A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, Especially
by Christa Chambers-Price
This book is for the woman
business owner who is
Table of ContentsChapter 1
Leaving the Safety Net
Success Story #1
IsolationóReal and Imagined
Success Story #2
Success Story #3
Maintaining Motivation Survival Kit
You Canít Be Everything to Everybody
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
As I was growing up, I do recall the days of watching my Aunt Jean who would trudge off to yet another meeting with the School Board, then volunteering at the church, or the community center. She was a friend, a sister, an aunt, the negotiator and the terminator. I admired her strength and tenacity and for me, the ultimate banner of success was that she seemed to hold it all together. Or at least I thought she did. It wasnít until years later that I was told the ugly truth, that my Aunt suffered from exhaustion most of the time and generally felt as if her life did not belong to her. The same goes for my mother, who made countless sacrifices so that I could have my opportunities. I am extremely thankful for my past and heritage. So it is only natural that to continue on with the "good" gene, I must perform at my family memberís level. The dye was cast and there was my model for my future growth.
I soon realized that one of ten professional quests was to juggle many balls; I could not drop one in the process and I had to keep a smile on my face. In college, I tried to manage not two but three majors, English Literature, The Russian Language and political science. I worked for professors, volunteered at the hospital, took graduate exam preparation classes, helped organize the first (and last) African American focused graduation, I started a Performance Arts Academy at our local church, AND worked on local political campaigns.
This ability to juggle many activities was a badge of honor. No matter how I was feeling, I had to do it all. Sure, I could "bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan." But I could do one better, I could go get the pig, kill it, clean it, chop it up and serve it in the pan, all with 2.5 inch heels on! I was a success! Nevermind the fact that I was 60 pounds overweight, my hair was dull, my face broke out, I was more irritated with the children. But guess what? I got up the next day and did it all over again.
When I started The Price Design Group, I also maintained my level of extra curricular activities because again, my identity was tied to being known and appreciated for what I gave back to the community. I now joined a sorority, an African American family support organization, and I involved our girls in just about everything activity from karate and Girl Scouts to church auxiliary programs. I was taught to always to reach back and provide a hand for those who are coming behind us. Well, after so much reaching for those who were behind and those who I walked with hand and hand, I felt the slow burn of exhaustion and eventually asked, "After I strip these titles off, who am I?" The raw, naked truth of my reality was humbling to say the least.
What was I doing? Why was I allowing myself to define my character based on the number of community events and meetings I attended? In the meantime, in my scattered state, I was letting some extremely important matters slip. Of course, it is my nature to be hardheaded and stubborn. I loved the recognition and actually thrived on it. I was always ready to jump into fight the good fight. One day, I did hit my bottom.
I was cleaning up late one evening because after all of my volunteering, there was still the housework to be accomplished. I was washing the bottles of our newborn, our second child and I dropped one of the parts on the floor. As I stood back up, something snapped in my lower back. Everything went white, as the pain left me breathless. I called for my husband who helped me back to the bedroom. We have a very slight ledge from our kitchen to our living room. Lifting my foot to walk over that "bump" let me know that I was in trouble. Breathing was painful. I was on my back for two weeks. TWO WEEKS? Christa Price? Unthinkable! I was so used to being on the go, I was going nuts confined to the bed. Of course, I soon got over that since, moving even a toe was painful.
The beautiful part of my bed rest was the fact that I connected with a extremely important and neglected part of who I was, my family. My oldest daughter read to me nearly everyday (The Three Little Pigs at least 35 times), my husband cooked, cleaned, and played phone monitor. I nursed our newborn, read magazines, watched TV and did a whole lot of thinking. "What was I doing?" I connected to what was truly important in my life and that was my family. Eventually, I did give up my quest for being super community person of the decade and reshuffled my priorities. I started the lonely, arduous task of defining who I was.
What did I do first? I started by simplifying my life. Activities that took me away from home or the business were all but removed. I became a hermit in many respects, which was completely against my character since I was used to being a social butterfly. You have to look in the mirror to determine what exactly you want to do. As much as I enjoyed working in the community, I also knew that in the long run, I wanted a future that could sustain my family. So the decision was made to unplug, and I added a new word in my vocabulary: "NO."
Practicing saying "no" was a difficult task at first. My feeling was that the world would fall apart or there would be a public flogging because I refused to do my part in the community. Oh, my inability to say "no" was not confined to the extracurricular activities; I couldnít say "no" to a telemarketer or students vying for political support for the environment. I agonized for days until I finally put my foot down. It was motherís day and I enjoying a peaceful day of breakfast in bed and no sibling arguments. All of a sudden our dog, who has a ferocious bark, let loose one of her classic Ďalarmsí. I pulled open door quickly thinking, "This BETTER be good!" A student stood at my door ready to enthusiastically start his carefully prepared speech, to get my support for the environment.
For a fleeting second, I recalled my days of walking the neighborhood for the environment during my college days. Something in my psyche slapped me awake. "Wait a minute! I am enjoying my family today. Of all of the days that a mother should not have to worry about somebody elseís drama, it is on Motherís Day!" My "NO" was impressive and definitive. I scared myself. My children were standing by the door, thankful that they were not on the other side. What a great Motherís Day gift! I felt liberated and free. From then on, there was no turning back.
For those of you who still struggle with this phenomenon, remember these simple tips:
1. If you are running a company, that company is your baby. As with any infant or child, you must be there to take care of it, 24 hours a day. There can be no bargaining or half-witted effort; for your enterprise to succeed, the only things you will be able to say "yes" to are your family, and your business. No questions asked. A client will not want to hear that their project isnít finished because you decided to cook brownies for the entire city.
2. There is no other boost to self-image than to have completed and accomplished the impossible. Pour your energies and efforts into yourself and your enterprise. Itís not about being selfish, itís about allowing yourself the permission to take care of yourself first before you turn around and take care of everyone else.
3. Just say no.