“Behind every great man, is a great woman.”
Obviously, I agree with this statement. I’d personally like to take credit for every good thing in my husband’s life no doubt (ok, you caught me, I guarantee he supports me more). But these days, it’s just as important (or perhaps even MORE important) that behind every great woman, there be another great woman. Women are rising in the ranks and as the great Beyonce says, we “run the world.” We not only outperform male CEOs 3:1, but we continue to dominate (though not yet enough) in both scientific and creative fields. So it’s only fitting that as a budding entrepreneur, I’d turn to the women around me for advice.
What I found though, wasn’t just self righteous advice or humble brags that at first had me hesitant to reach out. But rather truly strong, smart and independent women who wanted nothing more than to help me succeed. In my corporate life, I had been so used to women having to cut each other down to fight for the 1 top spot “available” to a woman in leadership, that I forgot how powerful we can be when we lift each other up. I also didn’t quite realize how many women I knew who are entrepreneurs and business owners. Best of all, they were the most uniquely positioned to understand my fears and my excitement in a way that didn’t need the same explanation that they do when I’m talking to my male supporters.
Here’s a few tips and things I learned by just asking questions and listening to the strong women behind me:
Authenticity is powerful. The relationships that have gotten me the farthest in my business are the ones that I’ve been able to create because I’ve genuinely liked the people I’m working with and relate to them as women. My friend and now partner Anna and I started out as strangers living in the same all girls dorm freshman year in college. I remember us shopping together on the drag and her pulling me in her room before a night out to fix my lip color. My respect for her talent as a fashion and makeup artist turned into a great business idea when we met for coffee 3 years ago to catch up! Even now as we finished out our crazy weekend at IMATS to buy our supplies and work on our schedules, the kindred spirit I see in Anna makes all our work feel more like fun.
Give someone a chance. It was Monday morning after my original wedding photographer had forgotten about our engagement photoshoot and left us hanging at 4:30 AM for our “should have been” sunrise shoot. A coworker overheard me in despair about finding a new photographer and handed me the email address of his good friend and part time photographer, Nicole of Nicole Ryan Photography. I didn’t have much in common with this coworker and Nicole was still just part time as a wedding photographer so I was nervous. I felt like I was running out of time and budget though, so I took a shot (pun intended). Thank god I did! Nicole taught me that photography is a special combination of technical skill, planning and most importantly personality. Her ability to make non-models feel comfortable and look gorgeous is perhaps one of the most unique skills she has and what led to the “risk” of using real women as our models for Make the Rest Up. A decision I don’t think I’ll ever regret. I think a big part of this is the way she relates to her subjects, woman to woman, to make them (and me!) feel beautiful and confident. She shot my wedding, her first Hindu wedding and our look book and editorial shots (I think one of her first of this kind) and because she has the earnest desire to try new things, she brings the best energy and ideas to all of our shoots, something I didn’t feel I could get from other more “seasoned” business photographers I have talked to and worked with in the past.
You are more alike than you think. I first started working with Shelly when I hired her as a copywriter and editor for some content marketing I was doing for a software company. Despite our age difference and the fact that we intended to work together in a formal professional way, Shelly and I both started down the path to creative businesses around the same time (she makes and sells the cutest t-shirt ponchos in the entire world!). When she told me about her venture to start ponchogo, I immediately blurted out my idea for Make the Rest Up and my fears about quitting my job. I asked her how she started freelancing and contracting as a copywriter and man was I blown away by what happened next. Shelly not only helped me figure out to set myself up as a legitimate contractor but she shared the tools, the advice and most importantly the confidence to take the plunge. In fact, she even agreed to be one of my models! Knowing that someone who has “been there and done that” believes in me so much was crucial to motivating me. The fact that we could discuss not only business considerations but my real life fears of how this business will affect my marriage and/or future family down the line is something I needed in a female mentor. Shelly is not only a #badassbosslady (as are Anna and Nicole) but her genuine kindness and excitement for my new business endeavor motivates me in such a unique way.
I could obviously continue the list with tens of strong, smart women who have helped me and will continue to help me, but my point is that women provide a unique point of view and our personalities and sensibilities are such a huge part of what makes us amazing #badassbossladies. Next time you feel inspired to try something new, gather the women from your life and look to them for guidance, support and friendship. It will take you farther than you ever thought.