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There’s No Such Thing As Social Distancing When You’re A Mother

April 2, 2020

Inspirational Wisdom for Mothers, Women, Women Entrepreneurs

It was a secret operation. We told no one. I had a hunch – female intuition – and it was going to be followed. The three men in my life couldn’t tell me anything different. It was happening even if I had to go alone. It was a mother thing like in the movie Steel Magnolias.

Leaving at 5 a.m., with a car brimming with groceries, water bottles, paper towels, and more totaling $400, my husband and I drove in the beautiful light of dawn down quiet roads to the Big Apple. Italy’s news had spooked me. I knew it was a matter of time before a lockdown in NYC might happen and where my two sons work – one in a hospital. I needed to see them, hug them, give them food, chat for a short time, in order to not see them for an unforeseen period of time. I wasn’t scared to go down since our plan was only to walk into their apartments, around their neighborhood if we could, and nowhere else.

I am definitely more of a risk-taker than my husband – or maybe it is the difference between mothers and fathers. The boys were part of my everyday life as a home-based woman entrepreneur and mother for over twenty years while my husband was a diligent corporate guy. The boys had been part of my body birthing them and their hearts beat in unison with mine and there is no changing that fact. Without them, there isn’t me.

Yesterday marked two weeks from our secret visit. I have self-isolated myself just in case we carried anything back, but we were so careful I knew we would be fine. Our families knew we wouldn’t see them until we were past the two-week mark. Again my intuition spoke to me that we were free of the virus but now two weeks later I know it for sure. If we catch the Coronavirus now it will be because it spread to Central New York, not because we hugged our boys. There is no such thing as 6’ social distancing when you’re a mother.

I share my personal story on my blog today because my world is not just about business, marketing, and management, it’s always been about being a good mother and friend to my two sons, no matter how old they get, to remind them they are the most important part of my life today and always. I’d go to New York again in a heartbeat if they needed me. As Shelby said in Steel Magnolias as she prepares to die after giving birth to her son, “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Wednesday Wisdom – Prime Time to Learn New Business Skills During the Coronavirus

April 1, 2020

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

Last summer I set up a secondary office in the pool house envisioned, designed, and built by my husband and engineering son seven years ago. It’s a beautiful, peaceful space with creamy peanut butter colored walls with black, red, and white accents. It overlooks our acre property with a pond, small apple orchard, and rolling farm hills. In the distance are a blue silo, hills with spotted cows and dark brown horses, and rows of corn planted by existing farmers. Although our sons thought we lived in the boondocks, especially in their teenage years, we are only 15 minutes from downtown Syracuse.

The desk in my pool house overlooks an aqua blue pool and a large deck. My computer and chair have the best view of it. It is a divine space to write, plan, and promote women entrepreneurs. Now this space has become the headquarters of upcoming inspirational and educational podcasts in light of this pandemic when I can’t host and manage live events where women entrepreneurs and I share success strategies with other women.

As I bounced down the hill in the warm spring rain from our abode to the pool house built into the steep part of the hill, I was ready to teach myself how to record a podcast. My new high tech microphone arrived in the mail so I was ready to go. I soon realized sometimes our interests don’t line-up with our skills. Fairly literate in technology, I consumed as much knowledge as I could to launch my first recording. Four hours later, I left my pool house office scratching my bald head, trying to figure out how I would accomplish this task. It wasn’t as easy as I imagined.

Sparing you too many details except to say, I recorded a perfect first message only to discover the microphone wasn’t turned on. I eventually ended up with a private podcast message for my members. Able to load it on my website, for the time being, I realized without the social lockdown, I wouldn’t have had the tenacity or time to stick with learning this new skill. As busy small business owners, we rarely have the time to learn, test, retest, and implement new skills and technologies with other priorities and interruptions.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to motivate you to use this unexpected time on your hands to take a stab at learning something new in your business that you’ve wanted to learn, test, and succeed in implementing. Without phones ringing or orders being filled, there isn’t a better time to take the quiet of our days immersed in trials, failures, and retrials in getting something new done in business. Perhaps you’ve wanted to learn to trademark your business name, creating your own corporate advertisements through a program like Canva or finally learning Excel. Write a list of top 3-5 topics to perfect or supplement your current skills so when the time comes you are ready.

I guarantee you will feel proud you accomplished something new or taught yourself a new tool or hired another woman entrepreneur to teach you through online learning. Use this time wisely and you’ll benefit greatly in the end. Then I can interview you in my pool house on a podcast designed and promoted perfectly to help us both as we overlook an aqua pool and share our wisdom with the world.

What it Takes to Accomplish Your Biggest Challenge

March 31, 2020

Tuesday Thoughts, Wisdom, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Business, Female Athletes

Today’s blog post is my post from two years ago today. With the Coronavirus freezing our activities, businesses, and personal lives, I was interested to see what inspired my writing in March 2018. Interestingly the title was called “What it Takes to Accomplish Your Biggest Challenge.” At the time, my biggest challenge was a fitness goal, not surviving and praying everyone I love would survive a global pandemic, but the post has insights and inspiration to help you today if you are planning how to get through this economic low time with your business, finances, or life plan. What not many people know is I ran the Boston Marathon after only running one 13.1 mile race a month before because I got double bronchitis. Running the full distance took sheer determination, faith, training, and focus to complete it on the day of the marathon. Did I think I could cross the finish line? Yes, I did and I did just under the 6-hour limit to get my medal. So I know we will get through this challenge if we believe we will. As always, I pray this previous post motivates and inspires you.

March 2018 Blog Post

Last year at this time I was training to run in my first marathon – the historic, iconic Boston Marathon. It didn’t matter how much snow was falling from the sky or how cold the temperatures, I had to get outside and run to ‘put in the miles’ needed to train my body and mind to run 26.2 miles. Treadmill running only takes you so far in training. The outside elements and curvature of the roads are essential to prepare your lungs and legs.

What I remember most about taking on the biggest goal of my life was the innate focus that came along with preparing for running a marathon. Running had to become an essential part of my everyday routine to be ready. I had to focus harder in business to get work done so I could go out for long runs during the day. In my personal life, I needed to save downtime to spend with my family on non-long day weekend days and I had to treat my body with the perfect amount of food and water to be healthy enough to run for 6 hours.

As a woman entrepreneur, I have experienced that focus when I launched my two companies and when I added new services and benefits to help my customers. Dedicating a part of your life to any big purpose takes more than gleeful hope, it takes blood, sweat, and tears. If you are a woman entrepreneur today facing a big business challenge or even a first-time marathoner, dig deep, set a workable plan, stick to the plan and schedule the extra time you need to accomplish the challenge. Make sure you enjoy the journey no matter how hard days may become because, in the end, you will have accomplished something that amazes other people and even yourself.

What I can tell you today, as I watch other runners I know prepare for the 2018 Boston Marathon, is I wish I had to do it all again, train and run it. Not only to be a part of the most iconic race in America but to test my will, body, and spirit and remind myself any big goal in life is possible.

Hope is What We Need Today

March 30, 2020

Monday Motivation, Hope and Wisdom

Oh, how I love the word hope. Its name springs eternal in my mind where light meets dark, insight banishes doubt, and anxiety is reduced to fearlessness. Sometimes in childhood hope was as simple as wishing for a sunny, warm day to enjoy the lake next to my house. Other days it was wishing for straight A’s on a test. As I grew older, hope was praying I got accepted into the college of my dreams and eventually marrying the man for me. Wedded bliss led to the eventual motherhood after a miscarriage. Today hope resides in praying my two sons are safe working and living in New York City especially with one of them in the medical field.

We hope for different things throughout the course of our lives – some big and some small. At times hope is simple while other times it looks like the complexity of a spiderweb. Hope can be loud searing through our heads or settled in our soul with a subtle knowing. Hope is vibrant and rarely dull in its purpose leading us forward.

As the pandemic strikes our beautiful globe, every human being hopes for a resolution to its destruction on our planet and lives. We silently pause at home, distancing ourselves from loved ones and community, hoping to keep everyone safe. Through quiet periods of meditation, solo fitness routines, online prayer services, musical concerts, and distance learning, we exist, live, breathe, and hope for a solution.

Never one to be pessimistic too long when faced with defeat, hope truly rests internally for me and easy to grasp even on the cloudiest days. Perhaps born with a sunny disposition, I only see the good in most situations and strive to share that outlook with others who might not have it. Hope is in my genes as much as my father’s brown eyes and my mother’s perfectly shaped lips. All I have ever wanted to do is share that rosy-outlook with others along with wisdom and friendship to all who need it – especially women entrepreneurs who might need it most running a business.

My wish today is you allow hope to rise up in you no matter how sad, mad or confused you are during this hardship. The sun doesn’t have to shine to feel it. We don’t have to be together in person to give it. We only need to understand hope is within us free to give to others. I love people. I love our world. I know with certainty and hope we will get through this together.

Small Business Support Advice from Dave Matthews on Verizon’s #PayItForwardLIVE

March 27, 2020

Inspiration, Wisdom and Small Business Support Advice from Dave Matthews and Verizon

I usually attend a Dave Matthews Band or Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds concert in large, outside, rowdy venues with thousands of other people. The energy of mass crowds is electric and unifying especially when you are with diverse people of similar tastes and passions. I discovered this in 1999 at the 30th Anniversary of Woodstock in my hometown of Rome, New York where I saw DMB (as they are known) perform on one of the hottest July days on the old Griffis Air Force base. It was my first glimpse at the band and their groovy music I’ve come to love. Twenty-one years later, their music simply moves, relaxes, and makes me happy.

I’ve seen them play almost 30 times over the years and made my sons fans. My FedEx guy always says to me when he delivers a flat package, “These must be Dave Matthews Band tickets,” I grin. But last night I didn’t need my Federal Express man to deliver any tickets because thanks to Verizon and #PayItForwardLIVE through Twitter, Dave Matthews entered my home on my big TV screen as I sat on my couch watching with my husband (6’ away!) on the other couch. I had promised myself earlier in the day I wouldn’t watch politics and take a break from bad news about the Coronavirus for one day. To say, I was happy was an understatement.

What I loved most about the Verizon #PayitForwardLIVE concert was the fact its messages are to raise awareness of supporting small business, which has been my career lane for 25 years as a woman entrepreneur. I’ve written small business columns for my local paper for 11 years, produced events for tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs across New York State, and promoted tens of thousands more all in the hope they do business together, make money, and help strengthen the financial buying circle for women today and tomorrow. Everyone knows I support female-only everything, but Dave Matthews and his band are my exceptions to the rule.

Today’s blog post is to share with you some small business suggestions Dave suggested last night to support your favorite local businesses until the Coronavirus crisis is over. Here is what he suggested:

* Look online to see if any of your local coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries, etc. have online tips jars. One of Dave’s favorite java joints does, so he contributes to it to help the employees.

* Order gift certificates for future meals from your favorite place to use when we can all gather again. Whether or not you get to use these certificates doesn’t matter, you are “lending” goodwill and financial support to small businesses needing the cash flow now.

* Open a “tab” at your favorite bar or take-out venue. Keep them in business with repeat purchases.

* Try to find ways to look after the businesses you love in your own town because they are part of who you are so ask them how you can help specifically and then do it if you can.

Share these ideas with all the people in your life because we all have different small businesses we frequent so if enough of us financially support our own favorites, we and they can get through this together so our favorite places are there when life and business return to normal.

Dave doesn’t know I love representing women entrepreneurs or he might have said last night, “And according to Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, a 25-year woman-owned business champion in Syracuse, NY, also spend your money supporting women-owned small businesses because they make less than men until we pass an equal pay act or the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Melissa Gardiner with Dave Matthews. The Syracuse trombonist played with the Dave Matthews Band Tuesday night. (provided photo )

I am excited to see Dave perform here in Syracuse at the St. Joseph’s Amphitheater on July 22nd, and hopefully at The Gorge when we make our first trip to Seattle to the band at this iconic venue. I pray the coronavirus is gone by then so I can experience the band live again. Until then I want to say – Thanks Dave. Thanks Verizon. Thanks for small businesses and their supporters. #Love. #Payitforward

Surviving Home-Based Work with a Husband in Your Office

March 26, 2020

Inspiration, Thursday Thoughts, and Wisdom for Women, Women Entrepreneurs, and Female Business Owners

The day started the same day it typically does with the sun rising over the beautiful farm hills to our east slowly illuminating the kitchen with its golden rays. The amber light bounces off a mirror onto a French press slowly roasting morning coffee. My bowl is filled to the rim with delicious greek yogurt, fresh blackberries, and healthy granola to fuel my body. Noticing the temperature will be in the upper 40s by 9 a.m. I plan my 12-mile bike ride before I open business for the day.

Entering my two-decade home-based office space with two desks – one for me and formally one for my sons when they were in high school which turned into extra office workspace for my interns and part-time staff afterward, I notice a man sitting at the second desk dressed in Buffalo Bills attire and a laptop. I know him. It’s my husband of 30 years. It is his first day ever working from a home-based location after 30 years in a corporate office. I jokingly tell him, “You have to wear pink if you are working in my Women TIES office where we promote women!” His expression doesn’t reflect my joke. Boy, I think to myself, this might be interesting.

Promising not to talk so he could work, he spontaneously starts talking about the need for their company to hire a business to disinfect their corporate offices. Not missing a beat I say, “I know a woman-owned business in Syracuse named Brophy Services who could do that for you! She’s excellent. Let me see if they offer that service.” Checking my computer, I find Eileen Brophy’s company with a notice on the homepage stating, “Effective 03/06/20 Brophy Services is offering our customers in the Central New York a broad spectrum of Disinfecting/Sanitizing services.” Before he could blink his eye, I emailed him the information as I heard his laptop ding with a new message.

“Did you open your email?” I said, “No, not yet.” I explained the message was from me sending him the perfect company to hire to help his company – a woman-owned business at that! Less than enthusiastic about my big grin than I was I explained, “Honey, this is what I do. I find solutions for people looking to hire people by giving them the name of a woman-owned business. You are seeing me in action! Your company should call and hire them.” “Tracy, that’s not how it works in our world,” he said to which I replied, “Well you are doing business the wrong way, get with it!” As an evil eye glanced my way, I realized this could be a long, temporary experience.

The message in today’s blog post is to remind you to keep promoting women-owned businesses during this time of economic crisis and change. Women must support women, promote their companies, and do all they can to keep them afloat until we all return to normal. If my husband likes it or not, he can’t change what this office space has done for 20 years because he’s working in it now. I will respectively adhere to not talking out loud as I silently and effectively promote women from my own desk. And if he doesn’t start wearing pink by tomorrow to represent women in this all-female workspace, I might charge him for desk rental space.

P.S. My husband is a loving and supporting dude.

Wednesday Wisdom: Love is a Must in Business Now

March 25, 2020

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Motivation, Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses, Female Business Owners

We would all agree these times are stressful. Heightened fear, anxiety, low work production/income or working extra hours due to staff lay-offs, has contributed to a more uncertain future for everyone. It is normal to feel this way with this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but as women entrepreneurs, we are still providers to the public when double-checking our tempers and manners are of utmost importance.

Due to my continued health issues, I had to see two of my doctors on Monday and Tuesday. Typically mild-mannered and fairly nice in past visits, I found these two female physicians both angry and temperamental with my logical, medical questions. Wearing my “LOVE” hat, I remained calm in both scenarios as I thought about my son working in a New York City hospital, worried himself. If I was wearing a love hat, I didn’t feel I could display anything but love and patience during my visits.

As leaders in our workplaces and communicators to our clients, especially in these days and months ahead, we should remember to check our tone, words, and demeanor to be as professional and positive as we can. Even though we might be anxious about today, tomorrow, and the near future of our businesses, loved ones, lives, and the world, doesn’t give us reason to lash out on others even if we feel like it. If there was ever a test of leadership for us as business owners, it is now in the midst of this crisis.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom inspires you to contemplate what it would be like to wear a “LOVE” hat from this day forward every time you deal with a customer, vendor, employee, associate, neighbor, friend or family member. Visualize wearing this powerful word somewhere on your body or head made visible for all to see. If there is anything we need to be right now, it is loving people, loving leaders, and loving community members to all we come in contact with recognizing this is the most important service we can provide at a time when we have limited choices.

Forgive easily. Check your emotions. Portray kindness. Treat others with love first and foremost. Be different. Be the change. Be the love people need now.

Tip: Turn on Bob Marley’s Playing for Change “One Love” if you need to get in the mood to be in love with everyone you meet today.

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