District Director Award

“It’s all about the journey…and I know you’ll have an amazing one” On January 22, 2018, Rhode Island lost a trailblazing leader in the small business community, and, to all who knew her, a friend. Cheryl Watkins Snead left an indelible mark on everything she touched, truly embodying the age-old adage of “leaving it better than you found it.” Whether it was the
company she founded and grew to a national supply-chain powerhouse, her advocating for countless young people, women, and people of color, or her unwavering support for small business; Cheryl made them better.

Born in New Jersey, Cheryl began her path towards entrepreneurship through education.
Crafting her skillset at UMass Amherst where she was the first African-American woman to graduate with a B.A. in Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, she dove into the workforce perfecting her craft for General Electric while gaining a keen understanding of management. While working Snead never gave up on her continued education, a trait that would repeat throughout her life. Cheryl would go on to earn her M.B.A. from Purdue University and with her technical prowess and strengthen understanding of business, branched off on her own founding Banneker Industries. Cheryl understood that business, much like life, has opportunities and obstacles, ebbs and flows, positives and negatives. In an ever expanding technological world that demands minute-by- minute updates, we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. What Cheryl understood more than most was that the journey is as important, if not more so than destination.

In October of 2017, Cheryl spoke at a “TEDx talk” in Providence where she addressed her
career, management, and leadership style. During her presentation Snead had this to say, “I do want to be remembered, when my career is over, when my life’s journey is over, that I managed with enthusiasm, I lead with passion, and I would add four words to it – as a servant leader.” Those close to her would say she achieved what she set out to do, “Cheryl was a leader, business giant, entrepreneur but more importantly a friend,” said SBA District Director, Mark S. Hayward, “She received many awards during her short life, which proved that she was a very special person, but most importantly she gave to people much more than she received. She taught us all to live each day with enthusiasm and determination not knowing which day will be your last. Her infectious smile provided us with inspiration to achieve, and her supporting words with the confidence to continue the journey,” he reflected.
We hope, by giving this award and publishing this article, to continue to shine a light on who
this amazing woman was, the countless lives she touched, and the incredible admiration we here at the Rhode Island District Office of the Small Business Administration have for her. We also understand that our words will never do justice to who she was, so we will close with Cheryl’s own words of wisdom. “So as I conclude, and you think about everything I shared with you, it’s really not been about the destination at all. In fact, having your plan is important but be flexible and agile for the changes in life that are going to come. When you lead, lead with passion and when you’re serving others you have no idea where that’s going to take you. And finally, when you do run into obstacles and challenges – ‘cause we will, that’s life – you now have a tool in your toolbox, a process to achieve it, to overcome it. I hope now you know a little bit about me but more importantly a little more about you. You know what
your past is, you’re in your present, now look at your future – not just your destination- but it’s all about the journey…and I know you’ll have an amazing one.”

For her lifelong commitment to bettering the small business community, her steadfast
dedication to the growth of opportunities for women, young people, and minorities within that community, and her entrepreneurial excellence, the U.S. Small Business Administration is proud to posthumously recognize Cheryl Watkins Snead, Founder and CEO of Banneker Industries with the 2018 Rhode Island SBA District Director Award.

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