As business and nonprofit owners, we have the opportunity to decide what kind of leader we want to be. This impacts how we show up for our customers, communities, teams, and even ourselves. Antowanna Carpenter embodies servant leadership. She prioritizes the needs of others in her business decisions, and has a heart for giving.
From humble beginnings, Antowanna Carpenter started helping individuals start nonprofits from the kitchen table of their homes. From there, she went on to start a company and training systems designed specifically to help individuals understand the nonprofit start and growth process. She is an entrepreneur, educator, coach to start-up business owners and expert grant writer. Antowanna has dedicated over twenty five years of her life helping individuals and companies turn their hobbies, gifts, visions and passions into successful businesses.
Throughout the years, Antowanna has provided nonprofit and for-profit start-up coaching as well as grant writing training to thousands of individuals including businesses, government agencies, churches and schools. Antowanna is an educator by career and has a master’s degree in business. She has been featured on TCT, Scholar Magazine, various TV and radio shows. Antowanna is inspired by helping to develop organizations that empower communities. She sees her work with individuals as more of a mission to serve from the things in which she has learned and observed over the years.
I sat down with Antowanna to chat about the lessons she’s learned on business and service, how to be a resource for your community as a for-profit or nonprofit leader, and more! Tune in if you’ve been thinking about starting a nonprofit, or giving back more as a business owner!
Even before she had an official business, Antowanna went from house to house, helping friends and family start nonprofits. Those early days of chatting with people 1:1 helped Antowanna better understand their needs. When her business began, she was able to create programs and services that met those needs. When creating a new service, product, or program, the first step is to understand the problems that we are solving for our audiences.
Antowanna also realized that serving others places you in a position of influence within your arena of expertise. People will begin to draw to you because of your services, and you become a trusted resource in your community.
Antowanna stresses that in entrepreneurship, you will have ups and downs. She refers to these difficult experiences as “valley times.” These are opportunities for valuable lessons, though it may be tempting to look at them as failures. Valleys teach us what we can stop doing, or what needs to be reshaped, in order to get a better outcome.
This is why perseverance is key. Antowanna’s encouragement for new entrepreneurs:
“No matter what happens, pick yourself up…and keep going.” She’s had to this over and over again throughout the years. After a while, you will begin to embrace challenges and be grateful that you become stronger for them.
In addition to learning from our mistakes and taking inspiration from what’s working for others, creativity and innovation are key. In 25 years of entrepreneurship, Antowanna’s seen the marketing landscape change so much and has pivoted her strategies to adapt.
Nonprofits often begin because of a life experience, something that’s happened to you or a loved one, or just having a heart to give back. That giving spirit is what Antowanna and I love most about nonprofits! But starting a nonprofit isn’t the only way support your community more.
Many well-known corporations (like Walmart and Target) also have non-profit foundations on the backend. This is possible for you, too! Antowanna has worked with clients over the years who have for-profit businesses and would like to start nonprofits as well. She encourages entrepreneurs with existing businesses who want to do something for the community on a consistent basis to consider this option.
You can have both. But if you don’t want to commit to running another organization, Antowanna recommends taking some time to consider mission(s) you’d like to support through your for-profit business.
If starting a nonprofit aligns with your goals, Antowanna’s says there’s one must-have that you shouldn’t forget:
Make sure that you’re in compliance with any local, state, and federal requirements.
“A lot of people who start a nonprofit, they’re going to do it for the heart…But in order to position yourself to be successful and maybe work on a full-time basis within that arena – within what you’re doing – you need to make sure that you have your paperwork in compliance,” Antowanna explained.
This will allow you to receive gifts from the public and large organizations, as well as for your nonprofit to be setup to receive grant funding.
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