Entrepreneur of the year winner, Sherilyn K. Smith Rudolph opens up about success and almost becoming a fallen victim of domestic violence.
She is happy to be alive. She survived more than just the economic crisis that most entrepreneurs had to face. Sherilyn K. Smith-Rudolph almost didn’t make it to see herself become the nationally recognized executive that she is. She almost wasn’t there to accept her award as entrepreneur of the year- but on an unusually beautiful November night in Dallas, Texas Rudolph was in fact present as she was honored by the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce for her exceptional work as the owner and CEO of Enigma LLC- a start-up that she created after years of working as a photographer at the highly acclaimed Dallas Weekly newspaper. Dressed in a strikingly elegant black gown, Rudolph looked beautiful and flawless. Her hair was impeccably styled by premiere celebrity stylist, Dionne Alexander (whose previous clients include Mary J Blige, Aretha Franklin, and Iman) and just like them Rudolph was shining like a star. The immensely tall and slender executive could’ve easily been mistaken as a former Yves St. Laurent runway model. Her life seemed picturesque to the high level professional executives and CEO’s who cheered for her during the elite Quest for Success gala that honored Black entrepreneurs once a year.
The Quest for Success Award recipients represent the best in the entrepreneur field. Rudolph’s exceptional national reach, diverse client base, and unequivocal success in marketing and event planning had brought her to this point. Over the years she worked on projects such as the Superbowl, Megafest, and the NBA All Star Weekend. On the theatrical side, Enigma LLC orchestrated the marketing and promotions for Porgy & Bess, Fela and Dream Girls. Rudolph even managed to snag the contract for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators Conference. All of these achievements add to her immense portfolio and rise as one of the country’s leading female entrepreneurs. Her keen ability to forecast when and where to penetrate marketing strategies is an attribute Rudolph honed at the Dallas weekly and carried into her own company. Rudolph’s tactical vision and implementation has set a high precedence in event management and marketing separating her from other companies in her field. Over the years her company has been the agency of choice for clients such as General Motors, Dell, American Airlines, NBA Star Chris Bosh, Kenyon Martin and a slew of other NBA and NFL players.
TV ONE National news anchor, Roland Martin who formerly worked with Rudolph at the Dallas Weekly attributes Rudolph’s entrepreneurial success to her honesty and ability to always deliver beyond expectations. “Sherilyn has always exhibited a strong degree of professionalism and excellence about her that is unmatched. I have always been able to trust her explicitly and have always known that when she says it’s handled than it’s handled. That type of honesty is rare,” says Martin.
Ironically, for years there was one thing Rudolph had been dishonest about. From the outside looking in, Rudolph’s life looked like it belonged in the pages of Ebony Magazine or some southern high society publication where women drink tea wearing white gloves and those ambitious over-sized hats. She has a doting husband and an adorable toddler who hates to be separated from his mommy when it’s time to trade in his home life for day-care. Rudolph’s intelligence confidence, wit and humor has certainly gotten her far, but it is her learned survival tactics that have really made her who she is. Before meeting her husband, Rudolph was in a long-term on again- off-again relationship with her college sweetheart that was physically and emotionally abusive beyond belief.
“Everyday was a masquerade and I was constantly hiding bruises and lying to the people I loved and cared about because I was ashamed of my reality. I was dishonest to the people who loved me the most. I was so consumed with loving him that I didn’t even consider to love myself. I had endured tremendous loss with the death of my father and grandmother and somehow over time I had become addictive to a love that wasn’t even love at all. I endured mental, emotional and physical abuse to a point in which it started to feel normal for me. I thought that ending my life was my only resort out of my profound sadness and shame. The only reason I didn’t ever follow through with suicide was because I didn’t think how my mother could handle burying me.”
This destructive relationship spanned over thirteen years until one day Rudolph almost died at the hands of her boyfriend. He almost killed her but she survived. It was after that moment that the executive decided to not only be successful in business but in life as well. After winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Dallas, Rudolph received a scholarship to the Tuck School of Business at the prestigious, Dartmouth College.
“As an Entrepreneur it’s rare that you receive feedback on where you’re strong and where you’re weak. This applies to life as well. A mentor is needed and I got this through Dartmouth. Emotionally, I broke down because I felt like I found a place that understood me and I felt like I was rebuilding myself. Dartmouth helped me realize my worth. When I came close to giving up, I was giving up on life but ironically the trials and triumphs I endured as an entrepreneur strengthened me to hold on. I knew that if I changed my mindset and had a better vision and strategy for my life, than things would get better. That’s what we do in business and we have to apply the same tools to our personal lives. I am alive for a reason and I plan to make my time in this world worthwhile―not just to myself but to other women, mothers and sisters without voices. Not everyone is strong enough to share their story and some women are not even here to do so―but I am. I am so happy to be alive.”
Rudolph championed her entrepreneur platform to mentor young, female business owners and now supports a battered women’s shelter.