Mention the name Campbell in the Lowcountry, and you are likely to hear stories—stories of Hilton Head Island’s rich history, stories of community, of kindness, generosity, and hard work. And it is upon this foundation that Omolola “Lola” Campbell, Esq. perpetuates her family’s legacy and the Gullah heritage she credits for her strength, her character and her success.
A native islander and sixth-generation Gullah person, Campbell is the daughter of the late Solomon “Sol” Campbell III and his wife Della, both of whom set a strong example of work ethic, entrepreneurship, and indefatigable faith. Her great-grandfather, Rev. Solomon Campbell, was the grandson of an enslaved man living on Hilton Head Island during the Union capture in 1861; her grandfather, Solomon Campbell, Jr. was an early craftsman of boats and homes on Hilton Head Island.
With firmly established roots and an attitude of determination, Lola Campbell continues the tradition of preserving the Gullah history and culture that is so deeply ingrained in her, while embracing opportunities to raise the bar for future generations.
A lawyer by trade and entrepreneur at heart, Campbell has made it her mission in life to use her experience and wisdom to inspire others. In her book, Writings on the Wall, she writes: “I truly believe I was meant to offer a lot more to this world than legal advice. As a result of navigating my own destined journey to discover personal empowerment, peace, happiness, and most important, my purpose, I am able to share my moments of joy and frustration, breakthrough moments and life lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) with others. My hope in doing so is to give you inspiration to find your own peace, passion and purpose, while living unapologetically.” Profound words for a 43-year-old, who acknowledges that living her unapologetic truth isn’t always easy.
As a single mom of a nine-year-old boy, an attorney working for a major financial institution, a writer/poet, and a small business owner/entrepreneur, Campbell admits she’s overwhelmed at times and occasionally retreats to the bathroom for a cry. “Sometimes I feel like I’m running for it with my eyes closed, because if I open them, I might be afraid of what’s coming,” she said. “It’s not always happy and joyous, but my faith continues to get me through—plus a really supportive community of friends and family.”
Before leaving home to embark on her adult path, Campbell mapped out a plan. But as is often the case, her trip got rerouted a few times along the way.
As a small child, she remembers her father asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She, in turn, posed the question, “Who makes the most money?”
He answered, “Doctors and lawyers,” setting his little girl’s mind in motion.
Fast forward a few years when, fresh out of Hilton Head Island High School, Campbell headed to college, intent on becoming a doctor. But then came chemistry. “That second chemistry just knocked me out of being a doctor. I thought I liked science…,” she said with a laugh. “I knew pretty quickly that was not going to be my track.”
Campbell changed over to the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in international business. After graduation, she lived in Atlanta, Ga. for a year, working for SunTrust, before making her way to Howard University School of Law in D.C.
“I knew I needed a second degree. I felt like I had diverse options if I went to law school. As a lawyer, I could still go back and work in business. I’m glad I chose it,” Campbell said.
After obtaining her J.D. degree, Campbell set out for the Big Apple, where she lived and worked from 2005-2017, her first job with Lehman Brothers as a derivatives attorney. “I knew I didn’t want to do anything that was litigious or be in a courtroom. I wanted to go back to the business side of things,” she explained.
When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, she went to work for HSBC in a contract position and, through a connection with a former co-worker, was later hired fulltime with Nomura, a Japanese financial holding company. “After the contract position I never had to look for a job again,” Campbell said. “You build relationships along the way, you do good work, and you keep those relationships,” a lesson that harkens back to her upbringing.
In 2012, Campbell gave birth to her son, Jaylen, in New York City. By the time he was four, she was exploring schools for him and found the options limited. So, in 2018, she began making her way back South, taking a position as Senior Markets Council for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, N.C.
“I wanted to find a role in the South. The move was about education, family, and deciding to give my child the upbringing I was afforded,” she said. “It was a smart move. I am a single mom and have been since he was one. It didn’t make sense to stay in New York. I wanted to be back in the Lowcountry, and the closest I could get was Charlotte, [the second largest financial center in the U.S].”
Finding the way home
By March 2020, Campbell’s path took another miraculous turn. Thanks to COVID, she came home “temporarily,” she said with air quotes and a laugh, and by July was contemplating a plan to stay. Again, the question of school for Jaylen was a deciding factor. She negotiated with her manager to continue working remotely and immediately put a contract on a house. “That was walking by faith a little bit,” Campbell said, “but I took that leap, and here I am.”
In addition to her work for Wells Fargo, Campbell wears a few more hats these days, as her entrepreneurial spirit never rests. Her latest ventures include Gone Gullah, a lifestyle brand that represents the Gullah heritage; and Binya, a newly-opened retail shop where she displays and sells her Gone Gullah merchandise and other Lowcountry- and Gullah-inspired items such as sweet grass baskets, books, local art, candles, tinctures, and more.
“I was born into a community and family of entrepreneurs. Many of my family members have started a business of some sort, and that influence has helped me to blossom—to feel strength and confidence moving forward,” Campbell said, citing her son as the primary force behind her drive and ambition.
“Being a parent is not easy, and being a single one is even harder,” Campbell said. “Being a single mother has really pushed me to do more. I feel an obligation to inspire my son to be all that he can be and do whatever he wants to do.”
All parents think about their children first, Campbell pointed out, and that becomes magnified when you’re going it alone. “As a single parent, you think about that child first, but you have to always take care of yourself—mentally and physically. You put yourself first to a degree, because if you can’t operate, you can’t take care of or provide for that child.”
Campbell says her latest endeavor is a way of modeling for her son the world of possibilities ahead. “I would love for him to be an entrepreneur. That is what I see in him. I don’t see him sitting at a desk from 9-5. He is an active, very intrigued child.”
Jaylen is currently enrolled at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts and is enjoying theater. “He has a big personality; we may ship him off to Hollywood,” Campbell joked.
Campbell’s road trip continues as she blazes the trail for her young son. She doesn’t pretend to know where she’s being led next, but she walks in faith. “I feel like God has made this path for me, and as I continue to progress through life, I’m believing it more. I pray about what I want, and things don’t always happen the way I want. But it ends up being the best thing for me.”
While Campbell’s early mentality was to have the job that makes the most money, today she knows that money isn’t everything. “I’ve come to appreciate happiness and what I do and putting out something that benefits more than just myself,” she said.
Her best “travel” tips? “Never say the words, ‘I can’t.’ In all you do, take chances. Have faith. Display determination. Embrace the journey.”
Connect with Lola Campbell via her inspirational website, livingforlola.com or stop by and meet her in person at Binya, located at 556 Spanish Wells Rd. Learn more at www.binyahhi.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram.