I’ve met
some remarkable people during my 25 years in journalism. Few impressed me more than
Tiwanna “Ko-Ko” Hagans, the Qcity businesswoman who died Monday

I met Hagans
in August when I went to profile her business, KoKoMo’s Coffeehouse, on Fourth Street in uptown Charlotte.

She emerged
from the back with a huge smile, and for the next two hours I sat spellbound by
this pint-sized bundle of life.

impressed me most was her sheer business smarts – and her apparent capacity for
work. (She once held down a fulltime job as a Prince George’s County (Maryland)
police officer, managed her D.C. real estate holdings and flew to Charlotte on
weekends to grow her budding coffee shops.)

entrepreneurial instincts were amazing. She talked about the challenges of birthing
a small business. She advised me on some common mistakes to avoid as I build Qcitymetro.com, and she predicted,
correctly, that I would never find another person who cared more about my
business than I do.

In short,
she knew my pain.

She even
recommended her favorite business book, “The E Myth,” which turned out to be
one of the best I’ve read.

This was not
a woman who held a Harvard MBA. In fact, she said, she enrolled at Johnson C.
Smith only after other schools said no. Mediocre grades and a low SAT score,
she said.

She also
told me about her medical condition — AVM, which stands for Arteriovenous
Malformation. An AVM is a poorly formed tangle of blood vessels, which is prone
to bleeding. AVMs are rare, found in less than 1 percent of the population, and
can occur anywhere in the body. Hers was on the brain, causing seizures.

At the
advice of her doctors, Hagans said, she retired from her police job and closed
one of her two Charlotte coffee shops to reduce stress. She had undergone
surgery in January and was looking forward to driving again – seizure free.

I left the
interview thankful anew for HBCUs, which against all odds nurture
the flame in students like Hagans. I also left with a new appreciation for how wonderfully different we’ve all been created, each equipped in our own way. (I wish Big Business recognized this more often.)

Hagans said she was especially looking forward to opening a coffee shop later this year on the campus of Smith, her alma mater. She said she wanted to be a role model for young students there. She wanted them to understand that they, too, could achieve.

Ko-Ko, as
she liked to be called, offered to keep in touch, to have more talks about
business, to offer support. I was all too happy to accept.

We never met
again. I guess we both got too caught up in business to take the time. So when
news came Tuesday that she has died, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had
missed and what the Qcity had lost.

To Ko-Ko
Hagans’ family and friends, we at Qcitymetro.com send our prayers and

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