Passion, Purpose, and Persistence: An Entrepreneurship Story with Connie Russell

Most small businesses launch with a dream to serve and support others. However, for Connie Russell, the CEO of C.L. Russell Company, a workforce development agency, training people to become better employees has been a lifelong passion. 

“Ever since high school, I’ve been training somebody,” said Connie with a chuckle. 

Her passion was sparked at a young age when life took an unexpected turn. Connie became a teenage mother in her senior year of high school. Then, she found a mentor who took her under her wing. 

Through this mentorship, Connie discovered her love for teaching others. She also experienced the power of workforce development first-hand. Connie saw how proper training could change the lives of students. She quickly decided to dedicate her life to training and teaching others. 

Upon high school graduation, Connie applied for jobs in the industry before enlisting in the military as a dental technician. After retiring from active duty, Connie worked for the DC government. However, the security of this “good office job” did not satisfy her passion for helping people or her ambition to become her own boss one day.

“I knew I could do more starting a business than always working for someone,” said Connie. 

Like many entrepreneurs, Connie Russell leaped into entrepreneurship before she was ready. She admitted that she hadn’t saved as much as she hoped before quitting and wasn’t as prepared as she could have been for the early challenges of entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, Connie prioritized her passion and came out on top. 

“No matter what I put my hands on, it’s going to be a learning experience,” said Connie.

While launching and growing her training business, Connie ran her hat salon. Through her hat business, she founded the Fashionista Entrepreneur Academy, an entrepreneurship program that helps Maryland youth learn entrepreneurship through fashion. Connie continues this program today, helping children and teens learn the ins and outs of owning a fashion business.

From her passion for serving the community, Connie is also developing the Friday Fireside Live Chat training program, which empowers part-time entrepreneurs, a market she feels is often overlooked. She is also getting her certification in public speaking.

After five years of building her workforce training company with mentorship, Connie made a mindset shift that gave her the strength and the strategy she needed to begin enjoying her passion. Her work became less about accounting, billing, and deployment and more about the enjoyment that had brought her to take a leap of faith in the first place.

Connie accredits every major transition in her business to the help of a mentor. Her first major client was a former employer who trusted her with their company training. The relationships she cultivated over the years became a well she could draw from for years to come. 

Connie developed a close relationship with Wacif as a part of the Ascend Thrive program. The resources they shared during the cohort period exposed her to more diverse business practices, and it was important to her to be surrounded by like-minded people who doubled as a support system for networking and as a general resource. 

“The proof is in their efforts,” said Connie. “They really want to see progress and success and duplicate it in the family.”

While Connie enjoys networking, she focuses her networking more strategically these days. She cautions that networking without direction can be draining and impact your business negatively if not done with discretion.

After facing many ups and downs, spending years drifting, and looking to the future, Connie is determined to always think with the end game in mind and advises other entrepreneurs to do the same. 

Learn more about Connie Russell and C.L. Russell Company at