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Sonja Phillips Nichols

Sonja Phillips Nichols, of Charlotte, NC, was born in San Francisco, CA, and grew up in Tallahassee, FL. A first-generation college student, she graduated from Florida A&M University - Florida's only public Historically Black College and University (HBCU) - with a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's degree in business administration.

Today, Nichols is a community leader, author, and philanthropist with a passion for rural colleges and HBCUs. She brings that dedication to her work on the board, championing the 17 institutions within the System while also pushing for stronger relationships between N.C. Community Colleges and public universities.

Nichols serves as the owner and president of the Southern Lion, a multi-merchant retail venue that serves as a nurturing ground for entrepreneurs, artists, designers, and small business owners. Southern Lion provides a platform for these individuals to showcase their unique offerings and operates as a small business incubator, allowing entrepreneurs to streamline their operations and focus on their core mission - delivering exceptional products and services to the community.

Between 1988 and 2000, Nichols worked as a marketing representative for PepsiCo and as a systems engineer and marketing representative for IBM.

In 2020, Nichols was a candidate for the seat in NC Senate District 37. She serves on multiple boards across the state, including those at the Atrium Health Foundation, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Foundation, and the Hopeway Foundation. She has served as president of Good Friends Charlotte, working to support individuals and families with emergency financial resources. She has also served as president of The Women's Impact Fund, one of the largest women's collective giving organizations in the country, which has awarded millions of dollars addressing Charlotte Mecklenburg's emerging issues and critical needs.

Sonja has been a tireless advocate for several organizations, including the UNCF Maya Angelou's Women Who Lead Luncheon, through which she has helped raise millions for scholarships supporting minority students attending our nation's HBCUs. She has also championed U.S. military veterans by helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Veterans Bridge Home, which works to connect veterans to the resources needed to be successful, thriving leaders in our North Carolina communities.

Nichols is the founding president of the South Charlotte Chapter of Jack and Jill America, a membership organization that strengthens children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving, and civic duty.

Nichols is elated by the opportunity to serve on the BOG.

"I love our state of North Carolina and I want to help highlight and promote the great work that is actually happening on each of our 17 college and university campuses," she says. "I want to be the biggest cheerleader showcasing the tremendous, positive work our UNC System is doing."

Nichols has been happily married to "the fabulous Richard Nichols, Jr." for 33 years. She says one of her proudest accomplishments is that she proposed to her husband - and that he accepted.

The daughter of two teenage parents, Sonja is "proud to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. Twice." Nichols and her husband have three children. All are graduates of HBCUs. In her spare time, Nichols loves to cook and entertain family and friends in her home. She enjoys arts and crafts, indoor shooting ranges and clay shooting, NHRA Drag Racing, and riding her Harley Davidson V-Rod. She also loves teaching Sunday school with her husband at her church.

She has lots of advice for today's high school or college student.

"Believe in something - someone much bigger than yourself. I believe in God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."

"Your parents actually have great advice. Take it."

"Get Wisdom - it will be your best friend. Read Proverbs (yes... it's in the Bible.)"

"You must have friends/allies on both sides of the aisle, both sides of an issue, both sides of the argument. Take a moment to hear all sides before forming a permanent opinion."

"Take a break from social media and spend time observing the beautiful, beautiful, beautiful planet around you. We live in a wonderful country and a wonderful world."

Sonja Phillips Nichols


Current Term

2021 - 2025