April 8th, five women sit behind a white table, the contours of their bodies defined by the backdrop of Burlington snow. They are a sight to see, the light highlighting the contrasts between them and the blue, snowy outside, as well as the unique traits that make each so unlike the other.
Honestly, I don’t really see myself starting up my own business any time soon-that is not something I really penciled into my very loose, malleable, 5-year-plan. I went knowing that I just wanted to see some powerful women speak about owning their shit, so that some how I might ride the wave of knowledge into a more successful, might-woman lifestyle (is that something I can pack in my saddlebags for this summer?).
Well, I was not disappointed.
The thing is, what they advised was not just pertinent to entrepreneurs, but all people who have dreams to combine work with passion. And what they said, while important for women to hear in a male-dominated society, was applicable to all sexes.
I took away a lot from the lecture, and I just wanted to share some of the tidbits to my readers.
- Sue Bette, Bluebird Restaurant Group
- Gabrielle Kammerer’s of Tom Juice Co.
- Jovial King, Urban Moonshine
- Melinda Moulton, Main Street Landing
- April Cornell, April Cornell Holdings
What was really great about these business ladies was that most of them had arduous, winding journeys preuding the arrival at their passion. I mean, I feel like we know that is how it is going to be in concept, but it feels different when you are trapped in the transitional in-betweens of passion.
April Cornell recounted an exciting trip she took with her partner to Turkey in search for clothing inspiration. April is bright at the table, draped in exciting fabrics and adorned with an energizing smile. On an extremely tight budget, she and her partner traveled, immersing in the culture to learn about fabric and styles. They actually ran out of money while there. After shipping their fabrics and dresses to Canada (obvious priority), they could not afford to get home. Through a stroke of luck, though, they met an American who employed them for a short time- enough time to get them a return ticket. That trip sparked the start of their dress kiosk in Montreal. Now she has a successful clothing line that sells all across the world.
Melinda admitted there is something powerful in nativity. She is small at the table, but something in the way she holds herself depicts strength and gravity. She pushed to get Main Street landing built despite naysayers and non-believers. “It is all from you, so work hard.” She said that often you hear people balking away from a task because they “don’t know how…” Just do it. It will fall into place. Know your strengths, and know what you aren’t good at. If it is something you can learn, learn to do it. Ask questions, ask for help.
The really inspiring part of their lecture was when they talked about all the jobs they had and… hated.
The next day I found myself recounting Gabrielle’s story while training coworker in the Perishable cooler. To those of you who do not know, I work full time as a Shift Leader (titles, right?) at City Market Co-op. Working in the Perishables cooler can be extremely fast-paced, physically taxing, and stressful. Training people can be hard because there is just so much to learn very quickly, and it is disheartening.
Like me, he is an artist, working a job at a good organization that will pay the bills as he continues to spend his free time devoted to what he loves to do.
Gabrielle worked at a chocolate factory. At the time she had thought she wanted to become a pastry chef (I think, I cannot remember what she was working towards because he goals changed with experience). She told us she became a leader figure at her work place, and one day literally spent 12 hours straight at a machine wrapping chocolates. She said she couldn’t wash the chocolate from the creases from her hands for a week after. But she took away a very valuable lesson. She learned how to create a product commercially. And she took that skill to her Juice Company.
The lesson to be learned hear (I told Max, while tossing crates of milk) is that no matter what job you have, you need to make sure you take away skills that can assist you to wherever you plan to be next. Work ethic, leadership skills, scale. Sometimes you don’t know what your next job will be, but you can make sure you take away what you can from the one you already have.
Rachel Lindsay, local cartoonist, asks “What do you do on those days that you just feel like you cannot do it anymore? Like, you actually bit off more than you can chew?” Rachel and I often console each other on the struggles of being a young artist. Her courage to leave her home in NYC to pursue cartooning in Burlington inspires me and many other new artists.
That question really struck a cord with all the panelist. It seemed like it was something they all had to deal with.
Jovial from Urban moonshine, poised in all black and high cheek bones highlighted by her blond bob, points out that anxiety is healthy- accept it and learn how to handle it.
Sue, whose demeanor is relaxed and warm responds, “Just take a nap.” She chuckles and adds “Or take a walk.” Sometimes you are too overworked to be productive. Do not work so hard one day that you cannot work the next day.
Assign a finish line, that way you don’t get caught spinning your wheels. Have a support group- everyone there agreed that you need piers, mentors, and family to get you through it. And don’t work for work. Ask what you are doing it for, what brings it to life, and why?
Their words were a huge help to me. I have never ridden a long distance bike trip before, but I am learning how to maintenance a bike, how to use hand signals to make sure cars don’t hit me (AAHH), how to use the front gear of a bike to conquer those Vermont hills. I am taking commissioned paintings for the first time, reaching out to piers and business, managing a schedule that sounds impossible if you vocalize it.
I have learned through this experience that I have a vast, extremely caring, generous, loving support group. I could probably add more adjectives there, but I will stop at that. The answers are there when you go sniffing for them.
Help me achieve this summer!
Thank you all, and good luck to your pursuits!