Jayla always knew she would use her career to uplift her community.
A few years ago, she just imagined it would be through politics, not pumping iron.
She came to UW–Madison intending to study law, but a few political science classes in, she found the material wasn’t inspiring her the way she had expected. She then took part in the gALPHA Social Justice program—which helps students create innovative business models to solve social problems—and her eyes were opened to the possibilities of business.
“I never really realized that you can determine how you do business,” she says. “For me, doing business is through community impact and giving back to the people.”
In 2020, she figured out just how she could give back through business. After feeling her health decline in college, she got serious about getting healthy and realized she could invite others to join her on the journey. She earned certifications in personal training and nutrition, and today she runs an on-campus wellness brand called Shape with Jay. Through one-on-one training, healthy meal ideas, partnerships with student organizations, and social media, she encourages other students—especially Black women—to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
“You don’t really see that many Black women in the wellness space, right?” Jayla says. “So I’m providing a platform and a voice for women who look like me, and other women who may not look like me, and helping them realize what they’re capable of with just a little support.”
Her motto is simple: “You got this.” Why? “Because you really do,” she says. “Sometimes it just takes that extra person to gas you up or be your hype man to remind you of that.”
Perhaps this motto is a reflection of her own driven personality—which Jayla feels makes her a natural fit for entrepreneurship. But her biggest strength, she adds, is being a connector. “I like to call myself like the glue of the room,” she says. “Any room I go into, I make the extra effort to make sure that everybody not only feels seen but heard and loved.”
Jayla also puts those connection skills to work at the Wisconsin School of Business as a diversity consultant and an ambassador for the WSB Black Undergraduate Affinity Group. In both of these roles, she strives to make the school a more inclusive place.
What’s next for Jayla? After graduation, she’ll join the Rotation Development Program at American Family Insurance—a two-year program that will allow her to explore her interests in business while enhancing her leadership skills. During that time, she will also continue working toward her goals for Shape with Jay; in the future she hopes to provide communities with resources on healthy living through avenues that appeal to Black culture, speak at school districts, provide a space for women to come together and talk about wellness, and even open her own gym.
But her ultimate goal goes beyond helping people establish healthier habits; it’s helping them establish a healthier mindset. “I’m hoping to have a lasting impact on people’s ability to see themselves as something greater and that they’re worthy of any dream they set out to achieve.”
What is the best advice you have received?
Be true to yourself and embrace your authenticity. I got that advice from my grandmother when I was little, and I've always carried that throughout my life.
Who inspires you?
My family is the biggest driver for everything I do, but especially my mom—the woman I do it all for, and the woman I look up to. As a single parent of four, I swear she’s, like, superwoman.
What are some of your hobbies?
Listening to music, creating playlists for family and friends, and cooking.