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Word of the Day: Unbelievable

August 21, 2019

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

Sitting under a 70 year old Catalpa tree on my grandparents 9 acre homestead, next to my cousin and aunt, talking about life and entrepreneurship, my cousin answered one of my questions with an enthusiastic, “I’m Unbelievable.” Really interested in his positive response, I said to him, “You are – how come?” To which he replied, “I’m not really sure but I was told once if you used that expression when others asked how you felt, the word ‘unbelievable’ would leave them wondering.” If you knew my cousin you would consider this a typical wise-ass response but I was fascinated by it.

I bought into the answer and said, “I suppose an optimistic person would think ‘unbelievable’ meant amazing, positively fantastic, or perhaps even wonder if that person hit the jackpot!” or I said, “I imagine a pessimistic person might construe unbelievable to be devastating, shocking or something horrific happened.” My cousin said, “Exactly!” As I sat in the old wooden chair with the most beautiful light breeze surrounding me as I gazed at the backyard pool, I thought I would use that answer in the future to see what others thought when I expressed it.

My reaction to ‘Unbelievable’ was extremely positive envisioning he sold one of his breathtaking paintings to Sotheby’s; but instead he felt wonderful being home, cooking lunch and seeing the family. He asked me how my business was going since my health issues. I paused for a moment to think if I could use the same word to describe my company status. I paused, as a beautiful leaf fell into my wine glass, reminiscing back to the fewer than normal but quality regional events I’ve hosted since being on new medicine including a white water rafting event with daring women in our athletic network and finishing a book and speech about alopecia, “I would say ‘Unbelievable.'”

Sure there have been unbelievably bad days in between the unfathomable good days, but overall I believe life gives us what we choose to feel, see and hear and for me that is positive notes or moments in between the unfortunate ones. I could have told my cousin about my struggle with my diagnosis and how losing my identity as a female has diminished my perspective of self but instead I choose to embrace the golden moments and share them with him. There are times to share pain and times to share joy. The choice is always ours in the making of the conversation.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to inspire you to think of saying the word ‘Unbelievable’ the next week to everyone who asks how your feeling to see if the word makes you feel better about yourself, business or circumstance. Perhaps thinking about using it as a negative connotation won’t sit right with your scenario or heart realizing things aren’t as bad as they could be. Perspective is a powerful point of view and one that should emphasize the goodness in one’s life. Focusing on the positive rather than the negative will always bring more hope for today and tomorrow.

We don’t know what situations will happen down the road, but we can control our outlook while traveling it. I for one intend it to be ‘Unbelievable.’ How about you?

Lessons in Customer Service After a College Move-In Day

August 16, 2019

Friday Feelings, Wisdom and Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

The hush over the roads and businesses around our city reminds me that parents of college-aged students are busy driving their sons and daughters to college for the first, second, third or last year. With my sons graduated and settled in New York City in their jobs, I remembered back to taking our youngest son to college and the customer service lessons learned. The lessons and 2014 blog post were worth sharing again for a new generation of parents and entrepreneurs reading our blog.

Business lessons are gleaned in the most unlikely places and improbable times. If entrepreneurs keep their eye open all the time, they can witness good business practices in unexpected places.

As we dropped our youngest son off at Syracuse University last Thursday for his freshman year, we experienced outstanding customer service, efficient procedures and helpful instructions that began as soon as we tried parking our car to unload his possessions. We witnessed student volunteers moving his entire belongings on a hot, humid day to his new dorm room so we didn’t have to, we ate a free lunch in a pretty sharp dining hall to give us energy and then we were invited to tour campus before leaving with welcoming tents, directional boards and volunteers ensuring we were enjoying our time. If I had to describe the experience in one word I would say, “Exceptional.”

I’ve been an event planner for 23 years so I understand the attention to detail that goes into moving in 3,200 freshmen at one time while making the transition less overwhelming and more enjoyable than expected for parents. As I sat on the steps of Hendricks Chapel watching student volunteers dressed in orange welcome everyone they saw, golf carts loaded with free water and soda being driven around the quad to refresh parents and heard music playing from impromptu musical groups, I thought to myself, “Every entrepreneur should work harder to please their customers unexpectedly and as often as they can.”

Today I’m sharing some valuable take-aways from this moving-in day experience that might inspire you to stun your customers too:

* Everyone wants to be treated like a VIP no matter who they are. Being recognized, being given unexpected perks and being showered with attention is something easy to do and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Think of how you could impress your customers by doing something unexpected or special for them at least once a year if not more often. Keep your eyes open and notice what impresses you and then implement it in your company.

* Go beyond typical communication when you can. Go the extra mile in writing letters or picking up the phone if your guests are having issues understanding warranties, procedures or ways to utilize your company. Send out periodic updates on new corporate services or policies to keep clients informed. Make sure you have an open door policy when it comes to taking and handling customer complaints. Portray a helpful and friendly communication style whenever possible.

*Spending a small amount of money to make a customer comfortable, costs little in the end. What would your customers enjoy to make working with you better? Investigate options and invest the money. Shower your clients with one or two items throughout the year (not just at the holidays) to make their lives easier or happier; or just to show you care.

Today I hope you consider what your company needs to do in practices, communications and giveaways to give your trusted and valued clients an exceptional experience.

Entrepreneurship Lesson – Competitive and Profitable

August 14, 2019

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

I remember back working in Higher Education as the Internet was becoming a useful tool for event planning. Responsible for planning thirty events around the country to gather alumni together for the College President’s visit, I relied on calling alumni I didn’t know from a database to inquiry about beautiful venues to host events. In those days most businesses didn’t have a website with detailed floor maps, room views, catering prices or contact information, so relying on trusty graduates of the college was the only way to discover venues to try.

My job also required working closely with a graphic designer to ensure the invitation had correct details, the PMS logo color and proper staff names were on the invitation. No one emailed invitations then, they had to be bulk mailed for the cheapest price and also the longest delivery time. Protocol and technology didn’t allow for online invitations, reservations or online payment systems, everything had to be done properly and perfectly mailed the good ole fashion way.

Last week as I celebrated becoming a woman entrepreneur on August 8, 1995, when I signed my D.B.A. as Five Star Events, I left the college I was working at with enough experience and contacts to start my own event planning, managing and marketing company. Over the past 24 years so much has changed in the event planning industry including increased costs for event rooms, food and drink, and gratuity percentages. You can see how the economic wheel can stop turning when everyone increases fees but its left to entrepreneurs to either reduce their profit margin, increase their own prices (which can lead to loss of attendees), or get out of the market.

The event industry is one of the industries suffering from technological advancement and the economic climate. It is just as easy for people to watch events online and connect with others through the internet at reduced prices then to attend live events. I have worried about my industry for quite some time and predicted its downturn eventually as everyone gets more comfortable learning and communicating via the internet and prices rise everywhere else to maintain the old way of doing events.

Perhaps my frustration with trying to find a venue for my Rochester members and in other event locales has led to today’s wisdom. I simply keep running into financial walls finding the right place. My heart wants to be in Rochester, Binghamton, Albany, Utica, and Syracuse but the market pricing keeps pushing planning back.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to remind you there are simply times in entrepreneurship when costs and pricing matter most. Finding the right price for your product or service is essential to make consumers buy from you and having enough of a profit to make the sale worth the effort. If it has been awhile since you took a look at pricing in your industry, now might be the time to do that so you can adjust, plan and proceed.

Nothing stays the same forever especially pricing in 2019. Adjust as you must to stay competitive and profitable.

Celebrating a Life of Entrepreneurship

August 8, 2019

Thursday Thoughts, Business Motivation, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Sports, Women in Business

Entering the grey stone building in downtown Syracuse, there was trepidation. Not knowing where to go or what floor to look on, I knew I would find the right place. Excitement in my heart made it palpitate as if a lighting strike just missed me. Walking as fast as my heart was beating, I walked through the right door into an unknown future.

Inside the door, an older woman greeted me at the counter saying, “May I help you? “ I paused for a moment and said, “Yes, I want to start my own business and need to fill out the correct paperwork.” She responded, “You have come to the right place, dear.” Little did I know signing that paperwork for a DBA – Doing Business As – and paying a $35 fee would open my world to places I couldn’t imagine, new people I would meet along the way with both tests and deep joy in overcoming. I thought to myself as I inked my signature, “What a brave new world I’m entering!”

Adam, Tracy and Thomas Higginbotham

The memory of that moment is as crisp today as it was the past yearly anniversaries of becoming a woman entrepreneur. Through the growth of my sons from 3 months old to 28 years old, hot summers with booming sales counterbalanced by chilly winters and cold calling, speaking at podiums in rooms full of 8 people to 500 people and seeing my name positively promoted in the media to once in awhile less than positive comments on social media, I’ve been through it all the past 24 years officially today August 8th.

Because I connected to so many people, I was inspired to run the Boston Marathon, take 120 women to the Women’s March on Washington, rallied for pay equality, had stories and articles published in major books and magazines, added a Women’s Athletic Network division to my company, met amazing women like Kathrine Switzer and Billie Jean King, inspired interns and hired young women. I’ve made enough money to make me happy while having enough to give away to worthy causes.

What a glorious adventure it has been accompanied by amazing people I have worked for and with in both the event planning field and women entrepreneurship world. I can’t imagine how dull my life would have been if I never had the courage to walk through that city hall door 24 years ago and ink my name to that form. Sure there have been hardships along the way, aren’t there always bumps in the road? To borrow a term from Oprah Winfrey, “What I know for sure, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

I have been blessed to wake up every single morning the past 24 years happy, really happy, with my profession turned into a mission as I promoted and united women in business. I have helped hundreds, hugged even more people and lent expertise anytime I was asked. I learned, lost, failed, got up again and kept on walking my path, my way. In the process, I found a demographic I truly love – women entrepreneurs and women in sports – and a meaning for my life.

As I look in the mirror now, I might be missing my beautiful dark brown hair that framed my face due to alopecia, but my heart is larger, my arms wider to hug more women and my spirit strong. I would have lost so much if I never took the leap of faith to become a business woman that hot summer day two decades ago.

Thank you to all the people who have been a small or big part of my life the past 24 years. I remember you. I don’t forget people who have crossed my path. Today, I wish you the same blessings my professional life has given me – happiness, hope and kinship.

P.S. In light of my 24 year in business, I am asking for $24 donations to “The Barber Shop – Cuts for a Cure Alopecia Awareness Fundraiser” found on GoFundMe at this link: to help find a cure for the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata.

Thank you. XO, Tracy

Wednesday Wisdom: Motivated To Do More

August 7, 2019

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

Do you ever wonder how non-for-profit organizations get started? Similar to entrepreneurial ventures, there is someone with a vision to create a company using their skills, expertise and knowledge to provide a service or product to the marketplace and solve a problem; just glance at any corporate mission statement to discover the reason for doing business.

Slightly different from entrepreneurial enterprises, creators of most non-profit organizations are moved emotionally by something near and dear to their heart, self or a loved one or to shed light on a community issue. One woman in our organization created a breast cancer support non-profit agency after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Another woman in Women TIES established a different cancer support organization after losing her sister to ovarian cancer.

Some women start non-profit organizations to get government or charity funds to support a worthy plight like Mothers Against Drunk Driving did years ago to stop the useless deaths caused by alcohol related accidents happening to their sons and daughters. Some non-profit agencies are schools, fire departments, and sport associations. All of them started with one or more people who believed officially forming an entity would help them promote, advance and support a cause.

Tomorrow on August 8th, I will begin my 24th year as a woman entrepreneur. My two companies have been for-profit structures with Women TIES behaving much more like a non-profit in mission and feminist spirit. I have not hit some of the big revenue goals but I have touched more lives and interacted, promoted and connected thousands of women over two decades, a number so much larger than I ever imagined. I don’t care if my bank account doesn’t show a million dollars because in my heart the number of women I have served, inspired and met since 1995 is what counts most. They are worth more than a million dollars.

On September 8th, one of my son’s friends, Ryley Shackleton, will host Cuts for a Cure to raise funds for me to get a new wig (his idea not mine) and the National Alopecia Foundation. Ryley owns his own Barber Shop in Camillus but has many past and current Syracuse University athletes as customers. He and a couple of other barbers are donating their earnings that day to cut hair in exchange for monetary donations. I never knew I touched this young man’s life. Sometimes we don’t know who we touch and our impact on someone outside our business circles.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to remind you that your life impacts more people than you imagine. People watch from afar observing your contributions to the community and society as a woman entrepreneur and as a person. If you are lucky enough to have someone notice, you might end up on the giving end of business. There is more kindness in the world than we see in social media or on television. Don’t underestimate your positive impact in your own corner of the world.

If you or a loved one comes on September 8th, you might walk out of Ryley’s Barber Shack so inspired you are motivated to do something generous in your community, start a non-profit organization or join a board of one. You won’t be losing too much of your hair that day, you’ll be gaining a new perspective on love and kindness in business.

For more information on the event, click here.

Signs of a Hopeful Business Day

August 2, 2019

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

A perfectly round blazing orange sun hung on the recently cut hay field as a fawn and her mother bounced joyfully from one side of the road to the other. A beautiful humid breeze, the kind you find in Florida in February, swirled in the tree tops and through the car windows. The quietness of a mid-summer morning enveloped the scene as the beauty of the morning brought hope to anyone on their way to work. It was a perfect way to begin a work day.

Not all business days start in such perfect accord. Traffic jams, honking horns, or the panic of getting up late throws us off course or into a frenzied day when we are behind in all activities with a grumpy mood accompanying us. Starting a day that way leads to a feeling of never catching up with responsibilities or even wishing the day away.

Why is it imperative to be hopeful every morning of work? I can tell you one thing for sure it is essential for your peace of mind which coupled with a tenacious business spirit helps women entrepreneurs accomplish daily goals. When we are responsible for motivating ourselves to conduct work, make sales calls, create positive marketing messages and chat with clients, the start of our business day can make or break our work mood. Most of us don’t have staff to bolster our confidence, it is our duty alone.

Doing business in and around Central New York is challenging many times in the year based on the weather or economic forecast. National or local news contributes to worry or dismay. Seasonal sales dips don’t help either, so our mindset is paramount to a thriving day, week or quarter.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to inspire you to take the positive energy coursing through our environment, climate and business culture this time of year to elevate your work load, sales plans and goal setting. I believe if it is beautiful outside, we should inhale the feeling to lead us to a beautiful work day. All we need to do is capture the essence of the breeze, light and joy and bring it right into our daily duties or week long planning goals. We miss the inspiration if we don’t acknowledge its affect on our mindset.

Embrace glorious morning views, the quiet vibe of summertime’s lovely settings and relaxed atmosphere to effectively ramp up your internal entrepreneurial spirit to accomplish more in a calming fashion. This wave won’t last forever so ignite your passion and responsibilities while basking in this season’s positive glow.

Inspiring Possibility – Barb Klein

July 25, 2019

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

If there is one thing I have learned in this past year as a woman entrepreneur, it’s the value of self-care. The lesson rings just as true looking back over two decades of entrepreneurship. When women begin solo entrepreneurial journeys their eyes are only on the distant bright horizon as they envision a successful future as a triumphant provider of their unique passion and service to the marketplace. Never at the beginning of the trip do women foresee curves or detours which eventually rise up leading to vital self-care.

“In the past six years as a business owner who works with women, I have discovered that they often need to lower the bar in order to bring gentleness and kindness to themselves instead of driving, striving and pushing all the time,” Barb Klein of Inspired Possibility shares. Women of any age need to determine the best work/life balance to sustain themselves and maneuver through personal life experiences and careers.

“Often women put others first, forgetting they also need to take care of themselves. This is the main reason my work always brings with it an element of self-care and why I host several Women’s Renewal Retreats annually. Everything I offer is designed to help women awaken to their soul’s imperative,” Barb passionately declares. One of her clients said it best, “You brought me back to myself. Thank you!”

As part of her mission, Barb offers Serenity Now retreats for mothers impacted by their son’s or daughter’s mental health conditions, including substance use disorder. During these retreats, moms get to be with others who have walked a similar path which offers a certain level of comfort. A main focus of these retreats is to step out of the chaos and remember that we were women first before becoming a mom and before a loved one’s illness came into our lives.

As a mom who loves deeply and has known for many years the waves of powerlessness, hope, fear, joy, and grief that regularly swirl in families where mental health conditions reside, Barb knows the complexities of living, loving, and letting go. “These things don’t happen in a linear or cyclical way. Love is the thread that runs through it all, and remembering to love and care for myself as well as others is critically important,” Barb says. She knows there are no easy answers or quick fixes, and that practices of self-care, mindfulness, and self-compassion lay the foundation for living one’s own life, regardless of what is happening with those you love. Barb also knows that it is possible to live and create even while dealing with previously unimaginable events, having started her business and written her first book, 111 Invitations: Step into the Full Richness of Life, while often consumed with worry and having many sleepless nights. This lived experience is what has her on a quest to help other mothers around the world reclaim and live their lives fully.

Open to all women, Barb’s 2nd Annual “Coming Home to Yourself Retreat” held at the Himalayan Institute, nestled in the beautiful hills of the Poconos on August 9-11th, is a special time to pause and reconnect with yourself. This tranquil Pennsylvania retreat center is an easy drive for New York women (2 ½ hours from NYC area, 2 hours from Syracuse, 3 hours from the Capital Region, and 3 ½ hours from Rochester). During this weekend, the group dedicates time to slowing down and making space for inquiry, exploration, and discovery while immersing themselves in practices of self-care, mindfulness, and self-compassion. Gentle yoga, campfire time, meditation, music, readings, and writing exercises support the retreat experience.

This fall women looking to re-engage with their own light can attend Barb’s annual “Let Your Light Shine! Women’s Renewal Retreat” at the gorgeous Light on the Hill Retreat Center in Ithaca on October 25-27th. Along with her friend, Deb Bussewitz, Barb inspires participants to return to the woman they were before overwork, crisis, or attending to others’ needs put them on the back burner. Reinvesting in our own lives is critical to our well-being and part of a solid self-care regimen. This special autumn retreat allows women to rest, rejuvenate, and realign before the busy holiday “giving” and commerce season.

“What is a soul’s imperative?” I ask Barb as she mentions it. “It is what makes us feel alive, what calls us to create and express ourselves to the fullest. It is what lights us up!” she explains. I realize I’m living my soul’s imperative as I stare at Barb’s kind eyes and feel her deep concern for women living life for others more than for themselves. “Each one of us has our own journey. We don’t know what our children’s journey will be and we can’t save anyone from their own lessons and experiences. We can assist, but when we give too much to another’s situation, we must come back home to ourselves to effectively keep moving forward,” she says.

I totally understand what Barb is saying having put my own self-care in the forefront of priorities this past year because I overworked myself, worried too much about my adult children working in a big city, struggled to find a second purpose for my life since they left, and trying to handle an unexpected health condition that altered my profession and life. It has taken a year of re-prioritizing my life while keeping my heart aglow helping the women entrepreneurs I serve and love. Like Barb, I understand the need for women to recognize and act as their own best friend when life intersects with work (which it always does).

If you are ready to consider the possibility that self-care might strongly support whatever else you are trying to do, I suggest you look at the programs Barb offers which include Self-Care Sanctuary (bi-weekly group which meets by phone) and life coaching in addition to her live events. Barb and I agree, women need the support of other women when their professional or personal lives get out of balance. There is no shame or stigma in seeking support to rebalance your life, especially if you have a loved one with a mental health or addiction issue or if you are overworked and in need of assistance.

If there is anyone who understands women best, it is another woman; for this reason I support and highlight women like Barb Klein as a member of Women TIES. Women need each other. I know Barb can help you or any other women you know who want to rebalance, care for themselves more deeply, or find their light again.

To find out more about Barb’s company, Inspired Possibility, her upcoming events, book, coaching and programs, visit her website.

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