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Columbia business leader Karen Jenkins uses talents to uplift community

Karen Jenkins, President and CEO of KRJ Consulting, has been named Chair-Elect of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. She's the 1st black woman to hold this position.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — How can I help? is Karen Jenkins' life question. 

While it's a simple question, the answer can be seen in the people and communities that Jenkins has empowered, inspired, and uplifted. 

Led by God, Jenkins has used her talents and skills to help people "live up to their highest level of potential."

It's the inspiration behind her company, KRJ Consulting, LLC, a human capital and organization development consulting firm. "We specialize in people," Jenkins explained. "We want to make sure that people understand their value, that they understand their contribution."

Jenkins founded the company in 2008 after twenty years in the banking and financial services industry. 

Credit: Karen Jenkins
Karen Jenkins leverages more than three decades of experience as a successful leader and entrepreneur

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Her experience and people-first approach have helped garner KRJ consulting national recognition. In 2020, the company made the INC 5000 list of fastest-growing small businesses coming in at 546. 

Not only is this USC graduate a well-respected businesswoman, but she is also a community leader. 

She is actively involved in several organizations, including Vistage, the Women’s President Organization, and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. 

In October, Jenkins was named the Chair-Elect of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Her appointment is historic, as she will be the first black woman to serve as Chair. 

"It's humbling," Jenkins said. "If I can do it, then I'm setting the stage for other people to be able to accomplish things that they didn't know that they could accomplish."

Before being named Chair of the organization, Jenkins was a member of the Board of Directors. In addition to this role, she also served on the Executive Committee for three years. 

This latest accomplishment is one of many for Jenkins. In 2020, she received the Icon & Phenoms Award from the Columbia Regional Business Report. In 2019 she was named an Enterprising Women of the Year Award winner, celebrating the world's top women entrepreneurs. Jenkins was also named South Carolina Female Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration South Carolina District Office in 2019. 

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Credit: Karen Jenkins
Karen Jenkins on the cover of "Women In Leadership" magazine.

In addition to the accolades, she is also an author. In 2010, she released a book titled, "Nobody Told Me! The Path to Financial Empowerment."

While Jenkins' awards and accomplishments are impressive, her faith and resilience, for some, are even more inspiring. 

Jenkins' road to success has not been easy. "There is no person on this earth that is not going to face something," she explained. "I don't focus on the barriers. If you focus on the barriers, you can't get the solution to move in the direction that you want to go with."

Instead of dwelling on life's obstacles, Jenkins trusts God's plan for her life and focuses her energy on solutions. "So when we take our energy, and we focus it on the positive side of life, then it's like a vibrational frequency, we get more of that back," Jenkins explained. "If we're stressed out and worried about this (situation) and worried about what somebody said to us or what's going to happen, we're also sending out that vibrational frequency, and that's what we're going to get back."

The combination of faith, a positive attitude, and support from her community of friends, family, and colleagues has helped her weather several storms. 

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In 2007, Jenkins was laid off from Netbank. She was offered a job at another bank but turned it down to open a mortgage company with her nephew. The business fell on hard times when the "economy tanked" during the housing crisis.

In January 2016, Jenkins' father passed away. A few months later, her son suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and was only given a 10% - 15% chance of surviving by doctors. 

Fast forward six years later, and her son is now a senior at USC. 

Reflecting on challenging times, Jenkins said, "I stayed positive, I trusted (God), and I had faith. While she admits the experiences were challenging, she found confidence in knowing that her steps were "ordered by God."

"I have been blessed beyond measure," Jenkins explained. "And it's not a blessing of financial; it's a blessing of my family. My husband, my two kids. It's a blessing of my circle. It's a blessing of all my teammates that work with me. It's a blessing of my colleagues. It's a blessing of me being in a position to do what I'm doing at the chamber." 

For Jenkins, her husband and two children are her greatest blessings.

Credit: Karen Jenkins
The Jenkins family

She is married to Raoul Jenkins. The couple has been together for over thirty years. After completing several tours overseas, Mr. Jenkins retired from the military.

The couple are the proud parents of Patrice and Raoul Jenkins II. 

Jenkins says her children, alongside her family, colleagues, and Greenview community, have been a constant source of support on her road to the top. 

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"I define success when I am comfortable and at peace with who I am," Jenkins explained. "And when I am in a position to continue to be there for my family and to serve my community."

When people look at Jenkins' life, it can easily be described as one marked by success. For Jenkins, her life is marked by building up others and inspiring them to also ask, "How can I help?"

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