We had the good fortune of connecting with Sivonnia DeBarros and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sivonnia, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The short answer: Authenticity and No Fear.
NO FEAR: It took me moving from behind fear to realize my greatness, my passion and my purpose. I often tell people that it wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in my home office thinking about how I wanted to represent professional athletes and that I wanted to speak to them through a book. Yet, I began to doubt myself and that allowed fear to creep in. Fear kept telling me that writing a book was too BIG for me – that people will criticize it. Yet, it was up to me to say “No to Fear” and move in spite of it towards something great.
It’s amazing how many limitations we place on ourselves because of fear and I was about to fall victim to it once more. I made a conscientious decision that no matter how afraid I was, I was moving into my next chapter with no fear. Subsequently, a beautifully inspiring and motivating book was created that led to my current podcast, “What Are You Sporting About?” and continues to touch people all over the world. Had I given in to fear, none of this would exist. I would be one of those entrepreneurs who simply dreamed of something great, yet not confident enough to recognize that I was great enough to accomplish that dream.
AUTHENTICITY: In my law practice, I’ve always been comfortable being myself. Yet, it was with this new podcast platform that I was trying to figure out, “Do I need to do what other podcasters or broadcasters are doing? Should I talk about some of the same things that everyone else is talking about? Should I follow scripts?” When I let go of what other people were doing and simply focused on me – my PURPOSE – the messages that were deep inside of me, authenticity shined through. It caught people’s attention and now they’re hooked. There’s something magical about being yourself. Other business owners, brand managers, athletes, etc. want to work with people they trust. It’s hard to trust someone that you know is not authentic.
These two factors have unequivocally led to success in my law firm, SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC, my book and Podcast, What Are You Sporting About?
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’m a first-generation lawyer and law business owner in my family. I also think I’m the first podcaster and bestselling author.
Since age four, I dreamed of becoming an attorney. Later I added that I would be a published poetry author. When I recently reviewed my dreams and aspirations page in my high school memory book, I was again reminded of those dreams but never took time to celebrate achieving them.
What I realized is that women attorneys of color represent 1.73% of all attorneys respectively. This means that the percentage of African American women is even lower. Therefore, coming from a family who did not have a lawyer or know of any, is a huge deal and I’m proud of myself for accomplishing that. Although one of my aspirations was to become a published poetry author, I nonetheless, became a published author. First, as a law student where my law article titled “Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act: The Roadblocks to Recovery” was published in Chicago-Kent’s Seventh Circuit Review; second, for my children’s book series – JoJo’s Legal Adventures which currently contains two books – that educates children on legal concepts in a context that they can understand; third, my best selling book – What Are You Sporting About? – that educates pro-athletes in business; and fourth, I’ll be releasing my next book in summer 2021 called “Athletes Making Moves: Secure Your Future by Protecting Your Name, Image and Likeness.”
Clearly, I surpassed those two dreams and aspirations and I’m excited about that and for what’s to come. To do all of those things and run a successful law firm is a blessing. I knew that black attorneys were a very small percentage but I didn’t understand the data as I do now.
As you know, wanting to build something is never easy. When I first launched the SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC in 2014, I had no idea what I was doing. However, throughout the years I asked for client feedback, learned from new and old client relationships, and tried to stay abreast of systems (or lack thereof) that didn’t help me to succeed. I quickly realized that I was using my creativity and tough love skills to drive results for my clients.
Many who know me and how I represent my clients, know that I’m a “protector.” Everything that I’ve gone through up to this point (in my business and as an attorney) has been to help my clients to do and be better than they were yesterday. But I didn’t get here without learning lessons along the way.
One of the main lessons that I learned was how to charge my worth. I struggled with demanding my worth and with saying “no” to those who only wanted free advice. Regardless of coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I had never run a law business and was completely overwhelmed with balancing business lawyering. In spite of the rocky start, I learned from my fellow solo attorneys, took continuing legal education classes regarding running a law business, and engaged in research. I began to implement those strategies and lessons bit by bit. It wasn’t perfect but it worked.
Because of my consistency, implementation, and charging my worth, I now operate a six-figure law firm that represents other six- and seven-figure clients and athletes in business, employment, sports and entertainment. Regardless of getting a grasp onto the law business, one will always be met with challenges but it’s how you show up that matters – and which ultimately changes the outcome. For instance, I knew zilch about creating a podcast when I started What Are You Sporting About? Podcast. But I was open to learning and gaining insight from others.
If you are ever introduced to any of my brands, SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC, What Are You Sporting About? Podcast, JoJo’s Legal Adventures, Athletes Making Moves, or any other business to be birthed in the future, you will be met with authenticity, real and tough love to help guide, protect and educate you to your next level. I’m not the type of entrepreneur that makes excuses or allows you to wallow in yours. So be prepared to be challenged and championed to greatness.
I know that greatness is possible. At one time, I was just a little black girl from the country with multiple dreams that society said wasn’t good enough to achieve those things. Like many, I was constantly looked over, undercelebrated and underappreciated. Like many, I allowed others’ beliefs about myself to define me and my self-worth… Until one day it all clicked! I AM ENOUGH! In fact, I AM AMAZING. When I realized that and lived my purpose, all of the stars began to align.
Everything you dream can become reality. Just believe in yourself!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, Well. This has actually happened before except I don’t live in the same place. When I lived in the City of Chicago, I loved taking my friends to the Lake off of E. Monroe street exit. We’d previously pack a small picnic lunch and blankets to lie on the ground. We’d open up some wine and turn Pandora or Youtube on to listen to our favorite tunes.
We’d stay at the lake all day for a day. After, we’ll either go out to dinner or return to my house for dinner. A different day, I’ll take my friends to my favorite boutique, Akira, and rack up on all things girly! We might visit the Chicago outlets also and get lunch at a quaint little restaurant that’s tucked away that I’ve never tried before.
A different day, we will get dressed up and find a “grown and sexy” outing to attend. Either a comedy show or a jazz hall and really enjoy ourselves. We might even go up to the Signature room for late drinks to peer out the tall glass windows that make you feel you’re floating in the sky.
For the rest of the days, we’d watch my husband get to work on the grill, crack open some margaritas while sitting in the back yard watching my son chase after our dog Khoko and just be free.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to end this week without cooking something for my friends. They always make me cook because they claim they “love it.” Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, my husband, Eduardo DeBarros, for being the ultimate partner. I often speak with my husband about how supportive and amazing he is and how he supported my dream even when things were falling down for him. Many people talk about “marrying up” in the financial sense and never think about how far you both can go together when your spouse believes, supports, and motivates you in your dreams. When I look at him, I’m always reminded of the African Proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We’ve done just that. We’ve gone far and our story is not over.
To my loving grandmother who has now ascended above, Glovine Smith, is/was my rock. My grandmother taught me the essence of authenticity, how to show and give love, and how to create a stable (financially free) life. She will forever be in my heart.
Next, my mom, Iris Bailey, for the important principal of education. My mother is an Educator, Mayor, and Middle School Dean who spends a lot of her time grooming the next generation for greatness.
Attorney Andre Gaston has been instrumental in my growth as a lawyer. He is someone that I highly respect and admire. Attorney Gaston is a very successful Employment Rights Attorney here in Illinois and I do believe that much of my success as an attorney is owed to him. Thank you for being there for me. You can learn more about him at https://gastonllp.com/
My college and high school track coaches, Eric McCarrol (college) and Larry Holsey (high school) have been more than mentors to me. They were fathers when I needed a father most.
Coach Holsey taught me to “push” in spite of limitation. His favorite saying to me was “Mind over Matter.” To this day, no matter how hard things appear, I remind myself to put my “mind over matter.” Coach Holsey is still a track coach nurturing the next generation of leaders. You can connect with him on FB @gainesville.striders/
Coach McCarrol is similar in a lot of ways. During troubling times as a college student, he listened to my woes, gave critical and loving advice and also held me accountable. For some reason, Coach McCarrol always treated me as the leader of our team although we never picked captains. He knew that something great was within me and he continues to nurture that greatness to this day. Connect with Coach McCarrol on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/
Last, but certainly not the least, to my aunt whom I love like a sister, Sheanna Sands-Young, thank you for always supporting and encouraging me to follow my dreams and to be authentic. Thank you for always reminding me that I am “golden,” that I am “amazing” and “worthy” of all the things I dream of. You’ve been a rock like no other and I thank you for being the big sister I’ve always wanted and needed. I love you!
Other: What Are You Sporting About Website: Prosportlawyer.com IG/FB: @whatareyousportingabout Best Selling Book: prosportlawyer.com/bestselling-book JoJo’s Legal Adventures Website: jjlegaladventures.com FB/IG: @jojoslegaladventures
Rhonda Johnson Photography