Innovator – Kelli Richardson Lawson

Innovator — Kelli Richardson Lawson

At the core of Kelli Richardson Lawson's remarkable journey as an Emmy Award-winning creative visionary and entrepreneurial business leader lies a profound devotion to family values, joy, and empowerment. With over three decades of experience, Kelli has consistently championed change, impacted lives, and invested in communities of color.  Her unwavering commitment to creating a world filled with joy and possibility shines through in her work and resonates deeply with those she touches.

Guided by the power of family, Kelli founded The House of JOY and The SonRise Project, organizations that embody her core values and aspirations. House of JOY, formerly known as JOY Collective, is a Black and woman-owned cultural insights, marketing, and creative agency that thrives on uplifting brands while fostering meaningful connections. Through House of JOY, Kelli has built bridges, sparked conversations, and led groundbreaking campaigns for esteemed brands like Dove, Progressive, Ad Council, BET, OWN, Disney, AARP, and more. 

Driven by her deep compassion for addressing mental health and addiction issues, Kelli established The SonRise Project, a non-profit organization that supports Black parents facing these challenges with their children. Anchored in her family values, Kelli hosts weekly calls, providing a nurturing and inspiring space for parents to connect, share experiences, and offer support. These calls become a lifeline, fostering understanding, compassion, and resilience in the face of adversity. The SonRise Project also extends its impact through specialized calls focused on aging parents and "Survivor Stories," where Black teens and young adults bravely share their journeys of triumph over suicide. Recognizing the life-changing potential of this initiative, the Oprah Winfrey Network collaborated with Kelli to create The SonRise Project podcast series, amplifying its reach to a nationwide audience.

Kelli's extraordinary contributions extend throughout her illustrious career in media. As a trailblazer at BET, she revolutionized the marketing organization, spearheading award-winning creative campaigns and orchestrating monumental events such as the BET Awards and Hip-Hop Awards. Her visionary leadership earned her numerous accolades, including BET's first-ever Emmy Award and recognition from organizations like Telly, Promax, BDA, NAMIC, CTAM, CTPAA, ANA, and NAACP Image Awards

Her dedication to service and exceptional impact have garnered Kelli multiple prestigious honors. In 2023, Kelli received the ADCOLOR Rockstar Award, PRWeek Purpose Awards “CEO of the Year,” NAMI Montgomery County’s 2023 Hero of the Year, and the Waymaker Making a Difference Award. She has been listed on the EBONY Power 100 and received multiple Anthem Awards for The Ad Council's "Tuskegee Legacy" COVID-19 vaccine education campaign. The CROWN Movement, an initiative she co-created to end race-based hair discrimination, earned her a Black Women's Agenda Award, Links Presidential Impact Award, NBCSL Nation Builder Award, and several MARCOM, PR Week, SABRE, and ANA Awards. 

Kelli proudly traces her roots back to Cleveland Ohio and Howard University, where she received her education. As a 36-year Diamond Life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, she remains steadfast in her commitment to public service.