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Inspiring Conversations with Penda James of InSCRIBEd Inspiration

Today we’d like to introduce you to Penda James.

Hi Penda, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to read. I read Shel Silverstein’s poetry with my maternal Grandmother in her king-sized bed. I wrote letters to my family, essays about them and performed Maya Angelou poetry as often as I could. Writing has always been a big part of my life. I have been a writing coach since I was a student at Wilberforce University. When my mentor graduated my junior year, she asked me to take over the newspaper. I was honored to carry on the torch and I learned how to layout the articles with rubber cement, an Exacto-knife and a newsprint. I loved helping the writers unpack their stories and watching the lightbulbs in their minds illuminate when they recognized the power of their words. Although I was only the editor-in-chief for one semester, the role ignited my passion for helping people tell their stories. Because I was attending a historically Black college, I knew the importance of recording our history in our own words.

I started my business in 2006, and since that time, I have assisted several authors, songwriters, playwrights, educators, non-profit leaders, and community advocates in finding their voice and inscribing their legacy. In 2016 my mother passed and one of the things that resonated with me was her college friends saying that she had always wanted to write a book. This was something I did not know about her. In that moment, I recognized that the work I do is important, and my mother’s unfulfilled dream drives me to ensure that I advocate for writing as often as I can. I do this in her honor.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The year 2020 was the first time that I honestly admitted that I wanted to run a business and not just have a hobby. I had been giving away my services and overdelivering to the point of depleting myself and my personal resources. That was causing friction in my personal life because I was stressed out from trying to serve everyone and not staying in my niche market. In January 2020, I started a class that was intended to help Black Women network, revise our business plans and build connections in the greater Atlanta community. A few weeks before we were supposed to pitch our businesses in front of a panel of experts, our classes were canceled because of the pandemic. I had been on an upward climb of building clientele and working on great projects. I lost a major source of income because of all of the cancellations. Thankfully, after two months, I was able to rebuild my business from referrals and word-of-mouth advertisement. I had to redesign my business model, update my website and clarify my elevator pitch in order to stay relevant for people looking for writing resources. My road has not been easy, as a matter of fact, I have quit on my business more times than I can count. The pandemic forced me to see where I was lacking as an entrepreneur and seal those holes so that I could be paid for my worth instead of feeling the need to give my services away as I had for 15 years. I am on a smoother patch of the road now, but as I grow, I realize how much I don’t know, so I continually seek out mentorship, professional development opportunities and read as much as I can.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about InSCRIBEd Inspiration?
InSCRIBEd Inspiration is a specialty coaching firm that assists leaders in transition to get unstuck, execute their goals and inscribe their legacy. We specialize in working with individuals who have started projects and need support to finish them within 6 to 8 weeks. What sets us apart from other writing coach services is that I use my personal experience with overcoming writer’s block and fear of telling my story to support others in the same position. I am proud of the books we have assisted people with completing. Our library includes children’s books, memoirs, poetry, blogs, podcasts, and journals that ignite creativity and inspire people to walk in their purpose.

We partner with our clients and allow them to identify their goals. We support their vision as they bring it to life. I want people to know that at InSCRIBEd Inspiration, we believe everyone is a scribe. Sometimes a listening ear or a push over the hump of stagnation is all you need to get the words from your heart onto the page. Every word that you write is important, even if they don’t make it into the project. And when you allow yourself to turn your tears into words, they can water someone else’s thirsty soul. I am also an author and I have penned several books for women in leadership. I am most proud of The First, Lady: Selah Journal, which is designed to give women in leadership a place to write their vision, and Dandelion Dance which is a children’s book about a lesson in perseverance that I wrote with my daughter that was illustrated by one of our dear family friends.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
The Covid-19 crisis has taught me to create a plan and stick to it. I am more intentional with my time as a result of being home all the time. I was always using my planner to outline my day. Now I use my planner to create a plan for my time. I build in time for rest, exercise, family time, work, and reading. Every morning I have a hot cup of tea before I start the rush of my day. I move much more mindfully. In addition, I have learned that I need to do everything with love. In my business, I have learned to lead with love when I work with my clients. I could teach people how to tell their story all day, but if they don’t do it because of love, it will have no power. I learned to apply that same principle to myself; instead of being hard on myself for small things, I am practicing gratitude with intentionality. The crisis has also taught me the need for having more than one stream of income. Even though I believe God is my provider, I never want to take for granted the true source of my financial foundation.

Lastly, I recognized that I have believed in other people more than I have believed in myself. I was everyone else’s cheerleader but could not cheer for myself. I found my voice again and started a podcast called #TheResilienceProject, which is designed to speak to leaders about how they have been resilient. I made a lot of mistakes early in my business. I have identified those areas, and I am working to strengthen my weak areas. I was invited to deliver a virtual workshop about what I learned in the crisis, and I created an acronym for the word PIVOT: Purpose – Why did I start my business? Interest – What are my former/current client asking me to do? Vision – Cast a new vision and look for God in everything. Own Missteps – What do I need to do differently? Tell Your Story – Ask for feedback and change if necessary.

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Image Credits

Cheryl Mayo Penda James

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