This Florida A&M University graduate has taken the definition of perseverance to a new level.
Theresa Ballard, a criminal justice major, always knew that the odds would be in her favor.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, she knew these challenges would only become her driving forces on the road to success.
Her desire to shift the narrative of violence, which was often associated with Chicago, was sparked at an early age. Many of her loved ones were involved in gangs, and she too found herself going down that same path.
Ballard started to make poor choices, which almost resulted in her being kicked out of high school. She was faced with two options; it was either transfer schools or get kicked out.
It all came to a halt when her mother set the tone, and this would be the decision that shifted everything for her.
Born into a family of hustlers, Ballard’s mother saw potential in her and decided to transfer her to a new school. Transferring to this new school, she was met with welcoming arms. There was a teacher, Ms. Moody, who recognized that spark in her. She embraced her differences and would later become her mentor.
For Ballard, this meant a lot. She began getting involved more in many extracurricular activities, and this changed her perspective on what life could be. Ballard credits her mentors who went the extra mile to make sure she recognized her own potential.
“It helped me out. I don’t know where I possibly would have ended up at, because I had all this motivation around me. I just did not realize my own potential until I was pushed,” Ballard said.
Over time, this led her to pursue her entrepreneurship dreams. She would later launch her own business, IADD. It is dedicated to providing top-quality fashion on a budget. Ballard decided to start this business because she saw a gap in the fashion industry for plus-sized women. When she came to college, she found it hard to find cute clothing to go out.
“I’ve always been into fashion. My mother was a plus-sized woman, so I guess I embodied that confidence from her along with the fashion, hair, nails and the lashes,” Ballard said. “I used to be a tomboy, but once I got to college, I was like this is different and I just started dressing.”
Ballard dedicates a huge part of her business and success to her mother. Last year, she experienced the loss of her mother due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She wants to continue to strive for greatness and build this legacy to show others it can be done.
Ballard encourages every aspiring entrepreneur to keep pushing and continue being themselves. Being you is what draws others to you, she said. Also, always make sure to put God first.
Ballard has left a lasting impression on her friends, Kiayna Mareus and Phyllisity Walters, who shared what they felt about Ballard’s character.
“She is highly motivated and skilled in everything she does. I’ve seen her build her businesses from the ground up,” Mareus said. “She’s even given me the motivation to start my own business.”
“As a person she is loyal, kind and caring. As an entrepreneur she determined, innovative, and hard working.” Walters said.