Cortina Jenelle (Caldwell) is an authentic leader, systemic communication architect, egalitarian and highly sought facilitator for personal, organizational and community transformation. Originally born and raised in Western North Carolina, Cortina is deeply inquisitive about her West African and Iberian roots and has called Asheville home for several years. Cortina currently serves as Founder of SOLEIL (School of Leadership, Equity and Innovative Learning); LEAF Community Relations Director; and freelance consultant for entrepreneurs, nonprofits, movements, leaders and big ideas from small places. Prior to these roles, Cortina served as the Founder & Managing Director of award-winning business, Visit & Venture (2011); and Co-Founder of the Authentic Communities Summit (2015).
Since 2007, Cortina has facilitated dozens of trainings, workshops, keynotes and programs on authenticity, innovation, entrepreneurship and creative community building across the Southeast United States with organizations that include: LEAF Community Arts; Society for Human Resource Management; University of NC at Pembroke; University of NC at Greensboro; Guilford College; Goodwill Industries of Western NC; East Carolina University; Appalachia Funders Network; Mountain BizWorks; Appalachian State University; Handmade in America; Mycelium School; Folk Alliance International; Haywood Community College; Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute; Asheville Area Arts Council; Kinnection Campout; Earthaven Ecovillage and numerous others. In the recent past, Cortina has been recognized as the WNC Minority Enterprise Development’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year (2012); 40 Under Forty: Asheville (2013); and an inductee to Leadership Asheville (2014) and a graduate of the Winter Learning Journey via Mycelium School (2015). Cortina holds a Master of Arts in Management & Leadership; a Bachelors of Science in Business, Education & Social Science; and is a Certified Creative Facilitator through PYE Global (Partners for Youth Empowerment). Overall, Cortina’s hard work and dedication to all that she does is fueled by her personal mission in this lifetime – to shift community, business and organizational culture through authenticity, radical love and uncompromising freedom…ultimately guiding others on how to welcome creativity, equity, and leadership into realms that are long overdue for innovation, specifically targeting human resources, business development, communications, branding, learning and community building and wellness for the greater good of the world.
QUOTE I LIVE BY
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
QUESTIONS I OFTEN GET ASKED
#1 – What made you decide to start your own business?
Growing up, I spent alot of time with my grandmother who is the matriarch of my family. She is an amazing cook and really knows how to touch someone’s soul through her food. She started her own catering business back when I was in elementary school and I found ways and time to work with her as often as I could. Little did I know that she planted a seed in me that shaped my life. I had fallen in love with the grit and reward of entrepreneurship.
#2 – How do find time for all the things you do and everything else?!
Time management, multi-tasking, establishing clear boundaries (i.e. occasionally saying “no”) and following my heart.
#3 – What do you do in your free time?
My wife and I LOVE to travel and go on adventures so I can typically be found doing that. I also really enjoy my self-care practices like yoga, running, fitness classes, steam room, meeting friends for tea, reading, writing, etc. All things to balance out the fast paced life!
#4 – What motivates you?
I am 2000% committed to doing what I was sent to this planet to do. I believe in the idea that we all have a unique mission while on Earth and this work is mine.
#5 – What’s something that people wouldn’t know about you offhand?
I have a tattoo fetish! I nearly drool over really good ink. I myself, have 8 tattoos and a few more coming down the pipeline! (;
SPEAKING OUT FOR AUTHENTICITY
AWARDS & HONORS
2013 – 40 Under Forty: Asheville Honoree
2012 – Recipient of the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award, WNC Minority Enterprise Development
2009 – Lloyd International Honors College Graduate: Social Work, UNC Greensboro
2006 – Bill Gates Millennium Ambassador & Mentor
2005 – Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society Inductee
2004 – Bill Gates Millennium Scholar Program Honoree