An Artist and an Entrepreneur

LaShonda Cooks

The daughter of an art teacher, Dallas native LaShonda Cooks ’10 always had an interest in the arts.

When it came to selecting a college, she wasn’t set on pursuing art as a career, but knew she wanted to look beyond her hometown. “I stumbled across a Babson brochure as a high school senior. That brochure and its suggestion that I may qualify for a scholarship was life-altering,” she said. “Ultimately, receiving a full-tuition Enrico Scholarship made Babson a no-brainer, but its unique focus on entrepreneurship, intimate campus, and endless opportunities made it one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

While at Babson, Cooks was active in theater, on the student newspaper, and spent her free time in the ceramics studio. After graduating, her love for art transitioned to painting.

In 2015, she reconnected with fellow Babson alum, Jamaal Eversley ’10, which led to them holding a joint art exhibit—Coming of Age—at Hollister Gallery during Back to Babson weekend 2017.

“Exhibiting was an out-of-body experience. I’m still pinching myself,” she said. “While studying at Babson, I sometimes felt out of place. The arts helped me find my niche and were so therapeutic for me. Showing my body of work in Hollister to fellow alumni and current students was the greatest reassurance that everything works out in the end. … I had found my calling, largely thanks to my time exploring at Babson.”

They worked together again for the 2018 Black Affinity Conference and they have current plans for a possible 2020 collaboration during their 10-year reunion. We spoke with Cooks about her journey to a career in the arts, and her favorite Babson moments.

What Is Your Favorite Babson Memory?

Playing Tina Turner in a production of “The Wedding Singer” with The Babson Players. I loved my crazy wig and prepped by listening to “Proud Mary” before every performance. I participated in the spring musical every year during my time at Babson. Finishing up my Babson career being an incarnation of Tina senior year was so rewarding.

How Can Artists Benefit from an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

Artists are entrepreneurs. We do it all. We create the product, we market and sell it. Last year, I pitched my plans for a series of workshops and an exhibit to a city grant committee. I felt at home because Babson and its countless pitches had prepared me for it. I put together a PowerPoint with photos showing my previous experiences, workshops, and projections. I talked about my target market at the locations selected. I walked them through the budget. Most importantly, I was able to communicate my request—help me do what I am already doing. It worked.

How Has Being a Member of the Babson Community Helped Impact Your Career?

Babson is incredible: Its network, its access, and its mentality of exploration have helped me carve an unconventional but fulfilling path across multiple industries and disciplines. The entrepreneurial mindset and audacity to ask why or why not has given me success in the nonprofit sector, as a reporter for a small newspaper, as an insurance adjuster, and in my life as an artist.

Why Does the World Need More Leaders with an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

The world needs leaders who know that numbers and metrics are great tools, but not the gospel truth: Entrepreneurs know how to find the story behind the numbers and thus are more adept and adaptive to ever-changing environments.

Posted in Entrepreneurs of All Kinds

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