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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! 

Wednesday Wisdom: Changing Your Style

August 31, 2022

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

Unexpected invitations come out of the air sometimes, and so do answers to intentional goals put out into the universe. Impatiently waiting, tapping our toes, wondering why, and often believing the “thing” we want to do or have happen won’t occur, is more our mindset; when instead if we just wait another moment or day, “it” might come to us.

Opportunities arrive at least expected moments and so it is necessary to stay open and flexible in your planning. As much as we might want to fill our calendars and business plans with set-in-stone events, instead leaving flexible openings is as important. Random unique opportunities may present themselves; and you need space to accept them. Stop tapping your toes and gently release your intentions into the air instead and go on with the plans you already have lined up, the rest come.

This mindset isn’t typical of what they teach in school or entrepreneurial classes, but it works, especially as you or your business age and there appears less time, but more urgency, forcing us forward. Instead of holding on tightly, with a frozen grip on everything you feel you can control, loosen it and remember that water can’t flow through your hand if your hand is a tight fist.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom when the summer season officially slips away on Labor Day and we switch back into a more regular way of doing things because “we must,” remember you have the choice to be more open-minded or rigid in how you approach everything. Perhaps choose looseness over regimen, less strict work hours, expanded lunch periods, and part-time staff or interns to ease your work, since they can be better options. 

There is another style of working, and as the owner of your own company, you get to choose it. When you remain flexible, you open yourself up to those unexpected invitations to accept when they come your way. Live in anticipation for them by having a more open timetable.

Monday Motivation and Manic Miracles

August 29, 2022
Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – CNY Magazine
The dotted circle on the black screen spun, and spun, and spun, until my mind joined it spinning in the same way wondering how to get into the black vault of my newest computer. Sure, it was a Monday morning when things can go wrong but good luck had been on my side lately so tenacity was having the best of me. Finally realizing there was an issue, I hauled the big black computer box over to Staples for a look and hopeful repair.

Remembering it was Monday, the answers to my dire situation – because aren’t all computer issues dire – wasn’t immediate. Patiently I’d have to wait a week for the hard drive to be sent out to another location for analysis. I already knew when the young dude at the counter said, “Oh, you got a BLACK screen, that’s bad!” I was in for it. 57-years-old doesn’t make me a novice when it comes to technology.

Before I could get back to my home office, I already whipped up a plan to conquer this major disturbance by grabbing a laptop I only used for power point presentations and started creating easy access to all my accounts so I could change passwords in case the guys looking at my hard drive could take off information and get access to my financial accounts. That was my main worry along with realizing I hadn’t backed up my documents that had my large excel spread sheet on regular and adventure sports I had, and hadn’t yet, tried.

Remembering earlier in the year when I announced that sports goal, someone asked for the list so I graciously emailed it to her and had recently, as of four days ago, changed my personal website www.tracyhigginbotham.com to reflect this new goal, so I breathed easier getting access to that list again. The beginnings of the sports book documenting my new life adventure weren’t recoverable but my blog hosted many of my experiences and could be copied again.

Today’s Monday Manic and Motivational blog post is to simply, yet loudly, remind you to back up your most important documents as often as you can – maybe even daily – so if your big black computer stops working and all you see is circling white dots, you feel less panicked about retrieving vital files and folders. This message is one of the most general pieces of business news I’ve shared in a blog, but its essentialist to a mentally happy woman entrepreneur is imperative.

Spend some time this week backing up your computer, files, folders, and passwords so you can sail into a new work week more easily than I did today.   

Wednesday Wisdom: How to Enrich Your Life

August 24, 2022

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

Entering the conservative Federal style chapel, with its distinctive three-story main body and interior design, including three bays on the eastern façade and eight bays of double hung windows along the north and south side of the building, set the unique and beautiful tone for the ceremony. Inside clean, classic wooden pews were dotted with people of all ages and walks of life waiting for the event to begin. An ebony grand piano sat on stage along with a simple podium, dried hydrangeas, a wooden box, and a photo of the ceremony’s honoree. Breathtakingly simple and poignant.

“A Celebration of An Extraordinary Life” began with a welcome, opening remarks, reading, and pause, followed by a tribute, musical reflection, and closing. Each speaker was hand picked with close ties to the life being honored. Every word, smile, laugh, tear, and thoughtful silence led back to the life of this one person. The music performed by special students who wrote and sang unique, yet familiar, tunes creating chills up arms.

This special event was the celebration of life for a beloved woman who was both educator and entrepreneur for thirty years touching the heart strings of so many. Looking around the room you could literally see how one’s work affected the lives of so many. I think we want our careers to have more meaning than money, but that’s a question and answer for each woman entrepreneur. What matters most – the people’s whose lives we touch or the amount of revenue in our bank accounts?

Hamilton College Chapel

When you think your work doesn’t matter, contemplate your own real-life scenario within the walls of a quaint historic chapel filled with past clients, vendors, friends, students, and even one-time exchanges and see that it does. People love you. People believe in what you offer. People watch you lead and follow. Don’t believe for one second your work isn’t of value, because it is to someone, and in most cases, to hundreds.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to lift your eyes beyond your accounting binders, bank statements, and purse holdings to consider the real gold you have achieved over your lifetime of work in your career – the contributions you have made to people. It isn’t about enriching our individual life, as much as enriching others’ lives. This kind of money is the only one that truly counts.

Be grateful for your work, yourself, the people you touch, your physical ability to conduct your work, the use of your brain, and putting out into the world positive influences on a daily basis. For this you will be remembered. For this you will be rewarded. 

Tuesday Thoughts: Protections For the Entrepreneur

August 23, 2022

Tuesday Thoughts, Inspiration, Motivation for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Companies

My first female boss was a dynamic woman at SUNY Oswego. At the time I thought she was wise beyond her years since I was a 21-year-old bright-eyed professional taking notes from this 40-year-old, seasoned career woman. As a manager she was the perfect blend between educator, disciplinarian and friend. I learned two of the best business lessons of my career working for her that I still remember today and want to pass on to you.

I remember walking in her office for my first employee evaluation confident I could ask for a substantial raise because she liked me and I was doing work above and beyond my job description. She looked me directly in the eye and said, “Tracy, you are doing a good job but not enough for me to grant you a raise. Work harder and we can talk about it again.”

I remember walking out of her office deflated but determined to work harder to earn that raise. Three months later she surprised me with a 60% raise in my salary! I’m not sure I worked that hard, I think it probably demonstrated how low I was paid when I started working, but the lesson learned was if you don’t ask for what you want you won’t get it.

The second lesson came from a dark period in the office when my boss discovered the staff bookkeeper wasn’t keeping the books correctly and the company was in financial despair. With an audit coming within a month, the attitude in the office shifted from positive to downbeat within a day. My boss from that day forward made sure every single employee documented their work, documented communication, and documented agreements.

I often said I learned to “document the world” when I worked there. Documentation of verbal agreements, phone conversations, contract negotiations, and more have always served me well, especially as an entrepreneur, when unexpected communication issues and business problems have developed with vendors, clients and associates. An extremely successful local company hadn’t paid me for a job three months prior so I faxed them our contract again and again until a check appeared in the mail. Legally binding words work wonders.

Today’s post is to remind you about the importance of asking for the money you deserve and to always document communication whether it seems important or not. Both will eventually get you what you want.  We must be our own best advocates. We can’t be afraid to ask for what we feel we deserve, we must remain mentally strong when it comes to finances and negotiation, and we must always take a stand if we are treated unjustly. Bottom line, it is up to us and no one else to watch out for ourselves.

Monday Motivation: Rise and Grind Tips On Expansion

August 22, 2022

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

Marty Richardson (left) and Tracy Chamberlain Higignbotham (right) at Rise and Grind Cafe in Camillus

Bold, Daring, Brave, I’m not sure exactly how to refer to a woman entrepreneur who in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic buys a popular restaurant, retaining all its employees, opens up a small café next to her already existing popular restaurant and then decides to clone the small café into another one in a highly trafficked new part of town. Which word would you choose? And don’t say “crazy” which is a term this woman, Marty Richardson, used to describe herself yesterday when I stopped in her new place to give her business.

The rain was coming down, as if Noah’s Ark needed it to float, as we found the new café tucked into a new spot in Township 5 in Camillus. Near the medical office buildings made sense for its locale since so many patients have to wait for medical exams or tests and have nowhere to grab a cup of “Marty” or just sit and wait. A perceived need was seen by this serial entrepreneur and the second “Rise and Grind Café” was finished two weeks ago.

Rise and Grind Cafe – Township 5

A tradition of getting coffee after Catholic mass, I told my husband we had to find Marty’s new café and spend some money there, following my 3-decade dedication to putting my money in the hands of other women owned businesses whenever I can. We walked through the doors into a beautiful small, comfortable café with stuffed chairs, small tables, a table bar near the windows, and a bustling counter. It was clean, quaint, and a perfect place to go on a rainy Sunday morning.

Marty smiled her fabulous smile at me when she saw me since we have become friends through a shared cause. A high school student, who Marty and I both met a couple years ago at a meeting with Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s Syracuse staff to talk about passage of a new bill to have wigs covered by insurance, was working the counter given the job by Marty.

Advocates

Sitting down for a few minutes, Marty shared some tips on opening this second locale:

* When you are opening up a second location of an existing business, it runs smoother because you already have a model to follow.
* When you see a “need” for your product or service, taking the risk seems wise.
* Having a pool of staff to draw from, when you have existing businesses, is helpful when opening a new location.
* Obtaining news coverage on the opening (which led me to go to Rise and Grind on Sunday), is essential to get the word out on an expansion.
* Ensuring good signage to direct customers to your new spot is essential for sales success.

And finally, from my perspective, having young, personable female staffers working your front counter and serving a great tasting product, is a excellent way to have first-time customers come back for more. Check out Rise and Grind at 4119 West Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY or at 240 Township Blvd, Ste. 50, Camillus, NY and be really glad you did.

Flipping the Coin for Female Football

August 18, 2022

Thursday Thoughts, Inspiration, Wisdom for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Sports

Colorado Freeze Photo

The call came in on a random business afternoon by a female leader of a new women’s semi-pro football team called the Syracuse Sting. I met her at one of the business networking events I was leading as she promoted her new team, looking for sponsors and supporters to fill the stands. There hadn’t been a woman’s football team in CNY at that point so promoting it was essential for its success.

Cabrina Gilbert of the Syracuse String Women’s Football Tetam

Always willing to help another woman out, especially a woman who owned her own football team, I embraced Cabrina Gilbert with open arms willing to help in anyway promote the team for her. Memories of watching my father play football and coach football resonated in my memory. Only a powder-puff football player for one game in Highschool, but an avid watcher of my favorite team the Denver Broncos because of John Elway, made me an instant fan of the Syracuse Sting.

With a promise to host a women’s business night out at the football game – played at our AAA baseball field of the Syracuse Chiefs – we promoted one of the Sting’s games. Along with the promotion came a really cool request. “Tracy, would you honor us by flipping the game coin at the start of the game?” Cabrina asked. “YES! I would love to,” I replied. How cool was this going to be, I thought to myself.

The night of the game I bought a Syracuse Sting sweatshirt to wear onto the field to look the part. Merchandise for an entity like a women’s semi-pro football team was an important revenue stream and promotional tool. When I was called, I walked onto the field with Cabrina and three other very tall, big, cool female football players to the middle where we met the official. The lights of the stadium glowed as the sun was setting and what felt like my “Superbowl moment” minus a million fans occurred. I don’t remember what I called – heads or tails – but the flip worked and our team got the option to choose if they wanted to receive or play.

Sadly, as I walked back to the sideline; I noticed how few spectators were in the stands. Why wouldn’t our community support a woman’s football team? Where were the young girls to inspire? Or more business women to financially support this feminine corporation? Well, the game happened in the late 1990s when even the NFL wouldn’t support the Syracuse Sting, as Cabrina explained to me when I asked her. Sometimes a novel idea, is too novel for most people. But hopefully the world will keep changing for women interested in the sport.

The team didn’t last long mostly due to lack of an audience and financial support but I will never forget being impressed enough that there as a women’s football team in Syracuse and walking out under the summer lights sandwiched between tall football players. I still have my Syracuse Sting sweatshirt and wear it once in awhile to remind myself that women in all aspects of sports, business, and life still need my support…..and yours too.

Wednesday Wisdom: Cycles of Life & Business

August 17, 2022

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

As predictable as Upstate New York’s four seasons, is the same cycle in entrepreneurship. Seasons of budding, sustaining, turning golden, and finally buried under layers of cold are similar to the life cycle of any business. We plant the seed of our entrepreneurial idea, fertilize it through sales and networking, watch it prosper achieving its financial goals, and then witness its end. Then we have a chance like nature to start all over again with a new business seed or off-ramp into retirement or some other career goal.

Biking under the brilliant green canopy of full-blown August trees, with the ever-so-humid breeze blowing on my face in the very quiet trail typically busy when summer begins, reminded me that its past visitors might be taking their college-aged kids to far away institutions or soaking in the last few weeks of a summer vacation at the seashore, or school shopping with beaming grandchildren eager to get back in the saddle of their education. Cycles, it is all about cycles.

Seasons come. Seasons go. Time flies by just like everyone notices. A once-new- business suddenly turns a decade old and its owner a once 30-year-old turns 60 realizing how fast a 3-decade business dream has sprung, grown, and aged. Cycles.

The question becomes do we just keep on going from one season to another without stopping to pause, or do we stop after each season to analyze the lessons learned – both good and bad – so we can prepare for the next one. Just like Spring is as opposite as Fall, and Summer contrary to Winter so can our own entrepreneurial seasons be to us as leaders of our company and brand.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to ask you to pause sometime this week to consider the difference in your own business’ seasons. What has happened since January 1st to now? What was unexpected or predicted? Did something happen that alters the way you need to move your company forward? Do different marketplace factors need to be addressed in an updated business plan? Are you more tired or happier since the year began? What are you inspired to do for the rest of the year?

Sometimes planning an entire year out can be difficult, but doing smaller seasonal planning for your company and yourself might be the perfect way to address the cycles of life and business that are everchanging. Try it out and welcome the next cycle of your company’s life.

Monday Motivation: Picking Up Speed

August 15, 2022

Monday Motivation, Inspiration for Women, Female Athletes, Women Entrepreneurs

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Motorcross with Alden, age 3

When you are greeted by a 3-year-old boy who is jumping up and down in his motorcycle clothing because he’s been waiting for you all day to try his grandmother’s backyard motorcross field, you know the experience will be energetic, enthusiastic, and perfectly safe. If my buddy Alden can jump on his motorcycle without fear and zoom off confidently, you can too.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – with Devin age 6

Inspiration comes in different sizes and my experience riding a motorcycle for the first time, be it a small motorcycle, in the ten-acre backyard of the Quigleys in Macedon, was thrilling. Motorcross was on my list of sports to try and simply posting a question on Facebook as to where I could try it, garnered the chance to do it with my husband’s cousin an hour from our house. They had diverse sizes of bikes, helmets, and clothes for me to wear, just not a pink helmet to fit my head.

I’ve biked 15 miles a day down and up hills by my own power, driven my powered-lawn mower down our back steep hill, and started going up and down ski bumps under the age of ten, so I was pretty confident I could get on a motorcycle and not crash but there is always that apprehension when you try anything new for the first time, especially something that has a motor, that semi-controls your speed and direction.

Dacia Quigley, Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, Taylor Quigley

The Quigley family was waiting for me including four females and four males all zooming around on their own bikes as I arrived. Showing off their talents going up and down big and small dirt jumps built into their property, was thrilling to watch. Making sure I looked the part, I was soon outfitted in blue (sorry Tracy we don’t have pink) pants, top, helmet, and bike. They wanted me to experience it all. Just learning how to put a tight helmet on and off my bald head was a trick.

Safely taking me out on a Kubota to show me the course first and places I shouldn’t go, I returned to motorcycle instructions, which weren’t that hard to follow, and off I went following the women in the family on their bikes. Alden, the 3-year-old hotshot, speed past us with no fear. The thrill of the bike taking off made me say “Yahoo!” as soon as the bike advanced. Oh, it was fun!

I was trying not to go too fast, as an 85-mph regular driver on the highway, until I truly got the hang of the bike, and then asked them if I could try to go up and down a jump. I was ready! They were a wee bit surprised by my attitude and skills and off we went off one smaller jump and then bigger ones. No fear of jumps or hills came from learning to ski when I was 5-years-old and eventually doing the moguls on ski days. Bring it on, I said to myself in the quietness of my blue helmet.

Like all fun things in life, the ride came to an end too short for me, signifying this was another sport I wanted to try again after trying it once. My love for speed made motorcrossing my kind of sport. Am I willing to buy a $7,000 motorcycle to keep doing it? I’m not sure of that. Will I do it again if I have the opportunity given to me, yes! And that’s what trying a new sport brings to the table for anyone daring enough to try a new one.

Motorcross Take-aways:
* In life or business, you have to speed up if you want to accomplish bigger tasks or goals. You can’t stay in neutral too long.
* The harder you push yourself in unknown territories of life, the more resilient you become.
* Life and business aren’t for the faint of heart, so realize you need to push beyond your traditional limits.
* Experiences are more fun when you do it with other people, especially women. Get involved, ask, say yes, and join other women in any life or business adventures.

You can’t assume you know the pleasure a new sport or experience can bring you if you don’t give it a try. Onto the next adventure…

P.S. If you have a sport you want me to try that you do, let me know!

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