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Inspired by Her

Let the powerful women in our community inspire you to keep reaching for the stars!

Article by Katrina Hall

Photography by Edison Manalo Poemtography

Originally published in Columbia Lifestyle

Jessica Coates, CEO of Howard County Realtors Association

Howard County Association of Realtors (HCAR) is a trade association serving 2100 members. HCAR's core values are continuing education, advocacy, and community outreach. Coates's former jobs included being a lobbyist and VP of Government and Community Affairs, so local advocacy is definitely her thing. Their 501c( 3) branch is tremendously important to Coates. "Realtors are the number one volunteers in their communities", says Coates. HCAR works hard to provide opportunities for them to continue to volunteer and serve the community. 

Coates' says her "She-ro" has always been her mother who was a single-parent. Blown away by her mother’s presence at a young age, Coates’ was molded by her mother's work ethic. The dedication to professionalism and commitment to excellence was palpable. Anything her mother touched required excellence.  

As a little girl, her mother went back to college; it was hard work. Witnessing this changed Coates forever. Coates had never seen someone succeed to the degree that her mother did.  "Looking back, it was all for us,” says Coates proudly, “I am careful to take on things I can give my best to. I feel I’m representing my mother that way.”

Coates advises women to invest in themselves. She goes on to say, “I've learned you create your own lane by investing in you. I’m fulfilled because I am serving people and helping people, "

2. Kimberly Prescott, President of Prescott HR (Human Resources)

Prescott HR integrates all areas of a company through compliance, improved systems, competencies and employee roles. They transform HR from tactical compliance and administration to strategic leadership by helping their clients put processes into place to grow and thrive as an organization. Prescott believes it is important to give back to the community because others gave to her. Working with several non-profits in the area, Prescott believes altruism is key.

Growing up in a predominantly white private school in Georgia, it was unlikely that Prescott would own her own business in the HR industry. “My mom empowered me to use my voice.”  She recalls that being tall, outspoken, and the only African American in her class definitely made her stand out. This prepared her for a professional career in which she would often be the only person of color in the room. “I knew I was smart and capable; I made myself heard. It helped me to establish my voice,” Prescott said.

In addition to finding a mentor, Prescott advises women to be honest with themselves and others about what they want.  “Don’t dumb it down and don’t let no be your answer. The answer is never no, it is ‘not right now’ or ‘not this way’. We have dreams and we keep them to ourselves, speak your dream into reality.

3. Erica White, The Residences of Oella Mills, Property Manager

The Residences of Oella Mill is located in the historic town of Oella, located between Catonsville and Ellicott City. Erica White manages this beautiful community. Community outreach and marketing are part of her daily responsibilities. White sits on the board of The Starboard Society as its marketing chairperson. The Starboard Society is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for Maryland families. White beamed, “It doesn’t seem like work, because I enjoy it so much."

Inspired by many women, working with SMC (Southern Management Company), White is grateful for the opportunity she has had to build relationships with a great group of polished and driven women. “Suzanne Hillman, our CEO, and President at SMC amazes me,” White says, “she gets so much done with such professionalism.”  White is also inspired by her younger sister, Eneia because she forged her own path, is well-spoken and independent. Everything I admire in an inspirational woman. White’s sister owns her own design business, Eneia White Interiors, in New York. She feels blessed being surrounded by great women. 

When asked for her advice to the woman working towards her goals, White says she would tell women not to be afraid to try new things. “Step out of your comfort zone. Find your passion and like what you do.”

4. Helene Raynaud, President and Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Maryland and Delaware Inc.

CCCSMD is a 54-year-old non-profit offering individual counseling services. They provide financial workshops and education on homeownership, credit, consumer debt and student loan debt as well as scam and fraud prevention. They have completed more than 3,000 individual sessions with the community.

Recognizing that sometimes women, trying to protect their own interests, might not support each other as much as they should, Helene Raynaud says that, “Having each other's back can make all of the difference. The world is a big
place, and we need each other for support and encouragement.” Raynaud praises her SVP of Operation, Trish Geddes, for reminding her that she can get through any challenge they face as a non-profit organization, and for being a critical member of her support network.

Raynaud advises other women to stay focused on their goals. “Life happens, you get discouraged, but don't ever give up. Stay the course."