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Meet Charlene L. Sanders

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charlene L. Sanders

Charlene, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a finally founder, eager edifier, wordy t-shirt wearer, startup instigator and an anti-status quo rebel with a cause. I was bitten by the entrepreneur bug in the middle school when exposed to DECA though I didn’t realize it until my life began to show me who I’ve been all along. I have been on the employee to an entrepreneur to employee back to entrepreneur carousel for a while now, however, in 2014, I decided I was going to figure out how to do life on my terms as an entrepreneur and thrive. While I appreciate the corporate experience, it is not where I “fit.” I’m what I consider to be a called to be an entrepreneur in that try as I might, I could never get comfortable working for others, solving problems that did not matter to me. I’ve always had a side hustle or volunteered for organizations, non-profits, startups, community and neighborhood organizations doing the work I loved for free.

Being a student, practitioner, and advocate of dynamic leadership and creating lives we love, 2014 was the year I embarked on leaving corporate America and dead-end jobs. I knew that I could win this race in Atlanta. I came to Atlanta purposely in 2004 drawn in by the entrepreneurial vibe of the city. I saw people who looked like me pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams with a very supportive startup community.

A couple of years after moving to Atlanta in 2004, while working at an insurance agency, I became inexplicably unhappy, even depressed because I didn’t love my life. At the time, I blamed it on my employers but I later realized it was simply my life telling me I had more to do. Scared to pursue being an entrepreneur, I took another job in the same industry with the same lackluster results. Soon, I was so discouraged I took a leap of faith and started a business I didn’t love. Back on the carousel, I dissolved my business and finally after several months secured a job. The stability and perceived security of the every two-week paycheck made me happy for a time…until I wasn’t. During this time, I tinkered enough in my kitchen to develop a handcrafted personal care products line (NaturesPerfectGarden.com) that my then co-workers loved. I decided this was going to be my ticket out of corporate America. I created an exit strategy, obtained my Masters and worked my plan.

Fast forward to May 2017, I cashed out on my 401K. On a wing, prayer and a plan I left corporate America… for good. Having gone through this journey, I realized I couldn’t possibly be the only one who wished to create the life they love as entrepreneurs, doing the work they love, on their terms. I learned only 14% of Americans become entrepreneurs while upwards of 60%+ are said to want to start their own business. I had an epiphany that this was a part of how I exist to serve. I’ve always been a motivator and a doer, so I blended my journey as a founder with my need to inspire to form Eventual Entrepreneur AKADEMY (EEA). EEA is the ultimate co-op for aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs.

Has it been a smooth road?
NO WAY, NO HOW and here’s why….

  • There were many struggles along the way the first of which was believing I could and should do this. I had failed miserably a few times before so to dust myself off and give it another go took a few years to get passed.
  • Suffering from impostor syndrome used to be a really BIG deal. I’m determined to keep pushing ahead in spite of any fears.
  • Creating a sustainable business is not easy. Figuring out how to create the level of revenue that allows for the lifestyle of travel, self-care, and some indulgence while still fully funding a Roth IRA is my personal goal.
  • Finding my groove and an imperfect balance is a constant work in progress however finding my village of like valued people has allowed me to get comfortable doing it. There’s no time when you won’t need your peers and I believe a life or business coach.

Please tell us more about your business, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Though I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur, Eventual Entrepreneur AKADEMY is my focus at the moment. EEA is how I cultivate and support entrepreneur leaders though meaningful meetups, informative and inspiring events, webinars and the Startup & Thrive Podcast. I connect members to Atlanta’s startup community, their peers, mentors, and advisors who believe what we. Members have access to a myriad of tools and resources, many of which are free. One key difference that EEA offers is the platform for entrepreneur members to test their ideas and expertise within the community. I don’t wait until members become famous to support them. I give members opportunities to learn by doing, as they go. I’m also building a community for the AKApreneuHER: members of my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, who are entrepreneurs as well.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What I love about Atlanta is seeing people with the will, drive and hunger try something and the large community of serious supporters encouraging them to do so. The number of incubator/accelerator programs, village markets, meetups and the like are really very encouraging.

What I like least about Atlanta is the TRAFFIC, but I can deal. I do wish Marta would expand both the rail and bus lines. This would be most beneficial to the infrastructure especially since Atlanta’s previous mayors have done a brilliant job of attracting many corporations, big events and more people to the city.

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Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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