July 20, 2011 – Fort Valley State University’s Dr. Anissa Jones confidently strolls into any classroom and demands respect. Her stern, no-nonsense demeanor lets students and fellow colleagues know that she’s all about business.
“I’m tough on my students because I want to see them succeed,” says the biology professor, who juggles parenthood, business, and is a former candidate for Georgia’s House of Representatives in District 139.
After Jones earned a Bachelor of Science degree from FVSU, she broke barriers, becoming the first African-American to open a chiropractic office in Middle Georgia.
Currently, she owns and oversees two thriving businesses in the Macon area: Fusion Back and Body Center and It’s All Greek to Me. The body center offers non-surgical, non-drug day spa treatments, and the second business is a retail store that sells caps, tees and pins that contain the trademarks and brands of fraternities and sororities. Months ago, the grassroots community organizer ran for political office.
In this week’s “Just Do You” column, the multifaceted professor and entrepreneur discusses the journey to success with interviewer Horace Holloman III, FVSU student intern.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Macon, Ga., and still live there today. I am the product of a single-parent home. My mother and father were together at one time, but separated when I was two years old.
How did you get your businesses started?
I’m truly an entrepreneur at heart, and knew eventually it was something that I wanted to do. It was just about being creative. I, by no means, come from a wealthy family or anything like that. I did not take out any loans to start my businesses. I just worked really hard to get them to come to fruition. It was a little unorthodox. I waited tables for many years and saved my money so that I could have a little start up for my business. I also had the support of one of my cousins, who was able to give me some seed money to start my first business—which is the doctor’s office. This led to other ventures.
Growing up, who inspired you?
My grandmother and mother. Both of them were very strong, passionate women that instilled in me, at an early age, the importance of a good, sound education. It was important, for me, not only to go to school, but also to excel while there. I took that advice with me throughout my educational journey, and it helped get me to my next level in life.
Was it difficult having a son at a young age?
I was a 20-year-old sophomore in school when I became pregnant. Instead of [aborting] him, I decided to keep him. That decision was the best one I ever made in my life. I became grounded and more committed to taking my education seriously, so that it could lead to opportunities for my child and me.
What message would you give young women facing a similar situation?
Never give up! Even through struggles, you’re learning things about yourself, your stamina and fortitude. You will look back at those hard times, that passed by, and see that they contributed to the person that you have become. I know that I probably wouldn’t be as successful if it wasn’t for the fact that I was a young mother. I’m not condoning single motherhood, nor glorifying it, but it helped put me on the right path.
With everything that you do what made you decide to run for the House of Representatives?
There was a need. I’ve been in my community all my life, except for the years I matriculated in college. As soon as I graduated, I came right back to Macon, which made me the very essence of who I am. I’ve been very involved in the Bibb County community, from HIV/AIDS awareness to mentoring young women that find themselves in the position that I was in school. So, at some point, when you contribute to your community, you want to see change. And some things are not changing because the laws are the same.
Ten years ago, I made the decision to run for office, but I felt that the elected official (at the time) was doing a great job. So, I would have never run against the office-holder that had served for 37 years. A series of dominoes fell into the right place for me to run for office. The incumbent decided to run for the senate, which left a vacancy in the House of Representatives. I decided to run at that time, because it was something that I had a passion for, previously.
How do you manage it all?
Time management skills help, and a willingness to accomplish the things that you enjoy. I’m doing everything that I love, and because I love it, I make time for it. I’m no different from anybody else. I love to serve, so all the jobs (like being a chiropractor) are service jobs. My purpose is to serve, out there, on campus. I love serving my community with a willingness. I want to do it; I don’t have to do it.
“Just Do You” is a periodic column that features profiles of FVSU staff, faculty and students. If you’d like to recommend the next JDU feature, contact Marketing and Communications at (478) 825-6319.