Written by Ali Hodge, Class of 2009
Cionna Franklin (class of 2010) learned about the importance and power of teamwork at Central High School. As a teenager, she put her energy into many different teams: she was on the staff of the O-Book, she was a member of the African American History Club, she was in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), and competed in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), an academic team of marketing students that learn business and leadership skills through conferences and competitions.
So it isn’t surprising that she put all that experience and expertise to work after college to start her own Dallas-based business, Chicks Link Up, aimed at encouraging and developing teamwork amongst professional women.
“Chicks Link Up is a professional networking platform that encourages women to collaborate, create, and impact each other in whatever professional field they’re in,” said Franklin. “I started it because I wanted to give women the opportunity to mentor, relay their knowledge, and share their expertise with other women.”
After high school, Franklin moved to Oklahoma to attend the famed HBCU, Langston University. There she majored in business and minored in marketing. “I always knew I wanted to be a business owner,” she said. “That has always stuck with me, ever since Central High and Ms. Wiles’ marketing class I knew.” So her decision to major in business was never one that she wavered on. “Some people change majors in college; not me.”
After graduating from Langston University in 2015 Franklin took a job with Dell Computers. She said she liked the 9–5 hustle, but “I knew I was destined for more.” In her small amounts of free time — the early hours of the morning and late hours of the evening — she began to work on her business idea: Chicks Link Up. She strategized, dreamed, and wrote a business plan. She began social media marketing of her new organization, and even capitalized on her business connections made through her day job to collaborate with app developers at Dell’s India office to create the platform for a Chicks Link Up app.
“Before I started the app, I knew I needed to build a local foundation of support first,” Franklin said. So she took a leap of faith: she quit her job and moved to Dallas, Texas. No job, no connections waiting for her on the other side of that long U-Haul journey. It was time to put those teamwork and networking skills she was building her business on to work!
And it paid off, she said with enthusiasm. “I think it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A lot of people would say, ‘you sure you wanna do that?’ But I made it work!” Franklin debuted Chicks Link Up in Dallas, and has been hosting growing networking events for the past four years.
Franklin said what set her up on her path was her involvement at Central High School, and the doors that opened because she got involved.
“Central allows you to be a free spirit. It allows you to mix and mingle with different people. Being in such a diverse atmosphere helped me on my journey. So if you’re still a student at Central, I would urge you to get involved! Participate! Don’t just coast high school. College and high school set you up for life. You don’t know what doors will open up for you. When you’re in high school it’s easy to think that what you learn won’t matter to your future life, but it does. You will use what you learn. Don’t coast.”
She also encourages recent graduates and all alumni to utilize all the free and accessible information available to continue to grow your skills. She said part of her success has stemmed from her willingness to take her learning into her own hands, and the internet, YouTube, and libraries make that endeavor so easy. After all, Central taught us how to be learners, now as adults we get to spread our wings and fly to new heights all on our own.
Cionna Franklin’s Must Read Book List for Young Eagles Who Want to Start a Business
The One Page Business Plan by Jim Horan
The Twelve Universal Laws of Success by Herbert Harris
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout