For over a decade, Summer Owens has been inspiring, educating, and empowering people to achieve S.O. What! Success– that’s success no matter what obstacles they face. Summer Owens is an award-winning author, speaker, success coach, and founder of the S.O. What! Foundation. 

She has received several honors including the University of Memphis Distinguished Alumni Award as well as the Fogelman College of Business and Economics Outstanding Young Alumna Award. She was named to the Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 and received the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Prominent Black Women Award, the Women of Achievement Heroism Award, and Dress for Success Entrepreneurial Spirit Award among others for her work in the Memphis community and beyond.

How long have you been doing what you do? I published my memoir in 2010 and that led me to create my speaking and education business, S.O. What!, in 2011. The following year I founded the youth nonprofit, the S.O. What! Foundation. I quit my corporate job in 2013 to pursue full-time entrepreneurship and grow the foundation.

What types of services does your organization/agency/business provide? Through S.O. What! by Summer Owens, I offer speaking services that include keynotes and workshop facilitation. The S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum is offered to youth organizations and is a trauma-informed curriculum that improves literacy and helps youth make better decisions and focus on post-secondary attainment. I am also a certified life coach where I help people pursue their goals and achieve S.O. What! Success. In addition, I offer consulting services for corporate and community organizations.

Through the S.O. What! Foundation, we offer youth development programs and scholarships. With our key program, the S.T.E.P.-O.U.T. (Self-esteem, Teamwork, Exposure, Personal development  – Overcome, Understand, Triumph) program, we partner with community organizations to provide a camp, workshops, mentoring, a powerful resilience curriculum, and a Washington, DC exposure trip.

What made you decide to do what you do/choose your field? For about 15 years, I had a corporate marketing career that included positions with the Memphis Grizzlies, ServiceMaster, and FedEx. After publishing my memoir, I discovered my purpose in life. Students, teachers, parents, and others were reading my book and asking me to speak and share my story. Each time I did, I witnessed how I was able to give others hope and encouragement in their own challenges. When I understood how I could create a career speaking, educating, and inspiring others, I quit my corporate job and put everything into my business and the nonprofit.

What are some of the most gratifying parts of what you do? I get to see lightbulb moments with people every time I speak. I am confident that the work I do is making a difference in the Memphis community through the nonprofit and everywhere I’m blessed to have the opportunity to speak or share my curriculum.

What are some of the most disheartening things about what you do? Because I deal with helping people overcome trauma and other obstacles, I hear lots of sad stories and even deal with challenges in trying to help many of the youth we serve.

Do you have any events coming up? I have several speaking engagements in colleges and other organizations outside of Memphis scheduled for the rest of the year. The S.O. What! Foundation just held its Inaugural S.O. What! Awards and Scholarship Soiree. It was incredible, and we are excited about next year’s event!

Do you have any needs that would help you better do what you do? Support! Like all business owners, I need support. For the foundation, we need donors and volunteers. For my business, invite me in to speak or give my powerful curriculum a try and see how it changes the mindset of youth!

What main point(s) do you want the readers to take away from this article? Your life’s story, especially the obstacles you’ve overcome, should be shared to inspire others.

How can people get in touch with you? (all social media links are there) and