The Legacy of Your Organization

All organizations have a legacy. Each one is known for something and will leave an imprint on history. Today, we speak with Dominique Brooks, co-owner of E.E. Ward Moving and Storage, the oldest African-American business in the country about this very topic.

Q:        Describe the legacy of your organization. 

A: Our legacy is one of patience, discipline, perseverance and service with dignity. John T. Ward was a fearless trailblazer who served many years as a conductor on the Underground Railroad prior to establishing the business in 1881 with his son, two horses and a wagon. E.E. Ward Moving & Storage is now the nation’s oldest black-owned business, and I believe we can ignite the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit in today's society by never forgetting the Ward family legacy, which is now a piece of American history.

We know now that what John T. Ward embarked on in 1881 matters today and because of the Ward legacy, we know at E.E. Ward what we do today will matter tomorrow! I recently launched 1881 Apparel, which was inspired by the extraordinary legacy. 1881 Apparel is a movement that encourages others to dream big and take action! I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure the Ward’s family legacy of enduring slavery, the U.S. Civil War, Great Depression, two world wars, Great Recession and 26 presidential terms are never forgotten. My goal is to share E.E. Ward’s recipe of success and rich history with the world. The 1881 Apparel line is a movement that will inspire entrepreneurs to achieve. The movement is about being 1881 Strong in the 21st century!

Q: What advice do you have for others?

A: Entrepreneurship is hard but rewarding in many different ways. I many times reflect on my challenges today, but I am humbled by the era in which E.E. Ward was founded — a time of struggle and fight for freedom for the African American community. I say this to remind us that it's all been done before, so many trailblazers like the Ward family were dealt a deck of cards that none of us have had to experience in the modern era.

We can also learn and seek both inspiration and a sense of community through the sharing of our own narratives. Be vulnerable and to tell your story. There is power in your personal narrative that will allow a startup business to stand out and connect with their customers on a deeper level than even larger conglomerates. A good strategy in discovering your brand is to journal about how you got started, what you believe the brand or business is right now, where you want be in the future and what you want customers to know or experience through using your services. Vision boarding and journaling are wonderful ways to explore and uncover the layers of your business or brand.

Q: What about E.E. Ward has positioned it for its legacy of success and What do you credit your company’s longevity to?

Our commitment to continually strengthen the legacy of E.E. Ward while fostering growth and innovation is what has positioned the legacy for success and longevity. Being the oldest continuously operating African-American business in the country was achieved by perseverance, accountability, service with dignity, community service and best practices. These attributes created a culture that fueled the viability and success in giving E.E. Ward a competitive advantage for over 138 years.

I am proud to say  we are proof that a company's culture is the most critical component when it comes to sustainability. Prior owner Eldon W. Ward, who led the company for 50 years, had a legacy statement: “Do what’s right, come what may.” That sentiment has been adopted as the backbone of our daily operation and each member on our team.

Q: How do you inspire others with your businesses?

A: What I have embraced and taken on as a responsibility is to navigate the path of the business's evolution. The company that was purchased from Eldon Ward in 2001 is not the same company we run today, nor could it be for it to survive. I relate to this mindset personally as I found it necessary for me to pivot in my own career when I realized my time in front of the lens in the fashion world did not fulfill my appetite for growth.

This is a message of overcoming and sustainability.

This impact and power of this message became very evident when we had a driver who worked for another company divert 200 miles off of his route to come to visit E.E. Ward. Upon his arrival, he told us that he had read about E.E. Ward online and that he was so inspired by the company’s history and the fact a “black company” was able to win the 2017 AMSA Agent of the Year Award that it gave him the assurance goals can be achieved.

This gentleman was an African-American driver who worked for another company, but he and his brothers owned a small local moving company in Mississippi. He visited us to get an 1881 Strong shirt and take pictures of our facility because he wanted to take back the message to his business partners and employees that they were not wasting their time following their dream to be able have their own company and work for themselves in the future.

And that inspiration is a big part of our legacy.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.