mission to educate and implement trauma-informed practices. They aspire to enhance employee well-being and transform workplace culture. Offering a range of professional development, coaching, and certification programs, they cover everything from Trauma-Informed Advocacy to Trauma-Informed Executive Coaching. These resources equip individuals with valuable insights into trauma and burnout, providing practical, non-clinical tools to bolster personal and professional resilience.

Focusing strategically on non-profit organizations, healthcare, government entities, educational institutions, and corporate individuals in roles such as Directors and Human Resource Professionals, Vernisha and her company seek to address common challenges faced by these sectors and clients. These challenges include resolving workplace conflicts, combating employee burnout, providing support for executive leaders, and offering practical tools and resources to enhance well-being in the workplace.

A Strategic Approach to Tackling Future Challenges and Growth

As the CEO, Vernisha guides the company’s strategic direction, fosters growth, and ensures alignment with its goals. She emphasizes investing in systems to track and analyze vital data, which forms the foundation for informed decision-making. A cornerstone of her leadership style is valuing the experiences and insights of her team, and recognizing their vital contributions to the company’s success, despite its modest size. Together, they work cohesively to make a significant impact.

Looking ahead, Vernisha highlights the importance of forging partnerships. Despite the company’s significant progress in its seven-year journey, she acknowledges the need to leverage existing partnerships and establish new ones to ensure sustained growth and success in a competitive business environment.

Turning to her personal accomplishments, Vernisha notes several significant milestones. In 2017, she received recognition as one of Charlotte’s “30 under 30” recipients, acknowledging her contributions to the community. Her creation of the world’s first Miss All Natural Pageant earned her acclaim in Pride Magazine, underscoring her commitment to positive change. In 2021, she founded the BYE Foundation, dedicated to strengthening relationships between families and service providers. The foundation secured a substantial $250,000 grant within its inaugural year to advance its mission.

Highlighting her prominence further, Vernisha received recognition from Who’s Who in Black Charlotte, and her company was ranked as the 19th largest Black-Owned Business in Charlotte by the Charlotte Business Journal, underscoring its substantial influence in the local business landscape.

Vernisha also candidly shares the challenges she has faced as a business leader. Balancing her empathetic nature with the demands of business was an ongoing learning process. Initially, she grappled with the personal struggles of her team affecting her business decisions, realizing the need to prioritize the company’s immediate requirements.

Her journey taught her the importance of making prudent decisions, especially in managing the unexpected influx of individuals seeking opportunities due to her early business success. While their intentions were good, they presented challenges that were not immediately manageable. Vernisha also reflects on her experience of being overly transparent about her journey, which, while well-intentioned, had unintended financial repercussions. The difficult decision to part ways with her entire team was painful and characterized by tear-filled nights. Nevertheless, it was a necessary decision, serving as a profound lesson in balancing empathy with sound business decisions.

A Team that Believes in the Process

Vernisha believes that the foundation of building a great team starts with self-reflection. Understanding one’s strengths, areas for improvement, and leadership knowledge is essential. While she holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership, she learned that possessing leadership characteristics isn’t the same as being a great leader. Furthermore, Vernisha adds, “Building a team requires one to be honest, direct, transparent, and emotionally intelligent. Business is an up-and-down roller coaster; decisions should always be made when emotions are managed properly.”

In her experience, Vernisha notes that team members, much like herself, are driven by a genuine desire to make a positive impact. The shared vision of the Trauma-Informed Institute unites the team. They maintain motivation by being transparent about the organization’s growth and impact, avoiding the need for constant effort. Presently, her team draws motivation from the prospect of their work influencing state-level government policies and expanding their reach globally.

Perspectives on Black Business Leadership

Vernisha deeply admires the current state of Black business leadership in America. She draws inspiration from the resilience and determination displayed by Black individuals in the entrepreneurial landscape. Their ongoing efforts to overcome challenges, debunk stereotypes, and reshape the often inaccurate media narratives motivate her.

While acknowledging the unfortunate stereotypes attached to Black business leaders, Vernisha emphasizes the falsehood of such generalizations. In the business world, there is no one-size-fits-all. Black entrepreneurs form a diverse group with unique perspectives and capabilities that go beyond these stereotypes.

Historical barriers have, at times, hindered the progress of Black business owners. For centuries, external forces and policies intentionally obstructed their efforts to establish and grow businesses. Despite these obstacles, Black entrepreneurs persist in their pursuit of economic independence, driven by their desire to create a brighter future for themselves, their families, their communities, and future generations. Vernisha underscores that, like any group of business leaders, Black entrepreneurs are not exempt from making mistakes or facing challenges. However, their journey is evidence of their determination and resilience.

Moreover, Vernisha states, “I am proud of every Black Business Leader, no matter how big or small their company is, because we are contributing to business in a way that impacts the masses globally by simply pursuing business, not giving up, and failing forward toward success and positive impact.”

Among the prominent Black business leaders she admires is Daymond John, the visionary founder of FUBU (For Us, By Us). The significance of FUBU’s “For Us, By Us” slogan extends beyond commerce; it has sparked a profound movement within the Black community. It is a brand and legacy that will endure for years to come, and Daymond John’s journey, as showcased on the popular television show Shark Tank, is a source of inspiration for Black business leaders worldwide.

In addition to Daymond John, Vernisha looks up to Shaquille O’Neal as an exemplary franchise investor, using his wealth to generate more wealth. His approach to making money work for him inspires other business leaders, offering a glimpse of what they can achieve through strategic investments.

The Significance of Diversity and Inclusion in Business

In a diverse country like the USA, we encounter a rich tapestry of cultures, perspectives, beliefs, and needs. Achieving success and long-term sustainability in business is closely linked to forming genuine relationships with people from various backgrounds. Additionally, Vernisha emphasizes the personal growth that arises from embracing diversity. It not only improves one’s business but also makes them a better person. As Vernisha puts it, “Diversity is extremely important in business. But not simply based on what a person looks like. Diversity of thought and experience is equally as important if not more.”

Balancing Dreams and the Quest for a Successful Life

Vernisha acknowledges that achieving a ‘perfect’ work-life balance can be challenging, especially for entrepreneurs. She further emphasizes, “As an entrepreneur, you burn the night candle quite often. You only get a break unless you schedule a break for yourself. You need to make breaks a non-negotiable in your life.” She stresses that challenges, from unpaid invoices to team vacancies and revenue fluctuations, are inevitable in entrepreneurship.

Her approach to addressing these challenges is straightforward: she pauses, rests, and takes a moment to regain mental clarity. Being open with friends about difficulties and finding solace in dance are part of her coping strategies. This cycle of pausing, refreshing, and restarting defines her resilience. Vernisha emphasizes that, as a wellness expert, she can offer a laundry list of recommendations, but how entrepreneurs manage their time and face adversity shapes their business journey. Understanding that her well-being directly impacts her company’s management and growth, she lives by the mantra, ‘To do well, I must be well.’

Advice to Aspiring Black Business Leaders

  • Fall in love with learning, embrace failure and refer to the story of the tortoise and the hare. The fundamentals of business will always remain the same. Avoid getting too caught up in the latest trends. Technology, social media, and AI may expedite tasks, but they cannot replace the value of having a strong business understanding, nor do they always result in revenue or profit.
  • Never stop learning and surround yourself with those who also want to learn. Together, you will discover the right resources and establish a robust support system for one another, something essential yet often absent in the entrepreneurial world. Nonetheless, you have the power to create it.


“You can experience a lack of judgment when you’re angry, disappointed, and also when you’re too excited.”

ALSO READ: The 10 Influential Black Business Leaders, 2023


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