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Ode to Kobe: From Daughters Whose Fathers Taught Them to Love Sports

January 27, 2020

Monday Motivation, Inspiration, Wisdom and Thoughts for Fathers of Daughters, Women, Female Athletes

My father was my sports idol for most of my life. Standing 6’1” tall with broad shoulders, long legs, and wide hands to palm a basketball, I adored his athletic ability. As an outstanding basketball and football player in high school wearing the colors of gold and purple, he continued his passion for sports becoming a physical education teacher and coach in college while playing his beloved game of basketball and adding the game of lacrosse. Some of my fondest memories of him include teaching me and my sister to throw the perfect foul shot, football spiral, and cheering him on from the sidelines as we grew.

As I watched the grim news of the helicopter crash in California yesterday, after watching parts of the Pro Football Game, my heart sank, like so many others, for the loss of lives including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi. As I learned about their special father-daughter basketball bond, my heart was warmed by the knowledge they were at least together on the fateful flight. If I had to be anywhere in a scary situation like that one, I would want my father by my side. This perspective inspired me to write today’s blog post.

Today’s society still believes athletic men need sons to carry on their sports legacy by walking in their shoes, but that’s false. Two years ago I interviewed highly successful female athletes asking them who inspired them most to get into sports, 90% of them said their fathers. Even if they had older brothers who played sports, fathers were still instrumental in teaching the love of the game to their daughters. This was true in my life and that of Gigi’s life too. We were blessed to have fathers who believe girls and women had a place on the court and not only in the stand.

It wasn’t until later in my father’s life that he had two sons. His masculine pride bumped up to new heights envisioning his sons with his athletic passion but my brothers chose music over sports. My Dad and I would talk about the NFL, NBA, and especially Syracuse University Basketball when we threw the football back and forth in the yard or a lacrosse ball between sticks on the beach in Maine where he retired. The Superbowl wasn’t a celebration for me unless I spoke to my Dad about the teams, players, and the outcome of the game. I was his “sports girl” for life and he knew it.

I have fought for 25 years for women’s equality in business adding a new desire to fight for women’s equality in sports the past 7 years by creating a Women’s Athletic Network to put more women and men in the seats of women’s sports. Like Kobe Bryant, I believe a girl can and should play sports if she wants. I seriously hope with Kobe and his beautiful daughter’s passing, more fathers will be inspired to instruct their own daughters, nieces or granddaughters in the love of the game of basketball – or any game they have a passion to play….together.

Adam, Tracy and Thomas Higginbotham

Then someday when daughters become grown women, they can pass their love of sports down to their daughters or in some cases their sons as I did with mine.

Wednesday Wisdom: Business Lessons From a Hermit Crab

January 22, 2020

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Business, Entrepreneurs

Standing shoulder to shoulder alongside my young, blonde friend, who was wearing a pink sweater under her jacket to support the cause as a first time rally-goer, we weaved in and out of line until we ended up unexpectedly, and by fate, in the very front of line behind the most energetic 30 piece drum group.

“Yahoo! Let’s go! Do you feel the energy when so many women gather for the women’s causes?” I shouted at my 24-year-old companion over the drumbeat. As we marched from 72nd to 54th Street, winding around Columbus Circle, where we were only going to stand to watch but decided to be bold which led us to the front of the pack leading the way. Loving how fate plays a part in event planning, we marched, bounced, yelled, held up our signs, and walked in peaceful unison with our sisters down the typically bustling streets of New York City with my favorite feminine piece flowing in the wind. It has been with me on every feminist march to date.

Although I could paint you an even longer and deeper vision of what it felt like to take my son’s girlfriend with me to her first Women’s March, I am stopping at the second paragraph to point out something new I learned as a woman entrepreneur. It is a new way of creative writing called a “Hermit Crab Essay” taught by Linda Lowen of Always Wanted to Write. This type of writing takes a simple item like a report card, pill directions, a hermit crab shell or even a pink scarf (my example), and turns into the subject of a creative writing piece without naming it. This style of writing allows the writer to use expression and perspective in a different way.

So today’s blog post is not to relive one more Women’s March through my eyes but to remind you no one ever perfects a craft like writing, painting, singing, and leading, without education along the way. Just like the drum beats that led the marchers forward down the streets to Times Square, where two different Women’s March groups became one, developing new skills helps women entrepreneurs advance down their own road of expertise and knowledge. Could your business be better if you were a student again tuning your skills like a drummer might?

I gained boatloads of wisdom at this year’s historic Women’s March that will boil over into next week’s editorial. Remember when you open yourself to traveling out of your comfort zone to a new exploratory place with vibrant sounds, sights, and people; you enrich not only your life experiences but your business as well.

The Tale of Two Phone Call Messages

January 16, 2020

Thursday Thoughts, Wisdom and Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs and Women in Business

Thursdays are my day to catch up on phone calls and emails that slipped by busy early week duties of entrepreneurship. As big snowflakes dropped from the sky, I lounged in bed after the alarm clock went off, since I bustled around every other morning. In a sense, I had been on a “book tour” making my rounds between local and state-wide media sharing my alopecia story, new book, and lessons learned to help other women. I was certainly in the public eye for the past two weeks.

Phone messages blinked on my phone waiting for me to listen to them. Hitting replay, the first message was from a 91-year-old woman who called to share a cure for alopecia that worked for her late husband. He died in 2006 but he had alopecia in college and his brother got it too. Both had their hair returned after this one treatment she wanted to share with me. Her voice seemed sweet and positive. My heart was touched.

Following her message was an angry woman calling to voice her unpleasant opinion about me and my company not supporting the recent New York State bail reform law that can put domestic violence offenders back on the streets. “You are disgusting,” she yelled into my message machine and ear. She continued, “How can you say you, support women, when you don’t stand up for this horrific incident that’s putting dangerous men on the street?” I played two messages for my husband. He was shocked at the second one.

I glanced out at the softly fallen, quiet snow and said to him, “These two messages are two different examples of how people respond in the world today – one is kind and the other condemning.” I continued, “If the second woman framed her displeasure differently, I might have called her back to ask how I could further her cause but I won’t do that after being attacked by someone who doesn’t know me, but I will call back the first woman who approached her phone call differently.” The calls remind me the loudest people don’t get noticed the way they really want and the positive, controlled people do. Any person can make a point about any topic facing women, but the positive or negative emotionality in the point is what gets noticed and responded or ignored.

I’ll let you know if people picket my house or overwhelm my phone message box since that is what the second woman threatened if I didn’t do something about denouncing the new bail reform law. I’ll wait for them glancing out my beautiful office window on this beautiful winter morning as I call and speak to the 91-year-old woman who gently said, “She just wants to help me.” What tone will you take today in communicating with people?

If you want to see how positive, caring, and compassionate people helped me “cure” my thoughts on alopecia, buy a copy of my new book “Under the Rose-Colored Hat” and feel good about society.

What is the Month of Crunch Mean To You?

January 15, 2020

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, and Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Business, Small Business

Syracuse has one that appears on the ice. Friendly’s got one that is soaked in ice cream. Nestlé’s has had one for a long time. I just did “it” on a spreadsheet. Can you guess what they all have in common?

The word is “Crunch.” Syracuse has a hockey club called the Syracuse Crunch. My sister’s favorite ice cream was Buttercrunch along with a serving of a Nestlé’s Crunch bar on the side. My “crunch” wasn’t so sweet. It was the task of crunching numbers from my last event to see how profitable the event was.

After giving up my accounting major in college to become a general business major because I didn’t love crunching numbers or figuring out debits vs. credits, I still have to perform simple accounting tasks to reconcile statements, check profits vs. losses, figure out pricing, and bill customers for memberships or sponsorships. No matter how you look at it, crunching numbers is part of entrepreneurship.

After the sweet spending of money during the holidays, most of us are faced with larger credit card debts, less spending cash, blank proposals that need signatures and deposits, and using holiday-given gift cards instead of credit cards to eat out. With the average consumer spending $1,000 on meals, gifts, and travel, it can leave little funds to jump-start the New Year with expenditures.

Women entrepreneurs go back to doing work themselves instead of hiring staff. They frantically get out proposals and try to sign deals. They set spending budgets. They pull back on marketing and advertising too. They try to keep going until business picks up.

I saw some great tips in a recent online article listing six ways to keep sales high after the holiday peak which includes; starting a new sale, selling to consumer’s New Year’s resolutions (travel, health, etc.), releasing a new product, marketing to new email addresses you collected over the holidays, re-marketing and re-targeting your advertising, and not becoming too quiet like all other retailers after a busy season.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom should inspire you to do a few things this week. Crunch your numbers so you know where you stand with how much you spent over the holidays and then establish a new personal or business plan. Second, re-purpose your marketing to mid-winter and early spring specials to attract cash. Third, re-energize your business by ratcheting up new products and services. Finally, if you don’t have money to spend going out and networking or treating clients to lunches or gifts, spend the time crunching your numbers and preparing for April 15th to get it done.

After you accomplish those bookkeeping crunches and maybe even your New Year’s exercise goals of more stomach crunches, you can take yourself out to a Syracuse Crunch Hockey Game accompanied by at least one Nestle’s Crunch candy bar and enjoy yourself.

Reminder: Publicity Begets Publicity Entrepreneurs

January 8, 2020

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Women In Business, Small Business Owners

Two years ago yesterday I rose at the crack of dawn and drove down Route 90 to the state’s capital to sit in the audience with other #MeToo women. I was fortunate to be invited by one of the Governor’s staffers. The event had pomp and circumstance, metal detectors, national figures like Tarana Burke (founder of the #MeToo Movement), and an energetic audience of politicians and invited guests to listen to the State of the State Address. Just like on television, different groups of people rose and sat, applauded and stayed silent, when they agreed or disagreed with an item in the speech. I felt like I was at the heartbeat of the nation that day.

If you wonder how the Governor’s staff knew I was a #MeToo survivor it was because of two things: taking 120 women to the Women’s March on Washington and promoting it and paying attention to national news stories and social sharing my experience using the #MeToo hashtag. The national story was everywhere and women were sharing their stories with me prompting me to share mine. Once again, sisterhood enveloped my desire to be open and honest to help others.

The invitation was also a product of speaking at a special forum on the need for an equal pay law when the New York State Labor Commissioner came to Syracuse. I testified on behalf of women entrepreneurs, who wanted an equal pay law passed since they follow the principles of corporate women who are underpaid. I never testified before but took a bold step to see what I could do and make positive changes for women. There I met staff from the Governor’s office.

As I look to reconnect with my paid members personally this year, I plan on inspiring them to gain more publicity for themselves. Any recent publicity about my plight with alopecia, means I have a chance to speak about the Women TIES mission and membership to drive more traffic to our site so others learn about the women business owners in our group. If saying “yes” to opportunities and being honest on social media can bring publicity to your door, which leads to more publicity, why not follow in my footsteps this year and try it?

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to motivate you to create a publicity plan for your business and yourself. Women entrepreneurs are their businesses so sharing personal successes, interests, involvement, and even struggles can gain media attention which provides valuable marketing exposure. Why do I show my bald head around town? Believe me, it’s not because I’m vain but because it gives me a chance to share my mission supporting women in business, sports, equality, and life with media looking to cover other women in future stories.

As I left the Bridge Street show yesterday after my appearance a reporter said, “Hey Tracy, I’m doing a special segment every week on people that are doing good things in the community, do you know of anyone?” I replied, “I sure have a bunch of awesome women entrepreneurs I can suggest now that you mention it!”

P.S. Let me know if you are doing something good in the Central New York community!

It Takes One Step To Start Again

January 6, 2020

Monday Motivation, Inspiration and Wisdom for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Business, Women in Sports

It takes one step. One small step or one large leap but that’s all it takes. “It” could be a business move, running again, losing weight, writing a book, becoming a public speaker or even reconnecting with your audience. 2020 is upon us and it requires steps in a positive direction.

This morning after taking my first light jog since May 2019 when I tore my hip muscle, I became immediately exhilarated. The emotion didn’t come from my memories of running the 2017 Boston Marathon or running with International women in England in 2018, but from putting one step in front of the other and running slow for 2 miles and doing it! The success of those steps – as small as the seemed compared to other runs or mileage – was as important to me as the big accomplishments. I raised my hands in the air and said, “Good job Tracy! Do it again tomorrow!”

As I stretched my hip after the run, Jenna Bush Hager was interviewing Oprah Winfrey on her new “WW 2020 Vision Tour” which she began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week with special guest Lady Gaga. Oprah invited different passionate females to join her on stage at each tour stop – Girl that list is impressive! When asked by Jenna why she was doing a tour Oprah said, “I miss the connection with people like I had when I had a live TV audience.”

I know how Oprah feels since I have missed the same connections the past two years taking a part-time medical sabbatical to deal with the life-altering disease of Alopecia. To take care of my mental and physical state, I needed to retreat to someday reclaim my position in my company, society, and my community. I did lose business, members, and financial supporters but it was the price I had to endure to take care of myself to get through the ordeal.

Like Oprah, I hope to re-enter 2020 with a new radiance and hope to spread larger messages with women about self-image, wellness while working, changing as women age in business and more. I hope you’ll join me even if the events aren’t large or if you don’t believe I’m back. I’m committed to my audience starting with one step, one event, and one big goal of continuing to make a difference in the world for women. It is a risk I’m willing to take.

I know I’m not Oprah, but I know I have a passion like her to impact the lives of others. If you do too, take one step and join me at some of our events this year.

Your One Word for 2020

December 31, 2019

Inspiration, Tuesday Thoughts, New Year’s Eve for Women, Women Entrepreneurs and Women in Sports

I lay quietly in bed for the first time in two weeks. My sons left our family celebration, filled with warmth, joy, and love, to go skiing with their friends for the New Year. My husband returned to work after a full week’s vacation. The house was quiet. My desk and “business” were downstairs waiting for activity while I took a few minutes to myself.

Leaving a monumental year, like 2019 was for me, deserved reflection. Gleaning some time to myself, I tiptoed back through each month reliving the memories and lessons. I should have expected it would be a revealing year when I accepted an invitation to Blue Mountain Lake Lodge in mid-January with a special friend and 15 other women to focus on moving forward in the New Year. It wasn’t until the last day of the retreat I admitted in our women circle I was wearing a wig and was actually bald. I felt like I was at an AA meeting announcing a truth.

As I left the rustic lodge and tranquil landscape, I was given a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life by one of the women in attendance. Everyone who reads the book contemplates a series of questions and arrives at their own one word to live out in the next year of their life. After reading the book, I arrived at my word which was acceptance. Accepting a radical change in identity and becoming a bald woman took acceptance on my part to move forward with life and business.

To my surprise just two months later, the Syracuse Post Standard, featured a two-page article on my diagnosis with Alopecia and a photo of my big, bald head on the front page. The video accompanying the photo had 10,000 views after a week shocking me in its outreach. Phone calls and text messages arrived from other people with Alopecia and love came from my members and community.

Four months later on a hot July afternoon, donning a pink baseball hat in my hometown with my best friend since the age of 4, acceptance took on another meaning as my friend Lynda wrote a check to fund my first book Under the Rose-Colored Hat to share the lessons of my story of acceptance, compassion, and kindness from others. I had to “accept” this very generous monetary gift to move forward. Last January 1st, I never expected to be a published author by the end of the year, and yet I was.

Two months following the gift from my friend, my youngest son’s friend, and 3 other young barbers, hosted an Alopecia Fundraiser to raise money for me and my cause; I had to accept $5,000 from the event keeping some of it and sharing the rest. Two months later, I accepted and applauded the people who donated $800 to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation on my Facebook birthday fundraiser. Accepting the monetary and personal generosity of so many gracious, giving people made my “one word” that much more special. A feeling I would have never known feeling last January reading the book and selecting my word.

Today’s final post of the year is meant to inspire you to consider one word to guide you into 2020. The book suggests unplugging from noise, answering a few questions like – “What do I need?” and “What’s in my way?” and “What needs to go?” When you are ready, listen to the answer in your heart and allow your higher faith to guide you with the answer. Once you discover your word, write it down, keep it in front of you, and live it! Watch what happens as your year unfolds.

Before the ball drops tonight on New Year’s Eve, I hope you take time to reminisce, contemplate, search, and find what you need most for the New Year ahead. Find your one word and put it in action. You might unravel the most perfect 2020 for you and you alone. Happy New Year!