Today is Mothers’ Day! To commemorate this special holiday, our Editor-in-Chief, Asia Horne, called up the Chicago-bred mother and daughter duo, Christy Dorsey and Aiyana Thompson of The Concrete Rose Society to learn more about their mission, message and unique business dynamic.
Company Profile: The Concrete Rose Society was founded by Christy Dorsey and Aiyana Thompson on December 31, 2014. Our non-profit organization is the vision of fifteen year old Aiyana in response to the bullying that she had experienced from the age of nine throughout her middle school years. The Concrete Rose Society seeks girls ages 10-18. One of their main goals is to build lasting bonds and friendships amongst young ladies. TCRS offers free mentorship training to all of its members, referred to as “Roses”. “Roses” undergo intense hands-on training to assist them in gaining a true understanding of how to become effective mentors in their schools and within their communities.
Read the sincere interview below! The words in parenthesis are the exchanges between Aiyana and Christy that were too cute and sweet to take out. Enjoy and Happy Mothers’ Day from us to you!
Empire Life: Tell us more about The Concrete Rose Society. How did the idea behind it come about and why do you think it’s so important to have an organization like it?
Christy Dorsey: With The Concrete Rose Society, I think that what’s unique about it is the vision of Aiyana; it’s coming from a team perspective basically. I feel it’s so imperative because she started it at a time where she felt alone. She was coming from a place where she was being bullied; she’s been bullied since she was in about third grade. She was in middle school when she started to think about The Concrete Rose Society. She came up with the concept and the name herself really because she felt unique herself. She felt like she was awkward in a sense to where the reason behind The Concrete Rose kind of came in. What we typically do with The Concrete Rose is what separates us I think from other organizations. We’re not necessarily just a mentoring organization. We are a mentorship training organization. That’s one of our main things that we do and the services that we offer.
We train the young ladies to become mentors at their own schools and within their communities at large. We offer different free services like college consulting, as well as career consulting. We also meet monthly for what we call girl chats and those topics can range anywhere from bullying to self -esteem. We just previously had a girl boss chat which was really great, but we try to make sure that our girls are well prepared for college. We offer things like community service projects for the girls so it’s just our main goal just to make sure that we’re reaching out. We’re a friendship-based organization so we really encourage girls to bring their besties to our sessions and so that we can have a good time and enjoy one another and get to know one another.
EL: Awesome! I love that. I definitely love the initiatives and the mission of the organization. I think it’s very needed, especially now in the time we are in that’s so driven by social media and things like that. Tell us more about you two’s dynamic. You are mother and daughter first, but you have another element as far as the organization that’s more professional. Describe how that works and how you are able to collaborate together.
Aiyana Thompson: It’s quite interesting to work with your mom because it’s like all the ideas kind of are shared and when you live in the same house, we always have time to tell each other what we’re thinking and what we’re planning to do.
Our bond helps us get through the hard times in the organization like when we can’t come up with ideas or something we bounce ideas off each other. I think that the fact that we’ve spent 15 years together helps us to help other people with their relationships with their parents.
A couple months ago, we did a mother daughter round table chat, and it focused on relationships, and just how they… how they… what’s the word? (You talking about girl-boy relationships?) Yeah. (Dating.) Dating, just school things and things that moms should know about and don’t know about and things that vice versa. We try to have the best relationship so the girls in our organization get someone to look up to. As well as the parents because it’s not just about the girls, it’s also about the parents being included. Some of the parents like to stay and listen to what we have to say so we just really try to have the best dynamic that we can to make sure everything flows efficiently.
CD: I would also add in there, with this being Aiyana’s brainchild, it’s a lot of times where she’s the boss and I just listen. That’s very different because of course, in our mother daughter relationship, Aiyana is not allowed to be the boss. I’m the boss, that’s my job. In this aspect of life, I allow her to have free reign in whatever her thoughts and visions are. My goal is just to make sure that they come to fruition, so it adds a different dynamic to our relationship. I will definitely say Aiyana and I have had a very tumultuous, eventful journey together and I definitely think that there are mothers and daughters out there like us. I think what sets us apart though is that we bounce back.
We are resilient and we utilize the things that have hurt us to catapult us to our next level.
EL: Explain why it’s critical for moms to empower and encourage their daughters.
CD: Wow that’s a great question. For me, that’s everything. Empowerment and letting our young ladies know the power of being a woman is my primary job. That’s the primary job for myself and I carry that not only with Aiyana but with the tons of young ladies that I’ve mentored over the past 20 years or so. I think it’s important to have role models that you can touch, not only the Beyonces and those famous people but people that are within your community. It’s really important that young ladies not only look up to those celebrities. I mean, they’re going to be role models and what have you, but I would rather be my daughter’s role model.
I want her to say when someone asks who do you want to be when you grow up, who do you want to be like, I want my daughter to say me. It’s really important to me to empower her just so that she can feel that I can do this because my mom made it through this.
It really helps her to fight, seeing me in some of my most hurtful times. She’s seen me in really dark times. We’ve been homeless together, we’ve cried together, we’ve prayed together, and there’s nothing better than rooting my daughter on. I’m her number one cheerleader. I’m always going to be here for her, whenever she falls, bruises her knees, mama’s always going to be there.
At the end of the day it’s all about girl power for me because for me, my mentor and my role model is my mom, and I always wanted to foster that same relationship with Aiyana. I think I’m doing a pretty okay job thus far. I still have a ways to go because we’re in teenagerland right now so we still have some prayer (laughs) but it’s so important that our girls within our community have role models that they can reach out to, that they can touch, that they can call, they can text. Within my 9-to-5 job, I make it a point to make sure that my girls that I touch I reach out to. I manage 140 high schools here in Chicagoland area, and I make sure that those young ladies know if you need anything call me, text me, email me, whatever I’m always available for you guys and it starts at home. I definitely mirror that with Aiyana.
AT: I would say, I’ve written multiple papers about my mom at school. You know the type of “who’s your hero” thing or “who do you look up to the most” papers. I think that my mom has done a fantastic job at being a fabulous role model for me. I mean countless, and countless papers and questions about my mom that I’ve answered and just written. Long paragraphs because she’s the best person in my life right now. I just believe that the empowerment she gives me makes me want to get up in the morning and it makes me want to just keep going because I know my mom kept going.
EL: So Aiyana, answer this question. What’s one of the top lessons that you’ve learned from your mom?
AT: I’m just going to say the first one and the strongest one that just came to mind is never give up. I had so many times where I’ve just wanted to give up on everything. I just wanted to be like a failure at school and just go on about my day, but my mom is an overachiever and she just wants me to do well in school and in life in general so she taught me how to not give up. Her going through many things that were terrifying for me just pushed me. My mom got through that so I know I can get through this little obstacle. School is an obstacle but I was able to get through it because mentally, I’m thinking of my mom in my head.
Every time I feel like I don’t want to do anything, my mom is in the back of my mind like “you can do it, you can do it.” Honestly, she can show me better than she can tell me on every level.
Her showing me not to give up and for her not just to say it but to show it is something that I really hold close to my heart.
During the times I was bullied, my mom told me not to give up and I took it to heart. There was a time when I was in the darkest place with self- harm and stuff like that. My mom talked to me for a really, really, really long time that day and she told me how much she loved me and told me that this is just something that you need to overcome and I did. Now, I’m at a really great stage in my life where I’m able to trust my mom. I’m able to have friends and not be in a sulky mood all the time. Thanks Mom. (Anytime Aiyana.)
EL: Is there any famous mom and daughter duo that you two are inspired by?
CD: You know what, I always look at the work ethic of Toya Wright. I admire her work ethic and I love the fact that she and her daughter have a very close relationship and that is kind of similar to the way I feel about my daughter.
AT: Our beloved First Lady and her two daughters are just fantabulous to me. I love their relationship. Even though we don’t get to see much, you know they’re all sheltered and stuff, but I love Mrs. Obama. She’s literally one of the most inspirational people that I’ve ever seen and she’s just so intellectual and her daughters are also intellectual. It’s just all intellect! But they’re so sweet, and so nice, and I feel like they’re really compassionate, I guess it’s not duo but you know triplet (laughs)
EL: What’s one word that you chose to describe each other?
CD: If I were to capture Aiyana in one word, I would say gifted (Awwww!)
AT: Mine would be beautiful. (Awwww!) I think my mom has the best, beautiful mind and a beautiful spirit and a beautiful heart and she’s so beautiful on the outside. I actually, like mom… your personality is like… I love you. (I love you more.)
EL: This might be one of our favorite interviews! We always close out our interviews with what’s one bit of advice you would share with other young women on their journey to build their empire?
AT: Go for it. I say that because those three words are very powerful to me because I went up to my mom that one day and said “hey mom, let’s do it!” She was like okay, and I was like “let’s go for it!” Now we’re going for it. Sometimes you just have to try. Trying can be hard and have a lot of loops but I honestly think that if you try then you can. If you try hard enough and you’re actually passionate about what you’re doing then you will succeed in multiple occasions.
You can get really down, and you just don’t want to do it and you get discouraged, but you have to think about your passion, and if this is your passion then you really have to go for it.
CD: I would say always remember your why. My theory in life, and what’s kept me in this entrepreneurial spot that we’re in right now, even with my career goals, is always remembering the reason why I started.
I always have to think about my why and my daughter is definitely one of my whys. It encourages me, it keeps me going, it keeps me motivated, it fires me up. I get really, really excited about my why. She is my why.
Although we have three more years before she abandons me for college, she will always be my why. Even when she’s gone to school, she will always be that reason why I go so hard, and I will always continue to work hard for her.
Again, Happy Mothers’ Day to all of the hard working women building their empires and creating legacies for their families in the process! Learn more and keep in touch with The Concrete Rose Society by visiting their website!
Special thanks to Taylor Johnson for transcribing this special interview.