Shannon Cohen: When Passion Meets Purpose

by Kate Branum • photography by Victoria Upton 

It started as a dream, derived from a passion for motivation, and erupted into something much larger than Shannon Cohen ever imagined.

Cohen, founder and principal of Shannon Cohen, Inc. (formerly Community Ventures), an all-purpose consulting firm in Grand Rapids, has dedicated her life to empowering emerging and existing leaders to be transformative in the communities they serve.

Recently, Cohen launched Tough Skin, Soft Heart, a campaign comprised of positive affirmations designed to help often unsung individuals in leadership positions navigate the emotional, mental and physical strain that comes with the commitment to make a difference in the community.

Cohen’s product line, Tough Skin, Soft Heart, is a customizable leadership care kit designed to uplift professional women.

“I’ve come to realize that leaders often don’t have a safe space to say when they are not okay,” Cohen pointed out. “Leadership can be one of the most lonely, yet rewarding things you ever do, and out of doing consulting work with leaders, I found that so many leaders were burnt out and feeling alone, and as long as they were performing well externally, no one really care if they were truly well.”

The movement includes three, essential components: an informative and creative blog series that offers professional opinions, tips and personal experiences, motivational speaking segments and a product line that consists of essential oil-infused soy candles, magnets, stationary, wall art and graphic t-shirts.

“We started to make a leadership care kit,” Cohen shared. “The care kits are customizable, and one thing that makes Tough Skin, Soft Heart (products) powerful and different is that they all include a saying that speaks to the soul.”

For example, a popular statement printed on some of the products reads, “This is your day to live at the intersection of joy and purpose.”

Many businesses have surprised their employees with these uplifting packages to inspire and motivate them to stay strong and reach for happiness.

“I have visions of seeing Tough Skin, Soft Heart (products) in Hallmark, or being the next Hallmark,” Cohen said. “The types of messages that my friends (and women in executive positions of leadership) need to hear aren’t always frilly; they need strong, power-driven affirmations.”

Read her blogs, see her encouraging videos and find her products at

Kate Branum

Aside from studying journalism at Grand Valley State University and interning at WLM, Kate Branum enjoys writing, reading and all things art. Reach out to her at:



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