How Danyel Surrency Jones of POWERHANDZ Tackles The Extreme Work Life Balance Of Being A Woman Business Leader During COVID-19
The country will heal. We have faced Ebola, the Spanish Flu, World War II and slavery. We will heal and be a stronger unit because of these hurdles.
Have faith in your faith. This is not the time to allow doubt to circumvent your trust in our medical system. Have faith that we will have a vaccine and our cracks in the system to manage future pandemics are now exposed due to COVID-19.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danyel Surrency Jones.
Danyel Surrency Jones is a proclaimed “Vision Chaser”, creative strategist and philanthropist, with nearly two decades of executive leadership and sales & marketing experience. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of POWERHANDZ, a global designer of innovative products that focuses on human performance, injury recovery and injury prevention in Athletic Training and Rehabilitation markets. Danyel is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, obtained an MBA from Florida International University and is a graduate of Wharton School of Business Marketing Leadership Program.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
It would be so awesome to say, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The reality is that I am a country girl from Jacksonville, Florida, who was always an overachiever, but my dreams were safe. Thoughts of big dreams were orchestrated by the experiences in my environment. My neighbor was a nurse, so I wanted to be a nurse anesthetist.
Although I come from a family of pioneers — my Mother was one of the first black teachers to make an impact in an all-white school after Brown vs. Board of Education; my Father was one of the only black men to be promoted to a Foreman and supervisor for Aircraft Electricians in the Navy, and my Uncle was the first Black General Manager for the Atlanta Braves — I didn’t know their story of first would be my fight to never be the last. So, my backstory created my future of understanding the importance of a legacy.
After excelling in school and beating the odds of getting involved in the anti-drug war that was plaguing our communities in the 80s and 90s, I decided to pursue my education at an HBCU, Grambling State University. I then graduated from the University of Central and moved to Miami to pursue my sales career in medical devices, while earning my MBA. Then, I got that phone call from Kathy Fehling, CMO of PSS World Medical, Inc. and the only woman executive in our company at that time, asking if I wanted to join her team and run the Private Label line in marketing.
At 24, Kathy gave me my first exposure to sitting at boardroom tables with white men who were not working for the company but running the company. After that opportunity, I spent 16 years of my career accepting stretch assignments in sales, product development, marketing, IMC, National Accounts and operations, in addition to development roles as the first woman President of our employee resource group and graduating from a Business & Marketing Leadership program from Wharton School of Business. I had no clue that all this experience and the challenges I faced in corporate America were preparing me to create my own company, with a vision to serve others globally. Who knew!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
There are so many cool things that have happened since we started POWERHANDZ and our POWER TO GIVE Foundation. I could mention the fact that we never thought we would sell our products in over 85 countries, or I could name all the times when we met professional athletes and they thanked us for creating functional products to help them excel, or when we hear celebrities using our products to train every day or for movies. I could also never forget the time we conversed with Kobe Bryant after one of his games in Dallas and he smiled and said, “Always happy to meet entrepreneurs.” However, the most interesting moment actually happened recently during COVID. In May, we received an email from a young basketball phenom Mother, who asked, “My daughter has one hand, can she benefit from your products?” Our immediate response was, “Absolutely we will strengthen her strengths.” As a result, our POWER TO GIVE Foundation donated several products to her to help develop her dribble skills, reaction time, hand speed and confidence. We were beyond excited to see our products featured in her gym with her trainer during COVID-19, on one of the most notable social media sports outlets.
What a wonderful feeling to serve during a time when people need it the most.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
It’s interesting how a crisis will show your character. We started 2020 with big goals, and I am humbled to say, in the midst of a pandemic, that POWERHANDZ and its POWER TO GIVE Foundation have been able to create, innovate and serve.
When the world paused, as we faced multiple pandemics, POWERHANDZ and our POWER TO GIVE Foundation did not pivot from our vision, but simply adjusted our strategies. This has been an incredible time to serve, reconnect and engage. As a result, we are working on the following.
International and Retail Expansions: We will be launching POWERHANDZ in Africa, Philippines and Europe by the end of Q4. This business model will include distribution, e-commerce and a retail business model. In addition, we are proud to launch our new retail and e-commerce partnership in the US with Academy Sports in Q4.
POWERHANDZ Tournaments: We are collaborating with the largest youth basketball tournament provider, PrimeTime Sports, to execute a COVID-19 safe basketball event for some of the most talented athletes in DFW and surrounding areas. As well as working with several NFL Trainers and Performance Centers to help further develop the undraft NFL talent through our Undrafted NFL Combines.
Master Classes: We will continue to stream a variety of Master Classes hosted by some of the Top Professional Skills Trainers in the world, focused on how to further develop basketball, football and fitness skills using POWERHANDZ innovation.
POWER TO GIVE Foundation: We are working with The QB Legacy to create a variety of programs to help promote, mentor, coach and develop quarterbacks from underserved communities.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I hate to sound so cliché but I really can’t thank anyone for helping me in my career without thanking my Mother who supported me during the times when I didn’t understand my brilliance. My mother introduced me to the most valuable elements of my foundation: faith, diversity and inclusion, work ethic, grit, sacrifice and the true meaning of happiness.
I watched her connect with students, parents and teachers that didn’t look like her. I witnessed children of all different races tell my Mother, “You made such a difference in my life as my teacher.” She helped me realize that I have a purpose and other people do too.
The other person who helped me in my career was Sharon Piper Diggs. Sharon was one of my mentors while working for Medtronic. She supported me during some of the toughest moments in my career when I was called “too innovative,” when I thought I was misunderstood as a black woman executive and when I was leading the mission of diversity and inclusion as the President of an African American resource group. I can hear her voice so eloquently say, “Diversity is not a problem to solve but a solution to be had.” She passed away in 2014 from pancreatic cancer. Although she isn’t physically on earth to help build bridges during this time, her legacy lives within me every day. Thank you Sharon and thank you, Mother.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
From mid-March until September, there are days when I feel like 800 lbs. of weight called Life, has sat on me and I cannot breathe. At times I tear up thinking about how blessed I am to have a business that is thriving during a pandemic and then I feel overwhelming sadness when I think about the young black men and women who won’t get the chance to go to their jobs because of a police officer who had no regard for humanity.
Then I look at my 7-year-old daughter, Hartley Rose, who is a social butterfly, and my 4-year-old son who was diagnosed with Autism this year, and I feel guilty as a woman CEO, because I have to juggle my time as the Chief Empathy Officer with my company, leaving me half full when I get to my family and kids. And please, don’t let me think about the fact, that I haven’t seen my 80-year-old Mother and Father in six months because they live in Florida and I’m in Texas.
As a business leader, wife, mother, daughter and philanthropist, I have learned to thrive in an imbalanced state and the global pandemics of COVID-19 and racism have taught me, I am a stronger adaptive leader, than I will ever give myself credit for.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In order to effectively thrive during this extremely turbulent ride, I truly had to give myself oxygen first to reset my mindset. This reset, has allowed me to:
- Compartmentalize the trauma. By compartmentalizing the trauma, I am now able to deal with solutions for homeschooling, guilt associated with time and the actions I can effectively take within my ecosystem to end systemic racism and inequalities. This has decreased the emotional rollercoaster I was allowing myself to ride on.
- Develop order in my household. As the dynamics of work shifted and my household became more demanding, I realized the only way our family unit would survive was to say yes to the important and no to the unimportant. This order allowed me to prioritize my purpose, my calendar and the outside demands.
- Create a more authentic level of communication. I encourage our team, partners and my family, to discuss our challenges and look through the lens of perspective to develop solutions.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
As a woman in business during the pandemic, I believe there is still an expectation for you to show up stronger, more prepared, more brilliant and better. There is also a level of expectation for you to deal with the shift in your universe, while never getting dizzy.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
These challenges are nothing new for women. So really, nothing has changed during the pandemic, it is business as usual. I guess all women business leaders can thank the universe for gifting us with the right level of emotional intelligence to gracefully deal with multiple challenges all year long, pandemic or not.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Schedule family meetings. During this time, it has been critical to schedule family meetings to discuss our current state, what’s working and what we need to improve upon. These meetings help level-set expectations and rules of engagement.
Create separate workspaces. It is important for my family to understand, Mommy is close but it’s Danyel Surrency Jones who is working in the front office. It is also critical for children to feel they have their own space to conduct their school business.
Don’t fear getting help. We have quarantined with another family and this has been a tremendous help to share the homeschooling duties. Don’t be afraid to say, “I can’t do it all alone.”
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
I know the pandemic has been tough, but social distancing has created social intimacy with my family. This pandemic has caused us to get back to the basics. Some of our family tips are:
- Movie Nights: Nothing beats Netflix movies or watching Apple TV. My kids are young, so most of the time, I am crying off a Disney Movie.
- Karaoke and Family Dance Challenges: So my family thinks they can sing and dance. Some of our best moments involve TikTok challenges and singing songs from Moana and Trolls.
- Getting back to nature: Now is the time to enjoy long walks, games in the back yard and to purchase bikes for the entire family.
- Giving each other a break: Don’t forget you still need your space. Carve out time for everyone to entertain themselves.
- Date nights: When the kids are tucked away, dreaming about their next adventure, don’t forget to schedule fun creative dates nights.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
When we encounter darkness, our minds immediately tell us to find a light switch, use our phone to guide the way or use our senses to feel our way through the dark. The lesson is, we seek the light and we don’t wait for light to find us. As we find the light, here are 5 reasons to be hopeful:
- The country will heal. We have faced Ebola, the Spanish Flu, World War II and slavery. We will heal and be a stronger unit because of these hurdles.
- Have faith in your faith. This is not the time to allow doubt to circumvent your trust in our medical system. Have faith that we will have a vaccine and our cracks in the system to manage future pandemics are now exposed due to COVID-19.
- There is a reason you are still alive. The only way to pay tribute to the thousands of people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 is for each of us to keep living. We can honor their sacrifice by contributing to the restoration of our country.
- Follow the accelerated curves. Even in a crisis, there are industries that are thriving in this climate. Think about what you can do to serve the current climate and analyze what will be needed in the future. It’s time to innovate and elevate.
- Talent doesn’t disappear. Each of us was uniquely made to serve the world with our gifts. During a time of crisis, it may be more difficult to share those gifts but they do not go away. Don’t give up on you. Use your natural-born talent to help create strategies to pivot during this time of crisis.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
When people interact with me, one of the common comments has always been, “Your voice is so soothing and you always appear very calm when navigating issues.” Well, I always attribute my ability to control my anxiety to my unwavering faith and adaptive leadership qualities.
I must admit, the last 6 months have been the most challenging times of my life. Balancing the impact of a global pandemic, while facing the brutal reality that in 2020 our country is still divided by racism, inequality and the blatant disregard for human lives, is a tough reality for an optimist like me. As I answer this question, I feel my heart racing.
During these turbulent times, I have supported my family’s mental health by implementing the following:
- Manifesting powerful words through daily affirmations. My 7-year-old daughter and I remind each other every day, how blessed we are, through powerful words.
- Extending grace to the daily grind. It is ok not to be ok, right now. As the universe shifts your daily grind and rattles your foundation at times, forgive yourself for feeling anxious or allowing the unknowns to control equilibrium. If your soul is “unbothered” right now, I think you should be more worried about those feelings, than being anxious.
- Talking to a mental health therapist. In April, our insurance offered 10 free sessions with a mental health therapist and I took advantage of it with my entire family. Since April, my husband and I both have weekly therapy as a couple, individually and with our 7-year-old daughter. Although, we are very blessed, I will not ignore the stress my family maybe dealing with due to the unknowns.
- Health is your mental wealth. There is one appointment on my calendar, that helps me connect to my own needs, and that is my 8:30–9:30am workouts. Every day, I feel so blessed to not only carve out time for me, but I get to workout with products I have designed that improve my own physical and mental health, as well as the health of many people around the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Your thoughts control who you are and what you will become.
A dear friend’s brother asked, “Do you know who should be your best friend? Your mind.”
We operate unconsciously based on our values, beliefs, fears, hopes and dreams. As a very young black woman growing up in corporate America, I had to be the biggest cheerleader for my mind. There are days I would walk into a meeting being the youngest at the table, the only black person and one of two women who didn’t come from the same communities and schools as those sitting in the room. I often felt like the “Black Elephant In The Room” looking for a table big enough to accommodate my brilliance. Although I was very intimidated, my only source of encouragement and protection was my mind.
Now, as a woman entrepreneur in the sports industry, my mind has become my best friend out of necessity. There is no other thing that would allow me to feel like I can do what others say is impossible, other than my mind. There is no other thing that can drive me towards the finish line after failing 100 times, other than my mind.
I have learned that life is only as bad or as good as you allow your thoughts to believe. Who we are and who we are becoming is controlled by where we allow our thoughts to dwell. If my mind is my best friend, I expect my thoughts to only want the best for me.
How can our readers follow you online?
For inquiries about POWERHANDZ or the POWER TO GIVE Foundation, please connect with us at email@example.com and follow us on IG, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok to learn more about our athletic and fitness collection.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Karina Michel Feld is the Owner and Executive Producer of Tallulah Films. Karina has 20+ years of experience in TV, film, and print and is a respected member of The Producers Guild of America. The mission of Tallulah Films is to bring together directors, entrepreneurs, film investors, and screenwriters to produce award-winning TV and film projects. Tallulah Films continues to be drawn towards films that are meaningful, influential, and uplifting. Karina is also Co-Owner and CFO of Fresh Patch LLC (as seen on ABC’s “Shark Tank”).