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"No Grit, No Pearl": Cecilia Russo Turner Inspires at Big Cafe

Russo shared her story of building a successful marketing business and the power of giving back.  In honor of her 15th year in business, she is accepting applications for $5,000 grants for new business owners, start-ups, and budding entrepreneurs in Georgia.
L-R: Cecilia Russo Turner with Cynthia Cradduck

Cecilia Russo Turner, President and CEO of Celia Russo Marketing, spoke at the monthly BIG Café meeting held in the GS Business Innovation Center in downtown Statesboro on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.

Russo shared her story of building a successful marketing business and the power of giving back.  In honor of her 15th year in business, she is accepting applications for $5,000 grants for new business owners, start-ups, and budding entrepreneurs in Georgia. The three grants, totaling $15,000, will be awarded during November, which is Entrepreneurial Month.


Russo shared how incredible her journey has been and the importance mentors have played in her success. To be able to share her successes, challenges, and lessons learned with others who are beginning their entrepreneurial journey is important to her.

She explained how entrepreneurs have to embrace and understand the power of belonging. When you decide that you belong in the room, it will really resonate.  She has learned that true belonging is about recognizing that we all have something valuable and unique to offer, and our differences make us stronger together.  

Belonging gives you a sense of purpose, connection, and courage to make a difference. You are more likely to take risks and challenge the status quo.

Russo stressed the importance of creating spaces for others to join you. That is more powerful than focusing on simply having a seat at at the table.

Cecilia Russo Turner speaking at Big Cafe. DeWayne Grice

GS Grad began as Intern, is now Managing Partner

Russo shared a story about the important role hard work plays. In 2014 she brought on Cynthia Cradduck as a student intern. She was a Senior Marketing major at Georgia Southern. Cynthia matched her profile in people she likes to hire, and that is people who are smarter than her and more organized than her. She was also blown away by her work ethic. Ten years later, she is now the Managing Partner of their firm.  

"I am very proud of Cynthia and her accomplishments," said Russo.  "Through her, I can see first hand the difference guidance and mentorship can make with someone at the beginning of their career."

Cynthia embodies someone who has overcome obstacles and has a tenacious spirit tempered with kindness.  

No Grit, No Pearl

Russo's family was in the seafood business in Savannah for decades. She has always been fascinated with the power of a pearl.  

"A pearl begins as a little bit of grit inside an oyster shell. The oyster works and works as a defense mechanism putting layer and layer on the grit until it becomes a beautiful pearl," said Russo. "Take comfort in knowing that our most powerful asset as humans is the power to come together to overcome any obstacles. From grit comes reward. Nothing quite shines like a pearl."

She concluded giving her seven tips for success: 

  1. Discover your distinctive leadership style
  2. Maintain faith and commitment to keep at it
  3. Dedicate yourself whole heartedly
  4. Cultivate enduring relationships
  5. Demonstrate boundless passion and perseverance
  6. Pay it forward
  7. Live by your personal mantra and always do the right thing - people will notice and it will pay off.

BIG Café

What is "BIG Café"? A monthly opportunity to join to meet and mingle with cool, innovative people in the BIG ecosystem powered by strong coffee and great conversation. BIG speakers bring topics of interest followed by facilitated conversation to engage your feedback, ideas, and encouragement. You are an important part of this program, so please bring a friend or make a new one. We hope to see you there! The coffee is on us thanks to Cool Beanz Coffee Bar 

Business Innovation Group (BIG)

The Business Innovation Group at Georgia Southern University works to build an ecosystem throughout the State of Georgia to help entrepreneurs create, incubate, and accelerate their for-profit business enterprises. BIG facilitates access to university resources, creates opportunities for student experiential learning, and fosters an environment that supports a growth mindset throughout the state.

As a unit under the Associate Provost of Innovation & Commercialization at Georgia Southern University, BIG is committed to developing and deploying new technological platforms, innovative programs, quality services, and educational events to help meet the needs of area businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators seeking to expand business operations and/or launch new business enterprises, products, and services.