When I was two months pregnant with my second child, I started a new business, selling promotional products to companies in my city. I already owned a consulting business at the time. I had a lot of international clients, but it required a week of travel each month.
The travel had been challenging as a single mom with my young daughter, but I knew it would be impossible to manage two children. I planned to build up a new business with local clients, create a life that didn’t require travel, and make a bit more sense with two young kids. The new company was promising, but unfortunately, it needed to grow more quickly to create the income we needed when my son arrived.
As an only parent, the pressure was on me to keep the money coming in, no matter what else happened. A small point, like creating a human, would not slow me down. I sent quotes to clients and worked on orders until midnight the night before my son’s arrival. And I was on my computer less than 48 hours later, from my hospital bed, chasing up orders and sending emails.
Over the next few weeks, there was still far less money than bills to pay, so I started selling anything we had of value: furniture, clothes, and most of my jewelry. When he was four weeks old, I started going on interviews for a day job to help cover the bills. I remember having a hard time getting into my work clothes when I was just a few weeks into my pregnancy.
In every interview, I was careful not to mention that I was a single mother to a six-year-old and a newborn. No potential employer was going to look at that as a promising combination.
“With a six-year-old and a three-month-old in tow, we were homeless.”
When my son was six weeks old, I started a full-time job with the radio station in the next town. When he was eight weeks old, I dropped him off for his first day of daycare. And then I sat in the car and sobbed. I will never forget the agony of leaving that tiny little boy in that noisy room full of strangers and feeling so helpless and hopeless.
Despite the day job and the business growing, it wasn’t enough. When he was three months old, I sold our house to pay off the credit card debt. So, we were homeless with a six-year-old and a three-month-old in tow. I honestly don’t remember most of my son’s first year of life, which still makes me incredibly sad.
When I was working, he was with other people, and when I was with him, I was so incredibly tired that the memory of it was gone. But that’s when something switched inside me.
I had always been a hard worker, often having two or three jobs at a time, but real business success seemed to elude me. But now, I couldn’t keep a roof over my kids’ heads. I would do anything for these small humans, but I have failed them miserably. I was going to fix this and never let it happen again.
“I balanced midnight feedings with emails to clients.”
I had always kept a small buffer between where I was and the worst-case scenario. But that small buffer was insufficient, and my current situation was unacceptable. In the future, I needed that buffer zone to be a mile deep so that the next time I fell, I would have so much space between where I was and this place that I could fall forever and never reach the bottom.
So, out of options and time, we set up camp in my parent’s room, and I worked days at the radio station and nights on my business. I balanced midnight feedings with emails to clients and tried desperately to stay awake on the drive to school each morning.
That’s when I built my first vision board. I didn’t know what I was doing; I was trying to make myself feel better — to make myself believe that something better was coming for my family. It wasn’t very ambitious. It had pictures of a simple home, a garden to grow veggies, a kitchen to cook in with my kids, a vacation to somewhere warm, and the most outrageous thing on it: a private school for my daughter.
“When I looked at my vision board, I realized I had achieved almost all of its items.”
I spent every lunch hour and break in my car, in the radio station parking lot, making client calls to build my business. I hustled and sold and worked, and after six months, the company had grown, and we moved into a place of our own. Sure, it wasn’t our house; it was a rental, and yes, it was definitely in the worst part of town, but it was a step forward, out of the hole we were in, toward the light, and it was a home for my kids.
I had a kitchen where we could cook together and a garden, and that fall, I enrolled my daughter in the best private school in the city. When I looked at my vision board, I realized I had achieved almost all of its items. My next board was more ambitious. It pictured a larger, newer home; a new car; a vacation to Hawaii; and the goal of reaching the million-dollar mark with my promotional business.
Just over two years later, we moved into that new house, which looked eerily similar to the one I had on my vision board, bought a new car, took my parents to Hawaii for their 70th birthdays, and I reached the $1 million mark in my business.
“The key wasn’t in the hard work… [it was] a mindset shift.”
So, what changed? I have always been one of the hardest workers in the room. I’m smart and reasonably personable for an introvert. Why did we end up homeless, and then what made it possible to not only recover but also to find success? The key wasn’t in the hard work. Some of the hardest-working people I know struggle their entire lives with little success. I believe the key was a mindset shift as to what was acceptable. What was comfortable? What was achievable?
I still work hard. Honestly, work-life balance is a mythical creature I have heard exists but have never seen. But success is no longer just an option or something to strive for. Success is required because I refuse to fail these kids again. I have reset in my mind what is acceptable and what is possible, and the new buffer zone is huge.
Why am I telling you this? It’s not to say, “Hey, look at me; look at what I have done.” I want to show you that you can do this. You can do even better than this. I dare say few people had less time than I had when my son was born, and I had two kids, no home, and two jobs. But I did it. You can do it too.
I have a bigger vision for you now than you have for yourself. Maybe I even believe in you more than you believe in yourself. But all you need to do is get started. One teeny tiny step today and one teeny tiny step tomorrow, and those steps will get bigger and more confident, and the momentum eventually will carry you away.
To me, entrepreneurship is freedom. It’s the freedom to build the business and life that you choose. It’s the freedom to take that incredible idea you have been holding onto, make it real, and share it with the world. And that’s what I want for every woman on earth who wants it.
Every woman should be able to create success and security for her family. When working for someone else, that person’s structure restricts your success. You can be successful, but only to the extent that their structure allows. You trade away your potential for a feeling of security.
Entrepreneurship comes with risk, but it comes with even greater rewards. It’s time to imagine what you truly desire for your life, take the leap, and reset your vision for massive success.