Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Dr Tashni-Ann Dubroy - At the helm of success

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMRocheda Bartley
Dr Tashni-Ann Dubroy was the main presenter at last weekend's Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Youth Entrepreneur Conference.
Dubroy credits her Jamaican upbringing for her success.

Success is never about the wealth you have amassed or the luxury vehicle that you drive. It's about breaking through glass ceilings, transforming your dreams from mere visions into reality, and surpassing the limited expectations of others especially if you're a woman.

Today, Dr Tashni-Ann Dubroy sits at the helm of success, living as a testimony and inspiration to all. The flourishing entrepreneur has proudly reinforced to the world that Jamaicans are simply the best at anything we do. Dubroy is executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Howard University in the United States.


Early life


Describing herself as a proud country girl originating from Clarendon, Dr Dubroy believes her life in Jamaica prepared her to tackle the world. "Growing up in rural Jamaica really helped to craft my southern hospitality. It made me kind, loving to my neighbours, and helped me to build trust with others, as opposed to those in the city who are usually considered isolating," Dr Dubroy told Outlook.

She asserted that living in a single-parent household with her mother and four siblings (after her parents divorced), also prepared her to conquer the world. "It really helped to toughen me and made me aware that there isn't any certainty in life. It made me realise that I have to be adaptable. This made my motivation and determination sound," she added.

Living in Clarendon, she attended the Glenmuir High School, until her mother found a love letter in her pocket. Soon after, she was shipped to Kingston to complete her secondary-level education where she attended the Holy Childhood High School. She then, went on to sixth form at the Wolmer's High School for Girls.


Climbing to the top


With a passion for the sciences, Dubroy migrated to the United States to further her studies in chemistry. She attended multiple universities, including North Carolina State University where she earned her PhD in chemistry in 2007. Three years later she earned her MBA in marketing at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. In 2007, she began her career as a research scientist at the world's largest chemical company BASF. In less than a year, she was appointed as the global technology analyst of the company. After two years as an analyst, she was promoted to the post of chemical procurement manager of the organisation.

But Dubroy wasn't satisfied. She had to accomplish her childhood dream. "Growing up, I wanted to become a teacher or professor. I would teach my cousins and I would emulate my teachers at school. It's so fulfilling that I was able to become a professor in one of my careers," Dubroy said.

Her dream career was short lived, however, as there were greater things in store for her. On different occasions, she became the chair of the Natural Science and Math Department of Shaw University, then the special assistant to the president of Process Optimisation. Ultimately, she was granted the opportunity to lead her past university Shaw, the mother of all black universities in the US.

"The road to the college presidency was extremely unconventional because it happened so fast. I went for presidency through the route of being a special assistant to the president. I mean, in academia, you go from professor to department chair and a few other posts. But I surpassed all of those roles," she told Outlook. Dubroy was the third, and second-youngest female president to lead the university.

In her tenure as president, she worked wonders to transform the institution. And in 2017, she was called to her current academic post at Howard.


Becoming an entrepreneur


Along her journey, Dubroy realised that something was missing. She yearned for a crucial element that would complete her. Soon she realised her entrepreneurial instincts were firing and could not be quelled. She is the co-founder of Tea and Honey blends - a hair company that manufactures and retails natural hair products in the US. "When I was at Wolmer's, they had a superlative which predicted what you would become when you grew up. They voted that I would most likely become a higgler. It was evident then that they recognised my spirit of a hustler," she recalled.

Determined to excel, she partnered with a friend and founded the haircare company. "The greatest challenges I experienced as an entrepreneur were to fund the business and ensuring that we were creating a product that could satisfy customer demand. It was very tough to walk into funding agencies because they did not believe the proposition, and did not see the return in investments immediately," she explained.

Then came distribution challenges. She approached Macy's Department Store and was told the ugly truth. "We met with the executives of Macy's and they told us that our products were ugly. So, we had to go back to the drawing board, " Dubroy recounted. Today, Tea and Honey Blend's products are attractive and appeal to a large audience, far more than the company had bargain for. "I believe I've been over rewarded," she said with a chuckle.

Her positive attitude has placed her at a great altitude. For example, her hard work at Shaw University bought her the title of the 2017 CEO of the Year in the Triangular Region. In addition, she has received recognition for her leadership at multiple schools in the US.


Inspiring Others


Inspiring and helping others are two things she enjoys. Her philanthropic works speak volumes of how caring and kind-hearted she is. In 2012, she founded Brilliant and Beautiful Foundation (BBF) in the US. Fuelled by her undying love for the sciences, BBF aims to provide educational support, leadership and opportunities for women who pursue the sciences. She was in the island last week as the main speaker at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Youth Entrepreneur Conference.

As she inspires others to reach for their goals, she encourages them that in spite of the odds, they must always think positively. She believes, "There is immense power in having a positive spirit."