Young alumna, 25, establishes scholarship
When it comes to skin-care products, Ajane Pridgen has always been a bit of a hobbyist, experimenting and making creams and lotions and hair-care products that worked well for her. Even during her four years at Winston-Salem State University, she found time to dabble in this diversion.
When she graduated in 2017 and headed out into a career in healthcare management, she remained engaged in creating her own products. Then a bit of bad luck turned out to be a solid stroke of good fortune.
“In 2019 I was working a job in Charlotte and the team I was working with ended. They gave us a bonus and I put $500 into starting my business,” said Pridgen. “I put it on social media in 2020 and it popped overnight. It’s been crazy ever since.”
The “business” is BeYou. LLC, a specialized line of personal products, all made by Pridgen and a small team of employees in Winston-Salem.
“We create natural care products that help people, mostly women,” Pridgen said of her company, which can be found online at justbeyouperiod.com.
As the business grew successful, one of her first thoughts was giving back to WSSU and honoring her grandfather in the process.
“My grandfather passed away March 16, 2019. He was the most lively person I’ve ever met. He wasn’t really my blood grandfather. My mother was adopted, and I didn’t meet him until I was 12. Him coming into my life was like bringing in another father figure. He just brought a new aspect of what it meant to be a grandparent and a father.
“He was always honest with me, telling me like it was. But he was always supportive, never abrasive with me. He was the one person who always expressed how proud he was of me. To uphold his legacy is so important to me.”
With her grandfather at the front of her mind, she created the Willie Morrison Jr. Scholarship Fund at Winston-Salem State University. It funds two $1,500 scholarships a year, one each semester, that go to deserving seniors of the healthcare management department.
“This is to honor my grandfather and to help students. It’s for seniors; I know how hard it was for me as a senior. You had to have an internship, you had to go back and forth to that internship,” said Pridgen. “I knew I wanted to do what I could make to sure other students didn’t have to go through that.”
The first Willie Morrison Jr. Scholarship was awarded this spring and was actually split between two rising seniors. Pridgen recently had dinner with the two students, Selicia Stokes and Che’Von Jefferson, and got to know them.
“I always knew that I wanted to give back to WSSU. I totally enjoyed my experience there. I get emotional talking about it. It built me into the woman I am. “It’s like a big family; you don’t get that with a bigger school. At Winston it is so close-knit. It built me a family I’ll have the rest of my life.”