Sherin Dawud ('12 BS Kinesiology) and Raina Vallot ('15 BS Kinesiology) are one of our Women's History month alumnae spotlights. Their dedication and entrepreneurial spirit led them to start their first company fresh out of college, in an industry completely different from their degrees. Today they are the cofounders of Power Pump Girls, Inc., a social impact club with the main goal of empowering women to connect and serve. Learn more about these driven alumnae and how LSU paved their path.
What path did your career take after graduating from LSU?
Raina – Two months before I graduated in 2015, Sherin and I had already launched our first business together, a corporate event planning company. Both of our degrees were from LSU in kinesiology, so we took a very unconventional route towards entrepreneurship by starting companies that weren’t at all within that industry. We ran our first company for about three years before creating Power Pump Girls in 2017 and a boutique digital marketing firm, Nura Co., in 2020.
Raina Vallot (left) and Sherin Dawud (right)
TelL Us about your business, Power Pump Girls, Inc.
Power Pump Girls, Inc. (PPG) is a social impact club that empowers women to connect and serve. PPG was founded to create space and drive meaningful conversations surrounding social issues, womanhood and the art of the hustle. As a 501(c)3 organization, we’re uniquely positioned to fundraise and mobilize community programs that promote health, equity, education, and more. PPG has led the charge on several advocacy campaigns, including those centered on civic engagement and women’s rights legislation. PPG also has an apparel line that inspires connectivity and is dedicated to bringing social issues to the forefront with meaningful design and messaging.
What has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward as an entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is probably fundraising and always making sure we’re keeping our doors open so we can continue to serve the community. The biggest rewards are the testimonials from anyone whose life has been impacted by the work we’ve done. It’s also always fun seeing people across the country wearing our merchandise. It reaffirms that what PPG stands for is important and that our message resonates across state lines, gender, and more!
WhEn you were at LSU, where was your favorite place to eat?
Sherin – Buffalo Wild Wings. I used to order the 40-cent wings
Raina – The hidden gem that was the Magnolia Room. I always looked forward to gumbo days.
What inspired you to start Power pump girls, Inc?
Sherin - As Black female founders, we know how important it is to create an ecosystem that is conducive to sharing resources and education, celebrating women from all walks of life, and discussing issues that impact us both directly and indirectly. Our core belief that women are better together is what inspired us to start Power Pump Girls and is truthfully what has kept us inspired for the last few years.
How did LSU help pave the way for you to take on this challenge?
The LSU ecosystem was equal parts vigorous and fun, so we learned how to balance hard work with a good time. Our college curriculum was intense and prepared us for being dedicated towards a goal. At the same time, the extra-curricular and social atmosphere on campus made for some of the best years of our life. More than anything, LSU taught us the value of community. There’s no place quite like LSU and that’s what we hope people feel about the PPG culture.
Do you have a mentor that helped you along the way?
Raina – Dr. Jas Sullivan was definitely one of my LSU mentors who helped me discover my voice and how to use it in leadership roles.
Sherin – I can’t remember his name, but there was an LSU staff member that would often stop and check on me throughout my time in college. He would always say, “As long as there’s fruit on my tree, the students will eat for free.” It always stuck with me how he was so dedicated to making sure I had what I needed to succeed at LSU.
What do you miss most about lsu?
Sherin - I miss gamedays and tailgating the most or swiping my friends without meal plans into the caf!
Raina – Definitely gamedays and tailgating. Nothing like an LSU Saturday, especially the first home game of the season.
How has your business changed over the past year, and how do you stay motivated?
In the past year, we had to reimagine how we connect and serve in a virtual, socially distanced world. We went from having monthly in-person event programming to strictly online means of connectivity. We ramped up our merchandise capacity to make up for losses in revenue and began creating more digital resources to continue adding value to our community. We stayed motivated because the need for our services remained, and at times, increased. Overall, we were fortunate to be able to continue our work, even amidst a pandemic and the many other challenges in 2020.
What advice DO YOU HAVE foR other women who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs?
Find your tribe and DO IT. You don’t have to find a business partner like we did, per se, but having a support group is essential. You need a sounding board for your ideas and a safe place to ask for advice, resources, etc. Entrepreneurism is an ever-evolving journey and until you’re IN it, you don’t quite understand what that means, but we encourage any woman that wants to start her own venture to JUST START! There’s so much freedom on the other side of fear, so once you overcome that fear of getting started or putting yourself out there, the possibilities are limitless!
What makes you proud to be an lsu alumna?
Raina – From the moment you get your acceptance letter, the pride of being an LSU Tiger never diminishes. In fact, it gets stronger and stronger over the years as you recognize how integral your time on campus was to the rest of your life. If I had to narrow it down, I’m most proud to have graduated among some of the university’s best and brightest. I love seeing friends from my time at LSU go on to succeed in ways that are really changing the world. …that 2020 National Championship also didn’t hurt.
Sherin – The fact that my dad graduated from LSU and it’s something we share is so special to me.