For a small town in south Mississippi, Laurel seems to produce the best entrepreneurs, artists and groups of eclectic people that expand their reach far beyond the borders of Jones County. Ebonee Johnikin is no exception.
Born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi, Ebonee and her family are deeply rooted in the Laurel community. Her mother being an educator in the Laurel School District for years, Ebonee grew up in a tight knit group of educators and forward thinking members in this little town. She was a cheerleader since she was in elementary school and says that she can trace her success back to the mat.
“Being a cheerleader definitely shaped my personality. I’ve always been strong-willed and outgoing but it allowed me to focus all my efforts on a team. I traveled across the country with friends and that taught me to cheer for others.”
She continued her education at Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi and completed her Bachelor’s degree in communication and English. But her journey didn’t end there. She went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Interpersonal Communication at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Ebonee explains that relationships are the most important thing we experience in life. She says,
“I enjoy interacting with different people, learning about human behavior, and improving organizational and interpersonal communication. It’s important to be intentional in the way you interact with others at work and in your community. I love connecting the dots and finding ways to make it better and more effective.”
Her experience landed her a position at a large corporate firm back in Laurel. She trained employees and worked diligently for years until her heart was called to serve her community in a different way.
“I spent an entire year volunteering at the soup kitchen and our local schools until an opportunity opened up for me to become a missionary in Japan.”
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Several years ago, when I was preparing to move out of the country, I felt like I was ready to conquer the world. I believed I had what it took to leave my family and move to Japan—alone. • Just before embarking on my new journey, fear gripped me and I started questioning if I was making the right decision. Negative thoughts had taken over my excitement and eagerness to serve in the capacity God called me to. • My mind was filled with cloudy disbelief, and I was no longer confident enough to get on the plane for a 22-hour flight. The opportunity I had been waiting for was right in front of me, but I was fearful and hesitant to take the step. • I mustered up enough energy and gumption to just go for it! Japan was waiting for me, and I had to get there. I stepped on the plane to start the journey, and my life has not been the same since. • This new opportunity birthed from me who I had always known I was. I grew in ways unimaginable. Ways that I could only experience because I made a choice to operate in confidence. • The little pieces of Japan scattered throughout my home remind me to not be bound by fear because fear keeps you in one place. • Fear limits your ability to grow. Fear causes you to miss opportunities, and it takes away your chances to make a difference. Fear keeps you from truly pursuing who God called you to be. • • #makinghappyrain #fearless #confident #takethejourney #newyou #nofear #japaneseliving #shibuyacrossing
She left the comforts of her home town of 20,000 people and moved across the world to the largest city in the world, Tokyo. With 3.7 million people and opportunities to make a difference, Ebonee made it her mission to dive in headfirst.
She became significantly involved in her local church and looked for intentional ways to serve those around her. She encourages others to travel and experience a different culture whenever they can.
“It was a great experience in the way it allowed the truest version of myself to finally come out. I think it takes different experiences, people and interactions for you to blossom in ways you never know you could.”
“Japan rebirthed me in some ways. It fed my love for helping others and truly that’s all I’ve wanted to do my entire life. I would literally pick and go right now. That’s where I get the biggest fulfillment.”
But for Ebonee, one of the wildest turn of events was coming home to Laurel once again. In the years that she has been home, she’s reconnected with a community she once knew, and it’s been a reprieve from international travel. She’s become involved in the Historic Preservation Commission, the Library Board, and Laurel Main Street.
“I feel like I’m everyone’s cheerleader. You can always find me in the back rooting for you, encouraging you, lifting you up. I feel like that’s what I do best here.”
She’s found her residential cheerleading mat at the Laurel Mercantile Co. where she serves as the Director of Wholesale and Corporate accounts.
“I’ve enjoyed interacting and meeting people in the store. It’s rewarding to tell a little about my story and our town’s story. Helping others create a grand experience is one of my favorite things about being home. Plus, I get to work with some pretty awesome people here.”
Ebonee plans to keep on cheering on her community and working towards taking her love for interpersonal communication across the world. She hopes to inspire others and provide young professionals with the tools they need to succeed in any industry –– big or small.
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