Over the past five years, Dr. Alyce Herndon ’21 has worked with more than 600 women to pivot and grow their enterprises by strengthening skills and sharpening strategies. She’s well positioned to give sound advice; after all, she has been defying barriers and reshaping the status quo for decades.
In the Army, Herndon was always the only woman in her battalion brigade. After enlisting at 17 years old, her military training shaped her early understanding of leadership, negotiation, and power. Since returning to her hometown of St. Louis, she has earned her Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) from Walden and made it her life’s mission to share the lessons of these experiences with other women of color who are driving hard and alone in a different way—as entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
She reaches the women she mentors by being direct and to the point. “Honey, that’s not going to work,” she often has to say. “Just listen, hear me out, and let me share with you why.” Why is the linchpin, a valuable asset and important tool in the world of business management and growth.
Whether in accessing capital or learning from a lost bid, asking for explanations or feedback in the face of failure or disappointment is critical to improving. “But we, as women, haven’t been taught to do that. We’ve been saying, ‘OK,’ and walking away,” she says. In Herndon’s opinion, this is a costly mistake.
Women, her research and experience shows, undervalue themselves and, consequently, their services. But she sees the potential of this under-resourced group. As leaders and owners of small companies, they have the capacity to help boost employment and build wealth for disadvantaged communities.
Herndon is a passionate educator and leader. Her joy is dynamic, and in fullest effect when she sees women becoming better advocates for themselves and their businesses. A permanent sticky note on her desk reads, “No more giving yourself away for free”—a reminder for her own consulting work through her nonprofit, Onyx Business Solutions, as well as for the entrepreneurs with whom she works through pricing strategies.
“No. No, ma’am. We’re not going to walk away. We’re going to get some understanding of why, and what approach do I need to do. Why isn’t it going to work? Give me a reason, help me understand. Don’t just tell me ‘no,’” she says. For Herndon, bringing women to the table means helping them realize they belong there in the first place, and teaching them to turn access into success.