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A Graduation Message for Women Entrepreneurs and Students

May 27, 2014

Business advice for women entrepreneurs

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Today’s blog post is a message to graduating students and women entrepreneurs everywhere. It is from a speech I delivered at SUNY Oswego in April to their honors students. I believe it is applicable to professionals as well.

Not too long ago, I was like the students graduating today – a happy, college student enjoying everything about – my friends, my major and my social life. 3 decades later I used the excellent education I received from my alma mater SUNY Oswego and the leadership positions I held both in college and throughout my career to make calculated professional decisions that lead me to developing a strong personal and professional mission statement – a mission statement that’s been critical in guiding me forward in my career and life. I believe all graduates have a personal mission statement inside you that’s ready to be discovered.

So you might be saying, “How do I discover my unique personal mission statement and when will I realize it?” It’s a great question and one I didn’t have the answer to until I was 30. It took until then to embark on challenging employment opportunities that utilized my skills education and interests; while also focusing on what societal issues really motivated me over that time period which eventually lead to me creating a company called Women TIES that helps women entrepreneurs promote, market and connect with other women all over New York State.

I never studied Women’s Studies in college but my desire to help women developed as I matured personally and professionally, and realized how many strong female role models influenced my life including a number of them from this college. I was also being recognized consistently for my “feminist belief” within entrepreneurship and a strong support for women in business.

Stone-Path-3My mother once said, “Someday you’ll be able to look back at your professional career and see a stony path. Each stone represents a step in your professional journey. You don’t know where the path is leading you but when you look back over your shoulder at the job opportunities and decisions you’ve made in your career, you’ll see a path leading right up to where you are today.” It’s true. You all have a stone path awaiting you. You might even have laid some of the stones in your path from the decisions you’ve already made in college.

So as you go forth when you graduate pay attention to “the path you are naturally creating for yourself.” – What are your true interests? What moves you, what motivates your decisions? What brings you happiness? What feels unjust in society that you want to change? What allows you to make a positive contribution in society? The answers to these questions will guide you forward and help you make the best decisions.

My entrepreneurial desire to be an advocate, promoter and supporter of women entrepreneurs was because of a societal issue. When I heard women only earned 77 cents on the dollar for what a man earns, I was moved by the injustice and decided to make a difference by creating my company Women TIES and utilizing my expertise in event planning, marketing and business to bring NYS women entrepreneurs together online, through social media and regional events, so they can make more money by doing more business with each other and increasing their revenue potential. This personal mission developed along the stony pathway of my career from the time I graduated until today.

collegegraduationMy words of wisdom for you is to continue to strive for what brought you here today – the strong traits you possess, the dedication you display and the academic excellence you pursue and use them to move forward when you graduate…..when you get your first job….when you have to make career or life decisions 5, 10,
20 or 30 years from now. I suggest you:

1. Be a Leader – Raise your hand. Keep raising it. Raise it as often as you can. Say yes to challenging opportunities. Say yes to leadership roles. Become a leader early in your professional career and in your community. By stepping up – you step out – into unlimited
connections, possibilities and opportunities that open doors.

2. Continue to Learn – Education is the key to success in one’s professional career. Learn more by obtaining your masters or doctorate in your chosen field, securing certification in your profession that makes you more valuable to your employer, and learning from others. I provide education to women all year long. Our programs don’t just educate 1,400 women annually – they also teach me something all the time. I couldn’t be the success I am today without constantly learning.

3. Give Back – It is the most important thing you can do – not only for others – but for yourself. My favorite quote on my desk reads, “What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.” I live by that. I want my life to count for something when it’s over.
There is too much to do in this world, too many people to help, too many causes to be a part of – to NOT do something!

Personal happiness comes from helping others so I encourage you to think about what interests you, what stirs your heart, what injustice or cause resonates with you and then dedicate your time and leadership skills. We each have a unique calling in life – it’s up to us to hear it and do something about it.

My wish for you is that you continue to take steps forward in your educational and professional journey and look back once in awhile to see where the stony path has lead you. Make note of it. See if along the journey you have developed a strong personal mission that fuels you. Stay in touch with who you are, who you are becoming and go out and make that difference in the world using your brains, heart and spirit. You are a gift. You have so much to learn and share.
Go forth and live with purpose and a deep personal mission.

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