At the age of 43, Daphney started boxing. She won her first tournament match in 30 seconds.
Daphney Smith-Jackson is a charismatic badass with a lot of power who – fortunately for the rest of us – feels a deep connection and devotion to the people around her. She prioritizes uplifting others and the evidence is in her work. A technological genius, Daphney is the founder of Broker Builder Solutions, which specializes in implementing and supporting benefit enrollment technology. She formed a female community of industry experts who understand business needs for data management in the age of computer information. Scroll through their team page, and you will see the faces of powerful women you want to know more about. Daphney is recognized as a Champion on Enterprising Women Magazine’s 2020 list of World’s Top Women Entrepreneurs.
Relentlessly caring for the community, Daphney is also the founder of the non-profit, Women Who Uplift. Be prepared to feel profound heartbreak and hope when you learn her personal story. Women Who Uplift brings together nominated mentees with mentors to find solutions in their financial, work, and personal lives.
How did you start your business?
I wasn’t trying to start a business. I had moved from Maryland to North Carolina. Shortly after moving, I transitioned from a technology company to an employee benefits Broker Agency. At some point, I had enrollment firms and brokers asking me for help when they couldn’t find it elsewhere.
I thought maybe I can help more than one person, but I wasn’t looking to start a business. I was unhappy in my position so I thought maybe this is a way that I can maintain my lifestyle. Take care of my children and not have to deal with the crap I was dealing with. I can be a consultant. I wasn’t looking to be a business owner.
Two years in, six employees in, I looked and I was like ooh this is what this is. And that’s when I began to own it. So it took two years and six employees to get there.
How did your business experience inform the creation of your nonprofit?
The difference between starting my business and starting Women Who Uplift, my nonprofit, was that I always knew I wanted to do that nonprofit work. If somebody told me I was going to be owning my own business, I wouldn’t have believed it. I was content working for someone.
Both turned out to be my calling. Women Who Uplift was obvious to me. But the work I’m doing through Broker Business Solutions turned out to be as well.
When I grew my business, I was doing what I had to do so I could do what I wanted to do. But I found there were women I could reach back for and reach out for. I learned we could be whatever we wanted to be, we didn’t have to be limited by where we came from. I got to learn a lot of things about me along the way that I can give back.
What’s a journey like for mentor and mentee in the Women Who Uplift program?
We sit down and talk about where you are and where you want to be. Then, we come up with a plan to get to know the obstacles. We identify the resources we can provide to accomplish what the mentees set out before them. There are monthly check-ins. If you want to do more than monthly, you can. We also realize that everybody has lives depending on where you’re at. Then when mentees have gotten to a place where they feel good, they can look back and use what they’ve learned to mentor someone else.
Is there an age limit for mentees?
We don’t have an age limit. I am 44 years old and where I’m at right now, I could use a mentor. From a business and a personal perspective, I don’t know what’s in store for me from 44 to 54. You always need someone.
What was the hardest part of your journey/experience?
I guess when I was going through a lot of my journey, it was difficult. But now that I’ve survived it, overcome it, and see things in a different light, I’m grateful for it. It made me who I am.
The hardest part was confronting myself. As people, we tend to get in our own way and in our own head. I lost my mom at 14 years old, and immediately after discovered I was pregnant with my first child. 14… that’s that age where you’re starting to figure out how to be and you need that role model. You look to your mom to be that. I lost that. And given the fact that I was now about to be a teen mom, a lot of people shamed me. No one was saying let me help you. They were pointing a shameful finger as opposed to lending a helping hand. I was ashamed.
For a while there, I people watched. It was hard for me to approach people, thinking they’re not going to help me. So I studied people and the positive qualities they possessed and would grab those ingredients to be placed in the mixing bowl of who I aspired to be – with a dash of Daphney – and say poof now go be that!
Then there was a point where I had to start talking to these people. You can glean and learn so much from women of different backgrounds, but it was difficult to step out of my own head and start a conversation without people thinking I’m stalking them. I had to learn to be okay with telling someone “I admire you” even if they would shoot that down and look at me weird or it felt awkward for me.
What is one of the greatest things you have learned about yourself?
What I found is I can either stay in this space and be…”not”. Or I can look myself in the mirror and I can face myself. Flaws and all, I can understand how to fight and become what I’m destined to be. Part of that was getting to know who I am and not holding onto negative things. I could have held onto the fact that I’ve got this lazy eye, my dad was murdered, I was molested…. But I had to make a choice. Continue to hold onto the things that beat me down and let them be a clutch and hold me back. Or, choose to confront them. Address them and don’t be afraid of them.
What’s next for you?
(She laughs!) That’s a great question. A lot of what I do in the benefits industry consists of converting data into different file formats and guaranteeing the integrity of the data being sent. So from a business perspective, I am currently developing my own software with a twofold purpose. 1. Streamlined software to compare data elements and quickly report on discrepancies, and 2. The technology will offer insurance carriers, benefits brokers, and an easy way to take data and convert the data into proprietary formats to allow for easy upload it into their system.
For the nonprofit, I’m looking forward to the conference that we’ve had to push off due to COVID. I’m going to be building the nonprofit and working to impact young girls’ lives. I just want to do so much more. I’d like to go to school at some point. I remember knowing I wasn’t going to graduate high school and I remember seeing my two best girlfriends in their cap and gown and remember feeling so disappointed and I still have that feeling. So I want to go back and graduate and do it for my Mama and for my granddaughter. It is important that I show Giselle that you can always accomplish anything you put your mind to…. Oh, and I need to fight one more boxing match.