Her Story: Shay McCowan

Motivating Stories from Local Women


Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for a truly motivating story by a woman who experienced them firsthand.


Photo by Emily Pérez Long / Photos taken on location at Common House




Shay McCowan, East Ridge


Growing up in church and with strong Christian values, I always believed that God had a plan for my life. But for the longest, I never could figure that plan out. Celebrating people has always been fun to me. It warms my heart, because you never know what goes on behind closed doors. After watching my mom start her catering business following a lay-off, I saw all the hard work, money, long nights, and tears that went into perfecting her passion. Even though the business was successful, it was the hard work that no one saw that inspired me. Through the years, I have worked many jobs while still asking God what I was called to do. It was the moment a girl named Stephanie reached out to me that everything changed. With my event planning experience, she encouraged me to start an award show in the Chattanooga community. I did my research and a lot of praying and settled on the idea of featuring black business owners. Finally, God gave me a team, and in 2019, we hosted our first Black Excellence Awards. That day meant so much to me. I had a lot of personal things going on, but to see all those people supporting and celebrating one another was everything. We had brought together a room full of people who, like my mom, worked hard and made it look easy. It was also at that moment that I realized it was time to stop doing whatever it took to make others smile and make myself smile. For years, I loved on, celebrated, and supported other people, but I forgot me. I was almost 400 pounds and was miserable behind my smile. I decided to have weight loss surgery and take back my life. Some may think it was the easy way out, but it was the hardest decision I ever made. The surgery allowed me to work on myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was finally free from hiding how I truly felt. I felt good about who I was inside and out! Now, not only do I love everyone else, but I also love me!


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