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Small Business Saturday With a Twist

November 27, 2021

Inspiration, Buying Power, and Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners

The blustery weather accompanied by the warmth of a firewood heat has a way of making you want to stay indoors on a day like this, but when you are wearing a RBG rose-colored sweatshirt thinking about pay inequality and a personal mission for three decades to promote as many woman-owned companies as possible to help level the financial playing field, shopping clothes call to get your out the door and purchasing at your member’s female-owned small businesses in town.

Each year I encourage, and follow my own mission, for people to buy from female small businesses every Small Business Saturday and every day of the year.  But when we are all living in the post-pandemic business world where storage containers are still stuck in China, Amazon is making billions of dollars, and female entrepreneurs have been hardest hit by the lack of a traditional revenue-making year, it is up to women and men, to place their money in the hands, pocketbooks, and even Pay Pal accounts of woman-owned companies.

Women TIES Logo

In our inventory of members, we have original jewelry makers, authors, artists selling their works, shop owners selling clothes, notecard suppliers, restaurants offering gift certificates, and more. All it takes is a heart, mission, and action plan to get out the door and shop locally at a woman-owned company even if she is a seller of other people’s products. You are still putting money in her hands.

Because I believe in promoting regional and New York State businesses owned by women, online shopping is a total possibility if you don’t want to put on your hats, mittens and boots to shop on an inclement day. Ask away and I’ll supply you with their website links. Whatever I can do to support you in buying from women, I will do.

Shopping with a mission like supporting small business is essential for them and us each holiday season because people spend money this time of year. I passionately ask you to support me, in supporting them, and keeping women-owned companies surviving and thriving. I’m grateful for your shopping decisions.

Wednesday Wisdom: Early Thanksgiving Thoughts

November 24, 2021

Tuesday Thoughts, Thanksgiving Message, Wednesday Wisdom

Hand-colored woodcut of a 19th-century illustration

Sitting in the deep woods with my husband with frosted leaves, deep earth smells, tall stark trees, at 5:30 a.m. on opening deer hunting day, reminded me of the American pilgrims and my male ancestors. The tradition of hunting deer to early settlers was serious business, often of almost life-and-death importance.  Hunting played an important role and development of our country which would not have advanced as rapidly as it did without the aid of meat and skins it supplied. My father and grandfather looked forward to hunting season every year.

Tracy and Scott Higginbotham – Hunting 2021

One early autumn day after my husband voiced his disappointment not having anyone to hunt with on opening day, I decided to surprise him by taking a long online hunting safety course to get my license. The intensive course compiled ten long chapters, chapter quizzes, and a 100-question final exam. It took about a month for me to complete fitting it into all my female-focused business work. I figured if anything good came of these lessons, at least the part of my brain that never thought about guns, animal anatomy, or ammunition was being awakened with knowledge. It helped one of the online instructors was a woman.

Once I passed the course and told my husband, he took me to a shooting range where I must admit, I hit a bullseye my first-time shooting. With my cool gun glasses on, blaze orange attire, and sharp shooting skills, I was ready to go on this “buck”et list adventure. Having watched two women survive and almost win a million dollars surviving in the artic circle a month prior on television, and with hunter’s genes in my DNA, I embraced the experience.

Hunting Woods – By Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

What I can tell you is after sitting as still as possible so you don’t alert the pry, you start contemplating the way of life this was for those early American adventurers who had to forge, fight, and hunt to survive in a new country. Without a switch to turn on heat, running water to quench their thirst, or a grocery story with processed food, you soon realize how blessed our generation has it. I’m not sure how we complain as much as we do about what we don’t have, when we have all we need at our fingertips.

Although hunting will never be what I want to do, the experience made me more aware of modern day advances, the importance of a healthy environment for animals and humans, the beauty of nature, and the abundance we each have compared to our ancestors. I hope today’s post inspires you to witness the plain, simple gifts in front and around you and be truly thankful for them.

I am full of gratitude every week when someone reads my inspirational and business writings, allowing me into their lives in some small way, hoping it makes a positive difference. I wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

Be Yourself: Rainbows and #41 For the Win

November 18, 2021

Thursday Thoughts on Nature, Fitness, Alopecia, and Self-Image

Out the window to the west, a pale rainbow, barely visible and not a frequent early morning sighting in mid-November in Upstate New York, shimmered. The forecast was 58 balmy degrees by 8 a.m. dropping during the day until snow arrived later on. The rainbow and temperature beckoned my soul to rise quickly for an early morning bike ride.

As I passed, “all the little ants marching” (lyrics from the Dave Matthews Band) their way to work on the busy highway leading me to my favorite bike trail, joy overwhelmed me due to my 26-year flexible career schedule which allows me to exercise when I want and report to work, in my own office, when I want. Knowing the rest of my day was filled with an online course and a client luncheon out of town, I took the opportunity to follow my heart and rainbow for the early fitness jaunt.

West Trail, Onondaga Lake Park, Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

As you can imagine, no one else was biking on the barren trail which now showed the lake right at my side since all the leaves blew away. The smell of mud, old leaves, and water reminded me of my childhood growing up on a lake where I was content and happy being lakeside as often as I could. The earthy smell, perhaps turning someone else off, made me nostalgic so I breathed it in.

After a few miles on the 9-mile trail got me warmed up and rain drops started to fall, I didn’t think of going back to my car but taking off the hat covering my totally bald head to feel the raindrops on my skin. A few walkers looked at me with puzzling looks, not smiling, even though I did. Perhaps my bald image shocked them first thing in the morning, most people see me and think I have cancer, but my strong legs and fast bike speed probably confused them.

Weaving in and out of rain drops, I got happier. It’s taken 3 years to adjust to being bald and on rainy bike days like this morning, when I use to care if my hair got wet and messy, I realized my fortune at not caring. Losing one’s self image, might make you lose yourself in the beginning of an ordeal, but over time you become aware of the small blessings it brings. For me, it was enjoying every rain drop falling on my head, the freedom of not caring what I looked like, the cold wind whipping past my sweaty head, and the cool breezes perking up my cheeks to a pale color pink.

It really doesn’t matter what people think about you or what you are doing in life as long as you truly enjoy yourself and your daily decisions. This is the one piece of wisdom I’ve learned from my alopecia diagnosis and 3-year life as a bald woman. Sure, I wish I had my long, thick brown hair back, but if I did, would I ever feel the warming touch of a cool rain drop or the wind whirling around my skin, or even the puzzling looks from strangers that make me laugh internally. No, I wouldn’t.

As the bike ride started to end in front of the St. Joseph’s Amphitheater where I saw the Dave Matthews Band play in August, with the song #41 in my ear pods, and another rainbow appearing before my eyes, I looked down at my watch to see I had been biking for 41 beautiful, bald minutes in a space of joy and contentment. I hope you find as much happiness in your day as I found in mine. Look for it. Live it. Enjoy it. Relish it. We only have one!

Wednesday Wisdom: The Gift of Re-Engagement

November 17, 2021

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Success Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Businesses

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham and Michelle Shauger

The old white mansion stood solid on the corner piece of property. Its columns, with a pink flowering plant still blooming above the porch floor with rustic leaves swirling around its base due to the wind, welcomed guests under its roof. Inside a glass paned door led to a stunning foyer. To the left of the entrance way was a fireplace with enough windows to welcome in the late autumn-colored day, and a conference table adorned with golden-leafed plants.

It was the perfect setting for a first-time return event in the Mohawk Valley, specifically Rome, New York, where our hostess Michelle Shauger’s office resides along with the building’s owner Kim Cook, CPA. Not knowing how many women might attend, Michelle and I decided to take the chance and see. We were both content with whoever showed up knowing some women remain tentative about public events.

To our joy, fifteen wonderful business women joined us as we sat around the long table, like an early Thanksgiving Day gathering, sharing a meal and conversing about strategies that got us through the worst part of the pandemic. What was amazing was the fact that the most often noted success strategy was re-engaging on a more intimate level with customers.

Whether it was dropping off free books to clients, having personal Zoom calls with long-time customers just to stay in touch, adapting services to cater to clients who were timid about doing business face-to-face or even signing documents, or treating special clients to gifts accompanied by Zoom calls to show them how to use the sent gifts. Old fashion customer service opportunities arose and helped these woman-owned businesses survive.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham and Chelsey Lavere

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom, the week before the most grateful holiday of the year, contemplate some of these strategies and implement them yourself or have a brain storming session with your staff on ways to honor, gift, and show customers your appreciation. You know your clients better than anyone else.
Also, realize you have different customers with varying tolerance levels for risking their health post-pandemic, and custom design options for different groups.

What is important is they know you still care about them especially this time of year, which should carry into a happier 2022.

Ode to Dave Matthews: Wisdom in Watching

November 15, 2021

Monday Motivation, Monday Mood, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Entering the green lit perimeter of one of the iconic New York City venues with my “Love” hat, sparkling top, facemask, proof of vaccination, and my husband, sons and their girlfriends by my side, I hoped my 32nd Dave Matthews Band Concert would be all I hoped. Having watched them in many New York State venues, Madison Square Garden wasn’t one of them but it hummed of electric Manhattan energy.

With tickets on the 2nd level with fantastic acoustics, I melted into the atmosphere of over 15,000 other DMB groupies, while we sang their most popular songs at the top of our lungs. Every word. Every beat. Every light ray. We all sang, swayed, laughed, smiled, rejoiced, and lived each moment. It might sound corny, but it was a beautiful union of diverse people singing familiar tunes of one band in unison. Any diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, or sex, dissipated into the evening’s melodies and acoustic rhythms.

Madison Square Garden Dave Matthews Band Concert by Tracy Higginbotham

In a fleeting serious moment, as a woman entrepreneur who started her business two years earlier than Dave Matthews started his band, I relished in what he has done to really make it in a world of a million business owners. Sure, his God-given voice and musicianship helps with success, but thinking of how hard he had to market this product, play across the globe to gain a massive following, all while give away money to help many causes, is an entrepreneurial wonder, and one I marvel and deeply appreciate.

I have produced thousands of events over my three-decade career, spoken on stages to hundreds in the crowd, wrote a popular column for eleven years for my local newspaper, authored books, and have a pretty good “fan” following, but nothing like Dave Matthews. Jealousy doesn’t get you anywhere, but recognizing someone’s else’s success is motivating to the depths of one’s soul. Hats off to him and his hard-working band for the countless hours they contribute to their sound and success, always giving their fans a “good good time” as one of his songs is titled.

Today’s Monday Motivational blog post is to inspire you to watch your most popular bands, actors, actresses, establishments, CEOs, and companies and observe what they did to make themselves ultra popular and successful, and see if you can infuse some of their strategies, mindsets, or actions into your own life and enterprise.

You don’t need Dave Matthews voice to be a hit, you need fortitude, good fortune, and appreciation to gain that kind of success.

Dave Matthews Band at MSG by Adam Higginbotham

Wednesday Wisdom: Everything Has a Life Span

November 10, 2021

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Nature Lovers, Tree-Huggers

Maple Trees By Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

An elderly neighbor walks gingerly up our hilly road daily pausing briefly to stare at lined 100-year-old maple trees on the edge of our property. One day he reminisced with us about walking up the road soon after the trees were planted. Now an 84-year old man still living in his childhood house, he appreciates them. These gorgeous old maple trees were part of the reason the house was so warming to me 31 years ago when we bought the old farmhouse since I grew up underneath similar trees in my childhood home.

Forest Gump Movie Image

In the movie Forest Gump, Forest’s wife Jenny is buried under an old tree they played on as children when she ran away from home due to sexual abuse. In the tree’s arms, she was safe and secure, happy and content, and wished never to return home. One of the last scenes in the award winning movie was the tree’s enormous breath hovering over the white tombstone protecting Jenny’s resting place forever.

I’ve had the same obsession and feeling about trees my entire life. Raised in a house dating back to 1792, in the historic town of Rome, New York, not long after Fort Stanwix was built and finished in 1762. Lining our long driveway were tall maple trees and my bedroom with its beautiful dormer window above my bed is where I stared at their branches before drifting off to sleep. My bedroom is also where I worried, the trees would be blown over in a thunder storm losing my natural friends.

Slowly one by one the six maple trees that adorned my adult home have cracked, split, lost their limbs, and blown apart by the elements. Watching parts of them slowly die over time, while rejoicing in their shade, changing colors, and protection from the snow, has been a gift. As my mom, a landscaper said to me, “Tracy, trees have life spans just like people do. You have to let them go when it is their time to go.” Today was that day for two of them.

Leaving the house with the loud buzzing of death ripping through my beautiful friends, I grabbed my bike and headed out to ride under another canopy of trees that line my favorite bicycle trail. For a fleeting moment, I was safe again under the branches of golden orange leaves on a cool November day realizing the leaves had been green earlier this year, but over time withered on the vine in blazing hues, before ending their lives on the bike path below. Yes, everything has a life span, especially in the Northern part of the USA when all four seasons are felt with deep conviction.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham Photography

But I realize and so must you, just like trees, we can’t stop time from aging us physically. Every day our bodies die just a little bit more (according to my medical son), just like the trees and seasonal plants. Roses don’t bloom in the winter. Daffodils don’t come up until the spring, and lightening bugs don’t shine bright until July. So, we must live each day and season of our life to its fullest realizing at some point, if we are lucky, when we are in our mid-eighties like my neighbor, we can look back and be happy watching the things and people we care about during the passage of time.

Monday Motivation: The Flip Side of the Coin

November 8, 2021

Monday Motivation, Inspiration, Business Success Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs, Consumers, Small Businesses

Photo from the Facebook Page

Yesterday 130 Happy Birthday messages poured into my Facebook feed, 22 people donated $660 through my Facebook fundraiser for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, and 3-D gifs sparkled, rang, and illuminated my screen, all making my 57th birthday a wonderful affair. This topped with personal messages, phone calls, dinners, plays, and even a 14-mile bike ride added to this annual event of turning another year older. How blessed I feel today.

While Facebook continues to face allegations of complaints due to amplifying hate online, allowing misinformation and pollical unrest, and hiding pertinent information from the public which is now being disclosed by whistleblowers, it contradicts the experience, I had with the company yesterday. We all know there are two sides of every coin and you can’t have one side without the other.

As a 26-year small business owner, having learned about monopolies in my college business courses, I realize ultra-large global companies like Facebook, Amazon, and others take breathe out of the small guys and gals. It’s a reason I’ve preached for two decades for women entrepreneurs to put their money in the hands, pocketbooks and bank accounts of other women owned businesses first and foremost, to attempt to level the economic playing field.

95% of my purchasing decisions are made with small companies. I don’t need Small Business Saturday to remind me to support local companies, but sometimes consumers can’t help but participate, play, and spend time on and with large corporate entities who have a “corner” of the marketplace. David vs. Goliath has been a long-time analogy that works perfect in small business America. But I must say, without Facebook having the capital, marketing reach, and staff to develop the ability for their customers to raise money for their favorite non-profits once a year on their birthdays, the near $700 donation to a non-profit near and dear to my heart, and bald head, wouldn’t typically be possible.

We can live, work and buy in a world where we choose what we do, who we spend time with, and what companies we support. Don’t look at any business entity as small or big, but rather for the perks, services, and benefits they offer you, the consumer. Choose wisely by earmarking a certain percentage of your buying dollars on a mix of companies – large and small this day, and during the holiday purchasing season. You have the choice to place your hard-earned money where you want and making a difference in this large global, and yet small-micro community of ours.

Wednesday Wisdom: Using Fandom to Prosper

November 3, 2021

Wednesday Wisdom, Hump Day, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners

Higginbothams at the NYC Central Park Concert 2021

2,706 miles across amber waves of grain, mountains and lakes, a new acquaintance spoke softly in my earphones welcoming me. This was going to be a unique conversation, one I rarely have, especially during a work day, but it was an opportunity to talk about another passion in my life besides business, so I jumped at the chance. You never know who is listening to a 4-season successful podcast on the other side of the country who might want to buy from you.

The 90-minute chat flew by faster than an airplane taking me from Central New York to Santa Monica, California, where the podcaster was located as I answered multiple questions about my passion for the music of the Dave Matthews Band. As I told the man who was interviewing me, the band was the only male vendor I allowed in my life based on my business philosophy of only buying from women business owners, he seemed surprised or at least his pause made me believe so.

Scott and Tracy Higginbotham at Woodstock ’99 in Rome, NY

Questions of concert memories, favorite lyrics, and specific songs that had personal messages for me, were poised with my answers unabashedly honest realizing the interviewer was twenty-five years younger. Sharing my Woodstock ’99 memory (above) where I first heard them play, taking my son to his first concert in Boston and the other one to his first show in Saratoga, and why when I became bald only DMB music got me through, I realized talking with another fan of something similar was heart-warming and enlightening.

I’m used to talking to other fans of women entrepreneurs so it has become second nature to me; so, chatting that long about something else with a stranger was enjoyable so much so that I encourage you to list your top three passions (outside of your career) and find some podcasts to listen to – and then pitch yourself to speak on them. You are as much an expert as the next fan in your area of personal hobbies so do something about it and change up your day and reach a new audience.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom encourages you to branch out of your niche into the outer circles of your interests to find some new people to hang around with, get excited talking or listening to, and reminding yourself there are multiple sides to your persona. You might find a new way to connect across the country or globe, with like-minded individuals, getting yourself in front of new people that might hire or buy from you once they get to know you. There is extra promotion with links to websites and social media sites that podcasters offer to repay you for participating in one of their shows too.

Blogging, zooming, and podcasting are just a few ways to get involved and expand your marketplace while sharing similar interests with others funneling new customers to your doorstep – no matter what part of the country you live in.  

Thursday Thoughts: Love What You Do Every Moment

October 28, 2021

What do you call it when you are in the middle of something glorious but at the same time wish it was complete so you could go on to something else equally wonderful? It doesn’t seem possible that we can experience the same emotions at the same time, does it?

Weaving in and out of a path that touched high river banks due to recent flooding, with a canopy of golden, orange leaves above, I breathed out a sigh of relief to be out on my bike again after spending the most splendid morning at an event I produced for women entrepreneurs in a warm, bustling coffee house in Rochester. Never wanting the event to end because the conversations, joy, and atmosphere were perfect, I knew the athletic part of my spirit, which hadn’t exercised in two days, wanted to be riding free and wild, up and down hills, with the cold wind on my face, and the wig off my bald head.

Women TIES Rochester Event

As I took each twist and turn on the bike path, glad I forgot my ear pods, I began thinking of the event I just hosted and the bike ride I was on because both had similarities. When I was at one of them, I dreamed about being at the other place and vice versa. Living in the moment can be good and bad depending on your patience level I suppose. Never wanting a moment to end, but dreaming about another equally joyful moment to occur doesn’t make sense, does it? I tried to think of a word to describe the feeling but can’t. Can you?

I love what I do for a career. I love the women I surround myself with. I love being a wild, bald bike girl. I love nature. They are equally part of my energetic spirit that just wants more and more special moments being with, and doing, the things I love. Does that mean I’m selfish or self-aware?

Perhaps too much coffee at our event, held at Union Place Coffee Roasters, and that photo above that shows the love, is what it really is all about. LOVING what you do every moment of your life, as often as you can find it, in as many different parts of your life, as you can. It is not so much about impatience to go onto the next thing, as it is having such a deep love for what you do in the moment that makes you want more of it all.

I hope today you discover what you love best about yourself, your career, your extra-curricular activities, and do them as often as you can, with as much joy as you can, looking forward to the next best thing to come your way. You aren’t selfish, you are extra special.

Friendly Competition Wins

October 26, 2021

Tuesday Thoughts for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Business Owners

A couple years ago a woman walked into an event and sat down alone at the table. Realizing she was new to our programs; I went over to introduce myself and make her feel welcomed. Although the event was in a comfortable room at a country club, as an event planner, I wanted venues to be reflective of my home thereby greeting guests like I would at home was my philosophy.

At the end of the event, the woman came up to me and thanked me for my hospitality and asked me to contact her about sharing my challenge of running a company after a medical diagnosis in a new book she was collaborating on with other women. Earlier this week, that book arrived with my story right next to hers because of the alphabetically spelling of our names and because being a gracious, warm hostess established an instant bond.

By nature, people are competitive beings, in sports, school, organizations, and economic pursuits. Growing up participating in all of these activities combined with a keen Scorpio personality, I excelled in competition until opening up my first business where some competitors embraced me and one in particular went after my clients. I was almost given a sizable contract, my competitor and I were vying for, until the prospective client told me the other company told them I spent too much time with my children and not on my business.

Five Star Events Owned by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

As I pushed my chair away from the interview table I said, “I would suggest you speak with my clients, not a competitor about my dedication to their work.” By the time I stomped my way back to my office five blocks away because I was furious at my competitor, I told myself I wouldn’t take the offer if I was given it because of the question and assumption on the part of the interviewer. Sure enough, he offered me the job, and I turned it down, because sometimes other things in business matter more than money.

So today as you contemplate vendors, customers, partners or advisors that sometimes doubt your work ethic or value, take time to consider if the business is worth your time and effort, especially if your gut instincts are shouting at you. When you turn down a potential bad project, you end up opening your time to a better one, and you’ll be happier, and most likely richer, in the end.

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