We are excited to present a new interview series, PAY IT FORWARD, in partnership with the Lily. The Lily, published by The Washington Post, elevates issues critical to women by fostering important conversations and empowering stories. We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful, and the importance of uplifting the women around you.

Next in our series is Savannah James, entrepreneur & interior designer. We spoke with Savannah about learning from kids, the domino effect of positive energy and the importance of taking a step back. Our favorite OKREAL quote: “The more you relax and let things fall into place, the easier things become.” Check back next week for our next interview in this series or read our previous interview with Charlotte Palermino.


Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?

There are a lot of strong women leaders today that our youth can look up to. For me, my mother and the strong group of women in my family have taught me a lot of the qualities that make me the woman I am today.

I believe having strong mentors and positive influences you can turn to is so important, especially for young women, which is the reason I started my Women of Our Future mentorship program in my hometown. We want to let young women know they aren’t alone in the many challenges and obstacles they’re facing during those pivotal high school years.


What qualities make a good mentor or leader?

To me, a good mentor and a good leader has strength, confidence, perseverance and passion for whatever he or she believes in.


Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?

My experience with a mentor coming in a form that people don’t expect is looking at children or strangers and finding qualities in them that have an effect on you that ultimately make you a better person. They may not even know the impact they’re having on you, but I think we can learn a lot from our kids and people we don’t know if we take the time to listen and really understand where they are coming from.


What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?

Something a woman mentor did for me that I try to exemplify for other women is to simply be a positive influence, and encourage them in any way I can to help them through their journey.


How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?

Having that positivity and being constantly encouraged changed my life. It really showed me the domino effect of positive energy and it’s also what led me to establish my mentorship program. I felt firsthand the effect that encouragement and uplifting words can have on a person at a time when they need it most. It’s been incredible to see the impact Women of Our Future is having on young women in Akron.


What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should).

I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years, a lot of which I’ve found to be valuable and applicable to my life. I think personal growth is very important, and there are always things you can do or make a conscious effort to improve so you can be your best self.


Where and when do you do your best work?

I do my best work when my passion in a particular subject is sparked. In my experience, when you find something you’re passionate about, that’s when the ideas, creativity and inspiration come more effortlessly. And I always seem to get my best ideas at night when I have some time for myself to reflect on the day and things coming ahead.


Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?

My most recent “Aha!” moment came when I realized that as a mother, it’s OK to take time and grow as an individual and be a better person, not only for myself, but for my children as well. There is often an expectation that as parents, we have all the answers, but it’s OK that we are still learning and growing as we go.


What is once piece of advice that someone can put into action today?

One simple piece of advice that I would share is to remember to relax and sometimes take a step back. Over time I’ve learned that you can’t control every aspect of every situation, and the more you relax and let things fall into place, the easier things become.


What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?

One thing I share with the young ladies in my mentorship program that I believe all women should keep in mind as they go through life is that they are strong, intelligent, beautiful and worthy people that can do anything and everything they put their minds to.


Savannah James
Entrepreneur & Interior Designer
Photo courtesy of “Where I'm From”

i. @mrs_savannahrj