After conforming to what school cliques pressured you to be, complying to what your job pays you to be and molding into the person your family needs you to be, it’s almost impossible to grow up and become who you really are.
But today, there’s a new breed of woman that says it’s okay to be true to yourself and live life how you want to. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there’s a growing number of stay-at-home-dads. More women are buying houses sans spouse. The National Association For Female Executives says 424 women start businesses each day – more than twice the rate of men – which means 15.6 million American women have left traditional jobs to venture into the entrepreneurial world.
The statistics are plain as day. Women across the country aren’t afraid of breaking the mold to make their dreams a reality. Now, how can you be a part of this exciting dream-realizing revolution?
Nine to Five, What a Way to Make a Living
“Working nine to five; what a way to make a living.
Barely getting by; it’s all taking and no giving.
They just use your mind and they never give you credit.
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”
Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” song lyrics say it all. Maybe you have the boss-from-hell. Or maybe you just weren’t cut out for a traditional 9 – 5 job. Whatever the reason, many people wish they could say “Sayonara” to cubicle land, but are too afraid to pack their bags.
“The last time I worked a 9 – 5 job was five years ago, and even though I was ‘supposed’ to work from 9 – 5, I actually ended up working late into the evening on most nights,” says Kristen Folzenlogen, owner of Poeme in Hyde Park. “I finally came to the realization that if I wanted to work that long, and that hard, it should be for something I personally built, developed and would be able to look back on as my own.”
As a 30th birthday present to herself, Folzenlogen quit her 9 – 5 to start her own business. Today, she’s not only the owner of Poeme, but also The Bridal Studio in Covington, a stationery business called Letter Heads and a card line called “Cardiology.”
Folzenlogen was lucky (and smart), though, because she created a cushion of time where she was still working her 9 – 5, while getting her dream job started. Friends and associates asked her to do individual design projects for their weddings, babies, etc. She got experience in the stationery industry with those side projects, until she was faced with a big decision: “I enjoyed [the side projects], so I encouraged people to spread the word. Within eight months, I had to choose whether I would stop taking these moonlighting projects or do it full-time,” she recalls. “Otherwise, I would either fail at my 9 – 5, or my side jobs.”
It’s now obvious which option won out. And today, she says she’d never go back. “I could never work for someone else again,” she says. “I just know my personality, and the one thing I am good at is that I like to succeed. I don’t mean that in a conceited way, but in a way that if given a task by someone, even if it’s not my specialty, I will find a way to meet that person’s expectations.”
Folzenlogen says that’s a fantastic quality for a business owner to have, but is also a frustrating quality for someone who wants the credit for accomplishing something as part of a team. “When I worked for someone else – although the people who worked with me appreciated my efforts – I still remained anonymous to most of our clients. I like a good pat on the back!” She says you should keep this in mind if you ever go into business for yourself.
You can’t get to the roses without getting pricked by a few thorns. Same holds true for overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of you and your goals. Patty Brisben, CEO and founder of Pure Romance, says the key to surviving comes from within. “It’s normal to feel apprehensive at the start of any career switch, but you should never underestimate passion. If you’re passionate about what you do, it can carry you through some of the toughest obstacles!”
She speaks from experience. Pre-Pure Romance, Brisben was an assistant to four pediatricians. After getting inspired by consultants on a Phil Donahue Show who were selling intimacy products through in-home settings, she knew that was her ticket to having a flexible schedule and sufficient income. Everything was fine and dandy. That is, until that company folded.
“I came to a crossroads where I had over 50 Consultants relying on me as their team leader, not to mention my own four children relying on me as well,” Brisben says. So, she turned that frown upside down and started Pure Romance, which is now a multi-million dollar company (more than $80 million in sales last year, to be exact). And giving her reason to never frown again, Pure Romance now boasts 80 full-time employees and more than 20,000 Consultants nationwide.
But getting started in the industry wasn’t always easy. She hit an obstacle when people close to her questioned the nature of the business. “There were some people close to me who didn’t understand at first. But after attending a party, they realized that this was a clean and classy business and was truly providing a safe environment for women to learn more about sex and intimacy,” she says. “Believe it or not, I hadn’t even seen a bedroom toy before picking up the phone to sign up as a consultant. It was through my customers that I discovered how much women learned about their bodies and incorporated these products into their intimate relationships.”
For Folzenlogen, everything left-brain presented an obstacle. “I found the most difficult things were the skills I had never developed; a lot of the paperwork, [such as] building a business plan, incorporating, taxes, accounting, outsourcing services,” she says. “I’m sure that’s true of most business owners though. Someone starting their own accounting firm probably doesn’t have a huge skill set for developing their logo and collateral.”
Folzenlogen’s advice is to decide what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then commit to hiring qualified individuals to help with your weaknesses. “It’s scary to relinquish some of that control and to swallow some of the costs involved, but it’s definitely worth knowing that everything is being done professionally, correctly and in a manner that allows you to focus on what you do best.”
Being True to You
Gigi Gunckle, a Mt. Healthy-based lesbian, says her obstacle was realizing she wasn’t like everyone else. “Near the end of my senior year I did kiss a woman,” she recalls. “It explained so much in a few seconds. My thoughts were, ‘Oh, this is what people think I’m feeling when I kiss a guy.'” She made a wise decision to be true to herself early on, and come out to family and friends then, rather than later. She says many people she knows try to live the “normal” life, which often leads to failed marriages and getting children caught in the mix. “Starting out early in life upfront is what I think has made my life very uncomplicated.”
But how do you be true to yourself? Mary Claybon, a certified nurse, wellness consultant and coach with The Middle Way, a local health promotion company, says you should close your eyes and envision yourself a year from now. Ultimately, what would you like to be doing, what will you look like, what will you feel like? From that vision, you can develop goals. But not just any goals. SMART goals, which stand for:
“If you don’t stop and reevaluate, you’ll fall on your face. You have to stop sooner or later. Create a vision, and evaluate how important that vision is to you,” says Claybon. But why SMART goals? “They give you a way out. Otherwise, it becomes vague and your goals can very easily not be met,” she explains. “Also, there’s no way to measure regular goals. SMART goals move you toward your vision.”
If you feel guilty about developing these goals, don’t worry; you’re in good company. “We often feel like introspection is selfish. We’ve been taught to be a giver, not a taker,” says Claybon. “As a woman it’s even worse. We’ve been conditioned to take care of others.” But, she adds, you must take the time to get to know who you are because “you won’t be able to give yourself to another, unless you really know yourself.”
So, don’t feel guilty; take the time to set SMART goals. They will help you envision who you want to be and pave a defined path to your desired destination. Folzenlogen wishes she had done this when getting her business started. “[One] thing I wish I had done better was to make some projections so I would encourage people to make a list of goals – immediate, short-term and long-term – in writing,” she says. “I think if I had done that immediately, it would’ve been easier to prepare for some surprises!”
Gunckle also suggests surrounding yourself with like-minded people to help support your decisions and dedication to a new life. For Gunckle, she’s now active in Parent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which provides opportunities for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. She has also been greatly impacted by being a part of the West Chester-based Life Success Seminars, which have helped her gain awareness of what she wants out of life.
Words of Encouragement
At this point, you have the tools you need from success stories to SMART goals. But now you need a cheerleader to cheer you on to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y (insert spirit fingers and toe-touches). That’s what Claybon does for a living, so of course she has some words of encouragement. “In order to live your dream, you have to ask yourself, ‘What do you really want?’ People who live their dreams know what they really want,” she says. “You need to be very focused and keep reevaluating. Living the dream is very possible.”