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Wednesday Wisdom: Contract Eagle Eyes

September 28, 2022

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Businesses

The sticker shock was real. It was in black and white on the proposal needing a signature. There must be something out of whack I thought to myself as I re-read the agreement over again. Not only was the pricing four times the cost I remembered, but there was no exception for an event cancellation, which was totally unheard of a decade ago, and Pre-Covid. Shaking my head, I thought I’ve been out of the request for proposal game for awhile using mostly familiar venues, vendors, and friends of my longtime business.

Not being satisfied with the high cost, I decided to search for more bids to see if the price shock was justified or some sense of price gauging since the pandemic hurt the event industry. Not only did past clients demand multiple bids and options for vendor selection when it came to weddings or special events, but comparing prices, offerings, and reviews before signing a legal document made sound financial and management sense.

I drive fast, talk fast, and typical make quick decisions but when it comes to financial contracts, I move slow ensuring all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed before proceeding. Slowing down sometimes when it comes to financial decision is a wise choice, especially in today’s world when everything has risen in price. We must ensure the increase in prices are warranted and not just an easy response for a business to capitalize. As women entrepreneurs, we understand this situation walking the fine line between pricing, profit margins, loss, and signing clients.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom might motivate you to reconsider your pricing policy Post-covid. Are you in line with competitors and the marketplace today? Are you priced too low or too high? Are you gaining or losing business based on pricing and contract verbiage? Have you paid enough attention to this area of your business lately? If not, it might be time to do so.There are many factors that go into pricing make sure you are where you need to be.

In the end, we’ll choose the right vendor for this event based on their reputation, reviews, ease of working with us, contract clauses and pricing. It is a “package” deal when it comes to securing vendors in 2022.

Monday Motivation: A Reason to Shed

September 26, 2022

Monday Motivation, Monday Mood for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Businesses

Two of the views out my desk window are a red horse barn with white fence for riding lessons and tall corn stalks in an active farmer’s field to feed cows in the winter. After 30 years of living in our abode, I know when harvest time is approaching by the heavy sounds of the tractors coming up the road turning into the corn field outside the window. As they cut the first row of corn, golden stalk debris is shredded and lifted into the air like harvest confetti landing on our driveway as if a celebration of the season is in session. 

Since it was Monday, I started out my work week biking 20-miles to set an aggressive tone of work for the week. As I biked amidst a canopy of blonde leaves, once green, trees were shedding them and they landed between my fingers, on my bald head, and actually in my mouth. Not one to chew on rusty leaves; I smiled and spit it out wondering what the odds were of that happening again, and then I proceeded biking over and crushing the red and orange leaves on the bike path.

It’s been 3 years since I shed all my hair to alopecia which halted my free-wheeling entrepreneurial spirit to some degree. Anyone with alopecia or cancer chemotherapy understands how devastating shedding one’s glorious crown can be. But just like the innocent corn stalks in the field and the golden-haired leaves on the trees, we shed. Sometimes we shed hair or pounds. Sometimes, we get rid of our own unwanted debris in terms of mental sadness, negativity, or anxiety, and as entrepreneurs we shed staff, unsold products, decades-old files, and packed drawers of useless marketing materials, now obsolete. Sometimes it feels good to shed in business. Reducing the clutter, opens up space we can use for something else.

As the farmers reopen their land space again, getting rid of aged produce, they’ll reseed and fertilize it for the next new grain to plant and eventually harvest.  Trees shed their leaves so they aren’t ruined when winter snow weighs them down. If we could be farmers, turning that insight of harvest into golden nuggets of wisdom, wouldn’t we admit that we all need to shed at times in order to replant, regrow, and re-harvest so we can have more work abundance in the future? What can you “shed” today mentally, physically, or spiritually, that will help you open space for your next level of growth?

Let your Monday Mood be one of shedding so you can plant and harvest more success and goodness in your corner of the world. 

Believe the Sky is the Limit – Literally

September 22, 2022

Thursday Thoughts, Motivation, Inspiration For Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Women in Sports, Female Athletes

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Trap Shooting

As I drove to the large range, memories of my father and I standing behind my Grandfather’s house arose. Being the oldest child to a father who loved sports and hunting, it made perfect sense I was going to be the first one to learn how to hunt pheasant. At the ripe age of ten, I don’t remember if it was my idea or my father’s to take me shooting but there we were one day.  All I remembered from the experience was the gun hurting my shoulder when it went off. I’ll give that one up for being young.

Beth Bellinger (left) and Shea Beachner (right) Coaches

Fast forward forty years later as I made my way to join two expert female trap shooters and two female friends for another “shot” at a gun sport. Mixing up the meaning of the words trap shooting with skeet shooting was beginner’s verbiage and corrected as soon as we arrived at the Bridgeport Gun Club ready for the lesson. Trap shooting entailed just one projectile coming out of the “house” at different angles whereas skeet shooting has two projectiles crisscrossing in the air where you try to shoot both. Getting to know the right terminology helps anytime you try a new sport. We were thankful to Shea Beachner and Beth Bellinger, our instructors for the right words.

Clay Pigeon

With vests on that held our bullets, clear plastic glasses to protect our eyes, ear plugs placed in our ears, after listening to our instructors, and guns waiting for us, we walked up to the trap shooting stations with microphones, a black square to rest our gun when we weren’t shooting, looking at the green “house” that would propel our orange clay pigeons into the air for us to hit. We had 25 bullets to shoot 5 shots from 5 different points at the station.

I believe I was the first one to scream excitedly after I took my first shot and the gun pushed back in the pit between my shoulder and chest. Not the same scream that came from my first pheasant hunt which hurt, but one of pleasant surprise. As I extracted the orange cased bullet from the gun, it popped over my shoulder allowing me another gleeful shriek of delight and surprise. I’m not sure seasoned trap shooters are full of such glee, especially if they miss their target, but I was happy to be trying this new sport.

The Sky is the Limit Fearless Females

One by one, we took turns shooting, and in the end I hit 7 of 25 pigeons which I thought was pretty good and attributed to my recent archery practice and the great coaching skills of Shea and Beth. In the end, my friends and I agreed we loved trying it and would definitely try it again. We also thought for anyone scared of using guns or have an anti-gun attitude, being taught how to use one safely for target shooting took the stigma away. 

So if you are looking for a sport where precision, focus, aim, strength, perfectionism, and adventure merge, find a place to try tap shooting and be careful, because it is addictive. 

Wednesday Wisdom: Conquer the Hill

September 21, 2022

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Female Athletes

As the hill rose, and rose, up steeper and steeper terrain, thoughts of always wanting to go this high on this road for the past decade couldn’t help but rise too. Often I’d stare at its height, contemplate my energy level, and somehow reason the attempt out. “No way, Tracy, you can’t do that one!” I’d hear myself say. The thought would push to the back of my mind like it typically did, and perhaps my shoulders slumped at bit, in the repetitive decision making process.

With two cups of full strength coffee in my system, five hours past the time I typically exercise, and still on a high from meeting with fifteen fantastic women at an event, I didn’t let that creeping voice in my head speak. “Hush!” Slamming the door on the negative thought and charging straight towards my bike, I hopped on and took off without a thought. Today was the day!

Although my attempt at biking one of the hilliest terrains in my neighborhood, of rolling farmland with tractors coming down the road taking up a lane and a half, was actually so much easier than I imagined. “How can this be,” I asked myself taking in the views? Well the answer arrived as I finished the much anticipated bike ride, “You’ve been riding hills for 2 years, year round, only on another path. You were more than ready to take this hill on.”

And so it is for women entrepreneurs who doubt their ability to climb to a higher level of business success. They stare at ‘the hill’ before them which in business terms is starting a new branch of their career or division in their business, taking on a sizable loan to add staff, or add a new innovative way to help their clients and let it push to the back of their minds ready to launch some other day. There isn’t a problem waiting to take the ride or risk, but I bet you anything you are more ready than you think you are. If you are experienced in business, you probably already know what you need to know, you just don’t trust yourself enough.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom speaks to the women who, like me, stare at a tempting hill to conquer and put it off until one day they decide “today’s the day” and do it. Do you doubt your knowledge or skills to accomplish something new in your career? Have you taken an inventory of your recent successes in business to prove to yourself you are capable? Do you have energy, and you know the energy I’m talking about, that is dying to burst out and take the risk? If you do, girlfriend, do it.

Just like at the end of my 7-mile extremely hilly, yet easier-than-I-thought bike ride, you might surprise yourself on how unproblematic your next move might actually be. You have a couple choices, stare at the hill and talk yourself out of it, or jump on that bike and pedal your heart out discovering the thrill and ease at which you do it. 

Thursday Thought: Risk and Reward Women

September 15, 2022

Thursday Thought, Inspiration, Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Females, Women in Sports

Women’s Athletic Network High Ropes Courese Adventure – 2018

“I’ve always wanted to try it,” an excited woman wrote to me in an email. She went on, “I’m truly looking forward to joining you.”

These were similar statements I heard almost 3-decades ago when I began planning and hosting networking events for women entrepreneurs in Central New York. The budding career of home-based-business and entrepreneurship was just beginning in the mid-1990s as the economy stretched its reaches inside abodes when personal computers were being introduced. I was one of those career-minded women, with two sons under the age of three, leaving a corporate job to be a working mother of two. I didn’t want to leave a career I loved and I didn’t want someone else raising my sons, so entrepreneurship was my choice.

Thomas, Tracy and Adam Higginbotham

Leaving the four walls of a corporate office, with an assistant outside the door and a boss to guide my workload, was different than sitting in a converted den turned office space with a glass door between my new office and the living room where my sons would watch television if I received a business call so clients didn’t know I was working from home if they heard them talk.  It was slightly taboo to work from home in 1995, unlike 2022 post-pandemic, when home offices are all the rage.

Women TIES 10th Anniversary Gathering

I also learned I needed to communicate and share business ups and downs with other women working from home, so I searched out the only women’s business group there was at the time, started in 1991, in Syracuse. It was there that I learned from other women and didn’t feel alone in my entrepreneurial journey. It was there that I felt normal being a risk-taking business woman. Taking over leadership of the group one year after meeting them, I learned a new mission in my life was directing, inviting, and partaking in events with other female entrepreneurs  which I continued for nine years until I launched my second company to do exactly that but statewide.

Tracy Higginbotham – 2018 Rock and Roll Run in Chicago

As I look to retire my second company at the end of 2023, my attention has turned to sports and inviting women to try every different sport there is to try once in a lifetime. The statement from the woman above is someone joining me on a skeet shooting teaching session Sunday. Although my focus is changing slightly from women in business, to women in business who want to try sports, my heart mission remains the same, to bring women together to try new things, bond and inspire each other which ultimately leads the way to developing and stretching beyond female expectations in a male-dominated area.

If we can lead our own companies, we can lead our lives into different realms filled with risk and reward too.  

Wednesday Wisdom: Creating a Pink World

September 14, 2022

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners

Pink World – Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

A long mahogany table lined with formal nameplates, printed agendas, branded coffee mugs, with a pitcher of water in the table’s center, and a side buffet of scones, muffins, and fruit, filled the familiar room. Twice a year I ventured to this spot on SUNY Oswego’s campus to attend the Business School’s Board of Officers Meeting. I moved up to that position from another board where I proved my loyalty and knowledge along with being a female.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Today’s CNY Woman Magazine 2015

With an outspoken feminist voice, the leaders looking to fill the new business school board member positions, only filled with one woman, asked me to join them. The rest of the board members were men, mostly men in the accounting or finance field, no one in marketing like me, so whether I was a woman or man, it made sense to ask me to join the board. Later, I found out that my gender-equity statements landed me there. I’m glad I was heard, noticed, and participated for ten years.

Next week the Women’s Business Collaborative hosts their 4th Annual Action for Impact Summit. Their mission states,“We will not rest until there is equal position, pay, and power for all business women.” I have been connected to them through Women TIES member Andrea Simon of Simon Associates. They are a powerful, national and global organization of women interested in making the necessary changes for women to advance.

Women TIES Retreat 2018

One of their 9 action initiatives is to make boardrooms more inclusive. Their website states, “While the number of women on boards continues to increase, representation still falls short on the S&P 500 (26 percent women) , Fortune 500 (22.5 percent women), and the Russel 3000 (20.4 percent women).” WBC believes having boardrooms represent consumers is paramount to their gender parity initiatives.

So while more women entrepreneurs are running their companies brilliantly and honing business skills, they should also be branching out ad shared. Keep in mind, board membership opens up natural business connections for future business opportunities, and is a way to give back to an industry or community of interest, all while helping to put diverse faces around the table.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to encourage you to consider joining one or two boards of interest to you personally or professionally. You can find organizations through mutual connections or business ties. You can even use LinkedIn’s new Advisory Cloud, giving professionals the chance to join an advisory board remotely through their digital platform. Make sure you consider your levels of expertise or interest and then start searching for board positions. Through Linkedin, some advisory positions pay board members, so check them out.

I also suggest you register for the Women’s Business Collaborative free event on  9/21-9/22 to join in the conversation on how you can help with gender parity as well as connect with women globally. It will be a win-win event and free thanks to Andi Simon. Go to this website link to see how to register for free. I’ll see you there. I wouldn’t miss it for the “pink world”. 

Running for Eliza

September 9, 2022

Friday Feeling, Inspiration for Women, Female Runners

The last time I rose at 3:45 a.m. to run was on April 17, 2017 in Boston. In order to get to the start line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, a bus filled with 100 women running with Team #261Fearless in honor of Kathrine Switzer’s 50th anniversary ground breaking run was leaving. Just like then, I had my running clothes laid out anticipating the fogginess of one’s mind that early in the new day.

But this time I was getting up to run by 4:20 a.m. in sister solidarity with Eliza Fletcher and women all over the country, especially a group out of Delaware, who asked women to run virtually with them. Eliza was a busy woman and ran when she could, like so many of us. Her choice was to run in the early hours of the day before work started and her children rose. A woman’s choice to run is her choice. The time of day she chooses to run is her choice. No one or nothing should stop it.

Unfortunately someone else didn’t see it that way, abducted her and eventually killed her leading to front line headlines and a mix of rage and deep sadness for the loss of a woman who was only out to get in her morning jog.

I wanted to run for her. I wanted to run for sister solidarity. I wanted to run to bring attention to Eliza’s story. I wanted to run because I love running.

The darkness of the sky, only lit by a full moon with a rainbow circle around it, most likely thanks to Eliza watching from above, along with the cool September, dewy breeze, awakened my senses. Living on a country road without lights, I couldn’t run on my road, but my very large deck built into our hill surrounding our pool, was a better choice than running on my treadmill. I wanted to be in the elements just like she was.

With the sound of crickets ringing, I put in my airbuds, turned on my music, and the song “Stairway to Heaven” started playing – a recent favorite song since losing a dear friend to cancer the month prior. It seemed appropriate to keep it on as I ran, repeating it. I blew a kiss up to the sky hoping Eliza would catch it and look down watching me, a total stranger, and all the other women running in her memory today.

As the Fitbit hit 4:20 a.m., the time Eliza was abducted, I was starting to get my runner’s high enjoying the physicality of my body, tenacity of my spirit, and beauty of the dark. I thought of all the women running today and over the weekend thinking of Eliza and proving women can run when they want as long as someone doesn’t stop them.  

Thank you Eliza for your spirit running with me, just like my 261Fearless sisters ran with me at the start of the Boston Marathon. With a woman by your side, or in your heart, running and life is beautiful. We shouldn’t stop doing what we love, no matter the reason or cause. 

The Adventures of a New Group Sport: Disc Golf

September 8, 2022

Thursday Thoughts, Motivation for Women in Business, Women in Sports, Outdoor Lovers

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Disc Golf at Van Buren Park

There was a wee bit of confusion as six of us walked up the steep hill to a sign announcing the map for our two hour adventure. Only one of us had ever tried the sport – my son – who only played nine holes. You might imagine with that descriptive we were about to venture onto a beautiful smooth green with a PGA approved tee box, but we weren’t. Instead, we were venturing onto a Disc Golf Course, five minutes from my home on rolling hills that surround and dot our horizon.

With bright colored discs in a carrying bag, which I purchased in anticipation for trying this new sport with my son’s fiancée and her athletic parents along with me and my husband, we wondered how to play the game. None of us actually looked up the directions until we lost two discs into the woods on the second hole. “Wait a minute,” I said to our investigative players deep in the weeds, woods and poison ivy, “I think we better see what happens when a disc goes out of bounds and read the rules.”

Pioppi & Higginbotham Family Fusion

By the time we realized we had lost two new discs, we found two others with the names and numbers of their owners on them. How wise! Now we knew, we needed to do the same with ours since the game of Disc Golf is typically played near or in woods, overgrown bushes, streams, small lakes, and beautiful vistas found around every turn. The only way to tell where the next hole began was on an electronic map on my son’s phone, the white pads you stand on to throw your first disc, and eventually the iconic wired baskets (aka the holes) where you aim and eventually score to move onto the next hole.

Never Knowing Where the Next Hole Begins

If you like nature, hikes, scenic seasonal flowers and bushes, along with critters and bugs, you will love Disc Golf. A red bridge appeared over a quaint stream on one hole, followed by a flat, mowed, open lawn on the next, followed by a trip back into the woods in the middle of tall trees. It is an adventure of sorts and we all thought that was pretty cool. We only wished we brought bug spray, water, more discs (yes we lost a few more), and sweat rags to wipe our brow by the time we were done. All in all, we burned close to 700 calories each in a span of 9 holes and each couple scored the same score.

Here are some of the comments from my guests regarding Disc Golf:

* It is harder than they thought.
* They wondered if it was easier to play in snow?
* Shorter holes are much easier than the longer ones
* It was very scenic.
* It was aerobic and used many muscles.
* It is not as frustrating as real golf.
* It is less expensive than golf with no course fees and only the need for discs.

So if you are looking for a new kind of sporting adventure and you have “adventurous” friends willing to try, we all recommend Disc Golf complete with colorful discs, a carrying bag/backpack to carry everything, bug spray, water, camera, and a healthy sense of sporting fun.

Completed!

Wednesday Wisdom: Throw Open Your Opportunities

September 7, 2022

Wednesday Thought for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Companies

Opening the window meant air was going to flow in. It looked gloomy outside but being September, I couldn’t quite tell if the air was humid and slightly warm or dry and cooler. Honestly, there was no way of knowing until I unfastened the lock and lifted the glass upward. It oozed sultry damp oxygen into my face pleasantly reminding me of Florida. It was much warmer than I expected.

Along time ago, I learned agreeing to a new meeting, personal occurrence or business opportunity was like opening up a window or walking out a door into an unexpected experience for a moment. Unfamiliar feelings switch gears to the known quickly and one’s spirit settles down into its reality rapidly. The same happens the moment our children head off the first day of a new school year, we set foot in a new vacation locale, or we agree to meet someone new to know them better. We always hope the experience will be what we imagined or better, but we can remain fearful until we know for sure.

Pioppi & Higginbotham Family Fusion

Having just hosted my son’s future in-laws in our house both days and nights for the long weekend, I must admit I was trepidatious about how well it would go; but within thirty minutes of welcoming them into our humble abode and breathtaking backyard, the nerves dropped and the bonding began. It ended up being a lovely, enjoyable, and memorable weekend. Sometimes, our mind can conjure up too many intimidating situations playing with our sanity.

This might feel familiar to you when you enter a networking event with a room of strangers or when you meet a potential client for the first time or speak to a new vendor about pricing; but if you give the opportunity your best shot, you might end up with a new positive relationship that lasts for years. It has been this way for me as I grew Women TIES out of the safety of just Syracuse to areas including Albany, Utica, Binghamton, Ithaca and Rochester. If I never opened the car door and walked into a new region, I would have missed so many wonderful women who have filled my life with joy, knowledge, and even more “ties.”

Women TIES networking event

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to remind you, as a seasoned woman in business that just like we tell our children or grandchildren to go out confidently and bright-eyed into a new classroom, we must do the same. The pandemic is mostly behind us and so are the restraints that have held us back from developing new business relationships, especially at networking events. Remaining inside the cocoon for too long will only stymie us and future opportunities.

I say “throw open your window” and allow whatever comes in to gently hit you in the face, rattling your senses, calming limiting thoughts and reminding you that a breath of fresh air is what you need sometimes and that includes meeting new people, experiencing new adventures, saying “yes” more often, and jumping into more risk. Let the new era begin!

Thursday Thoughts: We Can’t Get Tired Yet

September 1, 2022

Thursday Thoughts, Wisdom, Inspiration for Women in Business, Women in Sports, Women’s Equality

Felisha Legette-Jack and Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

Walking into the room was a tall figure dressed in orange clothes with a white blazer followed by her entourage. They passed the table of six purple, white and gold jacketed women with the word “highlight” down their arms – an all-female sky diving team with suffragette colors. From my table of guests which included women entrepreneurs and women who love sports, we could see the star speaker sit and relax. I recognized her immediately and went to grab a photo.

As a feminist waiting for a woman’s sports number to be retired at our hometown Syracuse University, I was excited that Felisha Leggette-Jack, a Syracuse native, former SU player, and now first-time female coach of the Syracuse University’s Women’s Basketball team, not only had her basketball jersey hung in the rafters next to all the male athletes at a football game last year, but that a female was going to lead the women’s team.

Interviewing females in sports, I had a chance to interview a woman responsible for hiring female coaches for the university program. I asked her why there weren’t more female coaches, especially female coaches for the women’s teams. Her response was that she hired the best candidate who applied. I begged to differ with her knowing she knew there weren’t enough women in high coaching positions, and she as a female, had input on changing that.

Women TIES & Women’s Athletidc Networking members

Women’s roles in sports, business, politics, and life will not change unless women change the world for women using as much power and persuasion they have – especially when it comes to hiring practices and pay equality. In my company I have only hired female staffers because I believe in giving them a leg up and paying them since we don’t have a pay equality law yet; and who knows when we will.

All-female sky diving team and Coach Jack

As Felisha said yesterday, giving me chills down my arms, “Women have to keep doing more. We haven’t done enough yet and we can’t get tired now because others need to see our name and know they can do it too.” Amen sister, Coach Jack to you, your upcoming success, and the inspiration for women to keep making their mark in the world. You’ll see me court side this year supporting you and the women’s basketball team! 

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