Starting and Ending with Family: Sharon W. Reynolds
September 14, 2021 / Share:
“It all started with me admiring my family and their entrepreneurial journey.”
For Sharon W. Reynolds, entrepreneurship always has been and always will be a family affair. A native Nashvillian, Reynolds was inspired as a child by the perseverance, creativity and innovation in her family: Her grandfather, the owner of an auto repair and used car business; her father, one of Nashville’s first African American firefighters; her aunt, a seamstress who taught Sharon to make her own clothing; and her resilient mother.
“They gave me the drive to become an entrepreneur. It’s not for the weak of heart and I knew that because I’d seen them do it,” she said during her EC Speaker Series event on Tuesday.
It was no surprise then that by high school, Sharon had started her own business designing and sewing unique clothing for her fellow high school students, and by 29 she had owned, run and sold her own mortgage business, in partnership with a local businessman.
With the financial crisis looming and the eyes of big businesses turned to reducing environmental impact and prioritizing safety and sustainability, Sharon pivoted from real estate to her next venture: Helping companies to reduce their carbon footprint with responsible and innovative business solutions.
“All entrepreneurs in the room know, you must have a vision and a reason for being in it, whatever you’re doing,” she said.
Partnering with Morehouse College of Medicine’s research team, Sharon built DevMar Products, named after her sons, and developed a globally acclaimed product. By 2012, DevMar Products had expanded, taken on the name DevMar Manufacturing and partnered with Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies to employ sustainable cleaning and sterilizing solutions across the globe.
In 2016, a new venture was born alongside Sharon’s first granddaughter, Bryla J. Born premature, Bryla J. spent the first days of her life in the NICU, where her main source of nutrition was sterilized donor breast milk.
Seeing the impact of the milk on her granddaughter, Sharon partnered with Ni-Q, LLC to form DevMar Global Healthcare Solutions, LLC, a commercial distributor of sterilized donor breast milk from over 4,000 volunteer mothers looking to save the lives of premature babies.
But that’s not where Bryla J.’s inspiration ended.
Three years later, in 2019, Sharon would dive back into one of her early passions – fashion – with the launch of Bryla J. Couture, a 75-piece clothing line hand-designed while on a visit with family in Shanghai.
Although the emergence of COVID-19 put a temporary stop on the majority of the business’s production, Sharon is excited to have some of her products included in the Tennessee Tribune retail store scheduled to be added to the Nashville International Airport later this fall. Among the 40+ other vendors that will be featured in the store is Sharon’s daughter-in-law, whose book series “Bryla’s Amazing Imagination” shares fantastical adventures from the perspective of the entrepreneur’s granddaughter.
With multiple businesses up and running, a family-focused mission, and a world that more and more needs her products, Sharon W. Reynolds can’t help but be busy. How does she maintain her balance, and keep everything running?
“When people ask how I’m doing so many things at once, it’s because I have my teams,” she said.
Hiring is key, she said, especially when juggling several different missions and products, and hiring the right people into the right positions can be a make or break decision for entrepreneurs.
But so is caring for yourself as a founder, especially during a pandemic.
“Family is important, but you can’t take care of the community and your family without making sure you’re healthy,” she said, referencing the stress that the pandemic has put on everyone personally and professionally.
For Sharon herself, the last 18 months have been nothing less than a game-changer, and she looks to the future with the eyes of an entrepreneur: Seeing a world of possibilities ahead.
“We’re going to step into an era where cleanliness is going to be totally different. We’re going to continue to make great products that will make a difference.”
Hear more of Sharon’s inspiring story; view the full EC Speaker Series here.