Natalie's Everyday Heroes: LaShawnda Wilkins, founder of SpeakLife Nation

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: LaShawnda Wilkins, founder of SpeakLife Nation

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There's a new space on Milwaukee's north side that just opened to help local entrepreneurs.

It's called SpeakLife Studios. Owner LaShawnda Wilkins thinks of it as an opportunity center.

She hopes to give people in Milwaukee opportunities as an alternative to the problems she sees on the city's streets.

"I'm excited, I'm not going to lie," Wilkins said, while planning for an upcoming event.

It's been less than a month since SpeakLife Studios opened its doors on Teutonia Avenue, and already, the calendar is filling up.

"She would like sausage, bacon," Wilkins read off the client's request for her breakfast. 

Wilkins is owner and CEO of SpeakLife Nation and describes it as an event space and much more.

"Branding, business cards, photos, absolutely anything you need, business related, you can come and get that," she explained.

And she's spreading the word everywhere she can, including on TikTok. She's determined to reach people wherever they are.

"Really, this place is for the community," she said. 

Shawnie, as she's known, grew up here in Milwaukee.

She went to Brown Deer High School, then on to MATC to study business.

From a young age, she had inspiration inside.

"It's literally something I would say I'm born with," Wilkins said with a big, warm laugh.

But all of that could have changed in an instant, at the corner of 50th and Congress.

"So, 2014, 4th of July, I was actually robbed and shot, and at that moment, that's when I knew if we wanted to see a change in our community, we have to realize we are the change," she explained.

She took that life-altering experience and launched SpeakLife magazine, taking divine inspiration.

"Death and life is in the power of the tongue, and they that loveth shall eat the fruit thereof," she said. "So, understanding what you speak has power. What you speak is what you believe, what you believe is what you do, what you do is everything."

Her focus has turned to changing the violence she sees on Milwaukee's streets.

"Dear Milwaukee, save Milwaukee. Let's save Milwaukee," she said, holding up the most recent copy of her magazine, SpeakLife.

SpeakLife magazine comes out four times a year. This year is dedicated to the topic of change and helping others.

"It's time for us to come together and learn how to use our resources to help the person next to us. If we want to see a change in our city, it's us," she said of her vision.

So, she sees SpeakLife Studios as an obvious extension of that mission.

It's a business center designed to help and uplift.

"It means just speaking life into someone, in a way where you think you can't do it, or you don't have faith. She gives you that motivation," said friend, Deidre Tolbert.

Tolbert is a caterer, who's known Wilkins for 10 years.

"Anything that you need, she's able to do it. Like it's going to be a one-stop shop here," she said of the new space.

As a mother to her 9-year-old son, Shawn, Wilkins says everyone has a role to play in improving the city.

"If we could just be that bomb auntie that spends time with the kids, or you can be a man that stands on the corner in what we call hoods. Everybody can play a part and it doesn't have to be opening a business," Wilkins said.

Tolbert sees great things ahead.

"She's amazing, that's my friend. I love her, and I just see not only just her striving in this business, I see other people that come here when they walk into these doors, she's going to help you," Tolbert said.

A place to get the inspiration you need -- whatever that may be -- Shawnie can help with that.

"I guess that's coming from someone who could have lost their life," she said. "You know, I could have not been this mother to my son right now. So that type of stuff motivates me. It's a blessing to be alive!"

To learn more about SpeakLife, you can visit www.SpeakLifeNation.com.

To nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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