"I face this day as a valuable, talented and smart businesswoman who is getting things accomplished."
These words are one of the first things Andria Hendricks reads every morning, having lived up to that statement for more than 20 years.
The wife and mother of three children has worked for the Missouri State Auditor's Office and owned and operated a mortgage company, as well as served as the bursar/director of student accounts for her alma mater, Lincoln University. Not only did she teach for several years at LU, but she also helped establish and direct its Small Business and Technology Development Center and assisted more than 40 clients reach various levels of entrepreneurship.
Last October, she used her expertise to create ASTRADA Business Solutions, her own certified consulting firm that specializes in financial and business management, accounting, logistics, information technology and more for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
It is hard to shake Hendricks' ambition and positive, can-do attitude. Yet, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer early this year, her husband, Adrian, wrote those words on her master bedroom mirror to remind her of what and who she is.
"In this process, I forgot who I was. He said, 'No, you are phenomenal, and this is one of the processes we had to go through,'" she said.
While battling the disease and going through treatment for nine months, Hendricks added her own works of encouragement to the mirror. Nearly a dozen phrases join that first sentiment during that time to keep her focused on her family, herself and growing ASTRADA, including "No More Cancer," "I Am Not Defeated!" "Let go, let God" and "Believe in yourself."
Now nearly two months in remission from cancer, those quotes remain on her mirror reassuring her that she can do anything she puts her mind to.
"Fear is not an option. Before I would let fear stop me in some of those areas, but now I can look fear in the face and say if I can beat cancer, there is nothing that can stop me at this point," she said. "You can only go up. I believe the sky is the limit."
Building a passion for business
Hendricks' persistence to reach for the stars and achieve her dreams started at a young age.
Raised in East St. Louis, she decided to pursue a nursing degree and began her studies at Lincoln University in 1993. During new student orientation, she met the "love of her life," Adrian. Her now husband of 21 years is a regional educator at Lincoln University and pastor of The Joshua House Church that the couple founded in 2011.
Deciding nursing was not the right career path, Hendricks looked into studying business. Once in that program, she began "to excel," she said.
"I love it, I breathe it," she said. "Sometimes the theory of life application doesn't always line up with what you are trying to do immediately, but if you keep trying to do what you like to do, it will."
For Hendricks, it did. In 2000, she earned her bachelor's degree in sociology from Lincoln University. That same year, she started at the Missouri Stte Auditor's Office as a performance auditor, staying there until November 2006. She also received her first master's degree in business administration in 2003 from William Woods University in Fulton. She then worked as the bursar and director of student accounts at LU until November 2015, teaching multiple businesses classes online and on campus through this January. During this time, Hendricks also owned and operated Paramount Mortgage Funding Inc. from 2006-2012 and received a second master's degree, this time in sociology at LU.
Hendricks and Adrian were just as driven at home as they were at work, raising their three children — now 21-year-old LU college student Sabria, 16-year-old Adrian C. Hendricks III and 11-year-old Darius. They also are both working toward dissertations for doctorate degrees, with Andria aiming to earn a business administration in management and leadership degree with an emphasis in entrepreneurship from Grand Canyon University.
Hendricks said she believed there was something more she could do. In September 2015, she became director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center at LU. She assisted 43 clients with their businesses, and the center helped those businesses borrow more than $350,000 in loans from various lenders in order to assist with and/or open their businesses, she said.
"It is very rewarding when you see them living the dream," she said. "Many still keep me informed of what they are doing and ask questions. I love helping people and still have great relationships with everybody I worked with."
Hendricks also established relationships with many community leaders, federal and state lending institutions, and federal and government contracting outlets during her time directing the Small Business and Technology Development Center. She is a Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2017 graduate, board treasurer of the Human Relations Commission and one of the News Tribune/#jcmo Inside Business 17 in '17 Woman in Business recipients.
Last fall, Hendricks knew the time was right to launch ASTRADA Business Solutions, landing business management consulting for ALL Solutions Inc. soon after its inception. The eight-member team of highly specialized and experienced professionals in their field at ASTRADA provides a range of high quality advisory and marketing support services for both public and private sector entities.
Battling the big C
Life was marching on and things were going well for Hendricks until she was involved in a car accident Jan. 22 that led to the discovery of her breast cancer.
A woman rear-ended Hendricks' Escalade, which was sitting in stopped traffic and also carrying her two sons. Everyone involved walked away with a few minor injuries; however, Hendricks noticed that her right breast was hurting.
"I already had a scheduled mammogram appointment around that time, so I told the technician that it was really sore, believing it was just bruised tissue from the car accident," she said. "The next day, they called me and said they saw some spots and wanted to do a biopsy. At that point, I was freaking out."
Her loved ones told her cancer doesn't hurt and not to worry. However, the day after her biopsy was done, she received a call from medical staff informing her she had cancer.
"After I found out I had cancer, I believe that God was working on my behalf. I was always so busy doing everything for everyone. Something told me to make time to do this. God put a stop to it," she said. "Even though the accident was horrific, I was grateful we all made it out and brought attention to my cancer. The impact from the accident shook my body up and made my cancer become identified."
Hendricks had an aggressive form of invasive ductile carcinoma, stage 2B breast cancer. She opted to do a bilateral mastectomy removing both her breasts April 6 at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
The day before, Hendricks and her family laid to rest her sister-in-law, who unexpectedly died while on a vacation with her family in Branson. While the Hendricks family supported their loved ones during this time, a few dozen of them came to support Hendricks and her family during her eight-hour surgery.
"All of my support team was there on shifts just to make sure everything was OK," she said. "My husband is absolutely amazing. He buried his sister on April 5, and his wife had major surgery on April 6. I don't know how he did it and still don't know how he is doing it. I know the grace of God is covering him."
Adrian was one of Hendricks' main lines of support, especially through her "hardest, darkest time" going through chemotherapy treatments from May through September at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia. He was there to cut her hair off when it started to fall out and tell her how beautiful she was. He continued to be a pillar of strength when she felt doubt and grief or was in pain.
"My husband was just so strong and supportive. He always told me I'm a winner. I never quit at anything. He was going to be there by my side every step of the way," she said. "He is always so comforting and hugs me, keeps me close and makes me feel like everything is going to be all right."
Her children were also at the core of her support team, writing her love letters every day.
"If I felt down, I would read their letters," she said, adding her daughter also would sing her songs. "I want to frame them."
Hendricks' support team stretched far beyond immediate family. Her parents, mother-in-law, relatives, sorority sisters, friends, church members, medical team at Ellis Fischel and others made sure she was never alone and well looked after during the entire time.
"Someone brought me and my family dinner every day. I received tons of flowers, cards, blankets and wraps, house shoes, pajamas, and one lady gave me a chair," Hendricks said. "I can't put words to how appreciative I was."
'Don't ever give up on you'
Hendricks rang the bell after her last chemo treatment Sept. 5 and is now in remission. She didn't let cancer get in the way of her work, growing her business as she could during her treatment.
"I was doing my certifications, developing the business, working with clients," she said. She now has Women Business Enterprise Entrepreneurial Mindset I.C.E. (ISSA Certification Expert), Minority Business Enterprise, SBA Women of Small Business, Disadvantage Business Enterprise, Google, FastTrac Tracking and Facebook certifications and designations.
With her strength returning, Hendricks is eager to do more networking, make more business connections and get involved in speaking engagements about her breast cancer journey and volunteer for related causes.
"I feel like I have had a reset button pushed for me and second chances have developed. Now I am going to seize those opportunities. I am looking forward to what is about to happen with ASTRADA Business Solutions."
Hendricks' positive mindset has pushed her through many challenges and obstacles in her life, and there is one piece of advice she can give to others as a result.
"Never give up on you. There are always going to be trials and tribulations and negativity that will come and surround you in some form or fashion. Whether it is a goal, cancer, a business you want to establish, don't give up on you," she said.
This article appears in the Oct. 29, 2018 issue of #jcmo Inside Business.