Tonya Ladipo, LCSW: Founder & CEO, The Ladipo Group

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My Native Admission Statement: I’ve never been satisfied with the “way things are supposed to be”. As a child, I watched my mother work full time, go to school at night, and raise me. I knew that I didn’t want a life of exhaustion. I think that’s when the seeds of SOS for Superwomen were first planted.

Bio: Tonya Ladipo, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), is the visionary behind the region’s only counseling and consulting practice specializing in serving Black and African-American communities. Tonya has a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Widener University (2004). She is also a graduate of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program (2016). Using her unique perspective as a clinician, Tonya understands what motivates people and organizations to change. She is driven to help individuals and organizations develop healthy and sustainable relationships that fosters growth and opportunities for all. With a commitment to making workplaces more inclusive so people of all backgrounds can succeed, Tonya applies her clinical knowledge and expertise to the consulting and training services The Ladipo Group conducts with organizations. Our motto of Knowledge is Good, Behavior is Better underscores the approach to creating and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming workplace that is free of bullying with opportunities for advancement for all.

As an engaging speaker on inclusive workplace cultures, emotional intelligence, and women’s wellness Tonya speaks to large audiences (500+) as well as more intimate gatherings. Recent speaking events include Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit (Feb. 2019), Philadelphia SHRM Conference (March 2019) and PHL’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference (March 2019). Tonya was the keynote speaker at the Philadelphia Works’ Workforce Development Conference in 2017, as well as the keynote speaker for Villanova University’s Women of Color luncheon in May 2015. She was a speaker at the Black Women Talk Tech conference in 2018.  In 2015 she was also awarded the Advena World Most Outstanding Speaker award.

How did you get into the industry?

When I was 24 years old my hair fell out. I was single with no responsibilities, yet the way I was working resulted in stress-induced alopecia. I spent my life watching my mother and grandmother work long and hard hours. My grandmother cleaned houses and my mother was a full-time teacher going to graduate school at night. I assumed being a Black women meant working hard and long hours so that’s what I did.

It took me a few years to return to my childhood thought that I didn’t want to live a life of survival and exhaustion. As I learned new ways to work, be in supportive relationships, and ultimately thrive in life, I wanted to share these lessons with other women. I combined my personal experience with years of working with Black women facing similar struggles and created SOS for Superwomen.

Any emerging industry trends?

For generations Black women have cared for others. Now there’s a real awareness that if we don’t do something to take care of our own wellness the impact will negatively hurt ourselves, our families, and our communities. Black women finally have the opportunity and choice to consider their own needs. We’re at a point in time when some of us have the choice to have easier lives than generations before us. We don’t have to work as hard or as long as our mothers and grandmothers did. We really are daring to care for ourselves in ways we were unable to previously.

Groups like Black Girls Run and Therapy for Black Girls really highlight how Black women have the audacity to thrive and enjoy the journey of life rather than simply survive it.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I fell into my business unintentionally. Ingraduate school, I said that I never wanted to be self-employed. Two years later I started The Ladipo Group, a counseling and consulting group focused on building a healthier, happier and more just world by fostering healthy relationships, workplaces, and lives. After working in different nonprofit agencies I kept having the same experience – witnessing black and brown clients treated poorly or agencies weren’t providing services to people of color. I expressed concerns with agency directors and I was stonewalled. It became clear to me that what I thought was right wasn’t going to happen in those institutions. I wasn’t willing to change my values or give up my integrity so I started my business of providing quality emotional and mental wellness services for the Black and African-American communities.

The Ladipo Group launched SOS for Superwomen because I saw a need for unapologetically ambitious Black women to connect and support each other through community care. So often we hear about self-care and taking care of ourselves with spa days and getting our nails done. But that’s not what it’s about. Frankly the term self-care has become so diluted that it’s meaningless.

Community care, not self-care, is the movement we’re creating with SOS for Superwomen. It’s where Black women can proudly declare that they are important enough to make appointments with themselves - and keep them. We’re building a community and holding each other accountable for taking a moment to breathe through the anger and sadness, for walking outside and getting fresh air before dealing with a stressful situation, and ultimately being clear about saying yes only to what feeds your soul and not to every request made of you.

Audre Lorde’s quote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation” is what SOS for Superwomen is all about.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our motto is that knowledge is good, behavior is better. . The women who thrive in our SOS for Superwomen community are women who are action oriented and willing to do something different to make life better for themselves. We don’t pretend that daring to care for ourselves is easy. It’s hard when everything around you tells you that you’re selfish for considering your own needs. We’re here to show women that when we as Superwomen take care of ourselves the ripple effect and good that we can do in our communities and the world is unstoppable.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I am incredibly determined (or stubborn) which has led me to where I am today. When I started The Ladipo Group, people told me I would never build a successful business if I focused on the mental and emotional wellness of Black and African-Americans. Every time I heard that, a voice in my head countered with “watch me”.

That drive, determination, and stubbornness got me to where I am today. Now, I’m refining what it means to be driven and determined. A big part is my determination to enjoy where I am in life and not get caught in a constant state of hustling or being overwhelmed.

My Biggest Success?

Running The Ladipo Group in a way that works for me and for my team is one of my greatest successes. We talk to our clients about wellness, and we practice what we preach. I am humbled to create a workplace where I expect people to both deliver excellent services through their work and to enjoy their life outside of work.

Another success that I’ve become clearer on is my ability to say no to people and opportunities that aren’t a win-win situation. As I watch my children get older I’m painfully aware that they will only be living in my house for a short period of time. They’ve really become my motivation for saying no to situations that are not mutually beneficial for me or my company. This realization and putting it into action is a big success for me!

How do you motivate others?

I motivate others by understanding their motivations. It doesn’t matter what I want for you but what you want for you. Once I understand that, we work towards it. Some people need praise and encouragement, others need accountability and to be challenged. I also believe in being transparent. I don’t have everything figured out. Sharing my challenges and experiences helps others learn from my past mistakes and also encourages people in the middle of change.

My Most Challenging Moment?

My cousin and I were 6 months apart and were very close growing up. As an only child she was the closest I had to a sister. When I was in my early 20’s my cousin unexpectedly died following a simple foot surgery procedure. When I told my supervisor that my cousin died and I needed to go home (out of state) her first response was “You know you don’t get bereavement time for a cousin, only immediate family”.

That was an incredibly painful life lesson of being disregarded and treated without humanity at a place I poured everything into. It shaped how I manage my own business and team. I’m committed to growing a company where that will never be the workplace environment.

My Motto?

Excellence with ease

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Water soothes my soul so I’m happy anywhere with a beach and ocean. Or sitting on the beach in Chicago, where I was born and raised.

My Pic of the Day:

I first went surfing to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. I never would have gone if she wasn’t a close friend. I fell in love with being in the water in a way that connected me to God.

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