Next Up Columbus 2020: Kayla Davis

Kayla Davis
Kayla Davis

Photo by Matt Reese / CityPulse Columbus

Interview by Sarah Shumick

Name: Kayla Davis
Age: 27
Profession: Founder and Executive Director at A Step in the Right Direction; Advertising Specialist for Hollywood Casino Columbus
Education: BA of Science – Criminal Justice Administration
Quote: “I’ve always had passion with what I do as an individual. And when you’re passionate about something, it always shows in the work and person.”
Connect: LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Kayla Davis lives on the west side of Columbus, where she also works as an Advertising Specialist for the Hollywood Casino. A single mom of a 4-year-old son with a strong passion for her community, Davis founded A Step in the Right Direction in 2019 to help ex-convicts, addicts and homeless people with re-entry. Davis’s nonprofit provides people with the hope and the tools necessary for a second chance at life. Outside of her work at the casino and her nonprofit, Davis enjoys going out to eat with her son at the Japanese Steakhouse (extra fried rice, please!) and recently started reading “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men.”

She attributes her success to her grandmother, who was her biggest fan but also honest and helped her look at the big picture. “My Grams was my biggest adviser and mentor,” Davis said. “I was lucky to have been able to spend so much time with her.”

Give us a snapshot of your career path:
I’ve always made it my priority to learn everything that I could in every step of the way especially from the leaders who I have encountered. I always had passion with what I do as an individual. And when you’re passionate about something it always shows in the work and person.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
My family & the clients who I work with. My family is a huge part of my motivation for everything that I do. They get to see the drive and passion that I have, first hand. And when I have my son and younger sister watching, it gives me the push to keep moving. My clients allow me to show each one of them how overcoming any situation can be a big step, but they are able to do it just like anyone else.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
My Grams (grandmother) was my biggest adviser and mentor. I was lucky to have been able to spend so much time with her. She was my biggest fan cheering me on with every step, but she was also honest with me no matter how much it may have hurt my feelings. She helped me look at the bigger picture before making any decision & that has helped me along the way.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
My son and I love to go to the Japanese Steakhouse and enjoy the food with a little extra fried rice. It is always great when I get to enjoy two of the things that I love; my son & Japanese Steakhouse.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an actress and model. All I could imagine was being on America’s Next Top Model and becoming the new “face” of modeling.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I recently started reading “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men.” As a single mother, I like to read different things to help raising a boy. Having a four-year-old son is fun and crazy all at the same time.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
It is truly an honor and shock all at the same time. I appreciate the person(s) that nominated me for this award. The award shows that people believe in what I am doing and that for me is the biggest thing. I’m making a change for the better.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The diversity in people is what makes the pulse of Columbus. Columbus has so much diversity to make anyone and everyone feel comfortable and welcome.


The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in Central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. Special thanks to the Columbus Young Professionals Club, Discover Financial, and Zipline Logistics for their support of this awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2020” »

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