Our interview today is with Chitoka Webb, author of Something Inside Of Me: How To Hang On To Heaven When You're Going Through Hell. Find out more about Chitoka at http://www.chitokawebb.com/.
Chitoka Webb shares her poignant, funny and inspiring life story from her humble beginnings as the daughter of a single mother holding her family together in the Nashville housing projects to her rise as the CEO of several companies, choosing to find the light and love in herself and in others along a journey from the lowest valleys of misery to adrenaline-filled tops of personal and professional achievement.
Long before Internet selling was the rage, as a pre-teen she sold what others saw as junk for a profit. At the age of 13 and before it was legal to work, Chitoka talked her way into a job as the youngest checker at a local grocery store. Without a college degree, through tenacity, grit and a healthy dose of faith in herself, she became the owner of several businesses before the age of thirty.
Through personal stories of the many struggles she faced, from poverty to racism to the loss of her vision, Webb demonstrates the amazing human ability to triumph over extreme adversity through willpower, faith, and a constant love for oneself.
Connecting with readers from all walks of life, Chitoka will inspire you to find the “something” inside yourself that provides the hope and courage to discover what is most important to you and attain those things for yourself.
Author Interview with Chitoka Webb:
You are in your mid 30s and you've written a memoir. What prompted you to write such a book at this point in your life?
Chitoka: Even though I am in my mid 30s I feel like I have lived a full life. I have experienced both sides of the track in every sense. I have been the employee, and I have been the employer. I have lived on that side of the tracks, and I have lived on this side of the tracks; and for me, I have found that through it all there is only one message that is constant: Treat people the way that you want to be treated.
At 13 you landed your first job at a grocery store, how did you acquire such an incredible work ethic?
Chitoka: It goes back to that one consistent message. When I was a young girl that was my mother’s answer for everything, “Treat other people the way that you want them to treat you.” If I had a problem at school with another kid, or if I made a mean comment to my sisters, my mom would say, “Now how would you like it if someone treated you like that?” So early on I learned to consider other people’s feelings. I think learning that one lesson as a young girl evolved into good work ethics, good manners and making good choices.
Did you feel like the odds to become a successful business woman were stacked against you being an African American female without any form of college?
Chitoka: Absolutely not. Learning how to take responsibility for your actions at a young age puts your path in a forward motion. Even if the odds were against me, I did not feel it; I always felt like I was in front of the odds. Other great African Americans like Mary McLeod Bethune and Madam CJ Walker have proven that you cannot become great by worrying about the odds.
Chitoka: In the movie Chris stops at nothing to become the person he was created to be. Homelessness could not stop him, being a single parent could not stop him. In my book, I share with the readers how your obstacles can be used as energy in your pursuit to happiness. There was something inside of him that would not let him give up. Same with my book, Something Inside of Me. You will learn that your key to happiness is your pursuit to it. Everything you need to get through the storms in your life is in the storm, but one must be in pursuit of happiness in order to see the obstacles as a form of power to help you reach your goals.
You have a universal message that people of any race, color and background can learn from. What will we all find in your book?
Chitoka: You can if you want to, but you must leave your excuses at the door. They don’t belong in the house! Whatever you go through in life—whether it is your fault or not—own it, and move on. The victory is in the battle and the reward is after the battle.
People in Nashville where Oprah Winfrey grew up have compared you to her. How does that feel?
Chitoka: I consider it to be an honor, but let me set the record straight – there will never be another Oprah Winfrey. Some say the comparison is our drive. I think the commonality is the spirit. In all of her endeavors, she has a left a footprint for women like me to follow, and I thank her for the footprints.
What advice would you give a young person struggling to pick themselves up by the bootstraps?
Chitoka: It will not be all right in ten days, or five days. It is already all right! Life is okay right now. You’re doing a good job, and never expect anyone to be as excited about your dreams as you. Believing in yourself is nobody’s business but yours.
Why is the YMCA, and for that matter, the many organizations you are invovled with, so important to you?
Chitoka: I believe success is not what you take in but what you put out. There is nothing more rewarding than living your life in such a way that the generation behind you can pick up where you left off. I am where I am because of women and men seen and unseen made away for me. We have all benefited from someone else’s labor!