MANSFIELD - After more than 20 years as a journalist communicating with other people, Mansfield graduate Rashida Rawls is now using her talents to help others achieve their own creative goals.
Rawls recently launched Ra Communications, a business website that provides an outlet for those looking to make their goals a reality - whether writing a book or marketing a business. A 1999 graduate of Mansfield Senior High, Rawls grew up on the north end of the city.
For companies, Ra Communications can act as an internal writing and editing desk, marketing department, transcription team and overall project management entity. For schools and educators, Ra Communications can assist with various elements of professional development.
Richland Source caught up with Rawls to discuss her inspiration for her new business and her advice to aspiring professionals in her hometown:
RS: Did you always know you wanted to go into journalism/communications? What was your first inspiration - did you have that spark here in Mansfield?
RR: No, I just knew that I talked a lot and I enjoyed communicating with others - I actually wanted to become a doctor! My first inspiration into journalism/communications was in Mrs. Kay's newspaper class at Senior High. The newspaper was called the Hyphonerian and we had to do everything to produce the newspaper from selling ads, to connecting with advertisers, to writing articles, editing articles, taking pictures, laying out the pages, getting them printed and distributing them. I loved the idea of participating in every aspect of creating this useful source of information that kept students talking.
RS: What made you decide to break from journalism and begin a communications business?
RR: I felt limited as a communicator in mainstream media. Plus, there are a lot of unrealistic expectations placed on journalists in this digital age to get stories quickly instead of focusing on the accuracy and depth of a story. My purpose for becoming a journalist was to give a voice to the voiceless. And although I did that, I realized that there are many others out here who have a vision or goal of making the world a better place through their endeavors, but they may need someone to help them express their goal to the world. I noticed that even though communicating comes fairly easily to me, it does not for everyone. I want to help those who desire to communicate better and more effectively.
RS: Why do you feel there is a need for this service?
RR: Many people have projects that they start and never finish for a number of reasons. Maybe you began writing a book, life happens and you put it to the side only to find that you've come back to the book 10 years later with a new idea, but you still want to finish the first book. A small business owner with a limited budget just may need a few press releases when they have a big event. They have no need for a full marketing department, but they do need help publicizing their events. We are here to help make people's dreams become a reality.
RS: As a creator yourself, is this a way of giving back and using your creative skills to service others?
RR: Absolutely! As a child, my interest in being a doctor was to help others. As I grew, my interest remained in helping others and journalism was a wonderful fit, because I was, indeed, giving a voice to the voiceless. Through the years, I continue to volunteer, mentor many and have always received great joy for aiding others. I am blessed to be living my dreams! And this business is absolutely my effort to help others do the same.
RS: What are some of the challenges you've encountered starting your own business, especially in communications? And on the flip side, what is the most rewarding part?
RR: Well, one challenge has been getting clients to clearly identify their needs. For some, it's as easy as they'd like a website edited. Cool, done! For others, they just know they need help attracting more clients to their business, they have an idea for a book or they've been put in charge of the company newsletter with no idea where to start first. Problem-solving is a skill I've developed and enjoy, so we created a questionnaire for clients that really helps them flesh out their needs. This, in turn, helps us see how we may be of assistance to them. Another challenge is time. I really like to develop relationships with my clients, and that requires time. It has been a big adjustment to make sure I'm giving my clients the time they need and doing the same for myself personally. I haven't found that balance yet, but I'm enjoying every minute of this new reality as I journey toward that balance!
The most rewarding part is being my own boss! I can set my own schedule, select which projects and clients we take on and work from anywhere in the world! That's huge for a free-spirited person like myself.
RS: Do you have any connections with your hometown still?
RR: Absolutely! I still have amazing family and friends there and I visit a few times annually. I am very big on respecting your roots. The people of Mansfield helped raise me and shape me into the woman I am today. And for that, I am forever grateful.
RS: Looking back on your successful career, what advice would you give to students here in Mansfield with big dreams of being a successful journalist, or starting their own business?
RR: I'd advise them to read and write daily, if they are interested in being a successful journalist. Stay abreast of current events and talk to people. Everyone has a story to tell. Also, begin to learn how to self-edit. Editing is a powerful skill to possess.
For those looking to start their own business, I'd advise them to surround themselves with positive people who they know, trust and care about them and have their best interest at heart. There are many naysayers who may manifest in the form of a loved one. You can still love someone from afar who may be toxic to your budding business. Protect yourself and your dream. The universe brought that dream to you - so stay focused, persistent and plan wisely to make your goal a reality. And know, that there are good people in the world who you may not know yet, but they want you to succeed as well and will help you along the way!
RS: People say newspapers are dying, and journalism is not a good career path to take. What would you say to naysayers?
RR: It's true that newspapers in the form of getting yesterday's news today has outlived its usefulness. However, I'd tell those naysayers that news gathering will always be needed. We need people who are able to objectively (or as objectively as possible) report all sides to a story and present the facts and information to the public in a clear, accurate way as quickly as possible. In this super fast text world, information is flying everywhere - true and false information - we need reporters who can sift out the truth, dig into documents, chase down foul officials, and hold so-called leaders accountable for their errors. Journalists have an obligation to the public to dig for the truth. As long as they have that desire, they will be successful and fulfilled.
For those of us who still enjoy the feel of a newspaper in our hands, may we continue to support those journalists and publications that are producing good journalism.