Throughout YaVaughnie Wilkins’ life, she has always believed she was meant to change the world. With a career spanning politics, modeling, law school and finally patent development, Wilkins has lived up to that belief in more ways than one. Born and raised in San Jose, CA, Wilkins adopted a hard-working lifestyle at an early age. She followed the path of her eleven aunts and uncles into the armed services, joining the Reserves after graduating high school.
“I always looked up to my aunts and uncles who wore the military uniform,” Wilkins recalls. “Wearing my U.S. Air Force uniform made me one of them, and proud to be an American.”
After the military, Wilkins moved to Boston to pursue a career in modeling. After a chance encounter in 1992 as she walked through Boston Common, Wilkins happened upon a particularly moving political rally for then presidential candidate Bill Clinton: And her attentions soon turned to politics. Until then, she had been a staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan, who had been her hero throughout the 1980’s. But as she said about Clinton’s speech, “I heard him speak and became a Democrat at that very moment. I just kind of fell into politics after listening to his inspirational speech.”
Two weeks later, she moved to New York and immediately looked up the offices for the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign. From that platform, she easily moved from one campaign to another, supporting her choice political candidates. Wilkins has clocked time campaigning for leaders ranging from David Dinkins to Charlie King to Charles Rangel. The latter was a particularly influential campaign as she was an outsider whom was trusted to serve a campaign mostly full of local influences.
“It was an honor to join his staff. Normally guys like him hire people from within their own neighborhood,” she said, explaining the influence she was able to have as someone from outside the Representative’s congressional district.
YaVaughnie’s interest in politics continued as her life experiences took her back to her roots in California. Immediately after moving to San Francisco in 2002, she began working on the campaign to re-elect California governor Gray Davis, an experience which ultimately pushed YaVaughnie to vote Republican that year, as well as change her political affiliation to Independent. Because she was not particular to San Francisco politics, she began to phase her life out of campaigning and focus more on other career ventures, though both politics and especially New York City will always hold an important significance in her life.
“New York was an inspirational place for me in that everyone I knew had multiple and simultaneous careers,” she recalls. “The hustle of the city instilled a drive in me that reinforced some of the military training I received. I went to school full time, worked full time, and yet somehow still made time to work on several political campaigns as well as have a vibrant social life. Every day I walked out the door, I believed I was going to change the world,” continues YaVaughnie. “My gratitude and affinity for New York City will never waver.”
Always expanding her reach with the New York elite, Wilkins found herself in an inner circle of influentially powerful people on Wall Street.
“After spending all of my career working hard to further the aspirations of male CEOs and politicians, it was a breath of fresh air to work for a woman who inspired me more than anyone outside of my own family,” said Wilkins, explaining her experience working at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter as an equity research assistant. “I worked for a woman named Mary Meeker, who was tough as nails, but I respected and admired the fact that she was smarter and worked harder than anyone I had ever met in my life. She impressed upon me that it was absolutely possible to be a dominant force in a male-oriented arena. “
Armed with her passion to change the world, YaVaughnie decided to go to law school. “It was important to me that I become more influential in the global world and I didn’t feel that working 17 hours a day, six days a week for other people was exercising my full potential. I thought, if I’m going to put this much devotion to something, I want it to be for my own career, so I started applying to law schools.”
Wilkins was on track to obtain a law degree, but put that on hold when she began pursuing several patents and beginning development of YaVaWi Enterprises LLC, a parent company to her three businesses, Follow Thru LLC, 21 Yellow Tulips LLC, and Free Spirit Rider LLC. She has been extremely busy with several projects surrounding these enterprises, including personally producing a full-length documentary, investing in third party film projects, completing a memoir and placing five patents into prototype development.
Her first project to come to market, Rejuvenescence, is gearing for a national launch later in the summer. Rejuvenescence, a line of natural scent-infused bathroom tissue rollers, has been a pet project of Wilkins’ since 2006. For the past five years, she has worked with some of the top essential oil manufacturers to create four signature scented rollers that discreetly fit inside any bathroom tissue roll, while delivering a pleasant, sophisticated fragrance. “It’s not taking up counter space or wall space,” she explains. “It’s hidden. And, it’s more pleasant a scent than most air fresheners on the market.” Wilkins likens it to aromatherapy candles or infusers.
“I want it to be decadent,” she says. “But it’s still practical. I feel this is something that everyone needs.” Wilkins called the process of identifying and developing the fragrances “an art.” She sampled thousands of different oils to create the specific combinations she thinks will appeal to both men and women of discerning taste. “You don’t have to be a woman to appreciate a pleasant-smelling bathroom,” Wilkins says. The fragrances include Moonflower, Wild Orchid and Spice.
Rejuvenescence rollers, which are filled with beads soaked in sophisticated, long-lasting oils, are made of recyclable material and are manufactured in the United States. They fit any standard toilet paper holder and have covered perforations users can uncover to control how much fragrance is emitted, according to their specific tastes. It makes for a fragrant bathroom without an obtrusive object or visible accessory.
Her company is also planning to release a kitchen towel holder in the near future.
With ideas quickly reaching fruition and more on the sidelines waiting to take shape, Wilkins is ready to seize the opportunity that has been calling to her from when she was young.
“I was a middle-class girl from East San Jose,” she concludes. “I guess I just assumed I would always work for someone else,” reflecting on what was now possible. “It’s a bit overwhelming having all the responsibility of running four companies simultaneously, but I’m ready.”
We are committed to donate 1% of our profits of ReJuvenescence to each of the following charitable organizations:
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America
Gay and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation
Rape Trauma Services of San Mateo County
National Society of Black Engineers
National Black Child Development Institute