Entrepreneurship

What does your personal brand say about you? With Lura Hobbs

Lura Hobbs is an executive marketer, strategist, growth leader and catalyst for change.  Today she is using her expertise to help us unpack how to bring our full selves to everything we do.  How you show up is key.  This is especially true in a social media driven world. The person online should match the person you are in real life.

 

Show Notes

What are people saying about you when you are not in the room?  According to Jeff Bezos, that is your brand.

Lura Hobbs knows that in order for your personal brand to be legit you have to be yourself.  You have to show up in life and how you show up matters.  This gets interesting in a world driven by social media. Does the avatar really match the person?

In this episode, Lura shares some really inspiring insights.  A few of my favorite include:

  • Getting perspective from others helps you see your blind spots
  • It is important to know who you are and the value you bring to the table
  • No matter your level, your personal brand is essential
  • It is imperative to be thoughtful with your social media presence
  • It is okay to fail and pick back up again

  

Links

Lura on LinkedIn

Lura on Instagram

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You

From Good to Great

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Happy New Year, pod sisters. I am thrilled to be back with you all today. It was amazing being able to take a break over the holidays and spend some time with the fam and recharge, but I am so ready to be back. I have missed you. So my guest today is Lura Hobbs. Lura is an executive marketer, strategist, and growth leader, and she has worked with a few brands you might recognize like AT&T, Pizza Hut, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Frito Lay. We aren’t talking corporate branding strategy, though. We’re discussing personal branding and what that means today, especially in a digital and social media driven world. We discuss not only showing up in life, but how you show up. We discuss perception versus reality and bridging that gap. We discuss failure and getting back up. It is a jam-packed episode and no matter if you are launching your own company this year or consistently posting on social media, there is something in this episode for everyone. So without further ado, here’s Lura.

Well, Hey Lura. How are you? I’m so glad to have you here with me today.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, Susan it is so awesome. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to dig in with you. Your questions had me humming along just thinking through lots of different things.

Susan: Well, that is so funny because you are already such an accomplished marketing communication strategist. I guess I put people who’ve been in the business for awhile on a pedestal and think, “Oh, you’ll have these off the top of your head.”

Lura Hobbs: No, no. I mean we do. We can answer them off the top of our heads, but the reality is, you know, with a little bit of thought, it definitely goes a little bit deeper than the surface. So I’m a full believer in telling the real-real and not making it look overly pretty. So I’m looking forward to this today.

Susan: I am too. As we get started, could you share with our audience a little bit of your background story and how you came to start your own marketing consulting firm?

Lura Hobbs: Sure, sure. So I am a marketing and advertising veteran. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working on some amazing brands from AT&T to State Farm and McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Frito Lay products. And it’s just been an amazing and gratifying ride. So I’ve worked client side or brand side, as some people will say, and agency side and really just enjoy progressing and stretching myself into new roles and new arenas and putting myself in places where I had to figure it out. So I made the jump to. I started my own firm back in 2009. I had actually been laid off from a job in a company I’d loved through a national restructure, and I was presented with an opportunity to do some consulting instead of a full time job. And I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try to, let’s see what happened.”

And I started Solstice Strategies, my consulting firm, and really just was amazed at what I was able to do as a consultant working on a startup. I actually had an opportunity later on after that to go back into a full time role, so I dropped consulting and went into that and I’ve actually done a couple of cycles of that and now I’m on my third time of saying, “Okay, no, I’m really going to stick with this. I’m going to do the consulting thing and not be wooed back into a corporate gig.” So it’s been an off again on again love affair because sometimes I get recruited and I just can’t say no to an opportunity, but I really do love this time and space of being able to work on brands and projects that I love rather than kind of being in a box that I have to fit everything in.

Susan: That is really admirable to continue to go after your own thing. Because I know that’s hard. Just in thinking about going from employed to employer, there’s just such a huge mind shift that has to happen. And I think it’s always, at least for me, it’s easier to drop back into the employed piece versus employer, but we can get into that a little bit later. Tell me a little bit about what it was like putting your own brand strategy together. Because you’re an expert in your field, did you do it all on your own? Did you get outside consulting? Tell us a little bit about that. Tell us a little bit about how that. How you accomplished that.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah, so the strategy piece in terms of what I bring to the table and the value that I add, it’s something that I feel like I can do on my own. It’s a struggle. I won’t lie and say that it’s flawless and it’s easy because I think it’s a lot easier for those of us, at least I can speak for myself, in the business. I’m a lot better at it doing brand strategy and branding for someone else or another brand product versus myself because it really is looking at yourself from the lens of the rest of the world looking at you, and it’s a bit kind of a nerving. But I needed to work on the strategy at least on my own. And it’s an intensive process. It’s not like, you know, I did it back in 2009 and I haven’t touched it. Every time I gain the skills or pivot a little bit into a different arena, I have to revisit it and make sure I know what value I can bring and how I’m going to bring that to the table. In terms of the identity, the logo, the colors and that kind of thing, I actually worked with someone that I’ve known for a really long time. He and I have worked together on several different projects and so I completely trust him with my identity and what it looks like and we’re actually. We’ve committed that we’re going to do that again and I just haven’t committed to it yet. But it’s something that is an intensive process. I think there’s a perception that you’re going to do your brand strategy, whether it’s for your personal brand strategy for your company and you get to just leave it. And it’s something that should live and breathe with you as you grow and add services; it’s not something that’s static.

Susan: I like how you said that it’s hard to look at yourself under the microscope basically and create something yourself. I have had that issue with content writing, actually. And I have partnered with somebody to kind of help me through some of that and a lot of it, at least for me, and tell me how it is for you. It’s for me, it’s easy to get stuck down in the weeds sometimes instead of like popping up over the surface, if you will, and looking at it from the bird’s eye view of this is what it really is. Is that kind of what…?

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. Because when you’re sitting on the side of being an employee, you have objectives that you need to deliver on. And so at the end of the year you can sit down and like, “Okay, here’s the things I accomplished.” And so it’s a list of, you know, however many things you got done that year and you’re feeling good about yourself. But when it comes to brand strategy, it really is a next level up from that and saying, “Okay, yes, I accomplished these things, but how did I do it? How did that come to the table? What were the strengths that I employed in getting them done, whether they’re soft skills or hard skills, and how did I do it uniquely to me?” And that takes a different lens than just looking at I’m accomplished. And I think the thing that we have to remember is yes, you need to do the searching and some of it on your own, but you also need to spend some time talking to people who work with you. You know, whether that’s clients or colleagues, you need to really dig in and say, “You know, I feel like this project went really well. Help me understand what you saw.” Or if something didn’t go well, what did I miss in this opportunity? And I think in getting that feedback, we’re able to understand better. There are things that each of us we do really well and they come easy to us and we don’t realize how impactful they are and we’re able to ask somebody else how they saw it.

Susan: Oh, absolutely. I 100% agree with you on that. We’re talking about brand strategy and your own personal brand strategy versus starting your own business and that brand strategy. Share with us a little bit about the importance of creating your own brand strategy. Why do you need to do that? What does that look like, even if you’re not talking about starting your own company or business?

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. There is a quote from Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon that I love and he says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in room.” I love that quote because it’s so true.

Susan: It is so true.

Lura Hobbs:  And when people talk about brand strategy, personal brand strategy, too often they immediately go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and all your social accounts and how you show up online. But the reality is, your number one vehicle for your personal brand strategy is who you show up to be in person at work, whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s what it’s like when people work with you. So a lot of setting your own personal brand strategy is understanding who you are, what you bring to the table, and what value you bring. And so you really need to dig in to really understand that and again, going back to getting some people that know you very well and getting that feedback, but then also just spending some time going back through all your accomplishments. There are some threads there of just what you do really well and you want to be able to make sure you’re managing that and presenting that to people when you work with them. So what he says is “what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” you want that to be positive of course, but you have to influence that perception and so that’s when it comes to being intentional about knowing your value, talking about your value, representing your value well so that you’re influencing what that conversation is when you’re not there.

Susan: Yes, you don’t want people talking about you behind your back and calling you what we used to call or what one of my favorite partners at PriceWaterhouseCoopers used to call a PURE, which was a Previously Undetected Recruiting Error. I was like, “Did you come up with that yourself?” He’s retired now and I’m not going to drop his name on here because I didn’t cover that with him beforehand, but he was one of my favorite partners in the whole wide world and that comment always used to just make me laugh.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, I love it.

Susan: It didn’t matter how long the person had been in the firm, whether it was, you know, a brand new associate, a summer, a partner, a high level partner. He didn’t care because he was on his way out anyway for retirement and yeah, he would say, “Well, that’s clearly a PURE,” and I would just laugh. It was too funny, too funny. So yes, no matter what level you’re at, your brand strategy or personal strategy is important.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah, and I think the thing that people don’t understand, especially for us as women, professional women, we so often focus on the results, you know, if you’re an employee, you were asked to deliver on X, Y and Z and you delivered X, Y, Z, and you went back and did A as well. So you’re like, “I overdelivered.” But the thing is you also have to manage the perception of that. You know, it’s going back to that quote, there’s always a gap between what you want the perception to be in what’s being said and that’s what you have to manage, actively manage. And that’s true for us as entrepreneurs as well because we all have clients so we always have to manage the perception of what you’re putting out there versus what they’re viewing, but is there a gap and how do I need to close it?

Susan: Absolutely. And I think you can’t just go in there and put your head down and do the work. There’s also managing relationships and figuring out who the players are and yada, yada, yada. And I don’t really know how that incorporates necessarily into your personal brand, but it’s just things to be aware of, the little cues that people don’t necessarily always pick up on, the politics I guess.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. And I think it all kind of plays together because your personal brand, you know, of course what we’re saying is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room. Well, how do you handle politics? How do you handle conflict? How do you handle it when things don’t go according to plan? All those soft skills do influence what people are talking about without you so gets you need to get your work done and do it well and flawlessly over deliver. But how you get that work done, how you show up in your work is also really key because part of their personal brand is what does it feel like to work with you? You know, do I feel like I got ran over by a truck when I worked with you? Or do I feel like, wow, she really partnered with me. I felt pushed, but it was in a good way. You know, those are things that we need to actively work on in our personal brand strategy is making sure that you know, yes, you bring skills to the table, but how you bring them to the table will influence what people say about you later on.

Susan: I didn’t put this question in here, so if we cut this, I’m totally fine with that, but for women who have been out of the workforce or out of the corporate gig, maybe she’s been doing something on the side and she’s really wanting to go back into a corporate structure or work for a company or something like that. How is it best to position yourself or do you even—have you ever thought about this? Like how is. How is it best to position yourself from a branding standpoint coming back in?

Lura Hobbs: It’s a great question. I have a really good friend who is coming back after some time really focusing on home, children, parents, all the stuff that we carry as women and balance it all and she’s looking at her professional career and I think she’s done a great job because she is highlighting all of her volunteer leadership experiences. She’s been in leadership positions but they haven’t been paid and so she’s going back and looking at, “Okay, here are all the things I have accomplished, although I have not gotten paid for them.” So I think the way she’s positioning herself is exactly what a lot of women returning to the corporate world have to do is, you know, you’ve been doing a lot of stuff. It’s not like you’ve just been sitting at home watching TV. How do you position all of the work that you’ve done in a way that you can talk about the value you’ve added, the skills that you’ve gained or how you use your corporate skills in a new way and nonprofit, school volunteering, church volunteering, all things. So there’s definitely a way to bridge it.

Susan: That’s a really good point. That’s a really good point. Thanks for going through that with me. We touched on this just a little bit ago, but tell me what you see how the personal brand or how individuals brands have changed because of social media for good, bad, ugly, and then what do you do if you realize it might not be what you want it to be?

Lura Hobbs: Oh, there’s always time to start over. I am a believer in pivoting and starting over and scratch and stuff. But let’s go back to your, the beginning of the question. So social media has really changed everything. I think the thing that I love about social media is it allows people and brands to connect in ways that they have not been available in decades before. So you can start a small business and be global because you’re online, but at the same time social media can be really nasty, ugly, heated place.

Susan: Mm-hmm. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Lura Hobbs: You don’t know what I’m talking about. Things get inflamed really quickly, wide spread really quickly. You know, there’s a question of what the truth is and what it isn’t. So I think if you’re, whether you’re an employee or an employer or an entrepreneur, you really have to be thoughtful about what you want your social media presence to be. And there’s a lot of things out there that will tell you you need to be on every social media platform known to man. I disagree with that personally. I think you need to pick and choose where you are and pick and choose what’s personal versus what’s professional. My Facebook is personal so I don’t allow anybody and everybody to be connected to me on Facebook. To me, that’s where I share family and friends and just fun stuff that’s personal to me. My LinkedIn, I connect with people who professionally are people I want to work with: old colleagues new people mean there’s to me, there are rules that I’ve created for myself in terms of how I use each medium. And I think that applies whether you’re a entrepreneur or just an employee in terms of managing what’s there. The thing I’ll say is, I mean even in separating what’s personal and professional, you have to realize that it’s all online, so if you are ranting and raving and misbehaving on Facebook and then a completely different that person on LinkedIn that’s professional really well put together, you have to realize that somebody is going to crossover and understand that you’re a whole different person on Facebook. And so you need to think about how you manage yourself. One of the favorite things of Michelle Obama quotes over the time that she was first lady, she made a comment about when they go low, we go high.

So there are attacks and rants and all kinds of ugliness on social media and I would just say go high every time because the moment that you succumb to the anger and the venom that can happen on social, it can ruin your reputation professionally. So you just have to be really skilled in making sure—walk away from the keyboard. If something happens online that just drives you up a wall disconnected from that person if you need to walk away, but do not become an angry villain because that will translate over into your professional.

Susan: Oh, absolutely. In fact, back in October we did a whole month of self-care, and that was one of the day is, a good way to take care of yourself is to put social media down, is to unfollow, declutter the social media so you’re not even seeing the negative. And then if you do see it, scroll past so that your own anxiety levels don’t go through the roof.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely.

Susan: Because there’s a personal cost to it as well forget the—not forget the personal branding point, but I mean there are so many reasons not to get involved in the negative on social media. It’s like damaging to your health.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think we forget there’s such a push to gain followers, to have an audience, to have a platform that you can forget that yes they are… Size is a good thing depending on what your business is, but the quality of the connection is also a good thing to look at. So you can have a million followers, but if of those million followers, only 10 people aren’t engaged in the conversation, does the million followers really matter? So we don’t have to succumb to the game of I have to have a huge audience. You can have a smaller audience that’s really targeted and really engaged in whatever you’re selling or marketing. So just create your own metrics and your own decision tree of what’s important on social and don’t succumb to all the games that say bigger is better.

Susan: Well, and keeping in that same vein, a lot of this sounds like being your own authentic self.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely.

Susan: So what is a good way to maintain authenticity in your personal brand? How do we refrain from being that cookie cutter, oh, you know, the best employee or whatever. How do you, how do you interject your own authenticity into your personal brand?

Lura Hobbs: I think a lot of that is knowing what you’re great at. So in the book, Good to Great, there’s a chapter where I think it’s called the “Hedgehog Concept” and he talks about companies knowing what their best in the world at. He does a video chat a few years after he writes the book and applies it to your personal brand. And if you reread that chapter through the lens of not the company but your personal brand, you really can start to go through the process of discovering what your best in the world at. And that’s your authentic self. That’s really your goal is just to be true to what you’re best in the world and do it in a way that’s authentic to you. And by that what I mean, if you like to have fun and laugh a lot at work, you can bring that into your day to day so when people meet you, but also you can bring them into online. If you have this very dry, witty, sense of humor and that’s where you are in person and that’s part of how you get your work done and make it enjoyable. That’s who you should be online. Some of us as ladies, we love to dress up and be 100% made up all the time. Be that online. And if you’re not, don’t, I mean it’s just…There aren’t rules that people need to follow to look like somebody else; you need to look like you because the person online should match the person that somebody going to meet. And if they don’t, then you haven’t been true to the brand that you want to represent.

Susan: Oh, that’s such a good point. That is such a good point.

Lura Hobbs: I think that’s the trap we fall into, we try to curate and create this brand online that’s beautiful and always made up and always coordinated and always this, that and the other. And then you can meet the person and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that is not who I thought you were.” And we need to realize that everybody’s not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, right? So your online social media should look and sound like you look and sound in person. I love to make fun of my own mistakes. I will be the first one to tell you all the crap that I’ve done wrong and I’m not afraid to talk about that. So there are times on Facebook I tell funny stories about you will not believe how stupid I was and what I did, and then there’s always, like, at the end it’s like, and here’s whatever. So that’s just, I’m not afraid to make fun of myself, so I should not only do that in person, I should be willing to do that online. And then when you meet me like, “Yeah, she’s crazy.”

Susan: Oh you are funny, you’re funny. You’re not crazy or maybe kinda crazy.

Lura Hobbs: Kinda crazy. We’re all kinda crazy.

Susan: If you’re not kinda crazy, you’re not going to make it. That’s my theory. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about you getting started in your own, doing your own thing out on your own, what were some things or what have been some things over the years that you have found helpful to strategically outsource, either it being a personal thing, a business thing in order to help you not be doing it all all the time?

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. So, we have a housekeeper for sure. I discovered a long time ago that I like to keep my house clean and there’s a certain way I like it done, but I have to let that go and just get something else. Or do I do stuff on my own in between visits? Yes. But overall, I cannot say that I keep my house clean. Okay. So for everybody who thinks that… Yeah, I don’t, that’s just not possible. When I’m traveling—I used to travel quite a bit in my last corporate job. My travel was insane and I always outsourced driving and it sounds like a small thing, but doing Uber, Lyft or having a driver when you land in a new city, take a whole level of stress down. I don’t have to figure out where I’m going. I don’t have to have directions. I actually can sit in the car and work, take phone calls or have a moment to myself that something that was really key to me surviving my corporate gig with a level of travel I had, the amount of time I’m spending in cars, I realized this is an opportunity for me to get stuff done and why am I renting a car? That might sound small to some people, but if you travel a lot, I think people will get it. I used to outsource kid pickups and dropoffs, so Uber for the family.

Susan: Oh nice.

Lura Hobbs: I used to outsource that. I’m doing that right now and I’m actually enjoying it, but I can see a point maybe next year when I’m going to have to outsource that again, but you’d be amazed at how much time you spend being Uber for your family and I’m very grateful we have some other families in our lives who have girls who are older than our girls and it’s a bonding experience. They get to meet someone who’s in college and you know, get a glimpse of their life and they’ve been great influences for my girl so it’s worked out. But the amount of time you spend driving around town or volleyball practice and tennis practice and music lessons and all that adds up as well. That’s time you could have to yourself.

Susan: That is so true.

Lura Hobbs: So hate shopping. So Amazon Prime is my best friend, so I love it.

Susan: Oh, it’s amazing.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. I hate shopping.

Susan: It has been a lifesaver, and a money saver, quite frankly. This is the membership pays for itself, at least for me because I don’t go to Target and spend $100 here, $100 there. You know, I feel like if I go into Target and I’m spending at minimum $100.

Lura Hobbs: Oh absolutely, every time.

Susan: And I might do that on Amazon anyway because it’s stuff that I need, but at Target I’m buying stuff I don’t need to.

Lura Hobbs: I do go to Target, though. I love Target. It’s like a guilty pleasure. I love Target.

Susan: I do too. I mean it has everything. It has everything

Lura Hobbs: And they have really cool stuff.

Susan: I had a friend of mine say that the other night, she has a newborn and she was meeting another friend who had a newborn at Target at 9 pm and just because they could get out of the house that was, you know, husbands were home, they could just get out and they were going to do it. And one of them actually suggested they were like, so should I like bring wine and a Roadie Cup or something? She was like, “No, but Target should totally like open that up.” You know, they have Starbucks in there, why not like a little wine bar like Whole Foods does and some of their stores. Hello?

Lura Hobbs: There would be people who would never leave Target if they had a wine bar, are you kidding me?

Susan: That is a very good point. They would never close.

Lura Hobbs: But I like it.

Susan: I thought it was a pretty crafty, clever idea. So owning your own thing, we talked a little bit about this, about getting in the weeds, about getting stuck in the muck with it. It can be so hard and so challenging, at least for me to let it go at the end of the day or to let it go ever. Talk to me a little bit about self-care for yourself. Do you have a routine? Are there certain things that you just have to do in order to get yourself back to level?

Susan: Yeah. So don’t laugh. I pray a lot.

Lura Hobbs: No, I’m not laughing.

Susan: You know, I say that and they’re like, “You’re serious?” and I say, “Yeah, I’m serious.” For me, if I can do two things nearly everyday I can keep myself sane. The first one is in the morning having some quiet time, a little time to write some notes of gratitude, to pray, to realize really I do have everything in life I need. I’m not living in a state where I don’t have what I need, I do, I really do. No matter how stressed out I get about it. And it grounds me just to realize, you know, life is more than work and money. There’s a lot more that I’m here to do on earth. So I try to ground myself in the morning with who I am and what I’m here for and in that life is bigger than stuff. And then if I can get a workout in three, four days a week in the evening, I really feel like I can keep myself from going crazy.

Those two things, I try to have them bookmark my days, and it really does make the difference for me because if I go too long without having some kind of grounding, I started to think that things are more life threatening than they really are and I blow them out of proportion. I like to box, so hitting 135 pound bag, if I’ve had a hard day, clears everything I can take all of whatever has gone wrong, whoever has put me in a bad mood, I punched myself happy and then I can leave the gym and feel like I could start over.

Susan: I feel that way about lifting heavy weights. So I totally understand that. And it’s been a while since I’ve lifted heavy heavyweights, but I can totally identify with that. And I really liked how you said how you like to bookend your day, and this is totally off topic, but I was watching an interview with a Lin Manuel Miranda –I hope I’m not saying his name wrong, I think I pronounced it correctly – he’s the guy who did Hamilton, and he talked about in his interview because he came out with a book and it was like basically all his tweets or something because he’s never really journaled or anything like that, he said he never really kept a diary so this is kind of what it’s been over the last couple of years and obviously, he’s a writer so a lot of the writing was just really beautiful even though it’s via Twitter. And something he does, or did, I think still does is say good morning and good night. And he talked about how that started and why that started. And even though he is saying good morning and good night, that’s how he turns on and off mentally his social media during the day. It’s how he bookend stuff. He says good morning and then he goes on throughout his day or whatever and he says goodnight and that may be 7:00, 8:00 at night and obviously he’s not going to bed yet, but that’s when he turns it off. And I thought that was really interesting how you talked about bookending your days as well.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, I love that principle because you didn’t have to have some discipline about when you turned it off. And let me be the first to say in all transparency, I’m horrible at that, so if I can get myself to go to gym, more likely than not, I am not going to come out of the gym in the same mental state I came into it, so it gives me a chance to shift my mindset, my emotional state, whatever needs to be reset, it resets in a gym, so I love. I love a good morning tonight. That’s it. That’s a great way.

Susan: I know, and I don’t know that he started it that way on purpose or if it just kind of evolved into that, but I thought it was just a fascinating evolution of his social media. I really liked the turning it on and turning it off because I’m bad, bad, bad, bad at that. So having your own gig is hard when things get crazy, when things get stressful, overwhelming or things just aren’t going how you think or want them to go, how do you keep going or what keeps you going and maybe not even running back towards the door of a corporation?

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. That’s a hard one.

Susan: Yeah.

Lura Hobbs: There are days that I’m like, “I’m just going back to work. This is not working.”

Susan: I know

Lura Hobbs: Part of it is my quest to get it right, and I can laugh about that. Not just saying that it was wrong. The other two times I’ve done it, it’s just I somehow found myself back taking a job. So for me, right now I have a quest to get it right this time. That’s part of what keeps me going. Another thing that keeps me going is my quest to have more flexibility. So in my last two rounds, corporate side, I had jobs that I loved, but I literally traveled like a crazy woman to do those jobs, and it takes a toll. It takes a toll personally and it takes a toll for my family. Can it be done? Absolutely. You know, I probably have travel tricks and tips that I’ve created over the years to make it all work, but it does put a level of stress on me that is in addition to the stress of the job.

So I want the flexibility to cycle up and cycle down a bit during the course of a year to do the 80-hour weeks and for some months maybe to do a 40-hour based on what’s going on. So I have a quest for flexibility in my work that I have not yet achieved. And then part of it is I have two daughters and I’m on a quest to show them that it’s okay to start, to fail and pick back up again. And that’s hard because I don’t do well at failing, but I’m embracing the fact that failure is okay and it’s okay to say the word and it’s okay to admit that it didn’t work. The trick is getting back up again. And so entrepreneurship definitely is a rollercoaster ride financially, emotionally, all of it. And so I want to walk out in front of my girls a level of determination and just willingness to try and try again so that they’ll know that it’s okay to try something new, try something bold, and even if you fail at it you learn something and you’re going to move on and do something great.

Susan: Thank you for the rawness of that. Because as women, maybe especially, maybe that’s not true, I don’t know. I always feel like being a woman and failing is like a double whammy somehow. And maybe it’s because of where I’m from, I don’t know, because I’m from South Carolina and I have heard people say, “Well women don’t do that. Well, women shouldn’t do that. Well, women da, da, da…” And so it’s like when you do something and you try something and it doesn’t work out, it’s like, “Well, they were right.” I’ve said that to myself so many times and been so unkind to myself. So thank you for the rawness of that, that it’s that it’s okay to fail and learn the lesson because I think that’s really—that’s probably hard for everybody, but maybe for me in particular. So thank you for that.

Lura Hobbs: I loved what you said about feeling like sometimes you’re so unkind to yourself and I think one of the things we have to do, not just as women entrepreneurs, but just professional women, whatever level you’re striving for, you need to have at least one other woman in your life that can speak to you directly to affirm you, to push you, to challenge you when you’re having those moments, when you’re being unkind to yourself. And I think too often we have those harsh, unkind moments alone and we’re not willing to share though and in that that’s when we become defeated and we’d give up and we just go do something safe. And not to say that the safe path isn’t an okay path because some of us have to take a safe path because of what we need to do for our families. But too often we talk ourselves out of our own greatness and we just need another woman there to hold our hand and say it’s okay, keep going. And we need to be vulnerable enough to find at least one woman in our life to be that person.

Susan: Oh, I love the way you said that; “We talk ourselves out of our own greatness.” That’s where the. That’s pretty big. That’s a big thing to say but you’re absolutely correct. You are absolutely right.

Lura Hobbs: Right. At least once a week I’m sitting here and I’m going, “Okay, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I just can’t.” And I’m so grateful that over the course of the last year, I have met some just lovely, amazing women, and sometimes I’ll just send a text message; “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” And I’ll get a message back that says, “Yes you can. What did you need? Do you need to talk? Do you need to meet me right now? What do you need?” And you just need somebody that answers that text message with; “Yes, you can.”

Susan: Well, on that note, thank you so much for joining me today. I have loved our conversation. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about personal branding and perseverance. Before I let you go, it’s something that was a little unexpected, but I really liked it and I appreciated that very much. Before I let you go, tell us where we can find you; via your website, your social media, if people are looking for your services or, or everything that you offer in your own consulting. Tell us where we can find

Lura Hobbs: Sure. You can find me on LinkedIn under my name. I have a different name. It’s Laura Hobbs. You can type my name on LinkedIn and you’ll find me there. You can follow me, you can connect with me. You can see a little bit about my background and what I do professionally. And then, you can find me on Instagram. I don’t post a lot on Instagram, but there’s a few things there. Same thing my name, Lura Hobbs, you can find me there. My Facebook is private, so if you’re listening to this and you know me first, maybe you can connect with me there, but I try to keep that to a kind of a smaller group of ladies.

Susan: Cool. And then do you have your own website?

Lura Hobbs: That is the bane of my existence. I have done it, not done it, done it, not done it. I own all the URLs at point too, or at least those that I could buy. I haven’t done it. It’s the thing I need to do. That’s the thing I talked myself out of it so I use LinkedIn.

Susan: I love that. Can I leave this in? Okay. Because I feel like as women I feel like as women there are things that are just action steps we have to take and often it’s buying the URL that’s the hard part. I understand.

Lura Hobbs: I bought them. I’ve got like 10 URLs. I build it, I look at it, and I’m like, “I don’t like it.” So, it’s a commitment issue and I need to get past it, but that’s the God honest truth. I have them. I just haven’t committed.

Susan: Well, I love it because we all have those things that we refuse to commit to, so I appreciate your being honest about that and letting me leave that in. Thank you so much for joining today. It has been a real treat for me to catch up with you and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Lura Hobbs: This was truly just fun to hang out with you this way, and I am glad to have you as one of those women in my life. So thank you.

Susan: Well, thank you so much for that. That means the world to me.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I’ve learned so much from our conversation with Lura and I know you did too. I’ve made sure to link everything we discussed as well as where to find Lura over on our website, howshegothere.com. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please, please, please share with your friends, and don’t forget to head over to iTunes and hit subscribe and while you’re there I really appreciate if you would rate it and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also made sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave, and I have always, always, always enjoyed hearing your feedback. It has really meant a lot to me. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun, How She Got Your Content. So with all of that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Finding Your Glow with Saren Stiegel

Founder of the Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel is using her knowledge and expertise to challenge what the words leader and leadership really mean.

Show Notes

What picture appears in your brain when I say the word leader?  Do you see a leader as someone just at the top?  What if you shifted your idea of who a leader is and recognized the leader within yourself?

Through the Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel is redefining what leadership looks like.  Much like my conversation with Nichole from Mommy’s Home Office,  Saren loved the idea of online business.  So she took her knowledge and previous experience and launched the Glow Effect.

Saren has helped women partner across the globe to develop leadership skills horizontally versus vertically.  The emphasis being that a leader is not a hero.  A leader is someone who leads from behind.  Who leads from within.  Recognizing that everyone is a leader.

Horizontal leadership is mirrored in Glow Effect events like Give Growth.  Instead of panel discussions speakers sit at round tables and facilitate discussion with you versus speaking at you creating the opportunity for deeper  and more meaningful conversation.

Through this style of coaching and mentoring instead of being told a path to follow you are given the tools and encouraged to figure out your path for yourself.  Ultimately recognizing the leader already inside you.

In this episode, Saren shares inspiring insights and her professional expertise leadership and starting your own business.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A true leader makes sure everyone who is participating feels like a hero
  • Micro impacts are vital to society. They also help you build confidence and make a difference where you are already
  • The most powerful thing you can do is create a shift within yourself

 

Episode Links:

Glow Effect – Website

Glow Effect – Instagram

Glow Effect – Facebook

Glow Effect – Twitter

Glow Effect – Book

Glow Effect – Podcast

 

Finding Your Glow with Saren Stiegel – Transcript

 

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey pod sisters, I am thrilled to have with me today, the founder of The Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel. Saren is a 30 something retired attorney who found herself burnt out, loads of self-doubt, fear of failure, and playing small with everything she had, a great education the perception of an amazing career, a decent income. She wondered if she felt this way, how do others with her same privileges feel? How did others feel who did not have her same privileges? In our conversation, we talked about starting The Glow Effect and how in the beginning a toxic ego, her words, lost her some of her best people. She shares valuable lessons she learned in the beginning and her definition of a true leader. We discussed the importance of micro impacts, the significance of internal shifts, and how to see our own blind spots.

Hint: You cannot do this alone.

A quick note to those of my listeners who might be listening with younger ears around: at around 35 minutes and 30 seconds into our conversation, there’s a word that’s probably not suitable for younger audiences, so just be aware and maybe lower your volume for a second or two. I would also like to apologize for the lawnmower and leaf blower you might hear in the background. My amazing lawn team came at a different time than usual, so just pretend we’re having the conversation in the backyard this week instead. So with that said, please welcome Saren Stiegel to the podcast.

Susan: Hey Saren, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Saren Stiegel: Oh, I’m doing so well. Thank you for having me Susan.

Susan: I am really excited for you to be here and tell us a little bit more about what you are doing now. Walk us through a little bit how you got on this path. Where did you start and where are you now?

Saren Stiegel: Absolutely, so I started as—wow, how far should we go back? I started in international sustainable development and social justice, and I was traveling a lot, I was working with social movements, I was working with the most amazing organizations and then I decided to go to law school because, you know, we have this thing in our society about all the rules and what we should do, and in my family, you know, lawyer, doctor or medical school is really the path. So I chose the path, the only one that seemed viable for somebody who doesn’t love numbers and I went to law school and I realized in law school that, you know, that wasn’t really my path but I just kept going. And I pursued social justice initiatives and I worked in criminal defense and I did civil rights work, and when I got out of law school I had to get a job really quickly.

So I took a job in family law which means divorce and child custody. And it was absolutely debilitating in terms of my values because it’s all about separating families and it wasn’t aligned with what I believe in and I was seeing women kind of take a backseat to the needs of their husbands and partners and, you know, in the law firm. And so there was a moment where I thought to myself, you know, if I’m feeling so misaligned, if I’m feeling so outside of my value and my worth, how are other people feeling that don’t have an education or have less education or less opportunities than I do? And that’s when I decided I needed to create something different. I had been writing a blog for years, I was also a yoga teacher, so I was really fascinated with the online business seen. So I quit my job and I started The Glow Effect.

And The Glow Effect at the beginning was your average—I don’t want to say average—but it was a coaching company and I was working with powerful women who didn’t really know their power and didn’t know their potential, and so I created programs and I wrote a book. And it was so fulfilling for me and these women but at a certain point I realized it wasn’t as expansive as it could be and it was, you know, when you focus on women, when you focus on one lane of diversity, you privileged the already privileged. So I was privileging the wealthy, whiter lighter women and so I really wanted to expand on that. And at the same time a couple of the international—so bringing back all my international work—a couple of international organizations reached out to me. And so I started partnering the local executives that I was working with, with women in rural communities in Uganda, and together they fund raised and they co-created curriculum and we ended up creating what’s called The Glow Effect Center for Women and Girls in this small village in Uganda. And it was all done what I like to call horizontally, so it was co-created where it doesn’t mean, like, the Western women weren’t doing the work for the Ugandan women. I think that’s a really big problem in a lot of charity and development work where we assume that the West knows better and this was a co-created initiative. So we worked together in creating this center.

And so now that center has been off the ground for about two years and you know, the income levels have risen, children are back in school or going to school for the first time, domestic violence rates in the village have gone down, you know all these amazing things. But what was also really fascinating is what it did for the Western women, their capacity to see that they can go beyond the nine to five, you know, linear path that society prescribes for us. So, you know, I became a lawyer and I thought that’s the way I had to go and that’s my skill level, but sometimes we don’t see how transferable these skills are and really what our talents are because society really wants to put us in a box of lawyer, doctor, business owner, all these things where you can create things that don’t necessarily have a title.

So since then we have a podcast, we’ve created events, but more so I think what’s really unique about The Glow Effect is that we now offer programs that allow women in the western regions: UK, US, and Australia, who are executives who want leadership development to partner with women in rural communities. So we have partners in Nepal and in India, so virtually we connect these women to do leadership development together. You know, again, horizontally, not the top down, you know; Western women are going to be training the other ones or mentoring. It’s that we’re doing it together and it really expands the vision of what leadership is.

Susan: That is really cool. You are the second guest I’ve had that somehow found themselves in Uganda and working with women. What is it about Uganda? How did you end up in Uganda?

Saren Stiegel: Well, Uganda reached out to me—not the country. A woman in the rural community found The Glow Effect. So she reached out to me, but…

Susan: That’s so cool.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, I’d done a lot of work in Africa: South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar and I think because of my familiarity with certain countries in Africa and the work that I’ve done there, I was a little more—I don’t want to say popular, but like I started to build up a little bit of a following. And Uganda is also a country that’s really, really kind, really open to international development, and I think there’s a double edge sword, and I don’t know how much you want on Uganda but they’re so open to development and so eager for development and Ugandan people are just the most welcoming, generous, like, I feel more comfortable in Uganda often than I do in like downtown LA or New York.

Susan: Wow!

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, it’s an amazing country. The challenge is that because they’re so open to international development, there’s a little bit of a complex in terms of like of the white savior. So if, the white savior or if Westerners aren’t well educated and well informed and aware of it, it’s real easy to fall into that hero syndrome and that you can just come there because a lot of Ugandans think, you know, they’ve been taught like white westerners are going to come and save us and that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this poverty debacle. So a lot of the work is training Westerners and training Ugandans in that we can’t be reliant on each other whatsoever.

Susan: Wow. Wow.

Saren Stiegel: Good question.

Susan: So with us talking about how they’re—basically, it sounds like they’re training each other,  is that…? So this brings up a good point that I think you and Monica Marquez from, I think Google had a conversation about this same kind of redefining what leadership looks like.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah.

Susan: Talk to me about that in what you guys were discussing.

Saren Stiegel: Well, I don’t necessarily recall that conversation that was in early February, but what I think is important in terms of redefining leadership is, you know, as a human race, the kinds of leaders that we’ve seen and revered are often the dictator hero-like leader and dictator has a pejorative term–it is a pejorative term whereas like heroes like, “Oh yeah, I want to be the hero.” And I think business and leadership is starting to evolve beyond the hero form of the CEO, and if you’re not aware of that, you’re in for really rude awakening. I mean I can only speak from experience because even running a leadership development organization, I quickly fell into that because, you know, I read somewhere the woman called it the recovering charismatic leader. So I’ve naturally been good on stages. I’ve naturally been a public speaker, that’s come very easily to me, I’ve naturally had charisma. So when you do something that changes people’s lives, it’s really easy to grow a toxic ego. And I did at the beginning of our work in Uganda; I really started to think, “Oh, I know better. You know, like I’ve done this. I know better.” And it’s so toxic.

So what ended up happening is I lost some of my best, best people because I didn’t understand what being a leader really is, even though I was teaching it.          It’s such a, such a common paradigm and archetype in our society to see a leader as a hero, and the leader is not the hero. There’s no such thing as that anymore, and can be a hero in your own life. But if you’re acting that way in an organization or on a team, you’re going to lose your team. So I think what Monica and I were alluding to or speaking about was that this new paradigm of leadership that’s emerging is the leader that leads from behind that leads from within and that everyone’s a leader, you know, everyone’s the hero. And a true leader makes sure everyone who’s participating feels like a hero, and not seeing themselves as singular but operating in a whole. And so it’s a very feminine form of leadership. I think the masculine wants to think power over. Whereas the feminine, there’s an understanding of power with.

Susan: I like that “Power with.” I think there’s a flip side to this and I think as women who are about making a change or who are fed up with where they are, I think something—and I don’t know if men are bad about this or not because I’m not one—but women in making these changes, before you think I know better, before all of that happens, there’s a period I think where sometimes women are asking for permission, like we’re almost looking for that hero like we need that hero and so I guess my question to you would be, are you seeing that in your people? Have you seen that? And then how do you flip that and help them find it within themselves? Because I think that’s a hard thing to do.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah. No, I think that’s a brilliant question and kind of caveat to what I said because, you know, for women to even call themselves leaders in the first place was a huge leap, right? The challenge is that we think that to call myself a leader, I have to be a hero and I have to be on top right? And I think this is what created this wave of like Girl Boss, you know, and we see in social trends for the past however long it’s been, maybe since Sophia Amoroso created Girl Boss and that whole hashtag; it’s become this revered thing to be a boss. I want to be the boss, I want to have my empire, you know. It’s cool. And I think it’s pushing the toxic paradigm. On the one hand I get it, you know, it’s for women that permission is really important.

So that’s a lot of why we do this work internationally, and we expose women to communities where they don’t have the option of being the top dog. They don’t have the option of being the boss, if you will, right? They have to lead from within. And when you’re exposed to that, you start to see where you held yourself back. And also what we do is a lot of the work that we put women through is starting to shift perception. You know, we have so much self-doubt of women, we have so much lack of self-trust and questioning whether our ideas are right, all of it. So the work really starts with shifting that perception and getting those self-doubts out of the way so that you can start to see the everyday problems and challenges that the people just like you are facing that can be solved with a simple shift in perception. But the challenge is that we’re so blinded by the self-doubts that we think, “Oh, if I don’t go and save Uganda, then I’m not worthy. ” or , “If I don’t go and like cure homelessness, I have no value or I’m not making an impact.” and that’s so not true.

You know, micro impact is absolutely vital to our society right now and helping your coworker vocalize her opinion is hugely impactful. So starting to move your self-doubt out of the way and seeing how you can create that micro impact will start to build your confidence and then you realize that there’s so much to be done right where you are. So you start to expose the challenges locally to you, and when you expose those challenges, you see, “Oh, my, gosh, I have so many skills and talents that can solve this right here. I don’t need to go out and cure homelessness. I can create an amazing impact right where I am.” Does that make sense?

Susan: Oh, it absolutely does. In fact, your mission, I think it’s written on your website, I could be wrong, or maybe you’ve talked about this. I found this in your stuff somewhere that “It became making sure every woman and every girl has the resources to access her world changing potential to lead the way for her community,” I think it’s how you have it written or you spoke about it somewhere. So tell me about this. How does The Glow Effect do this? How are you accomplishing this?

Saren Stiegel: Well, we do it in a bunch of different ways. I mean, I think that the most powerful thing we can do is create that shift in ourselves. So we set up platforms, we have programs; we have events that are designed to expose that for you. So it’s not, you know, I’m coaching you to find it. It’s, I’m standing with you and supporting you as you uncover it for yourself. And then the confusion I think there is, “Well then I’m just going to go out and do it by myself.” And the challenge is yeah, you could technically I guess, but we are so blinded by our own blind spots. If you don’t have someone next to you exposing those for you, there’s virtually no way you can see them. So to me that’s like, I don’t love the term coach but technically, I guess that’s what it is. So our programming really creates the platform for you to uncover your blind spot. And by platform, I mean with coaching, with mentorship, with a really strong community. So you know, as other women are going through this training, you gain the skills to challenge each other to find those blind spots. But again, we can’t see our own blind spots. So I need a support system. I don’t feel like I’m better than others, you know, I still have so much learning and growth to do. So it’s really about creating a platform with powerful mentors and coaches that all see the potential in each other.

Susan: Okay, I didn’t prep you for this question but I’m going to ask you anyway, and if it’s horrible, we’ll just delete it so nobody will ever know and I’m leaving that in. So if it stays now, you know my trick.

Saren Stiegel: Okay, great.

Susan: Tell me how you’re finding these women. Are they coming to you? Are you seeking them out? Is there a secret code to get in?

Saren Stiegel: I believe in the law of attraction. And by law of attraction, I don’t just sit on my hands and wait. I mean I put my material and my content out for free, like you can find everything that I do in some form or another online: in a blog post, in a podcast. And when you put it all out there, you will naturally get people coming to you. And so with our events, which are completely different than other people’s events, so I made sure that they’re not a panel of speakers sitting on a platform above everyone else. Our speakers sit at round tables with the attendees and they facilitate conversations. So it’s not about them speaking at you; it’s about them speaking with you.

Susan: Woo.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, it just completely changes the results of the event right? And so everyone there starts to feel like they could be a leader and they could lead a conversation. And what that does is, you know, some women say like, “Okay, that’s cool, but not for me.” cool, I’ve no problem with that. But you know, I’ve had so much education, and I say that in a good way and a bad way. I think it’s off putting to some people, like they don’t want to go deep—it’s a lot. I don’t sugar coat, I’m super direct, I like to go super, super deep. I don’t like surface level conversations. So if that’s not for you, cool. Totally fine, it’s okay. But what’s beautiful is that it really filters out the people that do want something more and who are ready to make a huge change.

So, I get women from, like I said, all walks of life, all layers—and we have such a tiered society— but all income levels, all a job professions, you know, women in wellness, women in consulting, women in accounting, women in marketing, women in coffee shops. I think these leaders that want something deeper, that want to make a bigger impact are everywhere. It’s about, you know, creating the right call to action that has them say, “Oh yeah, okay, that’s me. I want that,” and it’s not for everybody.

Susan: Just putting people, leaders, speakers at a round table instead of a panel up in front, you’ve literally blew my mind. I mean, I am thinking back to all of those things that I have attended before in the past. And I’m like, “Yeah, the questions are canned, they’re very surface level.” It’s like, great, I’m glad you got there but there never really is a, “How do I do this?” like there’s not real good conversations. You just blew my mind.

Saren Stiegel: Oh, I’m so glad. Well, we’ve been hosting these events. They’re called ‘Give Growth’ for two years. We just had one last week actually in Orange County and they’re super successful. Like I get everyone it, but just like, I’ve never seen anything like this before, which blows my mind because it seems so freaking obvious. Like it’s so easy. It’s not, you know, you just don’t set up the chairs in stadium seating, you get round-tables, like not rocket science, you know. But the challenge, I guess, you know, the way we format the event is that I feel three questions. So over the Course of three hours, you know, it’s a very limited format; three questions. So the first question, you know, I think last week was what kind of impact you currently make? So then the round-table talk for about 15 minutes as a round-table and these featured leaders facilitate the conversations.

So I guide them and give them a ton of material beforehand on how to facilitate and listen and they’re there to call you out, to challenge you, and you go around the table and everybody speaks and then we come together as a large group. So we don’t usually have more than 75 people. And then as a large group, I facilitate a big conversation so everybody starts sharing their insights. You know, and some people don’t feel comfortable to share in that large group and that’s totally fine because they’re going to get the opportunity to share in their small groups.

Susan: That’s so cool. That is such a great idea. I love it. I want to go. So let’s shift just a little bit on some questions and then I’m going to come back to all of that. I want to talk a little bit about you. So you left a firm, you left the real world, if you will, you left a corporate job, even though you were burned out, there were things you were giving up by leaving 401k opportunities, healthcare potential, an income. So how do you bolster your confidence in moments—and maybe your past this, maybe you aren’t asking yourself this, these questions anymore—but what was I thinking? Like how did you get through those first couple of months where it was like or years where it was like, “Am I crazy? Why would I leave security?”

Saren Stiegel: Yeah. I mean I’m not over that, but I will say I will never—like in the beginning I would have urge people to do what I did, you know, like I’m so much more fulfilled. I’m absolutely poor, but fulfilled! You know, and that is poor coaching, and if you’re reading that anywhere, like just disregard it because it is so freaking naive. So I will never coach people to jump out of a corporate job like I did because I did it blindly, I did it without a cushion, you know, I mean I had a relatively—I had a saving because when I was an attorney I literally did not do anything but work. So I spent my money on car insurance and rent so I had money but not a lot and it didn’t carry me very long.

But I think the trick—and this is now what coach my clients to do—is two parts: You have to create an exit strategy. So if you don’t know what you’re jumping into, like don’t leave. If you hate your job, if you absolutely hate it, then get a job at a coffee shop, humble yourself, you know what I mean? Like get a side gig. Get something that’s going to bring you income because if you jump ship and you don’t have some kind of income or some kind of safety, there is no creativity. Don’t think that like, “Oh, I’m going to quit my job and then tomorrow I’m going to start my six figure business.” You know, like I’ve never heard of that. No, you need to know so many way—or being a business owner is not something that you are taught in school and not even if you go to business school, right? Like I’ve heard this from so many MBAs. The real world of business looks nothing like we learn in school. So you need to have a very crystal clear understanding of how whatever you’re going to do is going to bring in income like sooner than later if it’s not already. Like I would only tell somebody to jump ship if they are already bringing in income that is mostly sustaining their lifestyle. So that’s part one: is you need a strong exit strategy.

Part two is, and this is a touchy subject, but stop seeing being a business owner or having your own business as dichotomous with, if that’s a word, with corporate or a law firm or whatever. So I think for the first maybe year or two of my business, I was like, “I’m getting out of corporate. Like I hate corporate.” you know, “I want nothing to do with corporate and I’m just going to own my business and I’m going to make a ton of money and I just want nothing to do with corporate.” that’s so naive. That’s so naive to believe that you can have one or the other.

The reality is 1: 99% of my clients come from corporate, right? So why would I not find a way to partner with corporation, to partner with organizations that may be a little weak in their learning and development and work with them instead of being against them, right? So I think the real, like, my business opened up when I started to see it all as a partnership. Now I’ve never, and I will probably never partner with the law firm that I left, you know, I don’t want to put them down, but they’re not an open minded learning and development geared organization that would be open to this, so I’m not saying that you have to go back to your company and partner with them—that might be really, really toxic, but there is so much you can learn about what the corporations and organizations are looking for. Number one, they have a shit ton of money, not always, but corporate is where most of the world’s money is. So if you can find a unique way to stall their challenges, you will have a leg up in creating whatever endeavor you want to create.

Susan: That’s really good.

Saren Stiegel: Kind of a long-winded answer.

Susan: No, that was great. That was great. And I totally understand not necessarily going back to the place you left.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, but not as like…

Susan: The enemy.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, I left the corporate firm or whatever and now I will never go back to any of them. That’s only going to hurt you.

Susan: Yes, I agree with that. That’s very wise, very wise thing to say.

Saren Stiegel: It’s taken a lot of learning the hard way.

Susan: That’s fair. That’s fair. I think anytime you go out on your own that there is some of that figuring you’re always figuring things out, right? I mean that’s just life. So obviously, going out on your own is hard. How do you motivate yourself to keep going when it gets a little overwhelming?

Saren Stiegel: Well, I guess the number one way is rest a lot. And I say that because I learned the hard way. If you’re burnt out, don’t burn yourself out more because you think you should be doing more and you should be motivated. Respect what your body’s telling you and rest. And that’s been a really hard lesson for me. It’s just continually a hard lesson because I think there’s something about us where we just—when I say us, I mean action-oriented type ‘A’ people that I talked to literally every day and drove. I rarely talked to non-type ‘A’ people because non-type ‘A’ people don’t really want to do much of this stuff. You know, it’s type ‘A’ people that want to change the world. So the natural inclination is take more action, do more, do more, do more, and that’s not where we find inspiration and motivation. So much of inspiration come in, the quiet moments comes in the yoga class that you don’t quote unquote have time for and I really resisted that. I need to say that again where I’ve had mentors who say to me like, “You need to take a month off.” and I’m like, “Never! like what? Like that’s a nightmare!”

And when I say take a month off, it doesn’t mean like I cancel my clients, you know, maybe I just minimize and I don’t actively seek more clients, but I’ve been in those times when, you know, maybe I take a course or like I stepped back and I’ll take like an accelerator program, and the learning and the growth is absolutely exponential in those times and it helps you clarify what in your business is draining your motivation because it’s not always the day to day, I mean there’s the day to day motivation, but then there’s the possibly not running their business as a effectively as it could be running a because models need to pivot. They have to and if you are entrenched in the day to day, there’s no way you can get that perspective, you know what I mean, like macro perceptive, but you have to back away from the day to day and it feels like pulling teeth and that backing away but I promise, promise, promise that it’s going to be the best thing that you’ve ever done for yourself and for your business and for the people that you’re supporting so that’s kind of one thing that I do.

But then the next thing is once you have a clear vision, a clear business model, but some revenue coming in, by that time, it’s likely that you have a strong-ish network. It was only maybe like a year ago when I have so many people and mentors and like my network–that is the key to running a business these days is having a strong network. So I have these amazing people in my network and someone said to me, “So you have a formal advisory board, right?” and I don’t have a board and she was like, “But you have an advisory board.” and I was like, “Well, I have advisers.” She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no, no. You need at least three to five people who you get together maybe quarterly.” you know, and so now I have four women. We get together quarterly for brunch and we rotate who hosts the brunch and these women are just the most exceptional people and they hold me accountable. And it’s so scary because when you have random advisers, you know, you may meet with them like once every six months and you tell them about your accomplishments and maybe some of your challenges and then you go on and you write them a follow-up email and see ya! But with an advisory board, no, they’re going to hold you accountable, you know, regularly. And at first I was really freaked out about that, but you know, that they’re not there to beat me up they’re there to, “Okay so you didn’t meet x, y, and z goals. Let’s figure out why.” And before you have a big team, they’re your team and to get a diversity of thought into your business is so vital—so vital. So you know, strategically pick this advisory board and it will work wonders on your entire life.

Susan: I really appreciate that thought process or those words. That’s really helpful. That’s helpful to me and I know a lot of other women listening will find that helpful as well. And I also really liked what you said about self-care and how your body responds to the lack of it because I have definitely, you know, the breakouts, the, yeah, all of it. It’s just I’m horrible about that as well sometimes and when I am, my body tells me so it shows

Saren Stiegel: Totally, and it’ll show in your business.

Susan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Saren Stiegel: If your business is breaking down, it’s highly likely that you’re breaking down.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely, and you’re so right that you’ve got to find your core support people and put them around you advisers or what you need, you need to find because when you’re in it and you’re in the weeds, especially in the beginning, the perspective is definitely something you can’t get on your own. It’s too easy to duck in and get stuck in the muck.

Saren Stiegel: Totally, just know that that is our go-to, like that is our instinct and our natural urge is to work harder, and that is counter intuitive to what’s needed. So if you feel like if I just work harder then I’ll, get out of the muck. Wrong

Susan: You’re getting deeper in the muck.

Saren Stiegel: You’re getting deeper. Mark my words.

Susan: Well that is very good advice. I have one last question and I hope, I hope, I hope you go back to The Glow Effect on this one, but if you don’t, that’s cool. I always like to leave our listeners with an action step. I know these women are hearing this and they think it’s great and it’s much like that panel sitting in front of you, you know, that’s kind of where we’re at a little bit with the podcast. There’s a panel, we’re talking, we’re having a great conversation or somebody’s sitting at the coffee shop and they’re overhearing us talking about life and whatever. What is one action step or a few action steps that you could leave our audience with to roll the ball forward, move the ball forward with whatever it is that they are thinking of doing next especially if they’re thinking about leaving their current role?

Saren Stiegel: The challenge of that question is we’re all at different places, right? So I’m going to say like, you know, for the people who are in a job that they hate, this is such a great opportunity to learn in terms of like, so you have income coming in, then great, get yourself a coach, take a program and I will happily offer up our program and specifically our aspire program. Our aspire program helps you kind of uncover what it is that you are just craving to do and what’s going to create the most value and fulfillment for the world and for yourself simultaneously. So find, you know, and again, like I said, it’s not for everyone, but if what I said so far resonates with you, please, please reach out because this is such an opportune time to hone in on that exit strategy that I was talking about. If you’ve already left your role and you’ve started a business, depending on where you are, I mean I would again say feel free to reach out into our aspire program because it can still help you get that perspective to see where you need to go next and how to shape your trajectory.

It’s not a cheap endeavor, you know, getting a coach or doing these programs, they do cost money. So if that’s not in the cards for you, I totally get it. I would say start learning locally. So go to events, find associations and conferences, and don’t think that you need to pay the $500 ticket price to these things. Get really creative and find the organizers’ information and email them and say, “Can I volunteer for your event?” Because the more you can integrate yourself and ingratiate yourself into the industry that you’re trying to get into, it will explode your business and there’s nothing better than humbling yourself with these organizations and with these organizers. They always need volunteers, they always need support, so go do that. And then once you start to grow your network that way, find your advisory board.        You know, write up a NDA, a nondisclosure agreement, and just write up the requirements of what you’re asking. So you know, to be on our advisory board is going to require you to meet with us four times a year, to have one call with me per month and in return, you’ll receive a network of people. And make sure you identify what they’re going to get out of it too because likely you’re going to be asking awesome people who need to get some value out of it and, and formalize this advisory board for yourself and create your little team even if you can’t afford employees yet or even if you can’t, there’s nothing better than having people vision the macro perspective with you.

Susan: That’s great.

Saren Stiegel: Great.

Susan: That is great and I never thought about the volunteering aspect of behind the scenes because I would think you would even get access to more people that way. Like that you wouldn’t necessarily have access to just as a quite frankly as a paying participant. So I think that’s a very creative idea. I like that a lot.

Saren Stiegel: You get access to the people but you also get access to the mechanics and the operation of the organization. I mean I have volunteered more than I have attended events and people look at me often like I’m crazy and like, “Why are you volunteering? Are you poor?” Like, no, it’s actually like, it was a best way to befriend all the people and you know, again, I’m a speaker or I do speak in engagements, so it’s so much more likely that you will build up your credibility starting at the bottom than trying to email your resume and you’re speaking to the organizer and they’re most likely going to ignore you if they’ve never heard of you, but if you’re humbling yourself and helping them, it just creates the most extraordinary opportunity. We can’t even fathom what it will create.

Susan: That’s great. Thank you so much for joining me today. Before we leave though, I want to ask you to tell us where we can find you: Online, on social media, The Glow Effect. Like how do we get in touch with you?

Saren Stiegel: Well, I mean the best way to get in touch with me is my email: saren@gloweffect.com. So please don’t hesitate to email me. I mean I read and I respond to every email I get. So that’s the number one way to find me and connect with me and get into our programs or volunteer whatever you want to do. And then you know, if you just want to learn more, go onto gloweffect.com and Instagram—thegloweffect, Facebook “/the glow effect” and then on Twitter is “you are the glow” so that you can probably search for the glow effective and find it as well.

Susan: Great. And I’ll make sure to link everything in on our transcript page for our listeners. So don’t pull off the road or try to rewind or anything. Just head on over to the website. It’ll be on the transcript page. All you have to do is click.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, and again, put my email up there.

Susan: I will do that.

Saren Stiegel: In sharing my email address and please don’t have any shame in emailing me you will reach me, not my assistant.

Susan: Awesome. Saren, thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. This was a lot of fun and you have some amazing insight and I really, really appreciate your time.

Saren Stiegel: My pleasure. Really, this was so fun, Susan. Thank for having me.

Susan: Thanks so much Saren.

Outro: Hey sisters, so if you were still here, thanks for hanging in there until the end with me today. I know it was a little bit of a longer conversation than normal, but it was so worth it, right? Isn’t she amazing? I’ve learned so much from our conversation and I know you did too. I know you’re going to want to follow up and check her out online so we have made sure to link to The Glow Effect and Saren over on our website: howshegothere.com. I also want to say thanks so much for listening today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make It easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave and I have always, always, always excited to hear your feedback. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here Community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun, How She Got Here content. So with all of that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Follow your passion. What’s the worst that could happen? With Genevieve Strickland

Genevieve Strickland is a full time licensed marriage and family therapist. A full time artist. A Mom!  She reminds us of the importance of doing what you are passionate about.

Show Notes

Do you have something you are truly passionate about?  Do you have something you do for the sheer joy of it?  Have you considered turning it into a second career?  If your answer is yes to any of the questions above you’re in the right place.

Genevieve Strickland grew up on the South Carolina coast in Myrtle Beach.  She says she knew she loved drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil.

At a college fair in high school she discovered Converse College, a women’s college that offered a degree in art therapy.  She decided to try the all women’s atmosphere because, in her own words, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  She not only flourished there, but gained a whole sisterhood.

After earning her degree she got a second degree  to become a licensed marriage and family therapist and moved into private practice.

Always creating when she had the opportunity, but as more people began to ask for her work she was inspired to try being a full time therapist and a full time artist.  So she took two business classes on using Instagram.  After that, it was on!

As both a full time therapist and full time artist, art is still Genevieve’s passion.  It is what centers her.  It is how she cares for herself.

As a full time therapist she recognizes that there is sometimes still a stigma around mental self care.  Although, she says it is no different than going to a general practitioner or OBGYN for a check up.  Brain health is just as important as body health.

In this episode, Genevieve  offers inspiring insights and her professional expertise on both art and therapy.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Don’t be afraid to try new things
  • It’s important to mess up and fail – so you know you can start over
  • Therapy and taking care of your brain is just like physical therapy for your body

 

Genevieve’s commitment to her own self care and the self care of her clients reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This past October, we committed to 30 Days of Self Care.  If you missed it, it is not too late.  The resources are still available on our  website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and visit our site to download the free printable for self care reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on caring for yourself.

Just like Genevieve emphasizes, we’ve got to take care of ourselves, sister, so that we can go after those dreams of ours! And once we do that, we can start empowering other women and girls to do exactly the same thing.

Show Links:

Art by Genevieve Strickland (Facebook)

GenStrickland (Instagram)

Magnolia Counseling Associates (Facebook)

Magnolia Counseling Website

passioncolorjoy.com    (Instagram Classes)

 

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey pod-sisters, my guest today is full-time artist as well as full-time licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Genevieve Strickland. Genevieve and I went to Converse together, and our conversation encompasses everything from choosing an all-women’s college to graduating and figuring out your career as well as turning a hobby into a second career: A great conversation that I cannot wait to share with you. So, without further ado, here’s Genevieve.

Hey Genevieve, thanks so much for joining me today.

Genevieve:  Thank you for having me Susan, I’m so glad to be here.

Susan:  I’m just really, really excited to talk to you and catch up with you and find out what you’ve been up to but for the audience who’s listening today, I’d love if you would give a little bit about who you are and your background.

Genevieve:  Okay, so my name Genevieve Strickland Y’all know that and I am originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—I  don’t know if your listeners are familiar with that area but it’s just a pretty popular coastal city but I live in upstate South Carolina now. I’ve lived here for about 20 years and I am a full-time marriage and family therapist and I’m a full-time artist so that is a little bit about me.

Susan:  So did you grow up in a family of creators? Like how did you find the passion for both things you do because I know you’re very passionate about both. Tell me a little bit about how you got to these places.

Genevieve:  Sure, you know, we do have a couple entrepreneurs in my family. My dad actually opened his 1st business when I was in middle school and we definitely thought we’re going to be homeless when he opened that because he left a regular job to do that. Thankfully it was fairly successful so we were not homeless thankfully and as far as like creative people, we don’t really have any other artists in the family. His dad actually was an architect but I did not know him as a kid: He died before I was born and—I’m trying to think—Nope: Yeah that’s it so we really don’t have anybody else in health care either so I’m sort of a unique person I think in my family as far as that goes and I got started with art really like as soon as I could hold like a pencil—I know a lot of artists tell that kind of story but I really did. I just always really liked creating things and especially drawing that was really my thing. I didn’t actually love painting until a couple of years ago funnily enough. I was going to go to college to be a Disney artist— that was my dream: To go draw like you know back when they drew movies still. I was going to go to school for that.

In high school, my teacher said, “Hey great dream, definitely do that but just in case, like let’s lay a couple other careers that maybe you could do.” which is a fair question right? It’s hard to be a full-time artist. And so I found art therapy actually in  like back when we had to look at things that were in books like and probably we did not have Google back then so we had to actually look up things in books and I looked it up and I’m like, “Wow, that sounds really cool. I can help people, I can do art it’s a win for everybody.”  and I found Converse—Susan and I went to Converse together: College— and they are the only school in South Carolina that had art therapy as an undergrad and I said, “Well gosh I guess I’m going to go there.” knowing nothing about it— It’s about 4 hours away from my hometown— and I went there like site unseen.

Susan:  Oh my gosh I didn’t know that!

Genevieve:  Yeah, I was like, “Well what’s the worst that can happen right?” and Converse was a great fit for me and I really loved it and the art program there was great and I got to take a lot of counseling classes and I figured out that I liked it a lot and I was about to graduate—and you’re going to like this story Susan—that I was about to graduate meeting with my advisor and he was like, “Hey by the way you really can’t use art therapy like for real as a job until you have a counseling degree your master’s degree.” and I’m like “What!!?”

Susan:  Oh, my gosh.

Genevieve:  I totally thought I could get out and just do that. So very quickly had to switch plans and say, you know, “Okay so the only art therapy program back then we’re all like several states away.” and so I was like, “Okay well what am I going to do?” and then I was walking it down the hall like after a class and there was a Flyer for the counseling program there Converse: The Marriage and Family Therapy Program which is an excellent program—love it to death and I said, “Well I’ll just apply to that.” and I got in and that’s what I did.

Susan:  Oh, my gosh. Wow, that would have freaked me out if I was getting ready to graduate and they were like. “Oh, by the way, this isn’t real. You can’t really do this yet.”

Genevieve:  Yeah, I was a little panicked there for a minute but I just said, “Well what’s the worst that can happen?” you know, “Let me just apply and if I don’t get in then I’ll just, you know, get a job but maybe not as doing that and make another plan.”

Susan:  That was really good and quick thinking.

Genevieve:  Well, I’m just lucky somebody put that flyer up Susan—honestly.

Susan:  That’s awesome though! That’s awesome because I don’t know, I am thinking back to undergrad and I really might have had a breakdown but it’s funny that you say that. You know my— I’ll just go off on a little tangent here for a second—I ended up majoring in business and marketing and so thank goodness the business administration piece was there because we graduated in 2004. So the things I was learning about marketing, I mean you’re right, Google didn’t exist, Facebook was really just launching like we didn’t have Facebook when we graduated. And so the marketing world was literally changing as I was graduating and that degree was not so great. So it’s like thank goodness I had the other aspects of that and I could use the finance pieces of that because the marketing thing was just never really going to happen. I would have had to have immediately gone back to school. It sounds like we both kind of graduated.

Susan:  Right and I couldn’t do it at that point like I really had to I didn’t have many student loans but I knew they were coming due and my parents were very much like, “You got to get out and get a job.” like that’s what—you graduate and you get a job. That’s what you have to do—and that’s just really funny, that’s really funny. Okay so let’s step back just a second because this gives me an opportunity.

Genevieve:  Sure.

Susan:  You came to Converse site unseen. Did you, in fact, know that it was a women’s college?

Genevieve:  I did actually know that. I found out about them and when I saw them at my high school college fair and they did say that and I remember telling my friends like, “I got into this college. Like I’m excited about the program and, you know, by the way, it’s an all-women.” and they were all like, “What!!? Why do you want to go to an all-women school? Like that sounds terrible. You’re not going to meet anybody.” you know all the things that people say about single-gender schools.

I really wasn’t worried about it. I mean I mostly had friends that were girls anyway so I wasn’t panicked about that. I was kind of like you know, “It’ll be in a town. I’m sure there’ll be people.” or “I’ll meet somebody in a coffee shop if I want to date somebody—whatever.” so that didn’t really bother me too much but my friends and even my parents were like, “Are you sure you want to go to a women’s school? Like what?”

Susan:  Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like— I mean obviously, you didn’t have the coed experience so it’s not like you changed and went from one to another— but do you feel like it changed your perception? What impact if any did a single gender piece of that have on your life?

Genevieve:  Well definitely one that gave me the room to, you know, be a little bit more outspoken in class. I don’t know I know you probably can’t tell, I use to be a very shy person in high school, didn’t really talk that much you know it’s sort of the classic quiet kind of, you know, unique kid. I came here and I was like, you know, again “Like what do I have to lose?” like trying to be maybe a little bit more outgoing and Converse was a great place.

Everybody was super welcoming and excited and, you know, a lot of y’all were already like outspoken and exciting people so that was a good atmosphere for me. I really like flourished in that, and two: I really got some good like you know I got some good hair stuff. I hate to say it like that but like I did not come from a family with good har stuff.  You got a cool hairstyle or that fun— and I got like a such a small piece but it did make a really big impact on me like, “Okay, I came out of this and I can look professional, I can feel good about you know presenting myself.” and not that Converse at all expects you to look like that in class because I know you probably just like I did went to class in pajamas a lot of the time.

Susan:  Yes.

Genevieve:  But it was almost like—because I’m an only child— I got a definitely a good like sister experience being at Converse and that was great for me.

Susan:  I love that because that’s exactly how I describe it. It really is a giant sisterhood. I mean I can meet somebody.  in Dallas, Texas and find out that they went to Converse and it’s happened and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” and it’s at an immediate like, “Yeah, we’re sisters.” it’s the weirdest thing that I don’t know that you get that— I know you don’t get that at a bigger university. I don’t know if it happens at smaller liberal arts colleges or not.

But anyway thank you for sharing your thoughts on that I really appreciate it. You said that you were creating, drawing as soon as you could pick up a pencil. You came out of college, you had the marriage and family therapy thing— that’s what you were going to do, that’s what you started doing—when did you realize that art could be more than a hobby artist, you could be like what I like to call a capital ‘A’ artist?

Genevieve:  So trying to think of when exactly that shift happened. I mean definitely after I had my second kid. He’s two and a half now and my youngest son and I had been you know painting and like every 3 months, I would sort of make something. When you’re in school and you’re doing art, you have a lot of deadlines, you have projects to turn in but once you get out without that structure unless you’re just motivated it’s hard to like, make time if you’re doing regular jobs or you’re doing regular responsibilities so. I was probably making something every couple months you know painting something fresh for this friend, painting something for a house that we could sell it— that kind of thing— and I started thinking like, “Gosh you know I’m getting more like requests from people like wanting me to paint something. Maybe I should sort of think on that. Like why can’t I do both? You know, why can’t I, be a full-time therapist and a full-time artist. I don’t see why I can’t.”

So I just I took two business classes and they’re both like Instagram business classes because that’s sort of the thing if you talk to any artist right now that’s a professional, that’s what they’re sort  of doing. That’s your own gallery for the whole world and there is a whole system to sort of know how to get like market your stuff to that audience and I said, “Well that seems like a good place to start.” you know, it doesn’t take me anything but time to learn that system right? I don’t have to create a whole website; I don’t have to do anything like that so. Right when I was doing that, a dad of a kid that my oldest son was in class with said, “Hey can I commission like this piece for a local restaurant that’s opening? It’s a big deal; we just want some local artist. You don’t have anything and anywhere else in town. Will you paint something for our restaurant?” I said, “Sure.” but that was really like it. That moment and then like two months later, I had been asked to be in an art show with a bunch of cool artist in town and then it was it with, it was on after that. So I guess that would be about, you know, two-ish years ago I became a professional— capital ‘A’ I would say.

Susan:  That’s so cool. It just kind of morphed into this thing. It wasn’t like it was a planned thing. That’s such a neat, that’s so cool how things have fallen into place. Tell me a little bit about your creative process and your method. I love that you do a lot of time-lapse pictures or time-lapse videos of pieces that you’re working on and so anybody who watches your stuff knows that you paint your canvas is red first. Tell me a little bit about your process why red?

Genevieve:  So I took one painting class at Converse—you know, when you’re an art therapy major, you do have to take studio art classes. I took one painting class and I did not like it but I did learn a couple of things. Even though I don’t paint in oil, I paint in acrylic, one of the things that you do no matter what you paint is have an under painting so that red is an under painting and basically that just gives you another like layer on your canvas—one because when you buy a canvas, sometimes it can take a couple layers of paint for the paint to look not like you can see through if that’s a good way to describe that. So one is for that and two, also the red I feel like pops my colors a little bit more so it’s a warm base instead of that white base and so I feel like that just makes my— and I’m a big color fan. I’m sure if ya’ll look at my work you’ll see that I really do love color so very much and so those kinds of things matter to me and I could, I guess paint on a white canvas but I just I like the way my color looks on that red that’s why I do it.

Susan:  That’s really cool. I know a lot of your stuff. I’ve had you commission a piece but I also know that you just paint it you just create it. Where does your inspiration come from and even in stuff that’s commissioned I mean you still have to have that picture in your head— how does that work?

Genevieve:  So I mean definitely a lot of the inspiration I have because I do a lot of like landscape pieces, are from the places around here. Upstate South Carolina is a great location because you’re near the coast, you’re near the mountains, you’re near farms, you’re near all kinds of just cool beautiful places and you can get them you know in an hour or a couple hours versus like a whole day. So, it’s just useful around here and that is truly where a lot of—I go gosh you know driving, I stop and take a picture because I’ll use that for later and you know as far as like my commission stuff, I just think that I’ve been drawing and you know creating stuff so long that I’ve never really had to like too much trouble just picturing—I’m just a visual person so somebody says, “Oh I want you to draw an alligator riding on a horse in the mountains.” I would be able to come up with something. It may not be a good picture always, I definitely do make mistakes. My work doesn’t always turn out well. I post the stuff that turns out well but that’s not always what actually happens. I think if you’re an artist you have to be not afraid of just paint over stuff—just starting over. I mean that’s just part of the process.

Susan:  Well that segways into a question I always like to ask and that’s, you know, even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self-confidence. How do you deal with that—is it the starting over?

Genevieve:  Yeah I think definitely I mean if you do you any kind of skill and I feel like art is definitely people will say “You’re just born with this talent.” whatever but I really felt like you know it’s just like any skill that you have in the world— you spend a lot of time getting better at it and you have to be able to do that to be a professional. You can’t be stuck in one place doing the same thing the same way— it just doesn’t work that way I don’t think to be professional. So, you know, you just spend a lot of time making mistakes. I think that’s important to experience. Not everybody have to or not everybody is afraid to mess up and fail, and I think that it is important to do that so that you know you can always start over. Like even I had a big commission earlier this year and I had gotten about you know a third of the way through and I was sending her a progress picture and she said, “You know I wanted that actually vertical and not horizontal.” so a third of the way through I don’t know why I didn’t check that— it was a terrible idea but I had for a panic moment for a minute like, “Oh gosh you know I just spent all this time doing this—poor me and then I said, “Gosh you know it’s fine.” I just turn it around and paint it again and it’ll be okay and it really is and maybe that’s just practice failing. I’ve practiced a lot being bad at stuff. I’m not good at math, you said you’re good at financial stuff but a long time being bad at math and so if I just based my whole life on how good I was at that, I would just be sort of stuck. When I have all this other stuff I’m okay.

Susan:  I would like to clarify: I said I did math, I did not say I was good at math. No one called me for math questions. I am very good in Excel— no one call me with your math questions I can’t answer them. Now I thought that was great Genevieve.

Genevieve:  Oh my gosh, Excel is hard.

Susan:  Again, you talk about a skill you can learn Excel. It is a skill, it is not a natural born talent but there is some natural talents you have. I mean it is a skill I think that there are things that you can learn but you really do have I think there are some things that a vision and I think you have a vision and I think it’s a beautiful vision and I really admire that because that’s not something that I have. I mess up stick people so yeah.

Genevieve:  Well thank you.

Susan:  Tell us a little bit about how because you are a full-time counselor which is so cool, you are a full-time artist which is also cool, you also have two children, tell me how do you recharge your batteries and is that art is for you at this moment— is that recharging your batteries or is there something else that does it for you?

Genevieve:  It definitely started out, like I said, I really started painting a lot right after I had my second child like kind of a sickly kid and he just was, you know, a lot of intense he didn’t sleep well that kind of stuff and we’re moving and the thought of change and so I didn’t really feel like I had much time to like go out and do stuff and I’m kind of a homebody anyway so I just started doing it like, “Gosh this is what I loved as a kid. This will be good for me to do my time.” it’s easy to fit in my life right now and so definitely it started out as that and then to kind of morphed into—it’s still that for me I still look forward to my time to do that so I start painting almost every night and I have my stuff just sort of set up in our little it looks like a studio but it’s really just the corner of our dining room, so I can be near my family if they’re awake or be near my husband— if he’s in the living room, I’m right next to him. So it’s my time to do it but it’s still there in my home and now I do more things out. Now I’ll go ride my bike or I’ll go you know out to eat breakfast with friends and I have more space to do that now but art is sort of what I’ always coming back to. I’m not a dancer but I sort of think about I’m not a yoga person but I feel like I think of it as my center I’ve had it so long in my life, that’s just my center.

Susan: That’s really cool. That’s really cool I like the centering aspect of that. That’s really, really neat. That’s really cool and that you’ve turned it into a profession so it can be both. That is such a—I don’t know, it gives me a sense of like peace about things I don’t know and I’m not an artist—that’s really neat. One of the questions I always like to ask is:  With this podcast, my whole goal is to inspire, empower, and encourage women to go out and find their thing. You have found two things that I think you must be really, really good at. One of them I know you’re really good at, the other one I’ve never used you as a counselor. I have been in therapy myself— full disclosure—but not living close by, I have not had the opportunity to use you. So tell me there are women out there who are thinking about finding their thing or how they find their thing and I envision them like, you know doing what I did: getting quiet, getting still like sitting down and really figuring out who you are. If you could leave our audience with like an action step of figuring things out for themselves, do you have anything that you would recommend anyone try or do or seek out?

Genevieve:  So I mean it would be hard for me not to say, “Hey, find a good therapist.” I mean that’s what we’re here for—is to help you walk through figuring out who you are and also we’re very different people than we were at 18 and at 10 and at 25 depending on how old you are. And so you know a good therapist can definitely help you walk through figuring that out like what you like and what you don’t like and how to set boundaries, you know, in your life or with your relationship. I mean I’ve done my own therapy before and I would be kind of a hypocrite if I didn’t. So I feel like that’s really helpful in one place and don’t feel like it’s unacceptable, I mean many counselors take insurance and payments of all kinds. So it’s not just for like people that can afford it. Therapists are in everybody’s grasp for sure.

But if it’s not that, if that’s not what you want to do, you know, again I kind of come back to like don’t be afraid to try stuff. When we’re kids we just go, “Hey I’m going to learn how to ride a bike.” and you just go out and like fall a bunch until you figure out how to ride a bike. One year for Christmas my parents got me a unicycle and I’m like, “Why?” I’m not a very athletic person so I don’t know why they gave that to me but you know I was pretty bad at it for a long time until I got kind of the hang of it. It was never my thing but I did figure out how to ride it where I didn’t fall immediately.

Not everybody in their childhood gets the space to like try stuff out so if you’re an adult and you don’t know what you like or you don’t have your thing or you’re trying to fit it in your life like try it. Take an online class, go get a unicycle and go, you know, find some new friends, go to be part of a group, you know, now we’ve got the Internet. There’s such a wealth of finding people or finding things—it doesn’t have to be costly things and my thought would be like go try stuff out. Don’t be afraid of it. I mean I’m 36 years old this year and you know, like I learned how to ride a bike again this year and that was exciting but it’s okay to be older and try stuff for you. You don’t have to have it figured out and you know just because you have kids so that would be my action step I think for everybody. Hopefully, I was clear with that.

Susan:  Oh, no, you absolutely were and now that you’re talking about this, I would love to just talk a little bit about your business and therapy and what that looks like because I feel like at the first real therapy I ever did it was when you know we did marriage counseling therapy type stuff and that was fine and that was good and I really enjoyed it but then I found myself dealing with some stuff that I just never dealt with and it just kind of all of a sudden popped up and I was like, “Oh what is this?” and I kind of had a little bit of panic attack and the target, it came out of nowhere, it was random and I told Stephen about it and he was like, “Maybe you should go talk to somebody about it.” and I was like, “I can’t do that! Therapy? Who does therapy? Only people who are crazy do therapy.”

So I don’t know if there’s really a taboo around it anymore, I feel like maybe there is so if you’d be comfortable talking about some of that, I would love to hear your thoughts on that and about how— I don’t even know. I don’t know where to start with this. This is something like totally off the top of my head— I have nothing prepared.

Genevieve:  Yeah I can definitely talk on that if you’d like.

Susan:  I would love to hear your thoughts on it from the therapist perspective.

Genevieve:  Yeah I think we’re still battling some stigma of people going to counseling. I think it’s much better than when I started 10 years ago but there is still you know especially— I don’t know about in Texas but definitely here in South Carolina, there’s still a lot of like, “Why aren’t you going to your pastor with that?” or, “Why aren’t you praying more about it?” and so you know not that those things aren’t helpful and not that pastors aren’t— I mean I don’t knock that at all but there is a reason why we have you know science behind why these things work for people and how there are things that you can do that have better-coping skills like when you feel panic and target and that kind of thing so, you know, we take care of our body, we could go to the dentist, most of us go at least once a year but you know that maybe the two that we’re supposed to. We go to the doctor, we’ve got a sinus infection, we take care of our body parts you know when things are wrong. We’ve got an achy knee whatever but we’re less willing for some reason to go when our brain won’t like, be quiet or it’s thinking about stuff all the time or it’s saying I’m fine thanks to ourselves we’re having trouble communicating with our partner or we have things that have happened to us like trauma as a child or a teenager or as a young person so.

I think about it that way like this is just maintenance of your body just like it is if you had to get the physical therapy and it’s a little bit less scary if you think about it. People always bring up like, “Oh you’re going to like lay on the couch and you’re going to cry the whole time.” and wow, people do cry a lot on my couch. Nobody is laying on it though. Nobody has ever done it. Therapy is much different than it used to be and so we’re really here not to judge what you bring into us because people will tell us all kinds of things that we may not agree with but that doesn’t mean that we’re judging them. We’re there to help you figure it out and walk with you.

Susan:  So you are specifically marriage and family is that correct?

Genevieve:  That is correct. That’s my degree but what that means if I can clarify that is I don’t just Marriage and Family Counseling. Some people do but I can see basically anybody that wants to come in for counseling as long as I can feel confident doing it. And honestly, mostly I do see individuals, I don’t see that many couples and families but what that means for you all is that a Marriage and Family Therapist is a system thinker so we think of people and systems:  So what their family system looks like, what their relationship system looks like, what their work system look like and you know, how are those things connected to potentially not helping or helping the person that’s in our office.

Susan:  What is something—I mean my audience is women—so what is something if a woman is thinking about seeing a therapist or maybe her kids need to see a therapist or maybe it is their marriage, maybe she is married and maybe she and her husband or wife need to see somebody and they’ve never seen somebody. What should they expect walking into the door?

Genevieve:  Well you know now that we’ve got the internet, I definitely recommend not actually googling people but you know The magazine Psychology Today, that’s a great place to start because they have not only good great articles about you know different subjects as far as counseling goes, mental health goes, but they have a therapist like search engine and you can search.

Susan:  I did not know that.

Genevieve:  Yeah it’s great so that’s a great place to start. A lot of people get referrals from their doctor, their primary care, their gynecologist—really it’s the gynecologist that refers us to most people but those are good people to ask. If you feel comfortable asking the people in your system, you can ask them like, “Hey, have you seen a counselor? Do you know anybody in town that you’re like?” But truly I like that therapist search because then you can see not only their face, which I feel like is important, and they feel like they’re going to be a good match. I’m not going to probably go see a man counselor cause I just don’t think that’s a good fit for me but that doesn’t mean that’s not a good fit for you. You can also search that by like topics. So if you want somebody that does you know, kids under 10, you can narrow the search down that way but when they come in though, you can expect a kind of experience at least initially, of like you got to start your paper work like you do when you see your regular doctor and then you have to run your insurance and all that stuff if you’re using insurance and then you’re going to come into the room and not tell your whole story but just giving a good like overall picture: What’s bringing you in today? What’s happening in your relationship today that’s causing you distress? Because usually, especially with marriage counseling, things have been bad probably for a while and something has happened like you know, something has gotten to bad and now is the time that we come in and I would say as a marriage— truly go in before you think it is late because when you come in when it’s really, really bad, it’s a lot harder to fix than it is when it’s like, “Oh you know we’re not getting along very well right now.” or somebody is not doing their chores or something like that—it’s easier to fix early.

You know what I help with all the time is—us as therapists, we’re like human beings too so you may come in and go, “you know, Gen’s really just not the right fit for me.” and my feelings will never be hurt. So go in like with the feeling of like, “I’m just going to try this person on. If they’re not a good fit for me it’s totally fine. Generally there’s at least one other therapist in town but usually, a lot more that I can choose from. I’m not committed to this person.” you’re not going to hurt anybody’s feelings if you’re like, “Yeah I probably need to see somebody else.” and usually we’ll help you find somebody else in town. We know everybody that’s in town generally that’s a therapist so that’s sort of what it looks like. Figuring out if this relationship and therapy will work and if we can help you.

Susan:  That’s really cool. I like that. Just backing up just a second: I think it’s interesting that you get a lot of your referrals from gynecologist because I think about that and I think about the doctors that I have and that makes perfect sense to me because 1: she is somebody I do see regularly. That is the one checkup that I’m like, “Okay that one has to happen.” she has seen every part of my body you know the parts that you know most people other than my husband have not seen, she has delivered my child like there’s like an intimate relationship there that you have with a gynecologist that—I mean I don’t have that same relationship with Stephen. I mean he was in the room when Will was delivered but he didn’t deliver my child. So it is such an intimate relationship, I never thought of it like that. That’s really cool. Well thank you for sharing that.

Genevieve: I was going to say you just need to have that trust with somebody. So even if you don’t go to a counselor but you have a good relationship with your gynecologist like you know you just need somebody you can trust and that gynecologist, you know generally if there’s delivering your child you probably trust them okay.

Susan: Yeah, yeah and I like that you said trying a therapist on and that your feelings really aren’t hurt when somebody says, “This really isn’t working for me.” because at the end of the day your goal is really to help people.

Genevieve:  Right totally and we’re not going to help somebody coming in to make us not hurt our feeling like that’s not a genuine relationship.

Susan:  Yeah. I really appreciate you talking about that because I think the more we talk about it out in the open and people are like, “Yeah I’ve been to therapy. Of course I’ve been in therapy. Haven’t you been?” because you’re right, it really is a checkup and I feel so much better after I’ve seen my therapist and after I’m like, “Oh okay, I got that off my chest.” and I can say it however and she’s not going to be offended. You have to be careful when you’re talking to a parent or a child or a spouse because you have to kind of— ‘eggshells’ is not the right word—that’s not what I mean. I feel like its helpful to word things in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s feelings or like cause I’m crazy blow up and my therapist, I mean I’m an open book. I can talk to my therapist however, you know, use whatever words and I don’t have to be careful about, “Oh I don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings.”

Genevieve: That’s great, that’s what you want. You’re not there to take care of their feelings, you’re there to take yours and again, we probably have heard this about anything or anybody and even if we haven’t, we’re definitely not going to go like, “What!!?” you know we have a whole, you know, couple classes of doing that, not doing that. Usually we’re pretty hard to surprise and I think that’s true, you know, we do have to kind of be more careful with like our actual relationship than we are with a therapist and that’s okay, that’s totally fine. You don’t necessarily want to say, “Oh my gosh, my spouse again did this thing that’s driving me nuts.” and it doesn’t necessarily need to be said all the time but maybe you do need to complain about it enough and go, “Well maybe that is something I can address or maybe it’s just like my own.” like my husband knows I’m never going to be on time. If he was going to therapy, he could complain all he wants about that because you know that isn’t worth the fight to bring that up.

Sometimes you just have to love your partner you know the way you bought them. He bought me not on time. I’m not saying I’m not working on it but you know.

Susan: That is such a good point that rarely does people change who they are. In fact, you really figure out who they are afterwards.

Genevieve: Definitely and that’s hard because like we’re definitely full of the idea of like “Well if you love each other enough, you would you what I’m asking you to do.” or  “You would make this better.” and the reality is like we can love each other to death and still be human beings and sort of be imperfect. The things that we do aren’t always because we don’t care but sometimes they can feel like that. I think, you know, going back to the business there for a second, I think having opened up a therapy practice first, like opening that business first definitely made me less afraid to start being a professional artist because I’m like I’ve already done this. Not that it’s the same in a lot of ways but it is the same in a lot of ways of, you know, it’s like the moving pieces part, the marketing part that kind of stuff is very similar with any kind of business.

Susan:  Yeah that’s a good point and that’s a good place to ask you— well first tell you thank you so much for joining us today this has meant a lot to me. I was really excited to talk to you, I really appreciate you taking the extra time to talk a little bit about the counseling side of your life and that business that you do. Tell us and I’ll make sure all this is in the show notes—but tell us where we can find you on social media, the Internet, wherever you’re marketing your businesses?

Genevieve: Sure so I don’t have a Website I’m just purely on Instagram and Facebook right now. So my Instagram is @genstrickland— just my name, not super hard and then my Facebook page is Art by Genevieve Strickland and they’re pretty easily searched and if you got them in the notes, you’ll be able to find—and then my counseling office is Magnolia Counseling Associates. You guys that aren’t in the area probably aren’t going to come see us but we do post often. I’m actually in charge of that marketing too so I do all of our postings of our, you know, visuals or our articles that we share for everybody— they’re just helpful articles about psychology things, mental health things so those are where we’re at or that’s where I’m at and all of those social media platforms and you can find me there and I’m happy to include my email address even to you if you want that?

Susan: Sure that’s great! Yeah absolutely we can put that in the show notes, very good. Awesome! Well thank you so much I really appreciate it and I know you have an appointment to get to so we’ll let you do that. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really, really appreciate it.

Genevieve: Thank you for having me again it was really fun I enjoyed it.

Susan: Hey sisters I hope you’ve enjoyed my conversation with Genevieve as much as I did. If you want to learn more about Genevieve and where to find her art as well as her counseling services, that will be linked over on our website: howshegothere.com. Thanks so much for listening today. If you are enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit ‘subscribe’ and while you’re there I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and e-mail and Facebook post you leave and I am always, always, always excited to hear your feedback.

We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun how she got here content. So, with all that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

How to Follow Your Passion and Raise a Family, with Nichole Nguyen

In this episode Nichole Nguyen, Founder of Mommy’s Home Office, shares how she has married her love of online business strategy and her enthusiasm for supporting moms who have a passion for working while raising a family.

 

Show Notes

Do you ever get so caught up in your day-to-day hustle that you lose sight of your vision, your dreams, your goals… even yourself? If so, you’re not alone and you’re in the right place.

Today, we’re inspired by Nichole Nguyen , who created Mommy’s Home Office after realizing the first business she created, although profitable, wasn’t something she was passionate about.

Nichole is on our podcast talking about how her love of online business strategy coupled with her enthusiasm for teaching other moms how to have an online business, drove her to create Mommy’s Home Office.

She’s empowering other moms, like herself, who don’t feel whole as a stay-at-home-mom.  She is lighting a path for moms to follow their passion in work and raise a family.

In this episode, Nichole offers inspiring insights and her strategies for staying motivated and recharging her batteries. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Importance of outsourcing and not trying to do it all yourself
  • Moving from negative self talk to positive self talk
  • Filling herself with inspiration through audio books and listening to podcasts

Now that last one is something we can get on board with!

Nichole’s commitment to self care reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This October, we are committing to 30 Days of Self Care with resources on our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and visit our site to download the free printable for daily self care reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on caring for yourself.

Just like Nichole emphasizes, we’ve got to recharge, sister, so that we can go after those dreams of ours! And once we do that, we can start empowering other women and girls to do exactly the same thing.

https://mommyshomeoffice.com

https://www.facebook.com/MommysHomeOffice/

https://www.instagram.com/mommyshomeoffice/

 

Transcript

 Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Hey, Pod Sisters, my guest today is the founder of Mommy’s Home Office, Nichole Nguyen. Nichole started Mommy’s Home Office after realizing the first business she created, although profitable, wasn’t something she was passionate about. Her love of online business strategy, coupled with her enthusiasm for teaching other moms how to have an online business, drove her to create Mommy’s Home Office. Her goal is to help moms who don’t feel whole as a stay-at-home mom. She wants women to know that you can have a passion in work and have a family. So without further ado, here’s Nichole.

Susan: Hey, Nichole, I’m so excited for you to join me today.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, me too. Thank you for having me. I was excited when I got the invite.

Susan: Yeah, yeah. So, friends, Nichole owns an online business called Mommy’s Home Office, and I kind of found her through a friend – actually your sister. And I’m just going to let you take it from here. Tell us a little bit about yourself and Mommy’s Home Office and how all this started.

Nichole Nguyen: Okay, yeah, great! I own Mommy’s Home Office. I’m an online business strategist, and I help moms build their businesses online while raising their families. And it just kind of started by accident or evolved into what it is today. I had a local service-based business in the Dallas area that I started about six and a half years ago, and it wasn’t doing as well as I wanted it to do initially so I decided to take it online. And when I did that—oh my God, it opened up this whole new world of online business to me that I fell in love with. And totally then listened to every podcast I could, every webinar I could get on, and I totally found the thing in life that I love, which is online business strategy. So, I decided that it would be so much fun to teach other moms how to create a business online that works for them. And that’s how it kind of started with Mommy’s Home Office.

Susan: That is so cool. And you have your own podcast as well that’s all part of all of this. You are producing a lot of content.

Nichole Nguyen: I have the Mommy’s Home Office podcast pretty much everywhere online. I’m @mommyshomeoffice. And the podcast was—because I’m a podcast junkie and listen to it all the time, I thought that could be a good medium for me. When I went to decide on the different types of content that I could produce, I tried a Facebook live show, I tried the YouTube videos, I tried all of those things. But let’s be honest—oh my God, that’s a lot of work and prep and editing. So, putting on makeup every day to your video and then reshooting 50 times because I didn’t like the way my eyebrows lifted and that kind of thing, wasn’t my thing. It was really annoying, and it got to the point where I just didn’t want to produce content anymore so I decided that I could do a podcast because I could record any time of the day or night when the kids weren’t around or not bothering me, maybe they’re sleeping already, and it wasn’t something that I had to get dressed for or put makeup on; I could just sit in my closet in my little hole and talk away, which I like to talk so that is another positive, too. So, that’s how it all started; it was the content format for me that just worked best.

Susan: Now…Why moms?

Nichole Nguyen: So, why moms? Well, because I’m a mom of three boys; they’re eight, five, and four. And it literally has changed the person that I am. I know everybody says that you change when you become a mom but your identity literally changes, and you are no longer doing anything for yourself; you’re doing it in betterment for your family, for your kids, for everybody else. And I feel like along that path somehow a lot of moms, especially myself, kind of lose themselves and forget that they have all these amazing talents and things that they can bring to the world in their own unique way, and they kind of get stuck in their mom loop where either they are working at a job and they’re just doing it so they can get by and go home to see their kids and be with their families or they quit working altogether, which is a lot of the moms that I know, and they have these wonderful professional degrees, maybe they’re an attorney or to do something like that or they were in online marketing for a big, huge department store, like my sister, and then they have kids and they quit and they don’t feel whole…I mean kids, yes, kids definitely make you feel alive and they are huge part of my life, but my personality is not the kind that can be a stay-at-home mom. And I wanted to share with other mom that it’s okay to have a passion and work and do things that light you up because that’s going to make you a better mom. So, I felt I needed to get that message out there and that’s why I chose moms.

Susan: I love it, and I love how on your website—and I think even in a lot of the content you produce you call yourself and you call other moms “work-at-home moms.” Did you come up with that concept yourself because I just love how you presented that?

Nichole Nguyen: Oh yeah, well, I didn’t come up with that phrase; there’s a whole subset of moms that work at home and it’s all over the web. But, yeah, I write all my own content, I produce it all, I do it all because I’m kind of a control freak and I can’t really let that part of it go yet.

Susan: Yup, yup.

Nichole Nguyen: And I feel like it’s my voice. This is my words that I want people to hear. I don’t want it to be necessarily somebody else. And maybe down the road that’ll change when I find a copywriter or I find somebody who can really sound like me and I can add my own stuff to it, that could change but right now it’s all me.

Susan: I love it. You are speaking my language, and it is a lot of work.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh my God, I did not realize how hard it would be to do a podcast. I thought; “Oh how hard could it be? I’m going to be super real and raw and not edit it very much.”

Susan: Right.

Nichole Nguyen: And it doesn’t work that way because you actually want people to listen and enjoy their listening experience, So, yeah, each podcast episode probably takes me anywhere between four and six hours to get it all written produced and edited, and then up on the site or scheduled.

Susan: Yeah, because your podcast is much different than mine; and mine is a lot of interview so I’m sitting here researching the individual that I’m talking to and writing questions, which in itself takes a lot of time, but you are actually writing a script, per se, correct?

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, so I have this…I’m an ENTJ in the Myers Briggs personality, and I saw this hit the graph and showed exactly kind of how we think. And it basically showed my brain like a ping pong ball where I skipped a lot of steps, and I have this whole story that people can’t really follow it because I’m jumping ahead and I’m thinking too fast in my brain, so I decided that didn’t work best for a podcast because I wanted to actually have a good story for my listeners and I wanted them to be able to take actionable steps with every episode. So what works best for me is I actually go through and write the whole blog post or show notes first in a way that I think sounds like how I would speak it, and then I record it. And I change it sometimes when I’m talking just because it doesn’t flow as well as I thought it would or whatever, but I have to say that has sped up my podcast editing like crazy, crazy fast now compared to what it used to be.

Susan: That is awesome .Well, I am a podcast nut as well, and I really particularly love–I am all over your podcast right now. Starting my own kind of thing, it’s been really helpful for me. And I want to talk a little bit more about getting into Mommy’s Home Office itself. What is the goal of Mommy’s Home Office, and how your services help take moms to the next level? Because I know myself, I was really great at working for a company and then going out and doing something on my own is a whole other animal.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh, I 100% agree. I never actually wanted to be an entrepreneur, I actually at one time in my life I worked for this woman in a home health agency and said, “I can’t believe you want to own your own business, it’s so much work. I just want to work and go home and not think about.” But fast forward ten years later – or not even—fast forward five years later when I had my business. And Mommy’s Home Office was set up specifically to help take some of that guesswork and trial and error out of moms starting businesses because it’s extremely overwhelming when you first start, and you don’t know what you don’t know. So, you have all of these tiny, little components that go in and that are really crucial to the building blocks of a good foundation for your business, and a lot of times they get skipped over or miss and then you don’t have the result that you want, and you see a lot of businesses fail that way because they didn’t start with a big, strong foundation. And those foundational pieces are like the whys and the customer avatars and your online platform and all of those big things, and they can be so daunting and feel so cumbersome, and you don’t know what to do because this person says one thing and that person says it’s not important and the other person says you need to do it this way.

Well, I wanted to be a clear voice on what has worked for me, what I have liked, and what I have tried out because I love to try a million different things. And I’ve tried a lot of stuff so I know what has worked and what hasn’t at least for my business and what I can put out there to help other people. And so that’s how Mommy’s Home Office can help the business owner. I also work with local service-based businesses too, and I help that really meld the two worlds together for your online marketing and getting your online presence known, and then also to do your in-person gorilla marketing tactics to get your clients on the ground and in person. So I kind of have two ways, but most of it is about bringing your business online and how you can really make an impact in your family’s life and your business life by having the online business. And I do that with strategy sessions.

So a strategy session is basically like a 90-minute call where we get down and dirty with your business and we come up with a plan. Now, this could be somebody who is just starting and needs help coming up with an idea or maybe they have a little bit of an idea but they need to really like flush it out and see where it can go and figure out what they want what their next steps are. Or it could be somebody who are already have a business but they didn’t set up some of those crucial steps in the beginning and now they need to scale it a little bit and be able to set up a system that works for them and really can take it to the next level of productivity and getting more revenue and more clients in. And that can happen in the strategy session with me. And then after that, if they are someone who is like me who have to have the accountability piece, I offer accountability plans which are 90 day accountability plans that we set your goals in the strategy session and then after that we have weekly check-ins and weekly meet ups so we know that we are moving forward and that we are accomplishing the goals and we can make changes as needed but it’s really there to set up as a cheerleader, as somebody to motivate you and somebody to hold you accountable because you are your own boss and that is really, really hard to be. Because when you want to sit home and watch Netflix all day, there’s nobody stopping you, there’s no clock to punch, there’s nothing to do that’s going to keep you from doing that. Or if you want to spend your whole three days doing something, going down some random rabbit hole, which, oh my god, it is so easy to do, you need somebody sometimes to keep you on track and that’s what I do for moms.

Susan: Yes, the rabbit hole and getting stuck in the weeds is something I’m very familiar with.

Nichole Nguyen: I’m really good at it, too.

Susan: It’s just when you’re on your own it’s like; “Oh, I can do this or I could do this…”and sometimes it is hard to rein it in so that’s really cool that you offer that. And for my listeners, I just want you all to know I will have all of this linked in the show notes to the Mommy’s Home Office website, Facebook page, everywhere else you are. I will make sure it is all linked and we’ll talk about that before the end of the show for sure. So don’t worry about trying to write all this down now you can obviously go to the Mommy’s Home Office website and find all of this wonderful information. Back a little bit to you as an individual. You are putting this entire thing together yourself: your content, your web page, all of that fun stuff. So tell us what you’re not doing on your own because I think we all know that we can’t do it all all of the time, so who is the team behind you? What do you as an individual…What has been good for you to outsource—maybe it’s personal stuff, maybe it’s other business stuff. Tell us a little bit about that.

Nichole Nguyen: Okay, yeah, perfect. So, honestly, the very first thing I outsourced is house work because when you work at home and you have mountains of laundry and mountains of housework and all of that sitting around—I am a huge productive procrastinator where I will procrastinate hard things or business things that I have to do because my surroundings aren’t clean or my laundry needs to be done and instead of writing that email or putting out a podcast episode or making a call to speak somewhere or do something like that, I will fold 18 loads of laundry and find a pantry to clean out. So, I, first and foremost, outsource all of my house keeping. I have a weekly housekeeper that comes, and really, really my goal is to get someone to come Monday through Friday for about an hour every day just to do the chores and the straightening and the clean up. Like I said, I’ve got three boys so the bathrooms are always disgusting, there’s always something wet on the floor, there’s always a ton of laundry so it’s not my favorite thing to do and it’s something that I outsource. So, most of what I outsource is through my house because I…Even though I like some of it, it’s not the best use of my time and it’s not what I feel I need to be spending my time on.

So the next thing that I outsource is grocery shopping, actually. I use Instacart and Shipt and Amazon for every thing. So, Instacart is an online ordering groceries thing where I get online, tap a couple of buttons, have it delivered and I pay a yearly fee and then I tip on top of the total when they come and deliver it. Oh my goodness, you guys, this have saved me so much time. And I actually love grocery shopping, but when I look at the time that I save not going to the grocery store, and not to mention the money I save when I don’t go in the Costco and I just have my list and the shopper buys what’s on the list—oh my gosh, it was so worth it. It pays for itself in gold every single time I use it. So, I outsource all my stopping, I don’t do it anymore, just by clicking the button to buy it.

And then next one was childcare. This one was hard for me because when I first started my first business I had a nanny – I only had one kid at the time, and I had a nanny who came to the house every day. Well then he got to the point where he needed more socialization so we went to a daycare, and that worked out great. He was about a year old and he was out of the house and I was able to work. Even though I have only started my company six or so years ago, I always worked remotely so I was always either at home or in my car. And I got to tell you, working from home with little kids—little, littles that know that you’re there—is almost impossible.

Susan: Agreed.

Nichole Nguyen: It’s hard. When you need to be on a phone call…Because I was working with senior living so I was helping people find senior living, so they would call me crying because their mother needed to move or something like that and my two-year-old was banging on the door screaming bloody murder at me. And the nanny can only do so much, guys; it wasn’t an ideal. I even thought about going and getting an office down the street somewhere because I just needed some time and quiet to work, and it’s really hard to do that with a little kid. And when you have something like that business that I set up that I didn’t fall in love with the model I set up, but it was dependent on when they called me and it wasn’t something I could do after hours, it wasn’t something I could do on my own time. I was tied to my phone and dependent on them, and that’s why I kind of had to outsource the childcare part of it but I also had to change my business model, and when I started Mommy’s Home Office I knew it had to be something that I could fall in love with and actually do and not be tied to my phone constantly and just waiting for someone to call me; it had to be on my terms. So, that’s how I decided on that model. But childcare was a big one that I outsourced.

Susan: I was just going to say it sounds like you have really found your passion.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah. Oh yeah. I have. It took me a while and it made me realize that I had to stop the successful business because I created a business that I hated. I didn’t love it anymore. I did, I had to stop, and it was profitable. It was actually more profitable than Mommy’s Home Office is at the current moment, but not for long. And I had to stop it because I could not…First of all, I was emotionally drained because listening to those story constantly—and then a lot of time not being able to help was just exhausting. Being tied to my phone the time was exhausting, and not knowing where the next paycheck was going to come from, you know, what was I going to have a big month with five, six, seven placements or was I going to have no placements that month? And senior living is kind of seasonal, which is weird, but it is kind of seasonal and I would go through drought and famines and you know….And what’s it called? I would go through famines and I would have then all of them have tons of clients and be so busy that I couldn’t figure out how to make it all work, and it just wasn’t something I loved any more. I got burned out on it, and that’s part of how I decided to switch. But switching was so hard because taking a business that was making enough money to cover my salary working and then going to zero….was so hard.

Susan: Yeah.

Nichole Nguyen: Really hard. But it’s all worth it in the end because I have so much more fun with this path that I’ve chosen, and feel like I’m making a difference and it’s all on my terms, so I’m loving all about. So, back to the outsourcing, that’s really all I outsource: the childcare, the housekeeping and then the shopping. And then in my business I do have a VA – she’s on a break right now, but I do have a VA that did all my Pinterest and tagging all the Pinterest stuff, and then I have a sound engineer which happened to be my cousin’s husband and he would just…He wouldn’t edit my podcast, I would to do all of that but I would send him the audio and he would clean it and make it sound really good. And before I moved into this little hole in my closet, my podcasting studio, I had a lot of background noise from the windows around me and different things so he would take all of that out for me, which I didn’t know how to do at the time but I do now. But, just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean it makes sense for you to actually do it.

Susan: No, I totally agree. In fact, one thing that I have found really helpful, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Fiverr.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh, I love Fiverr.

Susan: Okay. I wanted to make sure you know about Fiverr because that has been a game changer for me.

Nichole Nguyen: It has been. Some time you have to get multiple people to work on the same project. But yeah, it can be really, really helpful when it comes to creating graphics or editing graphics or doing any of that stuff. For me, I found that’s where it works out the best.

Susan: Yeah, and also…This may sound really silly but I have a vision board, and one of the things that I put in it was I wanted to be a job creator. And obviously, this podcast isn’t that big yet so it was like I can’t hire someone full time, but oh my gosh, I can find fabulous women on Fiverr who can help me produce this amazing podcast. Oh, and by the way, I can you know contribute to their income, which has been a really neat thing to be able to do. So, I don’t know, I really enjoy finding people on Fiverr, I guess.

Nichole Nguyen: That sounds really fun, and I feel the same way when I pay my cousin’s husband, the sound engineer, and when I pay my VA. Sometimes it can feel very hard to pay them because I’m like; “Oh my goodness, I haven’t made that this month,” or something like that, and you have to step back and look at it like you’re contributing to their monthly income, they are able to put their kids in ballet or do something like that because you’re paying them so yeah, it does help with that mindset shift.

Susan: Yeah, it’s really cool. So, tell us real quick – I want to respectful of your time, but I have three questions I always like to ask all my guests, and one of them is, you know, even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self confidence, I presume you have that as well. How have you dealt with that?

Nichole Nguyen: Yes, I have that a lot in the struggle because I do have a lot of negative self-talk that goes on in my head. I did an episode all about this, and it was really hard for me to start overcoming that but I heard a quote from somebody that said “How would you feel if you heard someone talking to their child like that or to someone that they were coaching like that the way you talk to yourself ? How would you feel if you heard that? Would you feel like it was a good thing or a bad thing?” And I had to start thinking to myself, like, how would I feel if I heard someone saying this to somebody? The way I talk to my self is horrible so I had to start changing the story and the narrative a little bit and really start looking at the positive aspects of what I have accomplished and what I have done because I set lofty goals and I’m a high achiever kind of person, when I don’t hit those, oh my goodness, I can spiral into to a depression almost and really get down on myself. So I’ve had to turn those conversations around and really be cognitive of the way I talk to myself because I’m a really big believer that your words are powerful and your words create your reality, so when I’m talking really negative myself and saying really ugly things, whether it’s for work or for diet goals or whatever, it’s not helpful it’s actually creating more of that instead of creating the positive energy that I want to come out of it. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My self confidence has gone up some because I do talk nicely to myself, I speak nicely to myself, I try to say nicer things. And when I catch myself being ugly or negative, I try to take a deep breath and reframe to a positive situation.

Susan: Yes, I totally understand that, I totally understand. I don’t know if you’ve ever done the Enneagram, but it’s the same idea as a personality type thing; it’s been around for a long, long time and I’ve read a couple of books on it now and I have no shock to myself. I’m a one on the Enneagram which is a perfectionist so it’s really weird, it’s weird where I’m a perfectionist, like, there are certain aspects of the house that I don’t care about but if the dishwasher is stacked not what I deem correctly then I’m freaking out; it’s stupid stuff sometimes. And then especially when it comes to the podcast, I’ve had to really talk to myself differently about what success looks like and how I motivate myself. So I like how you have tamed your self-confidence. It sounds like you have found a way to motivate yourself through a different way of talking to yourself.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, that does help. And when I do get into those funk, because we all do, I feel like the biggest way to motivate and get back on the horse is just by taking action. So, if I feel like I’m having one of those funky days, the first thing is to realize that you’re not having the best confidence or your motivation is waning, recognize that it’s happening and then drink a big cup of water, get some fresh air, go want to walk, listen to some Abraham Hicks or James Webmore or whoever you listen to that gets you pumped up, and then take action. Make it some small actions. So I’ll make plans or I’ll make a goal and be like; “If I can just get these three little thing done today then I’m going to consider today a win because I really, really just want to lay on the bed and watch The Handmaid’s Tale or something like that, but if I can get these three things in, I’m going to call it a win.” And once I get those three little things in, I mean I’ve given myself permission already to quit and be done for the day and call it good. But, 99% of the time I get on a roll and I want to keep doing a little bit more and a little bit more, and I feel like the biggest way to get out of the funk is just to take action and action builds on itself.

Susan: Oh, for sure. I totally agree that. So since you’re a go-go-go person, and I love that about you and your personality, tell us how do you put it all down at the end of the day? How do you let it go? How do you recharge your batteries?

Nichole Nguyen: So, this have always been a struggle for me, and then a few years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition, and it also means that my thyroid is basically attacking itself and attacking my body. And then I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, which can cause a lot of issues for me, but self care has to be number one priority on my own with because of those diseases because when I don’t take care of myself or I push myself too hard or I don’t eat right for a longer period of time, oh my gosh, I will crash and burn for a long time. So, I’ve had to make it a priority and it’s been super, super hard. But, I find sleep has to be my number one goal, that’s how I recharge if I focus on getting at least seven and a half hour’s sleep, getting about 60 ounces of water a day, and then trying to eat fairly balance with a really colorful, vegetable full diet—oh my God, my life is a million times better than if I don’t. But, you know, it’s taken a long time for me to get there and really know that this is what works. And I’m not always perfect, but that really does help me, and then just listening to podcasts or audiobooks; that’s my jam.

Susan: Yes, also helps with motivation, I think.

Nichole Nguyen: It does, it really does. So, I will listen to some good podcasts, I have my list of like 15 podcasts that I love and I can’t get enough of, and that’s part of that. You’ll see me washing dishes with my ear buds on, cleaning up or doing something like that, folding laundry, if I have laundry to fold with ear buds on, so…

Susan: Yes, I am right there with you. Okay, one last thing; I always like to leave with an action step. I feel like in sharing other women’s stories in sharing what other women are up to I love the empowerment of that, I love the inspiration of that but until as individuals we decide to take that next step it’s all just talk, so if you could leave our listeners with one action step at the end of our conversation today, what would that be?

Nichole Nguyen: Well, that’s a good question, I guess the biggest thing I want the listeners to get out of this is that you guys are enough, you truly are exceptional. And the action that I want you to take out of this is I want you to give yourself a pat on the back and know that you are doing everything you can to be the best person, the best mom, the best wife, whatever, the best partner you can be—and really give yourself some grace, cut yourself some slack and know that balance is a dirty word it does not exist, it’s a fairy tale so banish that idea from your mind and give yourself some grace.

Susan: “Balance is a dirty word,” I love that. Love it. it’s so true. Okay, Miss Nichole, tell us where we can find you because everyone should be calling you.

Nichole Nguyen: Thank you. Okay, so you can hear me every week on the Mommy’s Home Office podcast on any podcast player that you like, and then also everywhere online at Mommy’s Home Office, so Instagram, Facebook and the website, mommyshomeoffice.com. You can find me there. I’m always, always producing content weekly and then daily on Instagram. And if you guys love you know what I have for lunch or where I’m going today, then check me out on my Instagram stories because I’m kind of addicted. Thank you guys so much for having me. It’s been a blast.

Susan: Awesome. Thank you so much, Nichole, have a great, great afternoon. And I look for talking to you soon.

Nichole Nguyen: Of course, thank you so much.

Susan: Thanks. Bye-bye.

Outro: Hey, sisters, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Nichole as much as I did. If you want to learn more about Nichole and where to find Mommy’s Home Office, that will be linked over on our website, howshegothere.com. Thanks so much for listening today. If you are enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit subscribe. And while you’re there I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook post you leave, and I’m always excited to hear your feedback. If you are listening to this podcast and it is still October, I’d also like to invite you to join us for our 30 Days of Self Care. You can get more information on that from our website howshegothere.com, as well as our Facebook page and Instagram page. And finally, one last announcement, we have finally created a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here Community Page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun “How She Got Here” content. So, with all of that said, thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Women finding power in financial self care, with Diana Bacon

Diana Bacon is one of the co-founders of Financial Strategies Group, a boutique financial planning firm located in Dallas, Texas.  Shortly after having her first baby, she determined that “big firm life” just wasn’t the right fit.  She wanted to have more control over what she could offer her clients.  So with a new baby and an awesome “can do” attitude, she founded her own boutique financial planning firm.  We talk about everything from starting your own firm to the importance of financial self care and what that means for women of today (and their families)!  It was a great conversation and I learned a ton!

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

 

Susan: Hi Friends, my guest today is Diana Bacon. Diana is one of the co-founders of Financial Strategies Group, (Financial Strategies Group on Facebook ) a boutique financial planning firm located in Dallas, Texas. I am so excited to share our conversation today because we discussed two very important topics; one, leaving a large service firm to go out on your own; and two, the importance of financial self-care. Even if you aren’t thinking about owning your own business, make sure to stick around for the financial self-care piece; I’m positive you’ll learn something.

 

Hey, Diana, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

 

Diana Bacon: I’m great. I’m really excited to be on this call today.

 

Susan: I am very excited that we are finally doing this. I know when I first started talking about even launching this podcast you were one of the first people I called and talked to, not even to come on the show but just to, you know, tell “Hey, I’ve got this idea, what do you think?” You’ve always been an inspiring woman to me that, you know, you’re one of the women that I look to who I think have already accomplished the world. So for you to come on and talk with us this morning, it means so much to me. I know when we first started talking about you coming on the show all I was thinking about was how fantastic you are and in your business and how you do all of that but you quickly brought up the fact that women really don’t talk a lot about financial self-care so that’s something that we’re definitely going to get into today while you are talking with us. But first, I just want to start off—and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do you and how you got started and how you got to where you are now.

 

Diana Bacon: Okay, well, that’s a big one.

 

Susan: Yeah.

 

Diana Bacon: Well, I started in the financial planning field a little over 20 years ago now. So, I was in my mid 20’s trying to figure out what to do with a math degree, I decided I didn’t want to go into academia and be a professor so what to do with my life. So, I got in to fee only financial planning at the recommendation of a friend. I loved the idea that I didn’t have to sell anything—that I got to work with people. And I started working for a company that had a great training program. The company was not a good fit for me but they put me on definitely the right foot. They also moved me to Dallas, Texas, which I’ve been living in upstate New York and I’m from Southern California so that was quite a change for me.

 

So I’ve been in Dallas doing financial planning since the beginning of 1999. And I met my husband here. I went through several firms kind of looking for the right fit, you know, I was at one of the big four accounting firms and they didn’t really know what to do with financial planners. And then in 2004 and 2005 I left the big firms, tried a smaller firm; that wasn’t a good fit either just because of the differences in client bases. And so in 2006 I actually founded my own firm in my living room with a newborn baby next to me—well, she was at daycare so not technically next to me, but I just knew that I wanted to do things the way I wanted to do them, I didn’t want someone else telling me what’s best for my client. I wanted to work with nice people who were living their lives and doing the things they wanted to do and help them and not try to create this boxed product that I just ran everyone through.

 

Three years ago now I merged with another small firm—so two teeny tiny firms became a slightly larger small firm. And my partner, he’s in his late 70’s. He’s been doing this for 45 years, he loves it but he’s obviously at the end of his career, and merging with me gives him the chance to work with clients he loves but really let go of smaller clients or people who don’t need as much help, and you know he gets all the resources of my firm.

 

Susan: Wow! That’s really cool. Let’s step back just a second. So, in 2006 you’re telling me you had a brand new baby that you had just birthed and you were birthing a new company in your living room?

 

Diana Bacon: You know, I really wouldn’t recommend it, but during my maternity leave it became really apparent that the firm I was at was just a mismatch. We had, you know, I was working with a woman that I really respect and admired and she’s brilliant but it wasn’t a great fit and you know, it’s really important in life that we embrace those things that you’re like, “Wow, I tried this! This is a terrible idea and it’s not working, I need to cut my losses.” So I did that. Now, quite honestly, trying to go on job interviews while you’re carrying around a breast pump, it’s a little different—and not so surprisingly I had fewer job offers. I could have went into commission financial planning where you’re selling products.

 

Susan: Sure.

 

Diana Bacon: I have no issue with commission planners; it’s just not what I do and what I wanted to do. So instead I took that very naive approach which was, “How hard can this be? I just delivered this baby.” So I mean, simple things like getting registered with the Texas State Board of Security, I just called them up and got this great man who sat on the phone with me for, like, an hour, I took four pages of notes and that’s how I started doing my own compliance. I just did it and didn’t think too much about it because I wanted to keep working, I love what I do and to me it made sense so now I look back on it and just, “I can’t believe I did that,” but I made it work.

 

Susan: It’s amazing and I don’t know what it is about that period in life where—and I don’t know if it’s age, I don’t know if it’s because, you know, by the time you get your career going or where you think it should go, you know, you’re having children, or how that happens, I don’t understand it but it seems like so many women I talk to—be it friends or people on the podcast, whoever, there’s something about that time in life when you are six, eight months pregnant or you’ve just had a baby and all of a sudden here is this opportunity that’s in front of you and you’re doing them both at the same time and you are literally in the weeds, and it’s like you just have to go and there’s not a perfect answer and there’s not a perfect solution, you just do it, and it sounds like that’s what you did and I admire that, I really admire that.

 

Diana Bacon: I think it’s something about that period of time because your life, your sleep schedule, everything has been totally upended…

 

Susan: Your hormones.

 

Diana Bacon: Yeah, I think there is this thing or you’re like, “Everything is so different now anyway, I’m in a new body, I’m in a new life, like, what could possibly go wrong? And if it does, I already know that I can make it up because I am adapting,” that’s all I’ve been doing.

 

Susan: That’s a good point; you’re right, you have been adapting so you just keep adapting and just going with the flow. That’s a really good point. Tell me what success looked like at that time. Tell me how you were able to prioritize stuff. I know you said—you mentioned you had childcare at the time which is huge. That is of the utmost importance. I could do a whole podcast on how women need to have that available no matter what line of work they’re in, no matter what they’re doing. That’s a whole other issue. But tell me about how you did that time, how you prioritize that, how you how you had time for yourself, time for your family, built your business. I know it’s a lot of questions at once but kind of just give us an overview of how that worked.

 

Diana Bacon: I mean first—and I do want to touch on that point you just made about childcare.

 

Susan: Yeah.

 

Diana Bacon: I mean I want to make this very transparent. I was only able to do this because I had a spouse—well, I still have that spouse—but I had a spouse at the time that could support us and we could pay for child care. We had some financial help from his parents. Without any of that—if it was just me, if we were just struggling through I do not think that my firm would be where it is today, I think I would be in a very different spot. I had great childcare that I could trust my baby with, and that made all the difference. And then in terms of what that looked like in terms of taking care of me and everyone else, there were periods of time where I wasn’t great at self care, there were periods of time where I probably wasn’t the best spouse, there were periods of time where probably even my parenting…. My business maybe I wasn’t on top of things as I could have been but everything ebbs and flows and kind of just keeping in step with life and allowing things to happen and not beating myself up too much let me keep going.

 

You also asked about success at that point in time, and I believe in attainable goals and continually measuring against them. My undergrad is in math.  I’m in personal finance, I mean I love measuring things, looking at numbers, to me it’s just how my brain works, but the first thing I wanted to do was get in the black. That was my number one goal because I did have to pay for like filing fees with the state and setting up my business and buying a lot of software and all of those things. So the first thing was I wanted to be in the black, I wanted to be making money and making a profit. And then it was the next, you know, I wanted to be covering child-care with my income. And then I was able to look at, “Okay, I am getting clients, I’m not spending a ton of time marketing my business because I can’t take in a ton of new clients,” I mean it was just me for the first three years so I couldn’t do everything so I was slowly adding clients I started thinking about, “Okay, what sort of revenue do I need for each client? How do I want these clients to grow so that my business is growing with them?” And just I kept setting these smaller goals, and as I got closer to each goal then I would look at, “Okay, what else should I be looking towards so that I can quantify that and set in my measurable targets.

 

Susan: I love how methodical you are, and I know that’s your math background, and I love how you clearly had a method and I just find that so…I am a creative so I’m way on the other end of the spectrum and I need somebody in my brain like that to, say, pull it back and say. “Okay, this is how you need to proceed.” I like the planning aspect of that. So let’s switch gears just a little bit. We’ve talked a little bit about self-care. One of the things we really want to get to that you want to get to that you want to talk about, and this is what you do on a daily basis, is helping people with self care, with the financial aspect of self care. Tell me as a woman now you know me, I’m married, I have one kid, but what do women maybe…Is there a general thing women need to be thinking about? And I know one of the things that I’ve heard you talk about before and I want to get to is women finding themselves on their own. Whether they found it, whether they started out that way or they ended up that way, and I definitely want to touch on that and I don’t know how you want to frame this conversation of this piece but let’s think about that, let’s talk a little bit about that.

 

Diana Bacon: Okay, so I do work with a lot of women. My industry has very few women. It’s about one in five women and, you know, it’s what you’d expect, it’s white men, older white men. And it’s tough for women. A lot of my clients will say, “I really want to work with you because I know you’re not going to speak down to me. I can ask you any question.” And if you don’t understand your finances you’re just going to keep living your life like your money isn’t yours. And that’s the first thing I do with a woman is make sure that she really gets her head around that her finances, her money is hers. It seems so simple and it’s something that I just see women struggling with time and time again but we do this with our time as well you know we give all of our time and attention to our children, our spouses, our friends, we just give and give, and I see the same thing with people’s money.

 

So, you know, the typical client I feel like I’m seeing right now is a woman, you know, married or single but definitely in that she’s in her 50’s and she’s like, “Wow, I don’t want to work for ever,” and it’s just dawning on her that she’s been caring for everyone else and can she retire? Is she going to be able to stop working? And I’m seeing so many people, not just women, who are in their 50’s and have raised kids and poured everything into these kids: time, energy, and money. So it’s not uncommon that I’ll sit down with someone and they’re telling me about the college possibilities for their kid and the great private school they’re and how their kid is excelling, and all of these extra curricular activities and then when we look at, “Okay, what assets do you have that you could retire with? What does your savings plan look like? How do you go about investing?” And there’s just this blank stare because no, no, no, all the resources are going to the kid. Well, a lot of times the kid’s in high school, they still have to put the kids through school, they’re like, “No, I don’t want them to deal with the stress of student loans.” I mean the student loan issue in the country is really horrendous…

 

Susan: No kidding.

 

Diana Bacon: …And holding us back, our country, but you know they don’t want to saddle their kids with that so they’re looking at even more expenditures which means they’re going to hit their late 50’s and really not have much. So I really talk to women, men and everyone about, “You know what? This is really like we’re on that plane together and you got to put your oxygen mask on first and then put it on your kid. If you’re not taking care of yourself…And it’s just that thing, I mean you’ve mentioned a multiple times, like, you and I have a conversation but if you’re not going financial self care, how are you going to help your family? You know if you’re putting some accountability on your kid, whether it’s the student loan, whether it’s them working during a gap year or you know them pursuing scholarships, whatever that is but if you’re putting some of this on your kids and taking off your plate you can do so much more for yourself. So maybe your kid is going to spend a while in college and getting a grad degree and you can support for a longer period of time in different ways, that’s generally what I recommend to clients. Now, obviously, they’re living their life, I’m not living it so if they’re adamant in saying, “No, that’s not what we want,” I help them in advice but I just see so much giving and giving and giving. Even, you know, new parent in their 30’s and I’m saying, “Well, we’re not saving for retirement we have all this money in a 529 plan.” “Okay, well, look at that toddler…You’re going to have braces come up first but gosh, at least you already have money saved for college which they may or may not go to,” like, there’s just this disconnect. And then you know what? I’m broadening this to men and women but I do want to hold this back a little bit women and typically, you know, we’re not that involved you’re seeing a lot of times that if someone is staying home with the kids or scaling back their career it is the woman. And what that means is—especially if she’s going to wind up alone, whether widowed, divorce because she has taken that time out of the work force because she’s focused on her family, her earning potential is so diminished.

 

So, you know, men after a divorce, they get back to their previous standard of living pretty quickly because they haven’t had the hit to their earning potential. But women, because we’re either out of the workforce or we slowed down our career, worked part time for a while, we take something with maybe less responsibility, or as I also see, sometimes those opportunities just kind of go away when you have an infant or a toddler and elementary school kid so because we don’t have the earnings potential that means that post-divorce, women take a substantial hit to standard of living and most of the time will not get back to the previous standard of living, they just won’t. Women are more likely in their retirement years, A, not to be retired, and even if they are there, they’re living in poverty. Women are much more likely than men to be living in poverty in our elderly years, and it’s really because we have given our whole life and we didn’t take care of ourselves, we didn’t stop, look at what’s going on, look at our income and start saving because you have to start saving before you start investing. And investing really is this magical thing because it allows your money to make money for you so it’s not just what you’re earning through your effort, your blood sweat and tears, but your money works for you so all of your efforts are exponential but that’s really if you don’t start with the savings you can’t invest and then you don’t have a good plan.

 

Susan: Well, you can just drop the mic and walk away. And I say that because…

 

Diana Bacon: [Laughs]

 

Susan: I’m not kidding because I have been very involved within the past couple of years in the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and the research that has been done that I have seen talking about women growing older. And one of the other things is women often—even if you stay married your whole life—women tend to outlive their husbands, statistically. And so when he passes for one reason or another—and I don’t know if this is a generational thing because so many things are still in their husband’s names or whatever but you know, there’s a lack of like basic things like they didn’t have credit in their name. I mean it’s small stuff like that. And I mean obviously there are things like you know your house you can go back and through probate you can fix and things like that, but if you don’t have a lot of the savings and stuff on the front end, or if he had a pension and for some reason you know I don’t know how that works if that goes away or VA benefits or whatever… I mean you know my grandmother is a great example. My grandfather passed a few years ago and I think a huge…Now, obviously, she doesn’t have a house payment anymore and things like that but one of the things that her—a large chunk of her income is social security. And our generation is not going to be able to—that’s not even going to be…You should even be thinking about that so it’s you’re absolutely right, it’s one of those things women find themselves in this spot and it’s something we need to think about. Tell me if you—this is something we haven’t discussed but tell me if you see this; I have seen women, Diana, my age who’s husbands handle the entire financial everything and they have no idea how much money they have, no idea what investments they have if they have any, they have no understanding of their financial situation. Do you see that?

 

Diana Bacon: I do see it, and I have seen it as I worked with baby boomers, I don’t see it as much with Gen X, and then I’m seeing it again with millennials where they don’t pay the bills or if they do you it’s out of a household account that’s really separate from savings, from the investment. I’m really seeing that shift back to, “Well, he makes the money so he takes care of it,” and then something comes up where, you know, they’re splitting up, they’re divorced, or tragedy and the women are really unprepared, and not only does that set them up for financial missteps, you know, if you don’t know who holds your mortgage, how are you going to make sure that the mortgage payment is still being paid.

 

Susan: Right.

 

Diana Bacon: But it also opens up women to what I call a “financial predator.” So for an elderly woman, this could be that salesperson at the bank who now sells her an annuity, which I’ve seen too many times and it shouldn’t be allowed, or for younger women I’m seeing them take loans that they don’t need—just making decisions that if they had more comfort and confidence in managing their own financial affairs, they’d take a step back and not go that direction. So by the time I see these women a lot of time their personal balance sheet is a mess because they weren’t working with a degree of confidence.

 

Susan: It just breaks my heart. It’s just something we don’t think about and we need to.

 

Diana Bacon: You know I get that when you’re part of a couple you’re a team and one spouse takes this and one spouse take thats but I have a very difficult time with new clients when they say, “Oh no, he’ll be at the meeting, if there’s anything I need to know he’ll tell me.” No, especially when sitting down with your tax preparer, your financial planner, any additional investment advisers, your family attorney both spouses should always be there, always.

 

Susan: Yeah, if for nothing else that basic understanding.You don’t have to understand all the ins and outs; people can walk you through that but you just need to have the basic understanding for sure. Let’s switch gears just a little bit and go back and talk a little bit more about your business and how you have developed your client base and where you’re finding your ideal clients and how you’ve managed to grow that because I know that’s something that you’re really passionate about.

 

Diana Bacon: My client base has really changed over the years. When I first started I was working entirely with corporate executives. As they started in the early 2000, as those huge reduction enforced programs were going through with huge layoff, I start working with some small business owners because honestly, if you were laid off and you were 56 you’re not finding a job, you’re just not, no one’s going to hire you. So I started working with small business owners and really seeing some of them have an entrepreneurial spirit, which is really fun. I hesitate with entrepreneurs because the people who just start one thing after another never really become financially secure. I mean it’s very rare that it does, and that that’s one thing I want to see for my client right for them to reach financial independence you know I typically say I don’t really do retirement planning, I don’t care when you retire, I care when you’re financially independent because your decision process is going to change greatly once I tell you, “Hey, you know what? Your assets can now sustain your standard of living for the rest of your life so go to work tomorrow… don’t… I don’t care this is what you can spend, and so go live your life and make any changes you want,” and people do, they will start a business or start a foundation, or it’s probably one of the best things about my job.

 

But as I started my own firm, I really thought about who I wanted to work with and who I wanted to help.You know one of the things I do tell people and they’re like, “What do you do?” If I have just one sentence, I’m like, “I help people,” because I do, that’s all I do. I don’t make anything, I don’t build anything, I don’t sell anything; I just help people. Now, it is much more specific than that; I help people with their personal finances, I give them investment advice, you know all of that. But initially, when I started my practice I, you know, because I told you, I wanted to be in the black and so if someone wanted to sit down and talk to me and they wanted to sign my engagement letter and contract with me and as long as they weren’t doing anything illegal or unethical I was happy to take them. Now over the years as I’ve had clients leave because it wasn’t a good fit, either they decided that or I decided that, I’ve had more time to really cultivate good clients. So to me, a good client is A, someone that I can help and B, someone who sees the value in my help.

 

You know, when I do talk to people new to feeling financial planning, the first thing I tell them is don’t ever work with a client who doesn’t see the value in what you do because when you send them an invoice they’re not going to want to pay it. I don’t have clients push back on fees because they see the value I’m providing them and quite honestly, I don’t have a problem with reminding them of the value I’m providing them, but I really like working with people. And I don’t have a typical “I work with a woman who is this far in her career and she makes this…” my client base is a little diverse. And looking at the current division in America, I mean my clients are all over the board. I work with some very conservative families, I work with very liberal single women, I do work with every everyone, but the one thing that I keep coming back to is, you know, are they doing good in their little corner of the world? Am I providing value? Am I helping them, and do they do they see that value?

 

Susan: That’s awesome. That is just a cool way to think about building a business is really—you really seem to put your clients first, and I love that. I think that that’s not always an easy thing to do because in the day you’re trying to provide for your family as well. I find that very admirable; you don’t hear that a lot in big business, and maybe that’s why big firms weren’t the best fit. I really…I just love that. That just kind of warms the heart a little bit.

 

Diana Bacon: Yeah, I do think that that is a big part of the reason why I’m currently running the small boutique firm; I just don’t know that I would ever be back at a big firm because I just want to keep living my life, including what I do professionally but the way I want to do it which, you know, probably wouldn’t be in line with most of the bigger firms.

 

Susan: Yeah, one or two more questions because I want to be respectful of your time today. Tell us…You work a lot. I know you probably have a lot of hours you put in on the regular and I’m sure you have times of the year that are more busy than others. I think when we first started talking about this you were coming out of a busy time, so tell us how you, when you have the ability to, how do you recharge your batteries.

 

Diana Bacon: I really focus on the things that I know you know reinvigorate me, get me excited about life again. For me, I do need some quiet moments, but what really recharges me is people, being part of a community, feeling like I’m changing the world in some small way. I really love working out, being physical, you know, keeping a strong body but I actually also do that in a way that I’m part of a community. And being part of a community just speaks to my soul. I’m very involved in my church and that—yes, the church part of it you know I find very comforting and I do think it helped me be a better person, all of those things, but it’s that community, it’s having the people, it’s walking through the church playground on a Sunday and talking to several friends and the hugs and all the things that go along with it.

 

And then also I do, you know, I’m pretty busy, I work out, I have two kids, I have a husband who I adore, I have a business but I also make sure that I do give of my time. The best conversation I had with my mom was right when I was finishing my MBA and I had been working 50 to 70 hours a week and doing my MBA at the same time, I was exhausted. So mom’s like, “So, what are you going to do now?” And I was like, “I want to buy a television.” And she laughed a bit but then she said, “You need to figure out pretty quickly where you’re going to go volunteer.” She’s like, “You have this extra time…” she’s like, “You need to keep investing in yourself but invest in the world that you’re in,” and I constantly replay that conversation in my mind is investing in my community, investing in people around me. And especially now that I have kids, like, if I’m not investing in the world, I’m kind of dropping the ball because I’m not investing in them.

 

Susan:  And I’ve seen you doing some of your some of the stuff that you volunteer with and one,  it’s amazing, it is just amazing things that you that you found to get involved in; but two, you are investing in your kids but your kids are also seeing you do this, and I didn’t grow up—I  don’t know, it sounds like you did—I didn’t grow up in a family that was very philanthropic, they were with church but that was pretty much the extent of it, and so somehow that became a really important thing to me after graduating college is getting involved in giving back time, talent, finances. And I think one of the other things you’re doing is you’re instilling that into your own children so that they will have that to go forward with as well, and I think that’s really important, and I think that’s really cool.

 

Diana Bacon: Thanks.

 

Susan: Yes, one more question before we go, and that is the feedback that I’m getting on this podcast and the types of listeners who are finding us, they’re inspired, they’re empowered but sometimes they don’t know which next steps to take so I always like to ask the guest that I have on for an action step, what is it that if a woman is, for today, if a woman is seriously thinking about her financial situation and taking that next step towards financial independence, where should she start? What is one action step she can take today to move that ball forward?

 

Diana Bacon:  I mean, honestly, the most important part of this is don’t be afraid by your finances. Get to know your finances, get to know your spending, make sure you understand everything that’s on your paycheck, really take a look, make sure you understand at least most of what’s on your tax return but don’t be afraid of that. And then, you know, what I would hope every person listening to this would really focus on starting to save so that they can invest and have a bigger plan because that’s what really going to take someone so that ten years from now hopefully they are in a much more solid financial place.

 

Susan: Awesome, that is great advice. Thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. I appreciate you taking the time and I appreciate you sharing with us, your thoughts.

 

Diana Bacon: Oh, I appreciate the opportunity. This was really fun.

 

Susan: Thank you so much.

 

Outro: Hey, y’all, thanks so much for joining today; that was such a fun conversation Diana. If you head on over to howshegothere.com, you’ll be able to find the full transcript of this episode. The transcript page is a great resource because it is not only the interview written out in its entirety, it has links to some of the things we discussed. Y’all, this podcast is truly one of my favorite things to do and bring to so thank you for listening and for sharing it with your friends. And, if you haven’t yet, you can go on over to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. I’d also really appreciate it if you would rate and review it. You can also follow “How She Got Here” on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks again, friends. I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Akola founder Brittany Underwood shares her journey from undergrad to Top 10 CEO

Brittany Merrill Underwood is the Founder and CEO of the Akola Project. In 2006, Brittany, a Southern Methodist University sophomore, spent the Summer on a trip to Uganda with a few friends.   After meeting a Ugandan woman named Sarah, who was caring for orphans in her home, Brittany was inspired to roll up her sleeves and help.  It started with a proper home for the children and quickly grew into creating a sustainable work opportunity (The Akola Project) for other women like Sarah so that they could provide for themselves, their families and these children.  Today, Akola provides training, dependable living-wage work opportunities and holistic education programs to over 500 women in Uganda and Dallas, TX, who care for approximately 4,000 dependents.

 

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey, friends, I am more than excited to share my guest with you today. Brittany Merrill Underwood is the founder and CEO of the Akola Project. Akola is a full impact brand which means they reinvest 100% of their profits to support work opportunities, training, social programs, and the construction of training centers and water wells in impoverished communities throughout the globe. Akola has a social impact throughout its entire supply chain and offers women opportunity through the creation of their raw materials, assembly of their product, and their distribution center that acts as a second chance job program. Akola has created a new high impact model for social business that is paving the way for high impact millennial run businesses that seek to have an impact on the world. In 2017, Brittany was named among the top “The World’s Top Ten CEO’s” in Inc. Magazine, the best person in the world by Yahoo in 2014, and was honored by clothing manufacturer, Levi, as one of 50 women around the globe who have changed the political, cultural, and spiritual shape of the future. She was awarded the Emerging Leader Award from SMU in 2013, the Young Leader Award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation in 2014, and was awarded a Silver Medal from the Business and Inner Faith Peace Award given by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation in Rio.

Brittany has been featured on the Katie Couric Show, CNN’s Young People Who Rock, Fox Business, and Modern Luxury. In 2014, she was asked to join a mentoring class for the Laura Bush Women’s Initiative, and joined the Faculty of Southern Methodist University as an adjunct professor in 2015 where she teaches a new course on social innovation. Brittany continues to devote her life to creating a brand that empowers women through economic and holistic development as CEO of the Akola Project. According to Inc. magazine, “Underwood is a clear example of a servant leader practicing conscious capitalism to transform the lives of impoverished women and families.” So without further ado, here’s Brittany.

Susan:  Well good morning, Brittany. Thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?

Brittany: I’m fine, thank you.

Susan:  Well, it is so good to have you here. I know I shared in the opening with my listeners kind of a little bit about Akola and your story and what you did, but I would love to hear from your mouth a little bit about yourself and where you’re from and how you got to where you are now.

Brittany: Sure. I am Brittany Merrill Underwood. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and went to SMU, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas for college, and spent most of my 20’s back and forth from Uganda, which I’ll talk about that a little bit more later on in the podcast. And then I married my husband – he’s a Dallas native – in 2012, and moved back to Dallas, have two little boys, a three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old and so balanced that with my work as founder and CEO of Akola Jewelry. And we are a full impact brand that’s devoted to empowering women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities and grow a business. And so it’s a busy life, it’s exciting, but a lot there. In addition to that, I teach a course every spring at SMU now on social innovation and do that as well.

 

Susan: I did read you have started that; you just keep adding to the empowering and inspiring of women and I absolutely – that just warms my heart. You go girl! So tell us a little bit about how you got to Uganda to begin with. Tell us a little bit about that story.

Brittany: Sure. So I was a sophomore at SMU and I was not involved in any community service activities and  didn’t grow up in a culture of philanthropy in Atlanta; that just wasn’t part of – yeah, wasn’t part of our lifestyle so I had really not done anything for others, which is true. And, you know, was 19 years old and had promised two of my friends in college we would have a summer adventure and I thought we would teach somewhere in Europe and I kind of tuned out of the conversation for a second and they picked the boarding school in Uganda. I didn’t know where Uganda was at a time on the map, and I just had no desire to be in East Africa or had never been to a developing country and sort of got dragged there by two of my friends.

So two weeks into being in Uganda, we were working with a group that was taking us to different villages to help us understand the culture, meet Ugandans, understand more about their lives, and I just – I was sick, I was tired, I was completely disengaged. And a local pastor that we were working with kind of noticed my discomfort and he said, “I want you to meet a local woman in our village who I think will inspire you.” So I said, “Okay,” and I followed him up this dirt road to a shack outside of Uganda’s capital city Kampala, and I met a Ugandan woman named Sarah. And it’s funny, there is not a lot of stories like this, I can trace this entire journey back to that single moment and it was that powerful. And I met Sarah and sort of didn’t know what to say and she had these sort of bamboo mats rolled up in a corner so I casually asked her what they were for and she said, “Children, children sleep on these mats,” and I thought, “Children on these mats on the floor. I mean, it was the size of my closet.” And 24 children slept on her floor every night and they didn’t have anywhere to sleep; they were street children, and she had shelter so she’d roll out these mats and they would come and sleep.

The problem was they didn’t have food, they didn’t have school fees and medical care, they didn’t have any of those things. And Sarah couldn’t afford to give them many of those, she was in poverty herself. So I saw this woman who sacrificed everything she had. I mean she would go hungry to feed these kids so others could live. And here I was, a selfish college student who had never done anything for others and it just shook me out of my complacency. So, that sort of began this what has been a 15-year journey for us. I kept up with Sarah after that summer and just kind of started sending her money for food or school fees for the kids and just wanted to help and it turned into a project to build a home for the children who slept on her floor. That was the beginning of the Akola journey.

Susan: So, the orphanage that you were building, that is where Akola started, was there?

Brittany: It was. I mean, it was just a one-off project; it wasn’t anything that I was trying to start for the long haul, I just wanted the kids to have a place to sleep. Beds and a bigger room. So this initial idea was just to build a small building for Sarah and her kids so they would have a place to sleep. And around the same time I met Sarah, another woman did and  started  a sponsorship program for the kids who slept on her floor. So six months after I met her, the kids were eating, they were in school so what they really needed was this building. So it started out as this tiny $10,000 project, started raising money for it. I was a journalism major so I figured if someone could just see the story and see what I saw, surely they would want to help in the same way that I wanted to help. So I filmed a promotional video and edited it in the halls of SMU and started these grass roots fundraisers to raise $10,000 for the small home, and we ended up raising over the next several years a million dollars which is just incredible. It developed a three-story orphanage for every kid.

Susan: That’s awesome!

Brittany: Oh yeah, that’s just being young and idealistic you’re 20 and you’re like, “Why wouldn’t we just build a building for everyone?”

Susan: Absolutely!

Brittany: Next thing we knew it was this massive project. And I graduated from SMU in 2006 and thought, “I’ve got to move over to Uganda to make sure this project actually happens,” you know, a lot of people just entrusted us with their money and I need to personally oversee this. And that’s what led me to Uganda. And during the construction of this building, my three friends who kind of we all thought we’d be there for 6 months to oversee the orphanage project and go on with our lives, and it took about three years longer than we expected, and we were just making construction payments but we had so much time to just listen and get to know the community and to learn. And we knew we were so young that we just didn’t know anything so we didn’t come in with any assumed knowledge. So, again, I think we listened in a way that was really special and learned in a way that was very special, and what we kept on hearing as we met more and more women  like Sarah is that what they actually wanted was not an orphanage, they wanted the ability to care for orphaned and disadvantaged kids in their own home. They had the heart and the vision; they just didn’t have the resources.

So it was pretty humbling as we were building this monstrous orphanage that in the end you know it’s better than a kid sleeping on the street but it’s not what they needed or really even wanted. And so I started Akola in 2007. Akola means “she works,” and as we were building the orphanage, I wanted to create a model to where we wouldn’t have to continue to build orphanages that supported women headed households to care for up to 10 kids in their home. And so we needed a way for the women to generate an income, and that’s when we started the jewelry business because we thought if we could create a product, sell it in the US, all the money would go back to the women, then they would be able to support their kids. So Neiman’s Marcus laughed, cause our jewelry is in Neiman’s now,  and when we tell them how little thought went into our initial product, it was easy to ship, I had some friends who owned boutiques and voila we had a jewelry business. And what’s funny is, you know, this is before Tom’s and before FEED, this was 2007, the social business movement didn’t exist. There really wasn’t a playbook for this, we just thought it was a better way to meet the needs of disadvantaged children, and so that’s how Akola began.

Susan: You were a woman with a mission and vision.

Brittany: That’s definitely true.

Susan: So tell us about these women; they’re taking these orphaned children – some of them are probably their own but others – orphaned children into their own homes, how did you identify who would be a fit for Akola? Was it every woman in the village? Tell us a little about that.

Brittany: Yeah, we have a pretty rigorous process where we figure out women who have the most dependents and the least support. So initially, our goal was how do we kind of fund women who are starting these home orphanages, like, how do we have those women in our program? And then we quickly realized that there were other women who had just as many dependents that were related to them as the women who were taking in street kids. So we sort of created a model where if women had an average of 9 or 10 dependents and they didn’t have much support from their husband or didn’t have one, then they would qualify for our program and the support.

So we would go through an interview process with their local leaders to kind of identify these women headed households and social mapping, we worked through a church, I mean everything you can imagine to really identify the women who needed this program. And that’s how we build out our Akola woman space, and we worked with an average 4 to 500 women every year in Uganda in seven different communities now. We started with 15 women under a mango tree in front of their church and now it’s a pretty full of blown operation. And we realized in 2010  as our business began to grow and we went from 15 women to 200 women making jewelry, that we wanted the women to have a dignified place to work and they didn’t really have that in their villages. These were remote agrarian villages in Northern Uganda and Eastern Uganda along the Nile River and they didn’t really have an infrastructure so we started building these manufacturing facilities and training centers; we call them hope centers in Uganda where the women could go and work and create these products, and also realized pretty quickly that what we were doing was not effective unless we created educational programs around the women’s ability to generate income.

In 2010 we had one year I think it was I mean close to five women die in childbirth in our program in their homes, and we thought how in the world was this happening? They’re earning a living wage, why aren’t they going to the clinic? And we realized when we did a little digging that they either had superstitions around going to the clinic or they didn’t even know that there was one five miles down the road. So there was an education gap, and it was sort of this aha moment that it didn’t matter if they’re earning four times the wage in their village if they don’t know how to use it to create meaningful change in their lives to address their maternal health, to address the needs of their children, to strengthen their families, to combat domestic violence, to save and loan and start small businesses, it didn’t really create long-term change. And so that’s when we created Akola Academy which is our suite of holistic services that kind of wrap around our work opportunities at Akola. And that’s really set us apart. I mean that’s something we do. I don’t think there’s any other social brand that puts as much into that kind of programming as us. And it’s allowed our women to really find a pathway out of poverty versus just receiving, you know, living wage work opportunities, which is great, but it’s not enough to pull their families out of poverty.

So built that, went to grad school to kind of understand what model to build and how to build it in 2010/2012, and launched Akola Academy with our chief impact officer, Erica Hall, who is the sort of architect of our development programming and that really took off. And what’s interesting is that people assumed that it was our jewelry business that took off first and it was actually our development model and social services that sort of gained notoriety and through that we were presented these amazing opportunities to create product lines for very special retailers and began to grow the retail brand. So that happened in 2016, and that’s when we expanded to Dallas – which I can talk about in a second – and launched through Neiman Marcus which is really when the brand really took off.

Susan: And that’s when I heard about it. I actually heard about it in 2016 through the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and we can talk about that at some point as well and your involvement there, but I always feel like I’m never, like, on the front end of fashion or hearing about fashion and when I heard your story as it was then, I was inspired and empowered and I said I have to go buy everything that they have. Hearing what you have had added and understanding the Akola Academy and what all that new how you have transitioned even into that, how did you – you said you went back to grad school, how did you surround yourself with the right team, with the right people, like, how did you find the people in order to create this?

Brittany: A lot of it was blind luck and just grace, just God’s grace. I mean we had the right people at the right time who just kind of fell in our lap, and also a lot of it is just learning. I mean I think I just – throughout this entire process, I mean at each point in our development there is something new that we have to learn and develop and I’m a creative, and I like to do that. So when we knew we needed to develop our social service models, I knew I didn’t have the tools to do that, I didn’t have the expertise. I had the experience in Uganda but not the learning to make this  sort best in class, which we strive for at everything we do at Akola.

So I studied under some of the top development practitioners in the country, the vice president of programming for World Vision, who is one of my mentors and professors [inaudible 12:11] and worked with him to develop this very unique model for our women. So a lot went into it. And then had just the luck honestly of having our chief impact officer apply to work at Akola, and she had worked for Jane Goodall for a while and sort of  established her women’s empowerment program. And she was looking for something new, she stumbled across Akola, reached out to us and came on in 2012 and she’s still with us today and she was able to really build out on the ground what I helped sort of create the lines for in grad school. So it just was a great partnership, and it’s something that we’re so proud of today just everything we built in Uganda and what that model looks like. And what’s fun is when we had a chance to bring it to Dallas.

So that happened in 2016 actually through a partnership with the Dallas Women’s Foundation. Roslyn Dawson Thompson, the president, I was lucky enough to meet her through some work we were doing at the Bush women’s initiative at the George and Laura Bush Presidential Center, and we met and she learned about our model and said, “Why in the world is this not in Dallas?” You know and I said, “Well, because this is an agrarian community in Uganda, I don’t know if this is something that can work,” and she said, “Well, we’ve got women in Dallas who are falling through the cracks, you know prostitution, poverty, incarceration sort of women who are in crisis and they come out of those situations and they’re growing through these non-profit programs where they’re being rehabilitate but they can’t get a job because they’re not stable enough yet to even go through a Workforce Development Program. So the door is kind of swinging in their face and then they end up going back to what they know and go back to prostitution, poverty, jail, you name it.

And there really wasn’t anything in Dallas that offered women like that, women in crisis a living wage flexible work opportunity, and she knew that our model could probably do that. So she said, “Why don’t we figure this out?” So we began to kind of do some diligence and try to build what a model would look like here. And what we realized is if we were going to do manufacturing for our jewelry, we needed a more elevated product line to pay women an average of $15 an hour which is our goal. We really stand for a living wage. And so we pitched this product line – or I pitched it to the CEO of Neiman Marcus kind of through a series of events, got a connection to her, she gave me a 10-minute meeting at Neiman’s, and I just as quickly as possible just told her what we were doing, what we had done and that we really wanted to help women in poverty in our own community and we needed a partnership with a major retailer like Neiman’s to sell an elevated jewelry line to ensure we could offer these women work. And she was amazing I mean, she said, “This is intriguing, design a product line at that price point, come back in a couple of months and we’ll see what we can do.” And so, you know, we didn’t have any retail infrastructure at that point, we were selling to boutiques around the country, we had no one on our entire team with any design expertise or any retail backgrounds, and I was six or seven months pregnant at the time and had friends come over who were jewelry designers to help me put together  this line for Neiman Marcus and had beads all over my house and had a one-year-old who was stepping around in a diaper and it was just total chaos, and came back and presented this line to Karen and her team at Neiman’s, and she was so impressed, she said, “We’re going to launch you in every single store nationwide and in our catalog and online and by the way, you’re our fantasy gift. Oh my gosh, we have a national roll out from Neiman Marcus and no retail  infrastructure to support it. And we had not really started a program in Dallas.

We’d run a pilot with about 15 different women but we hadn’t really built the program yet. So in a span of – I will never forget this time – it was in 2016, the summer of 2016 and in span of two months we produced a product line for every single store nationwide over, you know, a million dollars worth of product, we gave over a hundred women in Dallas work opportunity and partnership with, like, 13 different nonprofits who referred women to us in their program who went through a hard time and couldn’t get a job. We popped up in the Dallas Housing Authority for production, we popped up in Buckner Salvation Army, their domestic violence unit sent us women to work in the back of our store.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Brittany: Full out community effort to get these women work opportunities and make sure we could deliver this product in time, and we did. Even the financing end of it, we had Northern Trust, one of the most wonderful banks in the world take a huge risk on us and financed our entire product line and pour money into the infrastructure of our business with just incredible terms, and without them taking risk on us we wouldn’t have had the money to pull this off. I mean the banks came together and the community came together and nonprofits and it sort of took a village to work, but we launched our product line in Neiman’s and in our first season became a top 10 jewelry brand at Neiman Marcus.

Susan:  Wow, that’s the craziest story I think I’ve ever heard.

Brittany: It sounds crazy [inaudible 22:48] I mean at the time we had five people on staff in Dallas, we had 30 in Uganda, but I mean Dallas was just the support office for the work that we did in Uganda. We didn’t do manufacturing here, we didn’t do anything until suddenly we went from five people on our team to having to build out a retail infrastructure that could support our brand that was three months later competing against Oscar De la Renta. I mean our earrings sit right next to Oscar De La Renta’s in every Neiman Marcus store, and we had to do that in a span of about three months. I mean we kind of emerged from the fog, the spring of 2017. And what’s so funny too to add to the craziness of that story is I was pregnant with my second son. I had a one-year-old and I was pregnant again and I was due at the end of October and we launched through Neiman’s at the end of September. So I was literally I mean going to – up until I had my second son, going to these launch events in different cities. I had him and two weeks later I was flying for day trips to kind of launch Akola Jewelry at Neiman’s in Palm Beach and in Atlanta, you know, pumping on the plane under my sweater, like, saving the milk for my child in a little storage case that I bring on the plane. I mean the whole thing couldn’t have been crazier, and it just aligned with the birth of my second child who was only 16 months apart from my first so it just was like complete chaos .

But yeah, so we emerged from sort of the fog of it all in the spring of 2017. And that’s when we decided we had to get real serious and build a real team around this product line at Neiman Marcus and an infrastructure to support it. So we had incredible banks like Triumph Bank in Dallas, through their Community Reinvestment Act, and the money they could deploy from that as an impact investment along with Northern Trust who continue to invest in Akola in partnership with the Dallas Development Fund through their emerging tax credit program was able to get us the financing we need to build this infrastructure to compete. And so we did that in the spring and just staffed up our team and sort of just wanted to take it to the next level so we could ensure that we actually stayed in Neiman Marcus. Because it’s one thing to, you know, to be a top brand in your first season but you’ve got to put in a lot of work in to stay in the game and competing and just wanted to be around for the long haul.

So we did that, and at the same time we were still growing our social services and having donors fund those activities, and so it was just like another crazy season of building. And what we wanted to do was to build enough of an infrastructure where we could grow through other accounts as well, because once you set up a business that support an every store account at Neiman Marcus, that same business infrastructure can take on at least five times that business with the same team which is pretty expensive to build but we’ve got to grow really fast. And so that’s really fun to tell you over the past year what we’ve done to do that.

Susan: Wow, you were birthing a child and a part of a business at the same time.

Brittany: I know. It’s so funny. I don’t remember anything, like, there’s no [laughs] don’t remember what happened during that time but I [laughs]

Susan: Yeah, you would block out, I mean there’s no way you could remember all of that.

Brittany: Yeah, and actually just to add to that, my husband and I moved twice that year. We bought a house and then his grandfather passed away and he wanted to buy that house so we also moved twice during that year as well. You know it’s one of those things where you’re just going so fast and your life is just so out of control and so crazy that you don’t even know how crazy it is until you come out of that and then you look back and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, how did I do that. I don’t know.” So, I mean it was insane. I’m still apologizing to friends because I just didn’t return text messages for a year, I didn’t return calls, I missed my families birthday parties, like, I just couldn’t, I had no margin. And you can’t go like that forever but I think there are seasons that kind of require your full focus and that was one of those where it was just crazy.

Susan: Oh, absolutely, there are seasons that require your full focus but you had full focus plus.

Brittany: Oh yeah, I mean I got pulled in all different directions absolutely, yeah, I mean it was nuts.

Susan: So there had to have been – and maybe this is just me – but there had to have been a moment in that season where you were like I can’t do this, like, totally lacking self-confidence.

Brittany: Oh, I mean I was so burnt out that I literally, I mean I think there was a point I was just laying on my floor sobbing, I was so hormonal breastfeeding, you know, just coming off of the hormones of having two kids in a row, I mean I got pregnant when my first son was only 7 months old and so I don’t even think the hormones from that pregnancy had left my body, and I just was out of my mind and I had no time, I wasn’t sleeping because I had a newborn and with launching that I knew how much succeeding in Neiman Marcus, I knew how that would build our business in the future and I knew that it was imperative that that happened because that would set us up to grow the way we wanted to grow to make or mission come alive in a way that it hadn’t before, and so I knew how significant it was and we were moving and it just…

Yeah, I was so burned out, and I think I had – again, my friends gave me and my family gave me so much grace during that season but I didn’t have margin, I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t see friends – all the things that make you a person besides having children and building a business, like, I just didn’t have the bandwidth for, and so I just…Yeah, I remember laying on my bathroom floor and had a couple of key relationships as well within Akola that just got so burned during that time because I just didn’t have the bandwidth to give them what they needed during that time. And so there were consequences to growth as well, and it all hit at the same time really late in the Spring in 2017. And again, I was laying on my bathroom floor sobbing and my husband came in and he was like, “What is going on? What’s wrong? Like, are you okay?” And I just was like, “I can’t do this anymore, like, I’m dying, like, I literally… I can’t do this anymore,” and I just hit a wall, and I needed to hit that wall because my life was so out of control. But from that point, probably to this point where we are now in 2018 that next year was okay, how do I do this but also figure out a pace that’s manageable where I can have a full life and also grow this business and be there for my kids and my friends and my family. And so that was sort of the past year trying to figuring out how do we grow because we knew we had to grow really fast it just because again it was so expensive to build what it took to even pull off Neiman Marcus that we knew we had to grow. So I had to figure out how to grow Akola as fast as possible to keep up with our spend as well as kind of dial back and create balance in my life so that’s kind of in the past year. I’m excited to share with you how I’ve done some of that. I’m still kind of in the middle of it but we’re in a really good spot.

Susan: Sure. So, how are you doing that?

Brittany: Yeah, so I hit the wall, I’m on the floor crying realizing, like, this is not sustainable and I can’t, you know, I’ve got to slow down but also Akola has to speed up so how do I do that? And so what it was was just having a great team and getting the right talent. So at that point, I knew, you know, I’ve got to get some people in our business that can start taking stuff off my plate. And you know I’m a huge visionary, I’m a very big picture person, I’m very right brained. So the good news about that is I’ve never put myself in a position where I’m managing more than two people or I’m in our finances figuring out and crunching the numbers or I’m doing our manufacturing, like, that’s just not my skill set, and anytime I’ve ever been in that position, I’ve messed everything up.

So the good news is I’m really gifted and in one area and really not in other areas so it’s pretty easy for me to figure out, “Okay I need to not be spending my time in these three buckets, but I need to be spending all of my time in this one bucket because that’s where I create the most of value.” I read this book called Present Over Perfect.

Susan: Shauna Niequist.

Brittany:  Yeah, she’s amazing and there was certain antidote in the book where there was a pastor and he had this church that was growing so fast and he was in a conversation and he was like, “I’m so overwhelmed, it’s crazy.” He’s like, “The growth is out of control.” And someone said like, “You have control over that,” and he’s like, “No, I don’t, “and they’re like, “Well you’re putting up the chairs,” and he’s like, “Shoot, I do have the control.” So in our case, it’s a little bit different because we knew if we didn’t grow we weren’t going to make it. We built this business that needed to grow to survive and we had this window where we were a top brand at Neiman’s and we needed to grow the retail business. And so we didn’t have the luxury to not put up chairs because we probably wouldn’t have been around a year later, so we had to grow. But the question was how do I do that while taking care of myself and my family? And something else in that book that was so helpful, saying yes to something is a no to something else, like, it’s not just a lot of yeses. Like anytime you say yes to anything you’re saying no to something else; you only have amount of time and bandwidth and resources, like, that’s just the deal.

And so I started realizing anything I was saying yes to at Akola was a no my kids, my two baby infant children. And my husband runs a company so it’s not like he is able to fill in the gaps, so just to make it even more complicated. So I started getting laser focused and said I’m only going to say yes to things that that brings value to Akola and I’m going to delegate everything else. So I just got really good at that and had an incredible luck and just God’s grace and having some exceptional team members fall in our lap during that time. Brennan Lowery who is our COO now, she sort of built Kate Spade’s On Purpose program in Rwanda. She has been working for Kate Spade and they wanted to set up some sort of manufacturing facility for bags in Rwanda, and they’re one of the only groups like ours that actually built those facilities and built sort of this vertical operation. And they don’t own that, did it under another entity but they really built it. And they sent Brennan who had been working for Kate Spade, they send her over there and basically said figure it out. So she built that over two years and had just kind of come back from Rwanda and met with one of our board members who said, “Wait a minute, this is exactly what we need.”

So we’ve had these positions, and it’s so funny how just like the world works and God works in this way, but we’ve had incredible recruiters like to find the perfect talent for Akola and we’ve gotten it wrong. And then we’ve had someone just meet with a board member, kind of fall out the sky and they’re exactly who we needed, and that’s fine. So Brennan came on in January and what she needed to do and what we needed to do really quickly was to take sort of all of our production processes and calendars and manufacturing processes. That we sort of just organically built, like. We basically made them up. We just created them. They were not best in class. But it didn’t matter, we just retailed to  boutiques, like, we were on our own time schedule and it didn’t need to be best in class. But suddenly, you know, we’re retailing in one of the most prominent retailers in the country where we have to, you know, we needed an upgrade in our system the process that we just didn’t know how to do it. So she came in and because she had built this On Purpose program for Kate Spade in Rwanda, she built what we built but with a major company backing her with all the best processes and procedures kind of behind her. So she came in in January and started kind of transitioning us from sort of our mom and pop we figure it out on our own operation to actually building a supply chain that could support growth. So she came in and did that.

Around the same time we knew, like I told you we’ve got to grow fast, right? Because we’ve just spent all this money building a retail infrastructure to support Neiman’s Marcus but it’s really expensive and we’ve got to have, you know, probably 3 or 4 more account at least over the next year to make that spend make sense. And so we started looking for new business and to make everything more complicated, we had a verbal exclusive with Neiman Marcus through the end of this year so we couldn’t go into any other retailer at that price point and really any other retailers through the Akola brand at that level. We could do boutique but not other big stores, so we thought how in the world are we going to grow if we can’t compete with Neiman’s? But we wanted to honor that because they really built our business. What was so cool about Neiman’s too you know, their whole team came around us, their CEO, Karen Katz, their GM, their department manager, they all helped us figure out how to build this which is so cool. I mean they basically created our brand for us in partnership with us.

Susan: That’s really neat.

Brittany: Which was really cool and Neiman’s never gets the credit for that and people don’t understand kind of all they put into any of their brands, but especially one like ours that give back so they were helping us build it, but we wanted to honor that verbal exclusive with them but we needed to build the business so we created this idea of sort of a sub brand called One Bead One Hope. And our thought process was we could kind of create inexpensive jewelry at a low price point that anyone could afford that has our same impact made in Uganda but sell it through a different brand. And so we created this One Bead One Hope brand and they have these beautiful cards that have a picture of one of our women on it and you write down your hope for someone that you care about and you get to give them the product and kind of think about it as you where it and support a hope for women in Uganda through our program. And it was really successful and so we started testing these products and we thought, “Gosh, I mean we’ve got to get this quickly into some volume retailers,” so I met the CEO of Walmart through the National Retail Federation – we won one of their awards as one of 25 groups kind of reshaping the future of retail and Walmart was a part of that and met Doug McMillon and went up to him and said,”Hey, we’ve got this great product line and we’re in Neman’s with our Akola brand and we really want to create volume product at a lower price point that anyone can afford but through another brand to support our women and he did the same thing that Karen did at that meeting and he said, “Okay, shoot me an email and explain a little bit more,” and I did, and the next thing I know his entire team is coming to Dallas to learn about and what we do at Akola. And we’re test launching through Walmart this holiday which is really exciting so we’ll start in 30 stores and see how they do and 30 road shows and go from there. So that happened and then we secured another account with a volume retailer that I can’t reveal because it’s coming out in two months, and then another one with a major department store which also comes out in a couple of months.

So we’re able to build the business that we needed through this sub brand without having to compete with Neiman’s and we’ve done that, and that’s all launching this Fall which is really exciting and now we’re talking to some other retailers about the Akola brand as well. So it’s been an exciting season of figuring out with no playbook ever how to do this and how to be successful, knowing that what’s on the line it’s or women’s lives and their livelihoods and their ability to provide for their kids which gives anyone on our team the momentum to figure out whatever we need to to make this work. So it has been an exciting time and we’re looking at a lot of different structures that would allow us to grow like we want to grow in the future to support more women so we’re going through a lot of corporate planning and structural planning to even understand how we can do this kind of moving in the future. So yeah, busy, crazy season but I think I’ve learned in the past year to allow it to be busy but not to take over my entire life. And so that’s something that’s been fun is realizing you know I can make my family a priority and rely on other amazing members of our team to pick up some slack and we can still grow but grow in a way that’s sustainable for my life as well.

Susan: Brittany, I am so excited for you. One of my questions was going to be like where are you guys headed next and you’re on this whole crazy train to all these other different amazing places and I am so excited to hear what is to come, I am so excited what you guys are doing for these woman and for the brand in general and just for awareness, you know, what women are going through around the world and providing jobs. To me, that is something that if you can provide a job for a woman, you can change a whole family, and I think that’s one thing you even talked about before. I could ask you a million more questions, we could be here all day, I am not kidding, but I want to respect your time and I really appreciate you coming on.

I do have one question that I like to ask every guest before they leave, and that’s this, your story to me is just so amazing overwhelming, ambitious, and I really am a person who believes that there is something inside every woman that she is supposed to do before she leaves this planet, and I think you were really lucky and you found it at a really early age and you went from zero to like 900 miles an hour and I don’t even know if that’s possible but you seem to have made it possible. Tell us, if you could give a woman listening today just the one actions step – she’s had this thing in the back of her brain, maybe even since college that she knows that she needs to do one day before she leaves this planet, what is one action step that you can leave her with to take today so that she can take another step down the road?

Brittany: I think the advice would be take the step because here’s the thing, I think we all, you know, I totally agree with you, I think every person and this is something we believe at Akola and is fundamental in or mission, you know, every woman is created, any person, for so much more than they can imagine or dream, and unlocking that is the whole point, like, what is that? Why are we here, and what can we do with the one kind of precious life that we have? And our goal is the kind unlock that for our women and we have been able to do that, but what’s funny is through the journey I’ve unlocked that in myself. I mean I’m so much more than I ever thought. I never thought I could do any of this, like, I wasn’t a great student, I wasn’t involved in community service, like, there was nothing about me that was above average in any way, and it started out with one step of faith, you know, taking the next step and staying yes to something which at the time was very small, it was this little tiny home for these kids and then I took another step and another step. And I think sometimes people get so overwhelmed when they hear stories like this because especially if they do want to know the whole story because they’re like, “Well I could never do that,” and that’s not true at all, like, no one starts out, I think very few people, thinking they’re going to do these big great things, it just starts with one step of faithfulness and you continue to take those steps and fight against the disillusionment and failure and the fear and you keep on going and keep on taking those steps and you don’t give up and something amazing happens. So my advice is take that first step, and if you’ve already taken that first step, don’t give up, keep on taking those steps because eventually it will end up being what it’s supposed to be and you’ll end up being who you were created to be which is even more of the point, I think.

Susan: Well, Brittany, that was the perfect answer. That was flawless, I really appreciate that. There were a few times I kind of teared up a little bit myself. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story. Thank you for sharing the Akola story. And I just really, really wish you luck. We’re coming up on the holidays quickly and I know that you are getting stuff in there because I’m sure September, October is really when you guys are really pushing that stuff out so good luck with that and thank you so much for sharing the story with us today and keep us posted on who you’re launching with through the holidays because I’m excited, I want to share that on our website and on our Facebook page.

Brittany: We’d love that. Yeah, we’re so excited about the One Bead One Hope line. And again, for anyone here who wants to buy more elevated jewelry they could do that through our Neiman Marcus account and we have a mass market line at akolaproject.org so that price point is really under $100 but the One Bead One Hope line that is launching in the three retailers this Fall, products will start at $7.99 so it will be a special brand, an incredibly affordable product where you can have an impact at a very low price point and be able to give great gifts through that. So maybe you go and buy the Neiman Marcus necklace for yourself and maybe for a very special friend or for a teacher’s gift or stocking stuffers you could buy from our One Hope line at these retailers. So I will definitely pass that information along when we’re launching and hope that everyone comes to see what we have in store.

Susan: Yes, and I will make sure to link all of this on our show notes and the Facebook and the Twitter and the Instagram and all of it so nobody fear that they’ve missed anything, it will all be there in the show notes. Thank you again, I really, really appreciate it, and I will talk to you soon.

Brittany: Thank you so much.

Susan: Bye-bye.

Susan: Isn’t she great. I just love Brittany and how she took an opportunity and literally ran with it. Through Akola, she is changing the lives of women around the world. I am a huge fan of Akola, the brand and the mission. Thanks so much for joining me today. I will have all the links Brittany and I discussed over on the transcript page on our website. So check that out for a link to their website as well as links to their Neiman Marcus line. As more retailers come online, I will try to remember to link them there as well. Thanks again for listening and for sharing this podcast with your friends. This show is truly a great love of mine and I appreciate the opportunity to bring it to you. Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for subscribing and thank you for rating and reviewing it.Y’all are my people and y’all are just the best. I’ll see you soon.

Balance doesn’t exist, but you can still be a business owner and a mom, with photographer Rae Barnes

Susan talks with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes Photography.  Rae is not only a professional photographer, but she is also a mother of four.  Rae shares that she wanted to be both a mom and a business owner and they discuss how she does her best to balance both.  

Transcript:

Susan Long:        Friends, today I’m talking with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes, photography. Rae and I met in college and for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an incredibly talented artist. We talk about everything from owning your own business, being a mom, balance and boundaries. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to talk with her and I hope our conversation gives you the same boost that it gave me. Here’s Rae.

Susan Long:        Good morning, Rae. How are you?

Rae Barnes:        I’m doing well. How are you, Susan?

Susan Long:        I am great and I am so excited to have you here with us today.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, I’m excited to be here too.

Susan Long:        Friends Rae and I met in college. I was very thankful and very lucky that she transferred schools and she transferred to my school. She is a photographer and I think in a little bit of an unusual way. She has been a photographer since the beginning of her career, meaning unlike a lot of us who have transferred our skills around and found other things. Rae started out here, so friends, I’m just going to let Rae kind of take it from here and I’m going to let you run with it Rae. Tell us how you got started, how you knew that’s what you wanted to do. If you knew that’s what you wanted to do. Just let’s start at the beginning.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. So my journey is rather interesting. So when I was at Converse College with you, um, I really thought that I was going to either go into advertising or teach photography on the college level because both of those things were practical and I like to think of myself as a practical person. So I graduated and started pursuing advertising. Interning with the firm. And not long into it I got a call from the dean of the art department, at Converse College saying someone was looking for a student to photograph their wedding. And of course I always loved photography and I had studied it and pursued it, but wedding photography was always seen as the bottom of the barrel for artists at least at that time. But you know, being a recent graduate, I thought, what the heck, I’ll make a little extra money. So I photographed my first wedding straight out of college and I loved it. It took me about a year and a half to go full time. So I did have a couple different jobs in there. I also got engaged and married and moved to two different states in that year and a half before I went full time. But um, yeah, it was kind of wild road that has taken a lot of turns, but I can say that I have been a professional photographer since I graduated college.

Susan Long:        I did not realize that wedding photography was seen as the bottom of the barrel and we don’t have to go down that rabbit trail, but I find that fascinating considering how much wedding photographers charge.

Rae Barnes:        Well, so it’s not seen that way anymore. At all. In fact, I was talking with someone yesterday and they assume that if you are making your living as a photographer then you must be doing weddings and I do not do weddings anymore. Uh, I did that for eight years and I’ve been done for five. So.

Susan Long:        So talk a little bit about that. How did that transition happen and what took you down this same career? Kind of, but a little bit of a twist.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  So several things happened. So I was very passionate about wedding photography. I loved it when I first started my career when my husband and I had just gotten married. We were in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and it was a destination wedding market. The locals couldn’t necessarily afford photography, but all of the people coming in that were having their weddings there were spending a lot of money and they could afford photography. So that was my market and it was great. It was really great for that stage in my life, um, for being a newlywed. I was very passionate about it. And then in 2009 I had a baby.

Rae Barnes:        My last year before I became a mother was a crazy year. I probably worked 50 hours most weeks, sometimes closer to 60, I had someone on staff, I had a studio space, it was a six figure business it was crazy. It was really intense.

Susan Long:        You were living the dream

Rae Barnes:        Sort of. Accept I was exhausted. So then I had a baby and I was not prepared for how much that changed me and my life and my outlook on how I spent my time and working even 40 hours was no longer an option. So I cut back dramatically, and then my husband got a job in Philadelphia, so we moved in 2010 from that tiny little market where I was big fish in a little pond. Had the corner of the market was booking out a year and a half in advance to this huge city where there were tons of photographers. So, so, you know, to make a long story short, it took me about two years and two more pregnancies to decide that I could no longer do weddings  and part of it was just because of the market. It was very different client in the city than it was in the mountains, obviously and part of it was just our life.  I didn’t want to be on my feet for 10 to 12 hours so it was just a natural progression to move towards family photography and so that is a hundred percent of my income comes from family portraits. So you know, it was quite a rollercoaster making that adjustment. 2013 was a really slow year as I transitioned away from weddings into families but that was when our third child was born and I needed to be slow. So it worked out kind of a roller coaster and it worked out. I back up to a six figure business, but I only work 24 hours a week. So that’s amazing.

Susan Long:        Yes, it is. Holy Cow. And you’re not exhausted. Well, maybe you are now because you have four children.

Rae Barnes:        Now I have 4 children. No, but it’s a much healthier balance for me. It’s much healthier being balanced, having family time and it was time.

Susan Long:        and I love that you have found a way to do that and also have not only a successful business but I would imagine have something for yourself that’s outside, ya know, the “Momming”  thing.  Which I love “Momming” too, but I love having something outside myself outside of all of that just kind of for me. And it helps when you can make a little money doing it.

Rae Barnes:        Absolutely. Yeah, so even the years when I was pregnant and nursing and doing all of those Mom things, I never let my business go and part of that I think just is rooted from me being stubborn, but part of it is also because I have some very loyal clients and I just could not imagine letting them go and I also couldn’t imagine not having that outlet, not having that creative outlet. There are some amazing photographers out there that when they become moms seem to start focusing on photographing their own children and I just don’t find the same contentment there that I do in running a business. I want to run a business and I’ve always enjoyed that, so it’s always been a good thing for me even it was very part time.

Susan Long:        Well talk a little bit about that. Talk to us. Obviously you’re very passionate about your business and being a mother. How do you, I guess, how do you make that work?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think it’s taken me a long time to figure it out. My oldest daughter is 9 now and I feel like I’m finally getting to the point where I have a really great balance, so it’s taken me quite a bit of time, but honestly it just comes down to boundaries. I have an office in my home and I close the door when I’m in here, and even if I have a nanny here that’s watching the kids in the summer, that door’s closed sometimes its locked if I’m on the phone. I have very clear boundaries of this is work time and then this is family time. Um, I don’t check my emails. I don’t usually make phone calls. I, I very rarely make exceptions for certain appointments outside of those hours. Now I do all of my sessions on the weekend typically, but I’m never away from my family for more than three hours. Um, and so I think that that has really been the key to keeping us all kind of happy is having those boundaries.

Susan Long:        Absolutely. And something, I’ll interject something here just a little bit because I know there’s a woman out there saying, well I have nowhere in my house. I don’t have a spare room for an office. Friends in launching this podcast. My family is also building a house, so we’ve got a lot going on and we’re currently in a rental home that has no extra bedrooms. We are using them all and so I have taken a very small closet. It’s actually a closet in our house and I have a very, very small desk and a little like wall shelf and a few things set up on those. So if you really want to find an office, you can make one in your home.

Rae Barnes:        So for 5 years I worked off of a laptop. I did not have an office because where my current office is used to be the nursery.  So I had a laptop and I would either hide in the basement, which is very dark and cold. Um, or I would go to Starbucks or the library or anywhere where I can find quiet. I, yeah, you just do what you have to do you. And I worked, you know, slower years. I worked during nap times, I worked after the kids went to bed. I didn’t have as clear cut bundaries as I do now because I was first and foremost mom during the daylight hours.

Susan Long:        Sure.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. That was challenging. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world, but I also wouldn’t go back to that time for the world. It was hard.  Yeah. You just kind of, just make due with what you have, that’s for sure.

Susan Long:        So clearly you have set yourself up for success. You’ve done it over the years, but how do you define that for yourself?

Rae Barnes:        So, um, success for me is a really interesting thing to think about, because I don’t view success as a destination rather a journey. I really, I personally feel my success is a balance of contentment and discomfort. So the contentment is contentment with all the accomplishments I’ve had, all the wins that I’ve had, seeing how far I’ve come, but no comfort in staying there. I don’t find comfort in staying there. Um, success is something I hope that I never just sit here and think, OK, I’ve made it. I’m successful now. I can just coast because I think that’s really dangerous place to be. I think complacency is a very dangerous spot to be, especially as a business owner, a small business owner, entrepreneur, anything you’re in, especially creative fields. Things are constantly changing. So there’s no time to coast.

Susan Long:        Sure.

Rae Barnes:        So its just a delicate balance to me of being content with what I’ve done, but not content enough to stay there.

Susan Long:        Well, in that same vein then, how do you motivate yourself and how are you, I guess your best cheerleader? Like how do you, what is it that keeps you going?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think it just comes down to my why, Why? If I’m ever feeling like I’m lacking motivation, I have to look at why that either the two levels of why, why am I lacking motivation? Um, is it because I’m doing a task that needs to be eliminated or delegated or renovated. Is it some task that would be better outsourced?

Susan Long:        Yeah.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, I’m really big on outsourcing. I couldn’t do it in 24 hours a week. Um, I couldn’t do it all, but I have a team of people that I outsource certain things to. But there are certain tasks that just don’t need to be done. And then there are certain tasks that you kind of have to power through it, you know, you do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do and you just kind of push through those things and you know, then the other level is the why is why am I doing this, you know, thinking about I only want to work a 24 hour week right now because my youngest is two and my next youngest is about to go to kindergarten and I want time with them.

Susan Long:        Absolutely.

Rae Barnes:        You know, even if it’s just two days a week I take off and I want to be there to take my kids to school and pick them up. Um, so, you know, it’s job that I love, I really love what I do. I love working with families. I love helping them create wonderful pieces for their home, but at the end of the day it is a job. It’s very fulfilling, but my family is the most important thing to me and so my time away from them needs to be spent wisely and I need to be efficient and you know, pursuing the things that are going to advance my business and make money so that I can provide for my family really, you know, those are the two things that keep me motivated,  keep me stepping forward.

Susan Long:        So you have these, do you have any fun tips or tricks or books you’ve read or blogs you’ve read or podcasts you’ve listened to that have helped develop that side of yourself to know?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think, that for me, there’s no one thing that I pursue a lot of things. So I read or listened to books. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I am part of a photographer’s mastermind group that is full of education. I’m full of different business organizations and so I pursue education constantly and I think that that helps keep me going. All of those pieces of never stop, never stop learning, never stop listening because even if I’m listening to a podcast with somebody who, you know, it’s in a completely different industry from me, I still can learn so much about how to better my business through other people. So I can’t say that there’s one thing. You know, one of my favorite books I’ve read recently was by, Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Susan Long:        Oh yeah.

Rae Barnes:        That was really, really a great read, especially as a creative entrepreneur because so often, you know, we have this concept of the starving artists. And he says, you need money to make art.  Which is very true. My latest camera cost me over $5,000. So if I weren’t charging appropriately for my work I wouldn’t be able to afford my equipment or my computer or I wouldn’t be able to run a business if I didn’t charge appropriately. So that was really a great great book for me. But like I said, there’s so many different sources that I just every day am being fed by somebody different usually

Susan Long:        That’s, that’s really fascinating. I love that and think, I mean, you’re not charging your clients, you know, $5,000 for one photo. So they saved a lot of money right there.

Rae Barnes:        Although I do often have clients that spend that much, but it’s not on one photo.

Susan Long:        Exactly. But they didn’t have to go out and buy the camera. Oh yes. We’ve done a few. We’ve done a few family photo sessions at this point. I am well aware of what they cost, but I’m also very excited when I get the results. So it’s worth it every time. And I know you’ve talked about doing traveling stuff in the past. I don’t know, you still, we still have not been able to get our families together for any kind of photography or just anything because I’m never on the east coast. Um, or if I am, I’m never out of the state of South Carolina, but one day, one day Rae you will photograph my family. I am bound and determined to make this happen. I love your work. I love your work. We’ve talked a lot about family, we’ve talked a lot about your work, but let’s pull back a little bit and talk about yourself because I hear you giving, giving, giving a lot to your clients, a lot to your business, a lot to your family. How do you take care of yourself? How do you put it down?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. So, um, I can’t say that I’ve mastered this.

Susan Long:        No one has.

Rae Barnes:        But as Moms, it is something that all of us struggle with. It’s so interesting because I’m an introvert and I work alone most of the time. Every once in a while I have my assistant in the office with me that most of the time.  And often that recharges me being alone, you know, but I do have a job that can be intense and stressful. You know, running a business is not easy. And so I think for me it’s really making sure that I do get alone time. That is not stressful. Taking time to be unplugged, I really try to leave my phone at home, we go to church on Sundays, and it kinda annoys my husband, but I leave my phone at home so can’t text me an tell me where he is in the church somewhere in the church.

Rae Barnes:        But I just love to leave that behind and stop looking at whatever I was looking at,  you know, exercising, going to yoga is, is always really great for me. I love being outside, you know, every season it’s just a little bit different what I do to recharge.  It’s really easy as an introvert to live in a vaccum, but we can’t do that. Even just going out with my girlfriends or one girlfriend meeting up, going out with my husband. We try to do regular date night. Thats just so critical for us because our dinner table is so loud.

Susan Long:        I can imagine

Rae Barnes:        I mean date nights are sometimes the only time we get to talk to each other. Like, oh, what are you doing, what are you doing at work these days? But it really is so important to seek out ways to be recharged. Because you get burnt out easily, otherwise.

Susan Long:        Absolutely and I love that you brought up making time for your spouse because especially working and working late hours, getting this thing off the ground like I have been doing. We have seriously had to make an effort and having a toddler, a three and a half year old. We’ve had to make time for each other that we haven’t had to do in a long time and I don’t know that we ever had to do it like this and finding that, making that happen has been very, very, very important. So I’m glad you brought that up.

Rae Barnes:        It’s so important to be intentional with your time. I think that balancing a business with the mom life has really forced me to be intentional and efficient with my time and I don’t mean efficient when I’m with my children.  Sometimes you just need to sit there and be there.  Or playing Chutes and Ladders. Candyland. Monopoly.

Susan Long:        Yeah. We haven’t gotten to that Monopoly stage yet. I’m not looking forward to that part.

Rae Barnes:        Monopoly Junior is a good start.

Susan Long:        Oh, that’s right. There’s a junior that that would be easier. I know many of our listeners have heard you talk today. They’ve heard our conversation and they realize that they can do this. They’ve had this dream in the back of their head. Whatever that dream is, whatever that goal is and whatever about our conversation today made them think maybe. Maybe I can do that. So what action step, because we can talk all day long and talking is great, but until you take that leap, there’s no action. So what is that action step that maybe you would advise a friend to? What would be that next step that they would want, that you would suggest they take if they are looking to do something on their own outside the box? Just starting maybe from scratch?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  So there’s, um, I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve heard people say this, the title of this book over and over again, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

Susan Long:        I know exactly what you’re talking about. I haven’t read it either.

Rae Barnes:        I need to read that.  It should be my next Audible. Sometimes I just have to listen,  but um, I love that thing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway because just about every step that I take in my business that makes my business better is scary. It’s scary,  but there’s always that fear that nobody’s going to come back to mewhen I make this change. Nobody’s gunna like this. You just have to kind of push through that and do it anyway. But like I was saying before, you can’t live in a vacuum, so I firmly believe in seeking out mentors, a mentor or an accountability group, or any  kind of source you can find that’s really going to help feed you the courage to do this, but do it thoughtfully and intentionally doing research and then just take that first step, you know, you will find that community that you need to help encourage you to do it. But then just do it. Feel that fear and let it fuel you and just take that first step and you know, it’s not, it’s not a cakewalk doing something that is challenging obviously, but it’s absolutely worth it to do that, to pursue these challenging things because when you do succeed, it’s just, there’s, the payoff is so great, you know, and I wouldn’t trade where I, am right now for the world, I am just so thankful for all challenges I’ve been through. The hards times that I’be been through. There have definitely been some really hard times. Running a business. Being a mom. You know, there’s always challenges, life isn’t easy, but anything worth pursuing isn’t going to be easy. Right?

Susan Long:        No, not at all right. Well Rae, do you have anything else you want to share with us before we close today? Is there anything that I missed?

Rae Barnes:        I was thinking about one thing. If I’m speaking to anyone who is in those beginning stages of building a business or you know, becoming something new sometimes we all struggle with that confidence to take that step. And I was thinking about this and I know we mentioned, we’ve talked about this before Susan, this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I  think culture right now. We really struggle with comparison that it is just like this virus this disease and it’s just come over all of us because we have social media that is constantly showing us how great everybody else’s life is.

Susan Long:        Yes.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  It’s easy to get sucked into that. And uh, I would challenge anyone to just step away from it.  Social media is, is it necessary evil. But you are looking at everybody’s highlight reel and nobody has it put together. Nobody has it perfect. Nobody’s living the dream 100% of the time. Life is messy. I just wanted to throw that out there to just, to not be in a comparison game of comparing yourself to where other people are, you know, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no such thing as someone going from zero to 100 overnight. That’s my closing thought.

Susan Long:        That is a fantastic closing thought and I really appreciate you being here today.

Rae Barnes:        Thank you.

Susan Long:        That was fantastic. Yes, absolutely. We will have to have you back at some point, but thank you again and we will talk soon.

Susan Long:        Wasn’t that fun? I have so many takeaways from this conversation. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I’m tucking that one away. Friends, thanks again for joining us. If you liked this episode, I know you will be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you’ll be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in the show as well as Rae’s website, raebarnes.com and social media info on Instagram at Rae Barnes photo and on Facebook at Rae Barnes Photography. Thanks again friends, I’ll see ya soon.

 

Confidently leaving something safe and finding something even better, with Caytie Langford

In her first interview, Susan talks with executive coach, Caytie Langford.  Caytie shares her story of walking away from the executive role she always thought she wanted after realizing it wasn’t what she wanted at all.  They talk about defining yourself through your work and what that looks like when you do a complete 180.  They discuss everything from starting your own business and how scary that can be to the importance of self motivation, self care, and techniques to bolster self confidence.

https://www.shawnachor.com

https://www.ted.com/talks/luvvie_ajayi_get_comfortable_with_being_uncomfortable

https://luvvie.org/im-judging-you-book/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1tTZSuHJKM (Sara Blakely)

Transcript:

Susan Long:                        Hey everybody. Welcome to our second episode of how she got here. I am so excited about today’s show.  Today, I’m speaking with Caytie Langford. Caytie is an executive coach, although that is not where her career started and we will talk a little bit about that. We will touch on topics such as the importance of setting boundaries and self care. We will also talk about self confidence as well as inspiring and empowering other women and how in turn that inspires and empowers us. Welcome to the show.  I’m excited you’re here.

Susan Long:                        Good Morning Caytie. How are you?

Caytie Langford:               Good Morning Susan. I’m great. How are you?

Susan Long:                        I am doing well and I am so excited to have you here today and I cannot believe this is finally happening.

Caytie Langford:               I know. I’m so excited.

Susan Long:                        OK, so let’s just jump right in. Um, and tell us exactly what you do.

Caytie Langford:               Yes. I am an executive coach and I specialize in helping ambitious, savvy women who just aren’t satisfied in their career.

Susan Long:                        And full disclosure, I know you’re an executive coach because you’re, my executive coach.

Caytie Langford:               That is right.  Yeah. What I do is I help women figure out exactly what they want to get clarity on that and we’ve worked to move them from where they are to exactly where they want to go and so it has been such fun working with you on this big project that you are launching.

Susan Long:                        Yes, and I really, I could not do it without you, but I want to go back. I want to go back to maybe the beginning to where. How did you get here? What, what did that look like? Because this is not where you started. This isn’t even how we met.

Caytie Langford:               It’s not, it’s not. We met actually when I was in fundraising. I spent the first 13 years of my career out of college in major gifts fundraising in north Texas and I like so many women had a plan of where I wanted to go. I was on the ladder climbing it constantly and I knew that I wanted to be in an executive role and so I worked really hard to get there. Was chief development officer at an organization sitting in my corner office one day looking out the window and realized that what I had was absolutely not what I wanted, and so I took a huge leap of faith after coaching on my own, tears, thoughts, speaking with my husband, and so I actually walked away from that career entirely, and that was about three years ago will be three years in May, so I had a total journey change to be able to get where I am today.

Susan Long:                        And that was an easy change to make. Right?

Caytie Langford:               Oh Gosh. I would love for people to think that was an easy change to make, but it was absolutely the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was completely wrapped up in my job, my career, my title. It was how I defined myself. It was how others define me in our community and it was everything to me. I, you know, I have I’m married but don’t have any kids, and my career was it.  It was the thing, but I realized that I couldn’t be miserable at what I was doing. I really wanted to love my work. I wanted to love my job and in the beginning I did love fundraising. It was phenomenal. It put me in places and I had the opportunity to meet with people and work with people that I never would have come across, but in the end I was just totally burnt out and I just knew it wasn’t the right thing for me anymore.

Susan Long:                        How did you find what that next right thing was? Did you just wake up one morning and go, I think I’m going to be an executive coach?

Caytie Langford:               No, I actually, my husband owns his own business.  I thought that we were going to work together. I actually convinced him to give me a title and I started working on some projects with him, but in the meantime I really wanted to figure out what I wanted to do and I will say when I left fundraising, I was very intentional about not going back to fundraising and the weird thing is is that my phone rang from recruiters and people that I knew for a year. People wanted to know if I was going to get back in fundraising and I knew that that was something I didn’t want to do. I knew that whatever it was I was going to work on my own and so I thought working with my husband on our own would be a good fit. It ended up not being a great fit just. yeah, we just, we. We work really well in life together, but perhaps not so great at every day working partners. So I spent six months. I was very fortunate enough to be able to take six months off and do a lot of soul searching and a lot of digging and I did this a lot through conversations with people, prayer, meditation. I napped a lot. I spent a lot of time with my girlfriends and actually it was one of my girlfriends who took me to dinner one evening and she said to me, she said, ever since I met you, we met a couple of years earlier on a girls trip. She said, ever since I met you, I felt that I was supposed to tell you this, but I never realized when was the good time, and she whips out these papers out of her purse and she says, I think you need to become a coach.  She herself was a weight loss coach and she said, I think that you’d be fantastic at this and I want you to look into this. And it’s funny because I had worked with multiple executive coaches up until that point and in fact my executive coach that I was working with at the time really ushered me through leaving my job and figuring out what to do next and so I’m sitting there with my friend Cynthia and I just went and bought the book that she suggested (Self Help Coaching 101 – Brooke Castillo). I started looking into things. I started being really intentional, thinking about it, meditating on it, praying about it, and it took a couple of months before I really figured out this is exactly what I wanted to do, but it didn’t happen overnight. It definitely wasn’t that quick, but it did happen and it happened with a lot of intentionality.

Susan Long:                        Tell me, and this is not something I asked you before, but tell me a little bit about getting that first client, the work that it took to get to that point.

Caytie Langford:               Sure. So when I first started, I actually did group coaching and it was pure faith on my part. It really was the opportunity for me to step out, be super scared try something and what I did is I put together a list of about eighty women that I knew and told them that I was going to be putting together this group coaching program.

Susan Long:                        And they all called you and wanted your business.

Caytie Langford:               Yes. Every single one of them called me.  No, I had about fourteen women who said yes and signed up and went through an eight week program with me and I learned a whole lot about myself, a whole lot about other people and I did it scared to death every single week. I kept showing up and thinking, these women are going to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing. But what was awesome about it was there are people that went through that program with me two years ago who still talk about the impact that was made back then and how they look at life differently. So it gives me such excitement and I’m just, I’m just awe inspired by those folks. But I will tell you so that while also super scary getting a big group of people, really what I do as individual coaching. So getting my first individual client was even scarier. Um, luckily I have a really large network and I had proven myself in the past.  And so I say, Luckily Susan, you and I have talked about this so much. So many of us women, we don’t own our successes. We, we chalk it up to luck or someone else or some something outside of ourselves. And so I’ve really actually shouldn’t have used that word luck. What I had done was I had proven myself in the past, with this woman, she was going through a change. She was really wanting to ramp up her business. She, she owns her own book of business and so worked with her. But the only reason that she said yes, the only reason that she wanted to talk to me about it was because I had proven myself in the past and um, and she took a leap of faith with me and we had an amazing, um, eight month run together and helped her accomplish her goals. So that first one was super scary, but it’s always the first one that we do. The next one and the next one and the next one.

Susan Long:                        I’m sure you had total confidence in yourself that entire time. So tell me, tell me how did you, how did you, how are you your best cheerleader? Because I’m sure you even have these moments now, right? How do you motivate yourself?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, absolutely. So the one thing that I have learned about owning my own business and stepping out, doing something for myself, I’m not working for someone else, is that it’s a roller coaster. And the best way to get ahold of it is to not ride the highs and lows of the roller coaster. But obviously we do. We, we totally do. We get sucked into. I can’t, it’s not possible for me. I’m not enough, I couldn’t possibly be the right person and so I have some techniques that I use with myself and I actually teach my clients the same thing because really no matter what kind of change you’re going through, it’s that competence piece that holds us back. And so I always liken it to driving a car. You know, think about this when you were 16, 15, 16. The first time you got in a car to drive it.  I know for me it was with my grandmother in the parking lot at a mall before the mall opened one morning and I was terrified. Ya know, here I am in charge of moving this 2000 pound vehicle. And when I think about that, I had to think, I really had to think about every single thing I did when I first started driving. Put Your seatbelt on, put it into gear drive. Actually, you know, and now you think about it, you get in your car every single day, you don’t think about it, right? There’s times when you get out of the car and you’re like, I don’t even remember where. What was I thinking about? Cause I sure wasn’t thinking about driving and so I think the same thing comes to self confidence is that we have to act even when we are scared, even when we are nervous. So one of the things that I do, I use my journal every single day.  I’m big on gratitude journaling. I think there’s a reason why Oprah suggested it to all of us because it works. I think there’s a reason why, you know, Shawn Achor is selling books about how to increase your happiness and why gratitude works because it works. And so I do that daily. I encourage my clients to do that, but then I take it a step further and I have in my office, you know, the giant sticky pad, sticky notes and I have a list of what I call badass stuff that I’ve done and I’ve written out thing that I’ve done that at one point in my life. I thought it was scary and it’s everything from, you know, buying my first house, getting married. The first time I fired someone, I remember that was terrifying for me.

Susan Long:                        wow.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah. I even have going snow skiing the first time I went snow skiing, I was almost 30 years old,  I’m not really a daredevil, but for me that list is something that I can look at every single day so that when I am having that self-doubt, when I am having that loss of confidence, I can look at that and it’s almost a litmus test to be able to say, OK, what is this in front of you that you’re scared of and how does it compare to all these other things that you’ve done? And nine times out of ten it’s not even as scary as any of the things that I’ve done in the past. And so I think a big part of confidence, a big part of self confidence is you have to take the first step. You actually have to move into action and when you move into action that’s, when you get more confidence, more competence, and it grows from there.

Susan Long:                        I’m beginning to understand this action part. You have been a huge, huge help with that even with myself and that is the number one jumping off, taking the leap. That is so the hardest part.

Caytie Langford:               It is. It is. My favorite quote is Martin Luther King Jr. When he says, “faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” And I think about it in terms of What you just said right this leap we think of, you know, the pictures that we see on Instagram or Facebook with, you know, the girl jumping off the cliff and it seems so big and so daunting. And yet I think when we look at what Martin Luther King Jr said it, when you say it’s just the first step, when you can’t see the whole staircase, it’s not as scary sometimes when you think, oh, ok, it’s just the baby step.  Action. Absolutely.

Susan Long:                        I’ve listened to a Ted Talk recently by an author who wrote a book and I, for the life of me, I can see the cover and I cannot see the title of the book right now, (I’m Judging You The Do Better Manual) but her name is Luvvie and her Ted Talk. She talks about the same thing. She calls it like she talks about the domino effect and I think Mother Teresa even relates it to a ripple effect, you know, and it’s like you throw the first stone or somebody has to be the first domino to fall and then everybody else starts coming with you. And I think we’re seeing that now. I think we’re seeing that now with women.

Caytie Langford:               Absolutely. I think it’s an interesting time to be a woman for sure. I think that, what our grandmothers and great grandmothers lived through, you know, a hundred years ago or even less, you know, 50, 60 years ago. We definitely are in different time and yet we still have challenges. We absolutely do. And what I love about women is that we can create these communities, these tribes, if you will, of women who support each other, who can lift each other up. And I know that that’s one of the things that you want to accomplish and you want to make sure happens through this podcast, is that I think that when we are our best is when we are all helping each other get to where we want to go. I find it also super fascinating that by me taking a step in faith by me taking this leap to leave my career, how the ripple effect has. I’ve seen it, I see it every single day. There are people who work with me because I took that step and they think, ok, maybe it’ll rub off on them. Maybe I can teach them something and the reality is maybe I can teach them something and maybe it will rub off on them, but I think we also get confidence by seeing other people succeed, by seeing other people be brave. It teaches us that we can dig deep and be brave amongst ourselves as well and within ourself.

Susan Long:                        And I just love that this is your thing.  That this is your career, this is what you are helping women do every day is you are helping them take whatever that next step is and I love that.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, I do too, Susan. I mean I. I got off the phone about 45 minutes ago with a client and almost every single time I get off the phone with a client I say, oh my gosh, I love what I do and I love helping them figure out what’s next and how to uncover what the next action item is.  I also really like helping them face their fears head because we all have them.  You were talking about self confidence. I am in the middle of a huge project that I don’t feel qualified for that I don’t  think I’m the right person for, but it’s something that I feel called to do and so I’m doing it, but earlier this week, I mean I was just wallowing in self doubt and self confidence. I just, I just thought, oh goodness, why me? I can’t do this. And being with my clients and helping them actually helps me because I see how brave they are and I can sometimes I steal some of their braveness. Absolutely.

Susan Long:                        Yeah, for sure. I think the more we can feed off each other the better, but I know you’re not the only person on your solo person team. Tell me a little bit about who’s behind the scenes. Are you doing this all on your own?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, I definitely don’t do it on my own. Well, I think first and foremost, I’m really blessed to have a partner who completely just is my biggest cheerleader. My husband has owned his own business for 16 years, so he’s seen some of the things that I’m going through. Um, and so he definitely helps me out and is always there. He’s always encouraging me and I actually have my own executive coach that I speak to two to three times a month and there’s no way I could do it without her because just like my clients, I face some of those challenges and so she helps me. And then I definitely have a small group of girlfriends who are sounding boards who give me ideas and I talk through. And then I have a ton of just strategy partners and these are people I mean everything from my marketing people who did my website and my copywriting. If somebody said, oh, I love your website, did you do it on your own? And I almost burst out laughing.  I said, no way, right. Because I know what I’m good at. I know where I know where I have strengths and talents. And so I partnered with a lot of people who have other strengths and talents that really do make me look good and helped me get where it is that I want to go so I can focus on what it is I do well. But yeah, it definitely takes a village to do this work. And I think for any of us there’s some kind of village that we need to be able to get where it is that we’re going.

Susan Long:                        I want to switch gears just a little bit and I want to talk about you as an individual outside all of this and how you kind of let this go at the end of the day or recharge your batteries and how you take care of yourself. How do you, how do you put it away? how do you put it down for the day? Because that’s hard to do.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, it absolutely is. And what’s what I want to start with is just sharing a little bit about success. So one of the things that I have learned is that I had to define success for myself. So what I realized in my former career was that success was always about somebody else’s external definition and not about my internal definition. And so when I got what it is I thought I wanted I realized I didn’t want it because it wasn’t actually what I wanted. So for me success is really simple and clear. it is my desire is to inspire, motivate, and impact the lives of women, period. End of sentence. And that’s something that I look to do every single day in my life. But I also think that you’re absolutely right is that even though I know that’s my life’s purpose and it bleeds over into lots of different things, including my volunteering, me just spending time with my friends, that kind of thing. I have to turn it off of work, right? Because at the end of the day, my coaching and my speaking is still work. And so I set boundaries. I’m very clear on when I take calls, when I don’t take calls, when I answer email, when I don’t answer email and it’s something that my clients know and I think they appreciate as well. But I do believe that we have to take time for self care and you and I have had these conversations. Everyone is talking about it and yet it almost seems counter intuitive to so many of us, right? Because early on we’re taught, put your head down, work hard and you’ll get exactly what you want. So the idea that we would pause, take a step back, do something for ourself. Like that seems selfish, right? it just seems off. And so what I have realized and what, what mentors have taught me is this balance between being and doing. We’re such a doing society, right? It’s the checklist, it’s the, I’m busy, it’s the, you know, I’ve got 97 meetings on my calendar today and a hundred and four things on my to do lists versus the being part, which is slowing down. Who are you, who do you know yourself or are you taking time to really be your best friend? Um, that kind of thing. And so for me, I have some specific things that I do for self care. One is I love to walk around my neighborhood. It’s just nice to get outside to breathe fresh air. I always feel connected to that. And the other thing that I really love doing is cooking. For me, cooking is a creative outlet. It’s a way that I can relax and I just love it. So there are days where I’ll bake bread in the middle of the day. I work from home so I can do that in between calls. But you know, some people that seem so stressful and for me it’s relaxing. The other thing about cooking for me personally is that it actually builds my confidence because I take a lot of risks and challenges and so, you know, one of the things I did in 2016 was I wanted to learn how to make pasta. Well now I can make pasta, homemade pasta, you know, not even think about it. So I’d move on to bigger and bigger things, trying new things and I realized if it doesn’t work then that’s ok. Right? There’s, that’s where the learning comes in, but cooking, being outside. for me also spending time with my girlfriends really is about self care. It’s about recharging my batteries and so I do those things. Um, and a good journal is always fun.

Susan Long:                        That definitely helps me clear my head as well for sure. So I know that there’s somebody out there who heard our conversation today. I’d like to say they overheard our conversation at the coffee shop and said in their head they’re going, it’s time, it’s time for me to take the next step to take that leap. I overheard this conversation for a reason. So what advice would you give that woman? What would be an action step that she could take to help her move forward?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, absolutely. I think that the key there is action. You actually have to do something. I Also think that if you can have some kind of accountability, whether It be a small group of people, a coach, a pastor. somebody outside of yourself. I will also say, and this is something I talk with clients a lot about, is that there’s a difference in making this broad announcement to everyone in your world and keeping things a little bit closer to the vest and I think you have to figure out what that looks like for you. Every case is a little different, but you know, one of my sheroes, one of my, you know, women that I look up to so much is Sara Blakely who founded Spanx love her, love her story and if you read her story, if you’ve heard her speak about it. She didn’t have a Lot of people that knew what she was doing and she kept it there, kept it small to small group of people because she didn’t want too much noise. She knew that if she had a lot of noise, she might not be able to take those actions. I think that when you’re thinKing about what it is that you’re going to do, taking the action, it might be that you need to tell everybody in the world so that you have/feel accountable, but it might be that you keep it to a close set of advisors and when you’re ready to let more people in, you let them in. You know a couple of people at a time, but it is key for you to do something.  The other thing that I tell my clients all the time and I tell myself this is we have to suspend the belief that we’re gonna know how it’s all going to work because we don’t. We don’t know how it’s all going to work. I had no idea two years ago that my business would look like what it is. I had no idea three years ago when I was sitting in my office miserable that my life would look like today had no idea. And so what I do know is that when the resources are needed, when we need to meet the people we need to meet, when we need to learn the next step, it’s almost as if those things appear by magic and I don’t think it’s coincidence. I don’t think it’s magic, but when the time is right, if you take that step and action, the next step will reveal itself the thing that you need most, the resources that you need most will come to you. But it’s not gonna come to you if you don’t first take the step. So many people Just wait, they wait for the sign, they wait for, you know, the gift that’s going to pay for something or, or that kind of thing. And that’s just, that’s not how it works. You have to move first and then what you’ll need next will come to you.

Susan Long:                        Oh my gosh, it is so true. That is uncanny the way you just said that. Cause I’ve heard, I’ve heard other people say that, but just saying that today to me and just some of the stuff that has happened over the last couple of weeks. I just cannot. Yes, it’s absolutely true. I just, I can’t, I’m, I’m over here. You can’t see me, but I’m over here like my head is just nodding. Yes, yes. So in closing, I just want to say thank you so much for doing this. I am one. I’ve been a big fan of you for a long time. You were always one of those people who seem to have it all together. I love to know in this conversation that you don’t, but you do at the same time. Um, and I just want, I think everybody in the world should just call you and, or listen to you speak or hire you as a coach. I mean, you’re just a phenomenal, phenomenal person and you’ve done it and you’re doing it every day and I just, I absolutely love that.

Caytie Langford:               Well, thank you.

Susan Long:                        Can you tell everybody where they can find you, where you’re speaking next maybe?

Caytie Langford:               Well my next speaking engagement is next month, and I’m going to be speaking at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, that’s a long name.  Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. I’m speaking at their Next Gen Conference for women under 40 who are entrepreneurs and own their own businesses. And I’m their keynote speaker for that and so I’m super excited about that.  That’s in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole and I know tickets are still available so I would love to have people join us there for anybody who owns their own business and is a woman. You can find me on, on Facebook at Coach Caytie. I’m also on Instagram at Caytie Langford and my website is caytielangford.com.  And so the only thing you’d need to know is that Caytie is not spelled the normal way thanks to my awesome mom who was super creative. Um, my name is spelled Caytie, so Caytie Langford.

Susan Long:                        Awesome. And we will have links to all of this up on our website. And so all you have to do is go and click and follow or friend or whatever. And then the name of her, the spelling of her name will be ingrained in your head because it just doesn’t go away after that. It’s the best spelling ever. It’s so unique and it’s so fun. And I absolutely love it. Well, Caytie, thank you so much for joining us today. I absolutely love that you were here and friends. Just have a great week and Caytie we’ll have to have you back soon.

Caytie Langford:               Sounds great. Susan, thanks so much and ladies that are listening, I just want you to know that whatever dream is in your heart, whatever it is you’ve been noodling on, that you’ve been thinking about that wakes you up in the middle of the night, whatever that looks like, you can absolutely have it. You can absolutely make it your reality, so thank you Susan for having me.

Susan Long:                        Thank you.

Susan Long:                        Wasn’t that the most fun? I just love Caytie and find her so inspiring. She’s taken such a leap with her career change and not only has it paid off for her, but it has paid off for her clients as well because of her change, she is truly empowering others. thanks so much for listening today. If you liked this episode, I know you’ll be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I Would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you will be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in this show as well as Caytie’s website and her social media accounts.

Susan Long:                        thanks again, friends. I’ll see ya soon.

 

Premier Episode

In the premier episode of How She Got Here, Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women, Susan, the creator and host of the podcast, shares the tipping point in her life that drove her to action.  She was tired of being made to feel inadequate by messages she had heard and internalized since she was a young girl.  She also discusses how sharing her story with other women lead to her hearing similar stories from others.  The result of all of this has lead to the creation of this podcast. The goal of which is to share the stories of Everyday Extraordinary Women! 

Transcript:

Susan:                  Hey friends, welcome to the first episode of How She Got Here, Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women. I’m Susan. Your host and creator of this podcast and I’m grateful to have you join me. Ladies, we are on the cusp. We are living in a time of great opportunity and possibility. Women are rising together all over our country, all over the world. This space highlights everyday women doing extraordinary things. Why? Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” These everyday women’s stories we hear are the stones, stones, to inspire us, to create the ripples, calling us to be ourselves, to push our dreams, to reach a little higher than we thought we could. My goal each week is to bring you a guest with her own awesome and inspiring story. So consider this my invitation to you to accompany me on this journey. Come with me and let’s explore the fascinating and inspiring stories of the women around us. I hope we will laugh together. I hope we will cry together. I hope together we will learn more about ourselves. I confess, I don’t know where this journey will take us, but as Tina fey once said, “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide over thinking it. You have to go down the shoot.”

So to me, one of the greatest part of going on a long trip with someone is that you get to learn so much about them and your relationship with them is never the same. So today I’m going to share a little about me.

A few years ago there were some huge changes in my life. My husband and I overcame a struggle with infertility and we finally had the baby of our dreams. That will be a whole separate episode that I’ll save for later date because that’s a hard subject. One evening after a particularly hard day, I put the baby to bed and finally had a moment to myself. I was watching television and what I saw on the screen sent the message loud and clear that as a woman I wasn’t enough.

And whether it was the straw that broke the camel’s back that night or the huge lack of sleep, I burst into tears and yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake that feeling in the pit of my stomach and it’s that feeling we all have sometimes. It’s that voice in the back of the head, my head and your head, and the anxiety that no matter what I did, I was never gonna be enough. This feeling consumed me and the fear of failure paralyzed me. These are messages I had heard either directly or indirectly all my life. Most recently it was a message I heard when I was talking with someone who was very close to me, and this is not a political podcast. This is just my truth and this is just a part of the story. It was the night that the Access Hollywood tape was released and I was on the phone with this person and I said, what if this man had been talking about me? And all this person could say to me at that moment was “he represents my values” and I was shocked.

But you know, like I said, I’ve heard this directly or indirectly all my life. I heard them in the church I grew up in where to this day in 2018, women are still not allowed to preach. I heard them in school when I was told I couldn’t wear shorts to school because they weren’t fingertip length. And like many of you, I’m sure I heard them from strange men, adults who cat called me when I was around, you know, 14, 15, 16. And the adults that I trusted said, oh, just ignore them and take it as a compliment that you look cute.

That’s the message we want to send to our young girls. That’s the message that I was supposed to get from that. That not only that I’m cute, but I’m supposed to take a cat call as a compliment. No!  No more. But I realized that these are messages that have been internalized and ingrained in myself, and I’m guessing some of them are probably in you too. And what’s worse is I kind of believed them. We’ve all gotten these messages on some level, haven’t we? And it seemed this night, this night that this breakdown happened with me, it seemed like it was a night that was years in the making, but I wasn’t just devastated anymore. I was angry and I was mad and I was tired of the BS. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I woke up the following morning and I was exhausted. I knew I hadn’t slept well, but I also woke up determined with a new sense of purpose. I reached out to a few friends who I consider to be sisters and I was reminded that I was at my best when I was surrounded by these women. They’re friends from college and I was fortunate to have graduated from a small single gender liberal arts college. It was an amazing bubble. It was safe and it was empowering for me and it was like no other place on earth. And I have not had that same experience since. I also reached out to my former professor for women’s history, Dr Melissa Walker for a list of books on our foremothers. I felt like a refresher would help on our history, so I read about Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B, Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, the early days, how it was started, why it started. I read about the Seneca Falls Convention, who was and wasn’t included and the privilege associated with that. I re-read the story of how long it took us to get the vote and in case you didn’t know, it took us 70 years to get the vote. Susan B, Anthony did not live to see the nineteenth amendment ratified. She died in 1906 and the nineteenth didn’t happen until 1920.

Y’all change takes a long time and sometimes it won’t come in our lifetime. I read about Catherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, and they had a really cool movie come out about those women, but the book was 100 times better. I read about Grace Hopper, Coretta Scott King, Sally Ride, Sandra Day O’Connor, and these are just a few, a few of my favorites.  Y’all, there are so many incredible women. Women we didn’t learn about in standard history classes and these are women that changed history that for sure will be a future podcast episode

During this time I also found it helpful to talk things through with a therapist and I know therapy is still sometimes a taboo subject, but just being able to talk this stuff out is really helpful and if you’re going through something, I would seriously encouraged you to do that. I also journal during this time and I started some serious spiritual meditation. I tried being still and I tried centering myself and eventually started to pay off. I started to notice things that I had not noticed before and hear things that I would have otherwise missed. I began to truly value these authentic moments, not just with myself but with those around me. I found that it was these moments that renewed my spirit. As I worked through all of this and started sharing my story. Other women confirmed similar situations and similar feelings. Apparently a ton of us are walking around looking pretty darn amazing on the outside, but on the inside we constantly feel like we aren’t enough, and I have had enough of that.

Have you? Y’all I want this space to be a place of peace. I want to create a place where we can celebrate. I want this to be a place of inspiration. I want us to be able to share our hopes and our dreams, but more importantly, maybe most importantly, I want us to be able to speak our truths and I want us to grow together. So that’s just in a nutshell my story and we’ll learn more about each other as this goes along. The next time we meet, I want to begin our journey together in earnest. In the meantime, I would love for you to reach out and say hello. Tell me about yourself. What are your hopes and your dreams? What do you think of our first couple of episodes? I would appreciate your feedback after all. This journey and this space is not just mine, but I want it to be ours. And I’m ready and I’m so excited for it to begin.

I’ll see you soon.