We had the good fortune of connecting with TeNita Ballard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi TeNita, what inspires you?
I’m inspired by helping people. I serve in all areas of my life. I serve diverse communities on my 9-5. I serve at my church, with my sorority and volunteer in the community of LA. If I see a gap, I try to find ways to offer my services. I started a meal prep business during Covid where I sell meals and go into the community once a month to feed the homeless. It feels good to offer my services to people in need. I also pray for them and that’s why I say that I feed people physically and spiritually.
I’m also inspired by the city that I was born and raised in, Watts, CA. There was a time in my life when I didnt want people to know where I was from due to the judgement that I received. But I’ve been freed from those negative options for many years now. I remember walking in rooms and being the only woman of color and feeling invisible. These experiences have helped make me the strong women that can walk into a crowded room and relate to people at all levels; no matter their ethnicity, class, title, etc. That’s the beauty in my story and my diversity strength. I can relate to the underdog because I’ve been that person but God has a funny way of providing guidance and humor among the journey. So when I speak and offer help I aspire to do it with a level of love and compassion because people can feel the difference.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Professionally – I work in Diversity and I’ve been in this space for around 5 years. I have over 18 years of experience in Corporate America. I’ve worked in various industries over the years including beverage, media, entertainment and business. I started my career as an Intern in Human Resources and I’ve had all kinds of positions. I think what sets me apart is my boldness, me sharing my authentic story and my passion for people. I didn’t always share my story but our experiences are what make us unique and has allowed me to connect with many people at all levels. I’m not afraid to work with people from diverse backgrounds. I’m diverse and I’m learning to embrace the authentic me daily. I’ve always had a passion for good food and I love to cook for my family and friends. During covid I started to cook more for myself and less dining out. In the past I would define fun as getting dressed and having a nice dinner. Since people consider me a really good cook I started a meal prep business to raise money to feed people in need. I started by cooking Sunday Dinners, I have clients that I meal prep for and I provide food to the community once a month.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So my absolute favorite restaurant is Yang Chow located in Chinatown. I’ve been going to this restaurant since I was a teenager. You must try the Slippery Shrimp. Everyone that I take there loves the freshness and flavor of the dishes. I waited over an hour to get my food on New Years Eve, that’s how popular they are and it was worth every second. So I love to go to the movies, so I would create a covid friendly date. It would include take out from Yang Chow and socially distancing watching a movie at my house lol. My house and my parents house are my safe place these days.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would definitely like to shout out both of my grandmothers. Esther Lee Foster and Laurene Ballard, I serve in the capacity that I do because they instilled it in me as I was growing up. They both recently passed away within the last two years and I honor them everytime I cook a meal and serve people. I’m literally standing on their strong shoulders. One had a third grade education, raised her children, owned a home and loved to cook. She loved her family and I would spend my summers with her in Alabama. I watched her work with a spirit of Excellence everyday. I watched my other grandmother make fresh bread and feed our community of Watts, CA around the holidays. She loved her family and was all things to run a household. She went back to school to take classes to build furniture, she knew how to save money (I’m still working on that lol) and make clothes. They both loved the Lord and I’m thankful for both of their lives. I used the hashtag #EsterandLaurenetaughtme because they actually taught me how to cook and I’m who I am today because of them.