Battle Creek

Love and Joy: How a Battle Creek nonprofit leader evolved into business owner and coach

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

BATTLE CREEK, MI — Serial entrepreneur is how Kyra Wallace refers to herself these days.
One year after stepping down as President and CEO of the Southwestern Michigan Urban League (SMUL), she is fully immersed in the entrepreneurial endeavors that were the reason for her departure from the SMUL. The pull of what could be was too strong to ignore, she says.
“I’m a very spiritual person. I recognized that my season in that position was up. God revealed to me that my purpose in there had been fulfilled,” Wallace says. “I knew there would come a point when I would be a full-time entrepreneur. I allowed God to show me now is the time.”
Kyra Wallace, former President and CEO of Southwest Michigan Urban League, now owns several retail and consulting businesses.Each of the three businesses founded and operated by Wallace had been established and operating before she left the SMUL. 
“Leaving allowed me to venture into them on a full-time basis,” she says.
Her first venture was Bluestone Housing Solution which was an outgrowth of the first home she purchased at the age of 22. She remained in that house for five years. After building herself a new home, she transitioned that residence into a rental unit.
In the years since Wallace has acquired 10 more properties scattered throughout Battle Creek. She also owns an Airbnb through a corporate lease in Augusta, Giorgia.
“I have technically been an investor by virtue of being a landlady since 2006,” Wallace says.
Rather than relying on formal training in real estate investing, she educated herself in several areas including property acquisition and long and short-term rentals. She freely shares what she has learned with individuals interested in the investment end of real estate through a networking group that meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at The Link community event space.

These real estate meetups began in November after Wallace and her business partner, Juan Ayla, were traveling to different real estate meetings and events in cities throughout Michigan. They asked themselves what it would look like to have these meetup opportunities in Battle Creek.
The Link Event Space“The essence of the meetings is we have different speakers come and talk on different topics related to real estate investing," says Wallace. We "wanted to provide a space because we recognized others were interested in real estate investing."
In another venture, Wallace offers coaching through a credit repair business she founded in 2018 called Desires of Life. Two years earlier, she became a Certified Life Coach which complements the services she provides through financial coaching.
Drawing on her years as a nonprofit leader, Wallace engages primarily in small business and finance coaching. Her consulting work is focused on nonprofits.
“At the core of it there are specific skills that are needed to operate any business and although a nonprofit is an entity that doesn’t necessarily make a profit it still has to operate as a business as it relates to finances, budgets and controls being in place,” Wallace says. “I utilize those skills daily in my businesses. Working at the Urban League I dealt with people every day so I was able to hone my skills being able to deal with people in ways that are respectful. You have to garner a certain level of trust and respect.”
A business of a more personal nature
In 2019 Wallace embarked on a weight loss and healthy living journey that she shared with others in Facebook posts. Two years later she had made significant progress and founded her activewear line — L.J. Active Company — which was created to embrace women of all shapes and sizes.
L.J. is short for Love and Joy — which is what Wallace says sets her clothing line apart.
“I feel like as women we need to love the skin we’re in and love who we are. I’m so big on non-body shaming. There’s a message behind why we should feel how we feel. Part of that includes being active, you could choose to walk or maybe you love to dance or skate. Despite where you might be in your own fitness journey, you are supported.”
Like her other businesses, L.J. Active is not a brick-and-mortar operation enabling her to save on overhead costs. She works with various clothing manufacturers to have her logo put on apparel they design and also creates her own clothing designs.
Wares from Kyra Wallace's L.J. Active CompanyUnder the L.J. Active banner, she is working on a meal prep component.
“What I learned through my health journey is that it’s even more important what you do in the kitchen as it is being active. There couldn’t be one or the other,” Wallace says. “I had to learn what will work for me and because I’m a busy person meal prep helps all the way around. It keeps me disciplined and keeps me from eating things I shouldn’t eat.”
When word got out about her meal prep efforts, people began asking her if she could do this for them. She did it for a woman who was on dialysis twice a week and also for a friend who had been in the hospital.
“With any business, you should have a target audience and my target with LJ Active is African American women because we do need to become a lot more active and less sedentary because we suffer from those health issues. We have a family history of different things and one way to combat is to be less sedentary,” Wallace says.
With jobs and family responsibilities, exercising or going to a gym to work out is not top of mind, she says, adding that she wants to provide as much support as she can to help other women live healthier and balanced lives.
Wallace says she was fortunate to have a job that enabled her to build trust with the community. Those who know her would not be surprised to see what she’s doing now.
“It takes courage to leave what people would consider as safe to go out on my own,” she says. “I revert back to my spirituality. I recognize that God is my source and my businesses are resources. I’m staying grounded in that and I don’t worry.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.