With an inherent entrepreneurial spirit and a committed
attitude towards excellence, Sharon Reynolds had set out on a journey. A
journey towards achieving excellence as a leading businesswoman and inspiring fellow
women business owners towards success. In an exclusive interview with Beyond
Exclamation, Sharon Reynolds shares the story of her journey as a leader and a
businesswoman. She dives into her inspiration, her vision, and her distinctive
traits that separates her from the crowd.
What are your first
thoughts when you hear words like leader and businesswoman? What prompted you
to move beyond excellence initially as a leader?
When I hear those words, I immediately think about strong
women leaders who have been a powerful influence in my life beginning with my
grandmother who was a professor at Fisk University. She helped me see that
women can lead, provide for their families and not have any limit on their
abilities because they are a woman or a minority. I’m a proud fifth generation
Nashvillian and my father was one of the first Black firemen in the city while
his father was a very successful entrepreneur during the late 1950s. My mother
is my rock and greatest supporter, and I channel the power of YES from my late
Aunt Gloria Snell who helped shape my leadership, I learned early on the values
of hard work, respect and giving back to the community. I was raised with these
values and a commitment to excellence was instilled in me at a very young age.
There were small business owners in my family and I always had an entrepreneurial
spirit and applied that to a career in real estate and founding my own company.
Now I’m applying those principles to inspire other women business owners and
help them succeed.
Give a brief
account of your journey as a leader and as an inspiring individual? What seeded
the vision to start a company that distributes environmentally-friendly
When the economic downturn hit I had to reinvent myself from
being a real estate broker and started helping my husband’s company Reynolds
& Reynolds Facility Services, Inc. by selling the firm janitorial and
cleaning suppliers. I noticed a trend towards environmentally sustainable
cleaning products. I started looking at chemicals that aren’t harmful to
landfills, people and the environment. I formed DevMar Products, named after
our two sons, Devin and DeMarco to distribute sustainable cleaning and safety
products to make an impact and help preserve the environment for generations to
come. I started participating in supplier diversity programs with Fortune 500s
and the federal government who wanted to partner with woman-owned businesses. I
became nationally certified through WBENC and gained exposure to corporations
who wanted to source products with woman-owned businesses. I won a major contract
with Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority and was the first
African-American women to have that contract in the organization’s 75-year
What were some of
the key achievements and highlights during your journey?
There are so many company milestones for DevMar Products.
One that I’m most proud of is we developed a product called Clean Up Biohazard
Absorbent that makes a difference in the lives of human beings. Clean Up can
eradicate Norovirus and C-difficile infections commonly acquired in nursing
homes and hospitals. We are in the process of seeking EPA registration and the majority
patent is owned by DevMar Products with our research partner Morehouse School
of Medicine. Another highlight is we were able to expand nationally with
CoreCivic and our products are in more than 100 facilities in 30 states and
going into our seventh year with them. Our partnership with Marriott
International helped us grow our footprint worldwide into 6800 hotels and
hospitality groups. Another product, PreventX 24/7, is EPA registered and FDA
clearance to be used on food contact surfaces to keep our restaurants, hotels
and schools safe from harmful bacteria and pathogens.
Amidst all your
responsibilities and roles at DevMar Products, how do you manage to balance
between professional and personal life?
I also serve on boards including Second Harvest Food Bank in
Nashville and was recently named the WBE Star for WBENC in 2019 that will
involve me representing the organization nationally to support women-owned
businesses. It is a labor of love and I have learned so much being a part of
these organizations and giving back to the community. I benefit greatly seeing other
businesses succeed that it does my heart good to do good work. Since my husband
and I both own our businesses, share office space, and work together we are
challenged to find downtime together. We recently celebrated our 40th
wedding anniversary with a trip to Mexico with our family and close friends. It
was a trip of a lifetime and those memories are worth every penny to share those
special experiences with others. We enjoy time with our family and especially
our granddaughter. She is a light in our lives that keeps us focused on what
matters in life.
Do you believe to
have achieved all that you have desired? What keeps you driven and determined
I see my professional journey as having no end—it simply
evolves over time. I recently earned my Executive MBA from Tennessee State
University and I am a lifelong learner. That innate curiosity about the world
drives me to be a better leader and continually look for ways to be more
efficient and drive innovation at DevMar Products. I have launched plans to
pursue my Doctoral degree in 2020.
For years you have
helped inspire individuals to take innovative actions and surge ahead towards
success. What is your advice for emerging and budding women leaders?
It’s really important to know who you are and what your
values are when you’re developing your career or thinking about starting a
company. Also to pursue your passion and don’t listen to those who tell you no.
Keep going until you find a yes. I think young women today are living in an
incredible time in history with so many resources available to help them grow
businesses and connect with others. You have to create your own opportunity and
have an unwavering belief in yourself to achieve your dreams. We recently
sponsored an event at a local high school to promote STEM and STEAM careers for
girls called Young Enterprising Women Mentoring Forum in partnership with
Enterprising Women Foundation. It was so inspiring to match girls with women
entrepreneurs who shared their stories and words of wisdom. It was really
powerful to see their eyes light up when given an opportunity to meet women
leaders who overcame many obstacles in life to reach their goals.
What are the most
critical skills of a leader? How do you impart the same upon your colleagues,
employees and children?
Listening is one of the most critical skills in a leader.
You really need to listen to what’s said and unsaid with your clients, partners
and employees to understand their needs and what you can do to help solve a
problem. Sometimes they just need to commiserate but that’s how you form strong
relationships to achieve great things together. In addition to listening and problem
solving, I think articulating a vision and inspiring a team to work toward a
shared goal are highly valued skills in a leader. Collaboration is also high on
my list. When I meet with fellow CEOs, we always bring solutions to the table
or a connection or resource that’s needed. It’s about what we can bring to the
table to benefit others—not what we can get from it.
What does the
future hold for you and DevMar Products?
We have been on a roll this year reaching new levels of success. Our pipeline is extremely strong and we anticipate growing 200% in revenue in 2019. We’re planning a few major product announcements that will reshape the jan-san industry and we’re looking to continue our expansion with strategic new hires and growing our federal contracting. We’re seeking funding and looking to grow internationally in China and recently had a trip to Shanghai to lay the groundwork. In addition, our plan includes partnering with one of the largest companies in the world in a collaborative effort that aligns with our core values to improve lives around the world.