Modern-Day Renaissance Woman
In Leonardo Da Vinci’s day, those proficient in many fields were revered. Alongside of intelligence, these distinguished figures cultivated a warm personality, demonstrated philanthropy and thrived on freedom and diversity. Modern-day Renaissance woman Erica Williams upholds that tradition evidenced by her many achievements–all reached before her 30th birthday.
From inside her latest venture, The Blow Dry Bar on Front Street in Slidell, Williams shares about her career as a Director of Operations for Tulane Health System and her love for the nonprofit volleyball program she founded. One wonders how opening a salon fit into her master plan. “I lived near Magazine Street for a few years and one of my favorite things to do was to enjoy a Saturday morning pampering at the upscale salons. When I moved back to Slidell, they didn’t have a blow dry bar and I wanted to recreate one of my favorite pieces of the city.”
Since opening The Blow Dry Bar, she says the business has unexpectedly been a catalyst for community involvement. I’m honored to be a part of Olde Towne organizations and the revitalization of this area.” Williams says she’s continuing her family’s mission to better their community. “My grandmother, Pearl Williams, was a councilwoman in Slidell when women in politics were rare. She inspired my love for this city. As a kid, I loved visiting city hall with her. She would let me run around the council chambers and pretend to cast votes by flipping the voting switches.” Williams fondly recounts Pearl’s many endeavors including her beloved Children’s Wish Endowment. “She’d let me pick out gifts and help set up parties at the Olde Towne Soda Shop where the ill children were so excited to ride on the firetruck. She received many honors including the Athena Award, Citizen of the Year, and she has a garden dedicated to her in John Slidell Park in remembrance of her dedication to Keep Slidell Beautiful.”
Williams credits her experience as a collegiate athlete for preparing her to carry the torch as the third generation of Williams’ women to be involved in the Slidell community. “It was a fantastic experience and my turning point. I learned time management, self-sufficiency and how to rise to the occasion.” While in school, Williams excelled in her studies of political science and business while also training daily for her full-time job as a college volleyball player. “I had to develop discipline to balance school and sports. I attended practice, traveled for games, and still had to make time to study, but I did it for my future and my mom. She’s my hero and like her, I wanted to be independent and face adversity with zero fear.” Williams explains that her mother, Wynn, was a single mom who worked tirelessly to provide her with opportunities in the many extra curriculars she explored. Like Pearl, Wynn exemplified passionate leadership over the years serving as president for Keep Slidell Beautiful, The Rotary Club, and is an alumna of Leadership Northshore.
Another life-changing influence for Williams was the job that lead to her career in healthcare. “During my senior year, I needed to work to help save for college. I started as a registration clerk and ER tech at the local hospital. Throughout college, I worked at local physician offices to help pay my bills. When I moved back to Slidell after graduating, I began working at the Heart Hospital where I was promoted to ER physician practice coordinator. I loved being involved in making changes that lead to better patient care so when it came time to further my education, I chose a Master of Healthcare Administration over a law degree. Today I am blessed to work as a Director for the largest healthcare company in America, HCA.”
Reflecting on her path, she credits the scholarship that led to her college sports career as a gamechanger. Four years ago, she established the non-profit Southern Elite Training Academy as a way to help others on their own paths. Her vision for the program was not only securing college scholarships for the athletes but also preparing them for what collegiate athletics actually entails. “Club volleyball is expensive and like myself, many athletes are not able to play unless they have financial assistance through sponsorships. So, I started a nonprofit that would incentivize businesses to help us pay for uniforms and travel costs. It’s my passion to afford athletes the opportunity of playing on a national stage and possibly being recruited to play in college. I’m proud to say that in 2018, all seven of my seniors received scholarships.”
With so many different interests, projects and talents in play, one might assume Williams is scattered. But to the contrary, like the Renaissance ideal, she combines her own gifts with a focus that becomes a gift for others. “I love what I do at the hospital. It’s important work that challenges me every day to become a better leader, but the passion that fulfills me personally is giving back to my young athletes and to my community.”