I People today look beyond simply having a job. Instead of dedicating themselves to a company, putting their work above all else, they want to find a purpose in their work. They want to be and remain healthy, experience more joy and love, make more money and feel abundant. Making a profit feels much better when they’re also serving their families and communities with passion and purpose. It’s about balance and people find it in different ways: working for someone else’s company, large or small, or starting their own business. They want to have financial freedom so they can choose how to use their money, whether that’s getting out of debt, sending a child to college, improving their health, or traveling and seeing the world.
Having your own business can allow you to create a product or provide a service of your own that aligns your passion with profit, leave a business to pass on to your children and, hopefully, give you time to spend with your family and travel.
In 2017 I read a powerful remark in Oprah magazine:
“There’s the thing you do for a living — and then there’s the thing you were born to do. If your dream is to make them one and the same, you’ve come to the right place.” (Patti Smith, Oprah Magazine, November 2010)
At that point, I had been running my own lifestyle business for 25 years. Reading this, I realized it perfectly described my life. I know there are many women who want to embark on that journey, and that is what drives me to share more about how I started my business and, more importantly, how I’ve been able to keep it going all of these years.
In 1993 I experienced a slip-and-fall accident that took me out of the workplace as I’d known it, working as a nurse in both traditional settings and home care. After an initial recovery, it became clear that the pain in my neck and, literally, my ass, was not going to relent. In fact, it would take more than six years to finally stop. As I accepted that pain was going to be a part of my every waking moment, it seemed a good time to make some changes in my career.
I’m not exactly certain what I was thinking when I jumped off the proverbial cliff. I decided to approach my massage therapist and friend to rent an office from her, and the next thing I knew I had an office, put office stuff in the office, and then started the long journey to discover everything I could about starting and running a small business. I hadn’t a clue. Since I had nothing better to do with my time as I could hardly walk across the room without crying out, why not do something that would take my mind off my pain? My Type A personality wouldn’t allow me to just lay around, so it seemed like a possible option.
As I was a Registered Nurse and B.S.N., I decided to start a healthcare marketing company. Coincidentally the month that I had fallen, December 1992, I had met a woman who had an interesting printed product that she sold to doctors’ offices around the country that helped educate women about their pregnancy. She had been looking for someone to help her with sales, marketing, promotions, and more. I didn’t understand these concepts, but I told her I had developed a knack for educating and promoting others. After some discussions we agreed to work with each other, and I signed my first of many contracts. Over the span of eight years, she taught me a great deal about running a business and we ultimately took her materials to a whole new level.
And so I began my journey to marry my passion with my purpose. Unknowingly, I had embarked on what I would later call my version of “El Camino de Santiago” that would have many twists and turns, go uphill and down, be full of a Pandora’s box full of possibilities and harrowing experiences as well.
Essentially, as Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, put it, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the story of El Camino de Santiago, let me digress… It is a network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of Saint James the Great in the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in Spain where, perhaps, the remains of the saint are buried. Some people use it as a form of spiritual growth while others simply love to hike or bike it.
Now let me tell you that, in truth, I had no idea what I was doing when I started my company and became a tenant with an office lease. I was a nurse for gosh sake. What did I know about running a small business, never mind the fact that I was experiencing intractable pain? Well, as they say, “What you don’t know may hurt you.” In retrospect it was a good thing I didn’t know what the stats related to starting a small business, particularly for women, were or I might have thrown in the towel early.
I’d been practicing as an OB/GYN (obstetrics/gynecological) nurse since 1984. I migrated to home care in 1991 and then stumbled into marketing at my first home care company where I was hired to split my time doing presentations in doctors’ offices and home care for high risk pregnant women.
In a word, I simply “loved” my new-found passion. I’d had passion and intuition and purpose with my nursing career, but marketing really tapped my other talents for making connections, winning others over, thinking strategically, and communicating verbally. I would learn much later that my number one strength was being a connector (according to a Strength Finders 2.0 assessment).
So while I was trying everything to recover my physical well-being trying, I found myself running a business and if that wasn’t enough, I ran for president of a small medical organization. Have I mentioned that I was also a single mother?
I became the president of the organization and, with the help of my team, grew it into a large body. It inspired me to start a female women’s business group which came to be known as Women in Small Biz. After about five years of running both groups, I chose to focus on Women in Small Biz and began hosting larger-scale meetings, conferences, and ultimately a summit.
After eight long years of dedication to both the product that I was selling and to the woman that I’d been representing, the time came for us to go our separate ways. It wasn’t easy, but we severed our ties and life moved on.
Why do I share my story? Because there are many ways to marry your passion with purpose; this is just one way that one woman made it happen. Although I’ve continued to evolve personally and in business—owning a boutique marketing, promotion, and publishing agency—it hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve had to pivot and adjust along the way. Even so, starting my business has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made.