Strong Women, Strong Businesses
A little over three years ago, I started my own business. It was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. The past three years have been a wild ride, and I’m proud to say that I have successfully established myself in my field. As International Women’s Day approaches this week, I’d like to acknowledge the women (and some men) who inspired me to hang my own shingle.
I had good role models
I grew up surrounded by a cast of strong women. My grandmother raised six kids while sewing doll clothes at night to help support the family. One aunt went back to college at age… well, let’s just say, well past the typical age - to get her master’s degree. Another held her family together as they watched her husband being ravaged by cancer. And yet another led a fabulous and successful career managing people in the food service industry, a job no sane person would desire! I was truly blessed to be surrounded by such pillars. Each quietly bent her head to the work, rarely complaining, persevering though thick and thin.
My mother and my older sister paved the way for me as a business owner, as both bravely struck out on their own when I was a young adult. Had they not, I would never have believed I could. Their example was clear and inspiring, including both failure and success. It was from them that I learned how to navigate those turbulent waters. In the summer of 2015, my mother was the one who planted the seed of belief in my head that I could launch my own business. She and my sister became my unofficial board of advisors, and their words of encouragement have been like gold all along. I needed strong and smart women to remind me that I could do it in spite of my fears.
I was heard
There have been plenty of strong men in my life too. When I was young, women’s roles in our society were undergoing a revolution, and that sometimes led to confusion over what I should strive for. Being a wife and mother was the gold standard when I was a toddler, but as I moved through grade school, a new message arose, telling me that I should want a career. I swayed back and forth between the two like the branches of a willow tree before a thunderstorm. I saw my grandfathers and uncles struggle with the change too. They were in the habit of praising the girls in the family for being pretty, while praising the boys for being strong. But I saw them work to change that habit.
In the end, I chose motherhood over career. It was the best decision for me, and I have never regretted it for a second (well, maybe for a brief moment or two). And then I chose career, too. In those crazy days, when I was trying to have it all, I had four of the strongest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing support my decision. My father, step-father, father-in-law, and especially my husband all resisted the urge to tell me to give up my career when it was hard to balance work and family, despite being raised to believe that was the right path. They could all see that it was important to me, and they provided much needed validation that I was doing the right thing.
And it didn’t stop with just my family. In my last job before I struck out on my own, I had a boss who always believed in me, along with a strong team of colleagues that heard my voice before I had the position or title that demanded it. They were the epitome of a relatively new creature in the business world: men that hear a woman’s voice as clearly as a man’s, with equal weight and power. I rode the wave of confidence they gave me into starting my own company.
I was inspired
Over the years, I have found endless inspiration in stories of women who are willing to step into the ring with men and fearlessly let their voices be heard, while still exhibiting grace and poise. Rosa Parks, Condoleezza Rice, Anne Frank, and Beth Moore are some women that come to mind. Women who are seemingly unaffected by the overwhelming feeling that we may be perceived differently, and often lesser than, men. I would not be the successful business owner I am today if these women hadn’t stood up (or sat down) for themselves.
On International Women’s Day, I’d like to say thank you to all of the incredible women (and men!) who cleared the path for me. I can never repay them for paving the way for my success. My goal now is to pay it forward to my daughter, my nieces, and all the other “I think I can” women, both young and experienced, that surround me. May their paths to success and contentment be smoother in my wake.
“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”- Rosa Parks
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Woman with cape: aslysun/Shutterstock.com
Sewing machine: Jonas Kakaroto/pexels.com
Willow tree: Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock.com