Chattanoogan: Shelley Burdine-Prevost – Mission Minded

Saturday, January 19, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

While moving around frequently as a kid, Shelley Burdine-Prevost wasn’t afraid of going someplace new. The thought of becoming a missionary didn’t frighten her in the least – it was her childhood dream.

Though her mother Brenda thought it was cute that her daughter loved missions, by the time Shelley was in college she was not encouraged to take off for the mission field and she wound up with a mission right here in Chattanooga.

“People asked me about us moving around a lot. ‘Were you an Army brat? Was your dad a preacher?’ We moved because my dad was always getting promoted,” Shelley says. Her father Tony was in pharmaceutical sales.

“My dad was always striving; he was a hard worker. My mom dabbled in interior design, but she unapologetically was a mom. She was there for us at home and very domestic and she was really good at it,” Shelley insists.

Born in Cate Girardeau, Mo. it wasn’t long after that Shelly’s family made the move to Mayfield ,Ky., when she was just a toddler. Soon after she had started grade school the family moved to Germantown, Tn., followed by Cincinnati, where she would attend high school.

With the repeated uprooting, many children may find it hard to build relationships with people, but Shelley had a different way of bringing relationships to her life. She played with Barbie dolls. Shelley would not only dress them up or fix their hair; she was serious in her playtime with these characters in her life.

“One Christmas, I got a big Barbie Dream House. It’s funny because in what I do for a living, I will ask people to ‘go back to their happy place’ - their earliest childhood memory, and mine was playing with Barbies. I would act out elaborate scenes like a soap opera. I would spend hours playing by myself with my Barbies and my Barbie Dream House,” Shelley says.

“Every time my grandmother would visit, she’d bring me these little outfits she had sewn for them. I would write out scripts and I tried to get my sister to play with me, but she wouldn’t do it; she thought it was stupid. I would make it truly like a play and would really get into the dialogue and the emotion,” Shelley remembers.

“The thing I wanted to do the most was to be a missionary.  We grew up Southern Baptist. It was an ‘every-time-the-church-was-open-we-were-there’ kind of thing.  I remember at a very young age starting to ask very tough questions. I asked why God allowed certain things and why people in Africa didn’t have this or that. Again – that relationship focus,” Shelley asserts.

“I wanted to help people and the way I had witnessed people helping others would be when missionaries came to my church …and that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.

To me, that showed at such an early age how I was hard-wired for relationships and now what I am doing in my life is very relationship focused,” Shelly maintains.

Dr. Shelley Prevost is the director of happiness and resident cultural engineer at the Lamp Post Group.

Shelley attended Georgetown College in Kentucky and her parents moved to Henderson, Tn. One summer Shelley worked as a mission project coordinator at a youth camp and met her husband Chad.

“He was a Bible study leader. There was a no dating rule, but we dated ‘under the radar’,” Shelley laughs.

Having moved to Chicago to obtain her master’s in psychology, Chad followed her there and the college sweethearts dated for two years. After marrying they moved to Atlanta where Chad started school and Shelley worked as a school peer counselor.

The couple moved to North Chattanooga in 2004 as Chad had taken a teaching job at Lee University.

“I immediately started out-patient counseling and was the youth director at First Centenary United Methodist Church with their middle school,” Shelley says.

She then became licensed as a mental health counselor and started her own private practice called Wellspring. Over a year later, Shelley moved her practice to the Center for Integrated Medicine and today she is a partner at Lamp Post.

Mentoring others toward interpersonal working relationships and coaching them to communicate openly at work, Shelley’s mission is still to help people.

“I function as the internal psychologist – the shrink here. I am ‘one on one’ with people. Entrepreneurs have big ideas and we provide them all the support structure that they need to start a business and with all of the office support - accounting, HR, payroll, legal compliance… basically everything they need. We really invest in the people, not the idea,” Shelley says.

“If we think people have what it takes, we will throw seed money their way, give them the access to our back office support, help them think of a business plan and a strategy and how to take it to market. We have serviced as a mentor to these entrepreneurs,” Shelley maintains.

Shelley writes a weekly online column for Inc. Magazine, a national publication. “I have wanted for years to be a writer for Inc., I love their style. They are about empowering people and inspiring,” Shelley says.

When talking about hobbies, Shelley admits that her favorite thing to do is just to play with her three children - Eliah, Lucas and Lennyn; no matter what it is they do. They enjoy going to the Discovery Museum, hiking and sliding on cardboard down the hill in Renaissance Park.

“One of the reasons I love Chattanooga so much is you can grow an enterprise and still have a family and have a really good quality of home life,” she says.

Husband Chad recently left teaching and is now writing full time. He owns a small literary press called C&R Press. “They do poetry, fiction, put out different titles they publish, and he tries to help authors that are really good but can’t seem to get the exposure that he feels they need,” Shelley says.

“I feel so fortunate in knowing that my partners are truly amazing people. Our CEO Ted Alling wrote an email recently and challenged all the leaders in the organization to send one email that day in which to express gratitude to someone that they had not said thank you to and to blind copy him. You would not believe the emails he got to see. It is just an emotional thing where people really feel connected and they feel they are a part of something meaningful. They feel appreciated and valued,” Shelley proclaims.

Partner Allan Davis had been very instrumental in bringing Shelley’s aspirations together.

“He took a huge risk is asking me to come to Lamp Post. He really stuck his neck out there and saw something in me that I don’t think I even saw in myself,” she says tearfully.

“To take my principles of wanting to be a missionary - the core of who I wanted to be and say, ‘Yeah, we’ll make room for that. You are really good at that we need you to do that here,’ and people thought he was crazy. They felt that this was a waste of money; no one would need it and, no one understood it. But he strong armed that and figured out a way to make it happen and I am so grateful,” Shelly confides.

Helping these entrepreneurs to take inventory of the humanity part of starting a business and how they treat people and setting policies in place that take care of employees and help them to forge healthy relationships, is most gratifying for Shelley.

“Lamppost is the best place for me to be. I get to help these very driven, type A personality entrepreneurs. I feel like I do have a little bit of a mission field here,” Shelley expresses.

“To help create an environment where we are not just successful with drive – but doing it differently; we try to make it a ‘strengths-based environment’ to use our strengths in everything we do here,” Shelley says.

“There is a humanity to what we are doing in business; it is not always about the bottom line.”

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