GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids woman has been named Brilliant Woman of the Year.

This year’s recipient was Shannon Cohen, a wife, mother, author, corporate consultant and most notably known as a “hope dealer.” She received the award at last month’s Brilliance Awards which recognizes successful women for the work they do in the community.

She was selected out of approximately 400 women that were nominated for the award.

“When they called my name I was just in awe. I was humbled. I was grateful. I was excited,” Cohen said.

Cohen is the chief executive officer and founder of Shannon Cohen, Inc. Through her firm, she empowers individuals and organizations to thrive in emerging challenges.

A keen wordsmith, Cohen has written two books: “Tough Skin, Soft Heart: A Leadership Guide to Growing Stronger, Better, and Wiser” and “It’s Normal to Shake as You Soar.”

She’s also created greetings and stationary cards which can be found in retail stores nationwide.

Though people have been impacted by her legacy as a Black female leader, encourager and creator, she doesn’t always celebrate the milestone moments in her own life. Receiving the woman of the year award gave her space to do just that.

“You don’t always realize the ripple effect of your life and your leadership,” she said. “I don’t do that enough as a founder and a CEO. I don’t always take enough time to honor where I’ve been, what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished, the lives I’ve impacted and the reach that I’ve had. That was just a time to pause and to have a shine on sis moment.”

Cohen started from humble beginnings in the city of Detroit. Her life began to catapult at just 12 years old when she decided to start a summer school for neighborhood kids on her front porch.

She later began branding a new idea where she would bring women together to celebrate and collaborate through what is now called the Rockstar Women Brunch. Her dream for such an event started as just thoughts on a napkin.

She thought having a gathering at a local bookstore would be sufficient enough to make her paper dream a reality until one day her friend told her she was thinking too small.

“I remember crumpling up that contract that I gotten to rent out that little café space and started to plan what I really saw in my head,” Cohen said. “I’ve built movements in this community and beyond with dreams and no capital.”

The brunch was birthed through the desire to have a place where all women regardless of race or background could come together and feel a sense of belonging coupled with experiencing deep connection in authentic ways.

“I grew weary of going to events that were built to be women’s empowerment or women’s networking events and being the only person that looked like me. I thought this isn’t what my network looks like,” she said. “The Rockstar Woman Brunch Experience is a reflection of the universe that I needed.”

The inaugural event was in 2019 at the City Flats Hotel. Approximately 200 women attended the event.

The following year, she was met with a hard decision to make when announcements were made about the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic which put cities on lockdown and canceled events.

She decided to host the event virtually. Attendance grew to nearly 400 women who tuned in online for the experience.

Last year, she offered a hybrid event which grew even more. There were nearly 700 people who attended the conference both online and in person. Attendees joined in from across 21 states and two countries.

She’s planning for another brunch in September with the theme being “Bet on Her.” Cohen will offer another hybrid option. In the 12 days of registration being open, she quickly sold out of the 400 in-person tickets.

“This conference is designed to act as a catalyst for women who every single day lead, love and serve in transformational ways and build the systems of organizations and entities and for even her children. This is about her changing that same work and intensity to herself,” she said.

Through a partnership with WK Kellogg Foundation, Cohen has developed 7th-12th grade girls through a paid apprenticeship.

In its second year, the program called Unstoppable Squad, allows the girls to get a behind-the-scenes view of what goes into planning the Rockstar Women Brunch.

In addition, the group meets with other women across various industries.

“I love seeding the dreams and the aspirations and ambitions of young women because I want to see them go further, faster, earlier,” she said.

If you would like to attend the Rockstar Woman Brunch, only virtual tickets are available. For those who are not able to attend, Cohen offers this advice:

“A lot of women root for everybody but themselves even when they’re going through a struggle space. For many women we know how to slay even as we struggle,” she said. “My encouragement for women is to bet on you with the same intensity that you show up, root for and bet on everyone else.”

You can register for the event here.