25 year old, Kershelle Hillaire sits fearlessly at the forefront of public health and lifestyle wellness with businesses that are geared toward improving the lives of her clients. A Trinidadian by birth and a strong supporter of giving back to region, she has embraced the philosophy, “Do good, no matter the reward or lack thereof” and is leaving a glittery trail while doing good. We connected with Kershelle and she gave us a glimpse into how she effortlessly merges passion and purpose.
What do you currently do?
I am the Creative Director of “Ten Strings Developmental Company”, and a small-business owner. More specifically, I run “Type A KHreative Works” (offering writing, editing, and graphic design services) and recently founded “CORE Wellness TT”, through which I offer health and wellness coaching.
How did you decide what career path you wanted to take?
Regarding the editing and design, it’s a hobby turned career. I’ve always enjoyed writing, I have a knack for spotting typos and syntax errors, and I love graphic design. I was doing quite a bit of favours for friends by editing their papers or designing flyers etc., and one day, my fiancé encouraged me to make it a business, so I did!
Becoming a health and wellness coach was not something I ever really thought of either. I studied public health to work in research, policy development or community health. However, with the current state of the economy and not being able to find long-term employment in said field, I decided to once again be proactive and turn a passion for health into a business.
What steps did you take to pursue this path?
Writing, editing and graphic design were just self-taught hobbies. I guess you can say they’re gifts I harnessed. In terms of my career as a health and wellness coach, however, here’s my journey in a nutshell.
I originally intended to become a Forensic Pathologist, and so I pursued Biology as my undergraduate degree. However, medical school did not appeal to me, and I eventually changed my mind. In late 2012, I was fasting and praying about my career path and was guided to the Master of Public Health Degree. Additionally, I became certified in public health.
Since completion, finding long-term employment has been difficult, so I relied on editing and design jobs. After some time, I discovered I was extremely unfit, and decided to start a journey to health and fitness. Along the way, I came to enjoy it so much that I knew I wanted to help others do the same. So, I paired my public health education with my newfound love for personal health and fitness, and BAM!
What are you most passionate about?
There are several things, but if I had to lump all my passions into one category, it would be helping others.
How are you giving this passion life? (you can speak on your NGO and CORE Wellness TT)
In 2012, I was encouraged by my dear mother to start a non-profit organisation. The aim was not just to “give back”, but to also inspire and empower young people to lead positive change. The organisation has since become inactive, but God’s timing is perfect, so hopefully it shall be up and running again in the near future.
CORE Wellness TT, on the other hand, was birthed from personal failure that made me realise that I was terribly unfit and my diet left much to be desired. I worked hard and was able to change my lifestyle, and so I decided that I wanted to help others just like me – with a busy schedule and not-so-good eating habits – to transform their lives through exercise and nutrition.
How has your involvement, management of the NGO and your small business changed your life?
Firstly, it has helped me “weed out” negative and doubtful persons from my life and identify true supporters. On all occasions (with the NGO and businesses), I have had to create something from nothing with the help of literally one or two people, whose input I will forever cherish.
It has also made me more aware and understanding of people’s journeys, especially fellow small-business owners, and I now have a deeper appreciation for other’s success.
Thirdly, I have developed so many of the “natural talents” God has blessed me with. Had I continued on the path to becoming a pathologist, I may never have known that I could do half the things I do now. It has really taught me to just trust God and go wherever He leads.
What are your most notable achievements to date?
My achievements have been mostly academic – I was awarded the University of the Southern Caribbean’s Portraits of Excellence Scholarship, and served as Student Ambassador in 2010. The following year, I was elected and served as President of the Associated Student Body. I then graduated with BSc. honours and was named the Most Outstanding Female Graduate in 2012. A year later, I was awarded the Commonwealth Jubilee Scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at St. George’s University, completed my MPH and became certified in public health by the (U.S.) National Board of Public Health Examiners. I returned to Trinidad in 2014 and began my entrepreneurial pursuits with Type A KHreative Works, and now most recently, CORE Wellness TT.
What power do you think more millennials can embrace to advance their life or push their passions?
Fearlessness and a proactive mind-set. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7) I think the downfall of many millennials is a sense of entitlement or waiting for something to happen. Many are afraid to start something new, or we simply settle for average. There are always going to be setbacks, naysayers, and your own doubts and disbelief. However, once you find your passions, embrace the talents God has blessed you with, and seek to use them for honorable service, you will eventually reach where you’re supposed to. Nothing is ever accomplished by sitting on a dream. Believe it, develop it, and work hard for it.
What’s your secret for getting it all done, while remaining level headed and motivated?
I thank God for blessing me with such wise parents. From very young, they instilled in my siblings and me, the importance of working for what you want and staying humble. So my “secret” is simple – I work hard because I see the value in putting in the effort; I remain level-headed because in the blink of an eye, everything can change; and I stay motivated because I must make my parents proud and fulfil my purpose on this earth.
What’s the best advice you received?
“Never envy what others have; you never know what they’ve done or been through to get it.” (from my parents)
The hardest lesson you ever learned was?
Things don’t always go as “planned”; I’m not in control.
I’m a planner – a stickler for order and preparation. I always dreamed of getting a “good job” so I could afford to send my parents on a cruise or trips around the word. I thought that if I studied hard and worked hard, it would happen. That was my plan. Then my mother, my best friend in the world, got cancer and passed away… and I was out of time. Time wasn’t real anymore.
It made me realise that we can make plans and have grand ideas of how we want our future to play out, but the truth is that time is not ours, and plans can be rattled and shattered at any time.
To date, what is the best decision you have made?
Giving my life to Jesus Christ in baptism, six years ago. I’ve always believed in God, but truly experiencing God in my life has been a new and exciting journey.
What do you appreciate most about the Caribbean culture?
Hands down – how warm and vibrant our people are! It may sound cliché, but it has been my experience that Caribbean people are just warm, welcoming, and colourful!
From striking up random conversations about cricket and music with souvenir vendors in Barbados; to my dad being whisked away (by strangers he met at the airport) to a cook-up within minutes of his first trip to Grenada; to my fiancé and I being pulled into a gathering and repeatedly offered “bouyon” in St. Lucia during Jounen Kwéyòl, there’s just an extended-family atmosphere in the Caribbean that can’t be matched.
Even the way we communicate is vibrant; we talk with our hands and bodies, understand sounds in place of words, and have the most entertaining idioms. Where else in the world would you hear, “Long rope fuh magga goat”?
What do you love most about your island – Trinidad and Tobago?
Definitely the hardworking, entrepreneurial or “hustler” spirit. There’s a “food place” on the corner, a shop or parlour in the neighbourhood, “Mikey down d road” fixing cars, Gina doing hair, and the list goes on. Trinbagonians are resilient and can make anything into a business!
What do you think are barriers toward women truly embracing their power?
To me, the biggest barrier is ironically, other women. We compete with each other, rather than seeking to support and build together. Women united can do such great things, but more often than not, we are divided by jealousy, hate and immaturity. If we as women stand together, we can truly effect change in so many of the other barriers we face, like sexism, unfair and unrealistic expectations of image, body shaming, harassment, threats to our safety and more!
What’s the most important tool for a woman to possess?
Integrity. Whether it’s in choosing to be modest in a hyper-sexualised society; turning down inappropriate offers even if it means not getting that promotion; or putting the needs of your children ahead of your feelings for their father, women must have strength of character and moral principles.
What advice would you give to a young woman trying to be embrace adulthood?
Don’t rush it! Adulthood, especially for females, can be a sometimes scary experience, but the trick is to hold on to your youth for as long as you can. I don’t mean to be childish; do embrace growth and maturity. However, there are so many things in this world that seek to rob us of our innocence and the joys of our youth, that the least we can do is delay as long as we can.
Secondly, no one has their life figured out by twenty. Heck, I’m twenty-five and still learning and figuring things out. Be patient and know that it’s perfectly okay to feel a bit lost and overwhelmed at times. It’s all part of the process. Just take it one day at a time, and seek to learn and develop in some small way each day. I promise it all adds up.
What community groups are you a part of, if any?
I am a part of Ten Strings Outreach, which is the ministry, non-profit, and community development arm of Ten Strings Developmental Company.
What project are you currently involved in, if any?
Not necessarily a project, but I volunteer at the Jairah (formerly Raffa) House Children’s Home, where I help with homework, and occasionally hold exercise sessions.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
By God’s grace, I see myself married with children, and successful businesses. I would especially like to expand CORE Wellness TT to where I can create job opportunities for others (especially recent graduates) and provide training and development opportunities in health and fitness throughout the region.
What or who has contributed to you being the woman you are today?
My parents. My father is the most hardworking and resourceful man I know, who is always seeking knowledge and never sits still! He has taught me the value of hard work and being proactive. He has always provided for our family, and set an extremely high standard for what I expect in my husband.
My mother was the strongest, funniest, most supportive and selfless woman I’ve ever known. She had a heart of gold that I strive to carry on. There is one moment I’ll never forget. A homeless woman came to our house one day and asked my mom if she had any old clothes she could spare. Without hesitation, my mother went to her wardrobe, took most of her clothes, put them in a bag, and gave the woman. Just like that. She practically emptied her wardrobe for a stranger in need! In that moment, I learned all I needed to about what it means to be human.
What is in your bag?
Let’s see. I have my Bible, wallet, daily planner, pen, house keys, foundation (I don’t even know why this is in here, because I hardly ever wear makeup lol), my “care pouch” with my afro pick, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, floss and nail file, and my “beauty pouch” with tweezers, nail clippers, eyebrow brush, lip balm, concealer, and a tiny tube of facial cleanser.
What? I like to be prepared! Haha!
Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
As boring as this is going to sound, I’m usually at home working, as I do my best designing and most focused editing at night. If not, I’d be out eating or relaxing with my fiancé.