Senior Sales Executive
- Native of Charleston, SC
- Industry Sales
For two decades, Charleston native Lakessa Wright has moved up in a career she didn’t anticipate and in a region not on her radar.
“I thought I wanted to live outside of South Carolina, having grown up here my whole life. It was important to me to explore the world,” she says. “And Milliken gave me that opportunity.”
Today, Lakessa works as a Senior Sales Executive for Milliken & Company’s Chemical Business on the Performance Colorants and Ingredients team. The Spartanburg-headquartered company is active across a breadth of disciplines, including specialty chemical, floor covering, textiles, and healthcare, employing 8,000 associates across 46 locations globally.
Lakessa serves as the North American commercial lead in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry segment, working with technical, supply chain, customer service, and regulatory teams to ensure Milliken is poised to meet customer requirements.
“My job is to really engage deeper with the client and understand how we can work together to create solutions that help consumers,” she adds.
How Did She Get Here?
“I always had a strong interest in helping other people, even at a young age,” she says. With that in mind, Lakessa enrolled in South Carolina State University’s nursing program. After the medical curriculum was restructured, Lakessa wanted to capitalize on her chemistry education. “My chemistry professor and academic advisor strongly encouraged me to pursue a science degree, so I took a leap of faith and jumped into a degree in chemistry.”
Shortly before her graduation, Milliken & Company was recruiting at South Carolina State University, and they hired her as a process specialist at the Cedar Hill Plant in Jonesville, Union County.
“I knew Milliken was a well-known name in the state of South Carolina and a leading employer, but beyond that, I never saw myself in textile manufacturing. I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’ll work here for a few years, then go back to medical school.’ Now, here we are.”
Two years in, Milliken offered her an opportunity to attend the Institute of Textile Technology as a Milliken Industrial Fellow to earn her master’s degree in textiles while interning at the company’s production facilities in the summers. Upon completing and defending her thesis, Lakessa ultimately graduated before she pivoted to Milliken’s Chemical Business.
“That’s the beauty of Milliken,” she said, “Its breadth of business is so diverse.”
At the Dewey Plant, she progressed through process chemist and quality control roles before moving into sales.
In 2006, she moved to the specialty chemicals & packaging team, with territory responsibility for industrial coatings accounts such as PPG, Sherwin Williams, and Valspar. There, she spent 10 years as an Account Manager and a Sales Manager, growing sales in those markets generating significant revenue over that time.
“With this role came travel. My first trip was to Boston, Massachusetts, in the winter, and it was freezing cold, she shares. “Let’s just say—I did not pack the right cold-weather clothes!”
Now, the mother of two has traveled all over the U.S. and to international locations like Toronto and Nuremberg but stresses, “there is no place like home in South Carolina.”
“I love South Carolina, and I love Spartanburg because it is a hub to everything. It is booming with recreational and cultural activities that make it a great place to raise a family and have a successful career, all while giving you a sense of belonging in a larger community. Over recent years, Spartanburg and the Upstate have grown. There has been an influx of new businesses, restaurants, and public infrastructure developments, including walking/biking trails and shopping, with something exciting for everyone.”
In her spare time, Lakessa enjoys spending time with her 13-year-old daughter, Karis, and son, Kasen, 4. They love entertaining – she beams talking about a “dinosaur & volcano” themed party for her son’s fourth birthday – as well as enjoying Upstate sights and eats. From quick hikes to Pearson’s Falls to taking cooking classes at the Cook’s Station, she adds, “The Upstate is a great place to be.”
Lakessa is also able to give back through serving as the company’s Minorities Associate Network group leader. She’s also participated in Furman University’s Diversity Leadership Institute and serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upstate.
“Working for this company has changed my life,” she says. “Milliken gives you the opportunity to explore, and essentially, you can create your own career path here. You can move across industries within the corporation, across functions within the business unit. It’s really up to you, where your interests are and where you think you can create value.”
I love South Carolina, and I love Spartanburg because it is a hub to everything. It is booming with recreational and cultural activities that make it a great place to raise a family and have a successful career, all while giving you a sense of belonging in a larger community.Lakessa WrightSenior Sales Executive, Milliken & Company
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