Finding Strengths

Stefanie Adams helps people lead

Adams 4 Of 4 Story

Many successful businesses have one thing in common – solid leadership. Whether that leadership rests on the shoulders of one person or a group of people working together, strong leadership is at the core of many success stories. STEFANIE ADAMS, founder and CEO of WNY People Development has always been a leader, and now, her company is “growing the next generation of leaders.”

Adams’ experience includes working with the school district of Philadelphia to facilitate career exploration programming and creation of professional experiences for high school students; leading whole-school reform programming at high schools across the southeast through Johns Hopkins University; providing career counseling, training, and building industry partnerships for student services and the continuing education department for Cape Fear Community College; as well as positions with pharmaceutical company Alcami and CastleBranch.

She is also currently board chair of New Hanover County Schools.

“I got into leadership development because I love working with people; I find it incredibly fulfilling, and I believe it’s what I was meant to do,” Adams says. “I was a longtime cheerleader and cheer coach, and that spirit is infused in every part of me; I am built to support, raise the vibe, get people engaged, and utilize positive energy to achieve goals.”

She says there is nothing better than having a client, team member, or friend come back and share that they accomplished something big, and they felt a conversation or suggestion she gave helped them get there.

“It’s electric, and gives me purpose,” Adams says.

The energy she brings to her work is contagious, and her ideas and strategies touch the lives of those who utilize her methods.

“WNY People Development provides fully customizable, interactive, and fun leadership training modules,” says Adams. “However, I don’t consider myself a trainer…I am a facilitator. Regardless of whether or not a session is focused on communication, conflict resolution, culturally competent workspaces, or leadership basics, training participants are engaged, learning, moving, and collaborating.”

Through WNY, she also provides one-on-one coaching for leaders at all levels, which she says has been one of the most popular services.

“This side of the business has been a pleasant surprise because it was never meant to be the main revenue driver of the company, but it seems to be moving in that direction,” Adams says.

The “WNY” in WNY People Development stands for “Why Not You” which is an important concept for everyone to understand, she says.

“Too often, we get in our own way because we lack confidence and don’t trust ourselves and our abilities,” Adams says. “We all have ideas, skills, and strengths, and we bring value to the world. The definition of ‘leadership’ has changed; top-down style management is outdated and unwanted as entry-level employees enter the market, and more experienced employees are rethinking how and why they work.”

Stefanie also offers motivational speaking engagements for those interested in learning more but not quite sure how to begin.

“I am a wife, boy mom, small business owner, entrepreneur, educator, adoptee, domestic abuse survivor, and an elected official,” Adam says. “I find that people, particularly women, have worn many of the same hats and confront the same challenges. I want to inspire others in similar situations to tackle whatever comes at them with confidence, vigor, and bravery.”

Adams recognizes the importance a thriving community is to any business, so she donates 10% of WNY People Development’s revenue to nonprofit organizations in Wilmington.

“Having worked in the nonprofit sector, I recognize that these organizations give resources and support to their clients and causes they serve, and that often means they don’t have the opportunity to invest in themselves and their growth,” says Adams. “Over the past year, WNY People Development has provided Give Back training or coaching to Feast Down East, the Community Boys and Girls Club, Northwest Youth Corps Inc and the YWCA.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to

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Categories: Women to Watch