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I am WOMAN. Hear me ROAR.

"I didn’t get anywhere in life waiting on somebody’s permission."

-Uzo Aduba in ‘Mrs. America’

Over ten years ago I decided to leave corporate America to start my small business ventures.  Needless to say, I have not looked back.  The excitement, the fear, the environment and the never-ending wonder of what's next always leaves me eager to embrace each day.  Good or bad, I am here to play.  There are times that I may have wondered if I would do it all again, but if I am being honest with myself, there is no doubt I would.

The years have taught me that people will question you, people will doubt you, people will talk about you…but that is chatter.    Believe in yourself enough to cover their doubts and jealousy.  I learned back when I started that if I can rest my head every night being at peace with the decisions I made, I am ahead of the game.  That guiding principle is always a thought when making a big decision, and so far, my track record holds strong.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I will share with you some of my best lessons.  I have always believed in coloring outside the lines, and my most important, and at times expensive lessons, come from mistakes or combination thereof with experience.  Enjoy! 

1. If you fight with an idiot, you have two idiots fighting.  You must know what battles to pick, and why.  You cannot fight every battle thrown your way and I always believe winning is the biggest deal, so keep that in mind.  What are you doing? Will it put you any further ahead or just take up your time and mental state?  Walk away, move on, start working on a different dilemma that matters.  You will never make everyone happy, and if you cannot live with that, business ownership is not for you.

2. Pick your battles.  Going along with fighting with the right people, you must understand how to get respect, yet be cautious of those who may just be taking advantage.  When I started in entrepreneurship, I would pick every battle.  I was a short-tempered Italian. I took everything too personally and thought I had to win against all to continue pressing forward.  The reality is, some people really are just trying to help better your business; yet I understand some others are just trying to get a rise out of you.  Chill and understand what is at stake. It is also important to note that though the battle may be fair, is the winning outcome worth the mental anguish fighting it might cause?  You are always your greatest resource, conserve yourself, conserve your space; you owe yourself that much.

3. You know if you can succeed, nobody else does. Do not give them that power.  You need to realize when you start a business, you are pushing yourself in every way possible.  Physically, emotionally, mentally…there is no doubt about it.  Go in knowing it will be hard, especially the first 12-18 months, but you can and will get through it.  Sacrifice now, and later you will be rewarded. 

4. Keep pennies in your pocket.  You will need to grow, whether it be early or along the way, but always understand you need to have cash flow available.  You should not leverage growth through straight debt.  It is a headache, and eventually will cost you much more than you budgeted.  Get a line of credit with a fixed rate you can handle, or if variable, have the means to pay it off when prime inflates.  Do not get into debt without considering alternatives, or the reality of what position that debt may ultimately put you in. Understand your growth measures, and know what risks you can and will take to get there.

5. Realize business and personal lives are not and should not be linked.  You must establish boundaries, especially if you work in your business daily.  There are a few reasons behind this, but the biggest…people will leave your business whether you expect them too or want them too. You have to accept that and realize taking it personally helps no-one. You have to keep your head in the game at all times, and realize that people moving on is not a personal insult to you, and honestly, you may be better in the long run with the replacements.  You cannot control everything, so be prepared to control what's needed, and have contingency plans in place for what you cannot.  I never thought to myself, wow, I was too prepared for that. Planning and preparation will guide you to success.

6. Be stubborn and know your worth.  If you know you have a good idea or plan, and others are pushing you to navigate away, be firm with your words.  People often do not realize or understand ideas, but the execution brings so much more to life.  If you create a business, you are invaluable to it, know that.  You are your biggest asset, and you need to understand your voice and opinion matter.  Ironically, sitting at an all male table is a perfect example of a time you will be judged and critiqued, or praised and encouraged.  The determining factors of that reaction will be you, your presence and your delivery. Do it, and do it well.  

7. Be patient. This one I work with daily, but honestly sometimes it really is just a waiting game. Sit, think and let the time go. Obsessing over it does not make it go faster.

8. Believe in yourself. Doubt is everywhere.  It is cheap, it is free, and honestly, it requires much less skill than success.  If you go into a new business, understand and analyze through your business plan your success routes.  Be sure you can make money, and a solid living off of what you are going to do.  You will be too involved not to be satisfied yourself. Know how to get to success, and what would serve as merely a distraction.  If you build a good plan, with a solid business idea, you can do it.  Forget the critics everywhere. Stay in your lane, keep your eyes on the prize, and push forward.  When I started my biggest business to date, I intentionally stayed away from social media for awhile.  Were those people going to be the ones to decide my fate, before I even really got started?  The hate spread on social media is out of control, but the best way to conquer it, steer clear, especially at times you are working on your business growth.  Customer reviews and opinions matter, but taking advice or being discouraged from those not even interested in your product or service, no thank you.

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others.  My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."

-Jane Austen

For all the women who have come before us, and all the women who will come after, go out there and be your awesome self. Stand tall, show your voice, and make each day a little brighter because you were there. I truly believe you can do that.



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