After making her mark at Virginia Tech, earning a degree in Housing, Interior Design, and Resource Management, Theda Blackwood used her enthusiastic spirit and unwavering determination to establish a legacy post-grad. This Q&A explores her entrepreneurial endeavors, her experience on stage as Annie, and her future plans to continue dreaming big and giving back to the Virginia Tech community.

For me, it was a dream come true as I could be an independent business woman, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer and motivator for a field of volunteers.

Could you give a brief explanation of your current line of work, and what has led you to it?

“I am currently a small business owner and Executive Senior Director for a jewelry designer out of Atlanta called eSBe Designs Jewelry. After having a professional career for 10 years, I had my children and I decided I wanted to stay at home with them but quickly got bored. After just 2 years at home, I helped launch a direct sales company called Southern Living at Home leading a team of over 3,500 women nationwide.

For me, it was a dream come true as I could be an independent business woman, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer and motivator for a field of volunteers. I was able to do all this while continuing to raise my children and support my husband, as well as helping my aging parents as needed.”

What do you believe is your most interesting or beloved accomplishment since graduation?

“My most interesting accomplishment was indeed my direct sales career. Being able to truly build a successful and lucrative business all while being a stay at home mom is something I’m truly proud of. It took a lot of work and passion to build and grow it, and there were many days I would get 4 hours of sleep a night because the only time I had to myself was in the wee hours of the morning when the kids were asleep. The passion and excitement for what I was building was the motivation and I thought to myself– ‘If I can build something while the kids are little, when I get them to school, I’ll have something of my own.’ Thankfully, it worked!

I have been able to earn a full-time income while using my marketing skills to grow a business, my public speaking skills to train thousands of sales reps, and additionally developing a new passion for sales and customer service. As the the admin, the sales rep, the customer service rep, and CEO of my own business, I learned amazing time management skills out of necessity!”
How has Virginia Tech been formative in your career?

“Virginia Tech has been the foundation for my not only my career, but even the foundation for my life since I met my husband of 25 years in my time as a student. I believe that the education I received certainly prepared me for what I would eventually do in my career, but it goes much deeper than that. The community and the diversity of the people along with the network and friends I made in college are what gave me the foundation in which to build my businesses.”

Do you have any advice for the students of Virginia Tech?

“The advice I would give to students is to feel the freedom and ability to re-invent yourself in your career. Students should follow their passions responsibly and always be open to try things that interest you. I believe that investing time in your passion and doing what you love will allow you to be successful in whatever you choose to do along the way. Remember, you won’t love every aspect of your job or business, but you’ll be much happier doing something that feeds your passion.”

How did the experience of Annie impact your life?

“Being in Annie was an amazing experience and I don’t think I realized the full benefits of until I became an adult. Auditioning for Annie helped me understand competition and confidence. After all, we are constantly competing for jobs and because I learned to share my talents at a very young age, I grew to be confident in myself. The show gave me a no-nonsense work ethic to be professional, show up for work, and work hard even when sometimes I didn’t feel like it. Additionally, Annie helped me shape my public speaking skills since I was not afraid of ‘performing’ for a crowd.

As in live theatre, things often don’t go as planned I learned to be flexible and think on my feet in the show as well. After travelling over 2 years on the road, I was exposed to many different people and thus learned about diversity within the cast and in the cities I would perform.

Honestly, I could go on and on about life lessons, but arguably the most important lesson was that of optimism. Due to the fact that I sang ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’ 8 shows a week for 2 years, the message of the song truly sunk in. I am truly a ‘glass half full’ kind of person!”

What are your goals and plans for the future?

“My goals and plans for the future are to utilize all my talents and interests in anyway that gives me joy! I have most recently found my joy through joining the Board for the New Jersey Hokie Alumni, as I can give back in some way to the school that gave me such a great foundation.

I want to continue to be challenged in my work and most importantly, I want to love what I do and who I do it for. My motto is that life is too short to be unhappy.

Further, I am excited that our two kids will both be Hokies this fall (a junior in Engineering and a freshman in Business) and I’m excited to come to Blacksburg more frequently and be in the town that truly gives me a sense of home. I love the motto ‘This is Home’ as it genuinely resonates with me and my family.”

Theda has used her experiences at Virginia Tech to cultivate tremendous success, and her dedication to a life filled with adventure is an inspiration to all. She will continue to follow her passions and plans to assist the Virginia Tech community in doing the same.

Theda at the Annie Reunion
Theda at the Annie Reunion