Precious Williams. Photo courtesy: Precious Williams
By Pearl Phillip
From being an unwanted child, homeless, and on the verge of suicide, Precious Williams is now a confident woman showing others how to be their best authentic selves as the CEO of Perfect Pitches by Precious, a company that helps clients solve their pitching, presentation, and communication challenges. Williams went from rock-bottom to being featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, CNN, MSNBC, and The Wall Street Journal. A billboard in Times Square displayed her likeness. In an interview with Small Business Matters Podcast, Precious shared her incredible story.
“Some women fear the fire. Some women become it,” wrote author R.H. Sin. Precious Williams is a woman who became the fire. She is the Killer Pitch Master and CEO of Perfect Pitches by Precious. Her story is one of courage, resilience, renewal, and rebirth. Her journey has not been perfect. I spoke to Precious, and she shared how she spun those imperfections into gold, turned tragedies into triumphs, and stumbling blocks into building blocks.
“My story begins in the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri. I grew up with a mother who never liked me from birth. And I can’t express to you all how painful that is to grow up being an unwanted child, especially when you have sisters. And so, my mother always compared me to my light-skinned, green-eyed sister. This is not to shade her. My sister was a beautiful child; she is a beautiful woman. But growing up, I was constantly compared to her and told that I would never make it because I didn’t have the looks.”
“But when I was five, I watched Sally Jessy Raphael and Phil Donahue and knew I would be on television. And I knew I was a diamond. I just wasn’t shining. But I knew I was supposed to be on television. I knew I was supposed to captivate people. By age twelve, my mother had done everything horrible: Cut me with glass, break my nose, and beat me. And so, when I was twelve, my mother nearly beat me to death.”
Saved by a Grandma’s Love
After years of abuse and being placed in the custody of her father, a drug addict, Precious found a safe place when her grandparents stepped in.
“On November 18, 1991, I was put into his custody. And that was another dark three years. So, for the first 15 years of my life, I felt like I was scratching and surviving to exist. And then, when I was 15, my grandparents stepped in and raised me. Precious Dolores Williams and Raymond Woodrow Williams. May the Lord rest their souls. They brought me into their home, and for the first time, I felt wanted.”
“My grandmother twinkled my toes in the morning, calling me Queen Bee. We drew bathwater, breakfast at the table. We sat as a family, and my grandma used to tell me, ‘You have a gift of speech. The way you speak, people listen.’ I’m looking at her like, what? But you can’t say no to your grandma. You’d be like, you know, back in the day or not, we ain’t doing that. But she sowed the truth. And she made me do affirmations and said, I’m the best in the world at what I do.”
Precious got her first taste of her grandma’s words coming to fruition as a teenager. “At 16 years old, the principal of my high school, Mr. Floyd Cruz, invited me to speak at an event. I know it was before the mayor of the city of St. Louis. I went to my English teachers, and they wrote my speeches. Thank you. Ms. Hill and Ms. Jackson. My first speaking engagement was before the mayor of St. Louis, Mr. Freeman Bosley, Jr. Standing ovation. And didn’t even read the speech ahead of time. I just knew what to do at the moment.”
Shine Bright Like a Diamond
While Precious found solace in her grandparents’ love and her grandma’s confidence in her, she also felt burdened by the shame of not being loved and wanted by her parents and had a nervous breakdown.
“I spent a large part of my life being ashamed of not being wanted by my parents, feeling lost in my family, and feeling like the black sheep because I wanted success that I had never seen in my community, in my life, or anyone around me in St. Louis, Missouri.”
“Went off with a full scholarship to Spelman College, Georgetown University Law Center. I got kicked out; I got another full scholarship to Rutgers School of Law in Newark, which I started in 2003. I had a nervous breakdown in 2004. I did everything supposedly right, and yet I still felt unfulfilled.”
“It didn’t help being told, as a Black woman, I was told, too fat, too Black, no Ivy League degree, there’s no way that I could have a career in media or work with the biggest companies in the world. But I was determined.”
Her grandma’s words stuck with her, and she pulled herself out of the darkness. “I was a diamond, and I just didn’t get to shine yet.”
The Entrepreneurial Path for Black and Women Entrepreneurs
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black female-owned businesses are the fastest-rising economic force in the U.S. The number of Black women-owned businesses grew 67 percent between 2007 and 2012, outpacing the 27 percent growth rate for all female-owned companies. The rapid progress is awe-inspiring and hard-won considering the challenges that Black women face as entrepreneurs, including lack of startup capital, resources, and loans, along with racial and gender discrimination within the primarily white, male-dominated sectors of finance and technology.
The Black-Owned Economy: A Hello Alice Impact Report highlights recent data from the Federal Reserve that shows what a racial funding gap looks like in action. When a Black entrepreneur walks into a bank and asks for a loan, only about 61% get at least a percentage of what they ask for — and when they do get approved, Black owners receive an interest rate significantly higher than white owners. The simple fact is that it is harder to be a Black small business owner, yet millions of Black Americans choose to walk the entrepreneurial path. It is essential for Black entrepreneurs, especially women of color who are at a disadvantage, to present themselves in a manner to get a yes and not a no. With this background, Precious started her first company, Curvy Girlz Lingerie.
A Different Kinda Love, A Star Is Born, and a Spot on Shark Tank
A rope found Precious in the dark abyss of her life. She fell in love with a fantastic man and was loved back in a way she had never experienced. “And for the first time, I looked at myself differently and couldn’t find lingerie in my size. I was a size 28. No, Victoria’s Secret. No, Ashley Stewart. No, Lane Bryant. No, Macy’s. None of that had anything. And so, I was forced to wear black. And I said, this isn’t right. I didn’t realize how much of a trailblazer I was. And so, when no one would invest in my company, they told me to be an attorney.” She created Curvy Girlz Lingerie, LLC, the ultimate shopping experience for full-figured divas and plus-size fashionistas.
“People said it would never take off. My family and friends wouldn’t invest in me. So, you know what I did? I created a pitch so good that it got me on national television, on Shark Tank. And when I pitched, I walked away with $500,000,” Williams explained. “As an entrepreneur and a woman entrepreneur of color, I knew the odds were against me. I was fearless and determined to succeed as a CEO,” said Williams.
But her story doesn’t end there. After losing the love of her life, Precious fell into an even deeper abyss. She later found herself homeless but refused to give up on her dreams and herself.
“I went through a dark period in my life, where I was homeless and a severe alcoholic,” Precious said. “Tried to take my life on my 38th birthday. And Lord knows I’m 44 years old now. And so, he gave me a second chance. And all the things I thought I had learned the first time in business were perfected when I returned.
Now I’ve been clean and sober for almost six years, walked out of homelessness almost five years ago, restarted my company Perfect Pitches by Precious, became a world-class, master communicator, international professional speaker, four-time number one best-selling author of business books on pitching.”
Your Authentic Self
Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Sage advice. Precious discovered the hard way that if people don’t accept you as your authentic self, you don’t need them around you. You don’t need to be around them. Find people who celebrate and accept you. Most importantly, you have to accept yourself. In that self-actualization and realization, Precious found her pot of gold.
She also discovered that being honest and openly sharing her life challenges propelled her to her current path to success.
“When I opened up and became vulnerable and shared how it happened and not the social media story of perfection, it changed how people saw me,” she said. “They saw me as someone they wanted to work with, someone they would pay handsomely to teach and train them how to bounce back from rock bottom multiple times.”
Not bad for the unwanted child from the inner city of Missouri, St Louis. From winning her first pitch at the 2013 Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch, sponsored by PepsiCo, Precious Williams learned to make the most of the journey. Her setbacks and disappointments propelled her to success and new heights. Today, she is a 13-time national pitch champion and world-class speaker/trainer for global brands, including BMW, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Harvard University, Columbia University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, George Washington University, Intuit QuickBooks, Yelp, and more. As she embraced her past, she shaped her future. It’s a lesson we can all learn.
This story was produced as part of the Small Business Reporting Fellowship, organized by the Center for Community Media and funded by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
Advice from Precious Williams on Being Successful
- First of all, connect with your higher power. Mine is God. Nobody in the Bible has this perfect story that they did everything right other than Jesus. And so, if they went through it back then, what makes me think that that couldn’t happen to me?
- The second thing is creating a supportive network that nurtures your dreams and pushes you. Have a support network with therapists and psychiatrists to stay on the right track. I was vulnerable enough. As I was climbing out of the darkness, I realized that you need a supportive network and to be around people who’ve never been blessed to see your talent before.
- Thirdly, make doubters into believers and your enemies, your footstools. So, all that took time for me to see. As I walked the streets and invested heavily in my craft, I ate, slept and breathed pitching because I knew that was my talent, and I was focused on my clientele.
Please pay attention. She is, after all, the Killer Pitch Master. She is Queen Precious Williams.
Listen to the full interview with Precious Williams at https://rb.gy/atqn6e.