Erma Joe Poole Sweet, was the sweetest, strongest woman I know — she is also my beloved grandmother. And on Friday, December 8, 2017, she passed away at the age of 82.
She is the namesake of EJP Marketing Co., and she is a woman who inspired multiple generations solely with her presence, kindness and love. She is and will always be my inspiration.
And in her honor, I’d like to share her story and the many ways she will always motivate me.
EJP Marketing Co.’s Roots
In March 2016, I resigned from Cohn & Wolfe and ExxonMobil in search of new beginnings and a mission to anchor my legacy. I wanted to give to myself, my son, my extended family and all who come after me the gift of appreciating the power of our stories.
As I began consulting, I was encouraged by the entrepreneurial journey and was blessed by many successful mentors who helped me intelligently prepare and firmly establish my business. Mentors and relationships are INVALUABLE in business – in life – but that’s not enough to build a successful business.
Deep down, I knew that my perseverance, personal and professional relationships, and wealth of communications and marketing experience would not be sufficient for success. I knew that stepping away from a traditional, ‘stable’ career path and jumping into the fluctuating world of business ownership required more of me — and I wondered if I was ready to give that much of myself.
But like many entrepreneurs, my hesitation was not cemented merely in doubts, but in realistic considerations. As an African-American Millennial woman who was also a mother to a then 10-year-old son, there were most definitely a few chips stacked against me.
However, something in me said, “What is your purpose? What can motivate you during the hard times, self-doubts, losses and wins?”
And it was then that one person popped into my head — my grandmother.
Erma Joe Poole Sweet is a woman who:
- Overcame breast cancer, domestic violence, health issues and abandonment.
- Did not complete high school and was married with 10 children before age 30.
- LOVED God and spoke inspirational and encouraging words to ALL she knew.
- She spoke to her sister and friends daily, and was driven, authentic and caring in her dedication to building a network of positive relationships.
- Experienced Vitiligo that turned her skin completely white in 12 years; and let me tell you, she had the whitest, softest skin! However when asked if she were white, she proudly responded saying, “I am Black.”
- Read The Dallas Morning News daily, collected recipes, did Word Finds and read 1,000+ books in her lifetime. Despite not graduating high school, she valued learning and never stopped collecting, dissecting and sharing new information.
- She gave when she did not have, cooked to feed masses and stretched when she did not have enough -she was the EPITOME of resourceful!
- She would push her own wheelchair to the kitchen to prepare her favorite dishes and she remembered EVERYONE’S birthday until the very end.
- Made a video in her last days and told her family she was ready to see God; ready for the pain to stop and the suffering to end.
All-in-all, she was Superwoman. She adored her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sister, neighbors and friends. She loved unconditionally — it’s what she did best.
Pride in something bigger than me
I named EJP Marketing Co. after my grandmother to both honor her and gift myself with constant inspiration. All of the traits she exhibited in her 82 years are traits I strive to weave into EJP Marketing Co.: resilience, kindness, inspiration, endurance, love, respect, peace, a thirst for knowledge, willingness to ask for help, motivation to stay positive and — most of all — the ability to remain steadfast in our values regardless of the situation.
When I called my grandmother to ask if I could name my company in her honor, I also asked for her permission to share her story. And without hesitation, she replied, “Awe, yes baby. My story is my life, and I do not mind if you share it.”
Since her passing, I have been filled with many emotions — sadness, anger, joy, fear, and inspiration. The latter because I get to go to work at EJP and honor her legacy every day… and I know she will always be proud of me. She wanted me to be successful, but she also wanted me to love myself and treat others with respect.
“I’m proud of my grandmother, who never gave up and has instilled that same fire in me.
I am EJP’s granddaughter, and I am proud to continue her legacy through EJP Marketing Co.
I am honored to be part of something bigger than myself.”
In Loving Memory of Erma Joe Poole Sweet
9/24/35 – 12/8/2017
CEO & Founder
EJP Marketing Co. LLC