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Mother to mentor

Jasmine Holt, a senior majoring in communications, has conducted dozens of interviews with successful black women who have overcome dire situations to become authors, entrepreneurs and producers.

But one story she doesn’t highlight as often is the story of her own struggles.

Just over a year ago, soon after she transferred from Hillsborough Community College, Holt found herself as a full-time student, pregnant and with no source of income.

“When I first came to USF, I was able to get around fine and I was taking a full load. I went to class, did my homework on time and was working a steady job,” she said.

But when she found out she was pregnant, everything changed.

Halfway through her second semester at USF, Holt found her health taking a turn for the worse. She could no longer continue at her job as a human resources officer and she was eventually hospitalized for dehydration and low iron levels.

Unable to get around and struggling through her classes, Holt became frustrated with everything.

After losing her job, Holt was forced to rely on the help of close friends and family for support. They supplied her with diapers, cribs and baby supplies, as well as basic necessities, such as food.

“It was hard to pay for an apartment, electricity and water with no real money coming in. That was rough for us,” Romaine Edwards, Holt’s boyfriend of five years and a USF alumnus, said.

Holt said without the help of her mother and professors, she wouldn’t have been able to keep up with her responsibilities.

She struggled with the basic necessities, including food. In April of 2012, she began receiving food stamps.

“Mentally, I saw her reach a low point because of the pressure and the weight of knowing that she wasn’t able to provide shelter for herself, but also for Kai, our son,” Edwards said.

As the work began to pile on, Holt considered leaving school behind. She said she remembers going to the Financial Aid Office to ask about the ramifications of dropping out.

“I said to myself, ‘I just can’t do this,’” she said. “‘I’m so sick of this. It’s too much.’ But I knew that two years from now, I will be done with college and I’ll be able to say I did it.”

Holt decided to remain enrolled in her classes and said she wanted to make the best of her situation.

Mostly bed-ridden and immobile, Holt began using her downtime to write down ideas for a goal she had — to create her own business.

“When you are in that situation, it’s easier to get discouraged, but instead, she just started writing and writing a lot,” Edwards said.

She wrote columns, interview ideas and began brainstorming what she wanted to do with her brand and her life.

“I knew I always wanted to own my own business and be an entrepreneur, but going through these struggles gave me a focus,” Holt said. “It showed me how I could help others to achieve their goals too.”

After having her son Kai in October 2012, she used these ideas to begin developing Our Womanhood and her website

Two weeks after the birth of her son, she went back to her classes and started creating her brand.

“For Our Womanhood, I wanted a brand for black women aged 21 to 50, who have a little bit of life experience under their belt,” Holt said. “I want to encourage them and keep them going through life.”

Holt worked alone designing the Web page, the brand logo and is the sole writer for the site.

“The first thing I had to do was get a focus and narrow down what I wanted to do,” she said. “It’s not enough to say ‘oh, I want to cover events or concerts.’ I needed a real focus and what I came up with was womanhood, motherhood, entrepreneurship, education and health.”

By the time the website launched in September 2013, Holt said she had six months worth of content already planned out. This included interviews, columns and how-to’s.

“I also put small snippets up about my personal experiences and stories and talk about how they can apply these things in their own life. It’s updated multiple times a day,” Holt said.

Now in her last semester at USF, Holt said she has big plans for the future of the Our Womanhood brand and website. Starting Oct. 1, the website will begin offering advertisement space to African American-owned businesses, but Holt said that’s just the beginning.

“Things are always going to happen,” she said. “You never know what life is going to throw your way, but you have to be sure of yourself and you have to be strong enough to continue to press on. Every time you want to do something, chances are, something is going to happen to try to stop that, but you just have to continue on.”