Thank you to Gladys Burke, owner of ADJ Enterprises, for answering some questions today! Check out the ADJ website here
Where were born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born and raised in Saint Matthews, S.C. Attended Claflin University, an HBU in S.C. I got married just 3 months after graduation and moved briefly to Maryland, where my new husband was working as a weather forecaster for the National Weather Service. He was later transferred to the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg to join the Forecast Team there. That’s how I got to a little town called Leesburg.
How long have you been in business?
My business was established in March, 1983.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was working as a part-time radio announcer in Warrenton, VA and as an intern with the local cable company here in Leesburg as a way to break into broadcast journalism. I was facing some discrimination, but right around that same time, we became first time parents. That changed everything. I fell in love with being a mom! I decided to start my own business so that I would have more control over my career path, the flexibility to be the kind of parent I wanted to be and be in a position to push back against discrimination. With my education and background, I thought an advertising agency would be a perfect fit. Eventually, I decided to focus on just one area of advertising which is branding, using promotional products. I taught myself the business…but got a lot of help along the way.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that guided your career?
I was an avid reader as a child and somehow, I was introduced to the story of the first Black female millionaire, Madame C.J. Walker. So she would be my abstract inspiration, but my late mother, Mattie C. Pinckney, and my late husband, Clarence “Rocky” Burke remain my all-around inspiration. Additionally, this may sound strange, but honestly, I get some little nugget of knowledge, inspiration, ideas or encouragement from almost every single person I meet. I love people and listening to their perspective and learning from the interaction in ways they probably never imagined. Sometimes it may be a negative comment that I turn into a positive or something meant one way and I am inspired by it in another way! Countless people have given direct support and encouragement to ADJ Enterprises over these many years. I have been enormously blessed with the people that God has put in my path. Enormously!!!
What is the best part of your job and why?
Creating a satisfied customer gives me the greatest joy at ADJ Enterprises…hands down! I know that in order to create that satisfied customer, I’ve had to listen and understand their end goal and then apply my knowledge of branding, and creativity to make it a realization. However, it’s not just me, it’s also the high standards of the entire ADJ Team. The mixture of clientele is so interesting and varied including small businesses, corporations, trade associations, non-profits, politicians, churches, schools, and all levels of government, back down to the individual just wanting to plan a family reunion. Also, just seeing my work all around the County is pretty neat. I just smile and know ADJ’s done a good job.
What is it like owning a business in Loudoun?
Owing a business anywhere is a lot harder than most people might think. However, I’ve had great support from the moment I opened my business. ADJ’s been here during times of plenty and times of little, but the customers have stayed with us. In some cases, I am into my second generation as a business has passed from parents to children. That’s an amazing honor. I joined the Loudoun Chamber early on and became active. I believe in Chamber membership, especially for anyone starting a new business. Membership has been impactful to my business. Loudoun’s a great place to do business as well as to live. I have a plain, but true saying, “Within certain limits, my potential is unlimited”.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It’s nice that we take a month to pause. But I like to think that I live Black History every day. Even as a child, I was aware of the beauty of our culture. As an avid reader, I spent many, many hours reading about the Black experience. I was reading works by James Baldwin and James Weldon Johnson and reading books like Black Like Me and The Spook Who Sat By the Door.
I have always known that we are a great people…surviving slavery tells me that. But it’s not enough to know your history, I believe we must all participate in “change” in our own way, be it large or small. Some of the ways I did that years ago was to publish a minority business directory for Northern Virginia called, BlackGuide for which I also obtained a trademark. And later, I founded a Loudoun business organization called the Black Business Alliance. Mentoring and encouraging others as I’ve been encouraged is a passion. So for me, I see where there is a need and try to be a part of the solution.
I give a nod and a smile to some of the great national history that’s being made, all of which should have happened years ago. Black History can’t be limited to a day or a month. We have to seek it often for ourselves because it’s being made daily. I support the pause to observe, reflect and acknowledge those who have made amazing strides. A little closer to home, the Balch Library through its Black History Committee has some great, local examples of real courage and accomplishment.
Favorite things to do when you are not working?
Family, Church, TV, Reading, Community Service, and I love a walk in the great outdoors.
Check out the ADJ Enterprises website here