A facebook post just wasn’t going to do it this year! I decided to do a full reflection on this crazy and amazing year I have had as a business owner turned an official entrepreneur. This blog doesn’t focus on the individual events of the year but more on the recurring themes that contributed to my personal development in 2014.  

Know your truth, speak your truth

This saying was my official 2014 mantra. The first weekend of January 2014 I had a strong wake-up call that caused me to reflect on my self-defeating habits in 2013. A lot of my unhappiness and oppressed feelings were a result of keeping quiet. I had the lofty goal of becoming 100% self-employed in 2014 and realized the path I was on wasn’t conducive of making that happen. Research shows women attribute success to luck, help from others, etc., while men attribute success to their personal strengths and skills. This rang very true to me in 2014. Being a hypercritical Type A personality didn’t help the situation either, but I realized that I never even gave MYSELF credit for what I had accomplished in life, so how on earth could other people give me credit?

I will never forget standing up in a meeting in front of 30 people vocalizing the work I had done in the last year and the value, the impact, the difference. For the first time I started to internalize all my accomplishments. I had to stop and think; I am young, but very experienced and no one else will respect me if I don’t first respect myself. One of my facebook posts mid year reflected on working for the Sonoma County Public Health department at 19, finishing my Masters at 25, and owning my own business for almost two years. It is ok to give yourself credit regularly. It is ok to not be normal. It is ok to require respect from others.

Throughout the year I also met many very inspirational young and successful individuals. I started appreciating the accomplishments of my highly talented friends in a different way. I had been partially blind to all these amazing people within an arm’s reach and made a point in 2014 of telling people how I felt. Thank you for inspiring me to take back my voice, my life hasn’t been the same since.

You cannot lose when you invest in yourself – Grandpa Giovannini

My grandfather actually said this to me over three years ago when I was considering my first business venture. I was considering taking money out of an account he had set up for me and had been contributing to my entire life. He encouraged me to take the money and make the investment in myself, "that is exactly why the money is there." In 2014 I took a very strong stance in this arena. As busy business owners, professionals, and entrepreneurs we tend to forget to take care of ourselves. Personal physical, mental, and spiritual wellness needs to be a priority for optimal success and impact. I learned to listen even more, judge people’s emotions even better, and learned how to handle my emotions better. On the business side, I shifted my focus more heavily into my company and what it needed to grow and expand. I shifted from an employee mentality to an “all in” entrepreneurs attitude. This kept the year very exciting and kept me thriving. The more I invested in myself the more I attracted like minded people who have provided major support over the year.  While I had to sacrifice a lot of time with friends, family, on vacations, etc., it was well worth it. This is the best investment I could have made in 2014.

Photo Credit: Wayne Ingraham

Photo Credit: Wayne Ingraham

Failure is simply the opportunity to start over again more intelligently – Henry Ford

This year was not all daisies and butterflies. There was significant failure, poor investments, and everything else that goes along with small business ownership and entrepreneurship. I have enjoyed my dose of 2014 failures. I know that sounds silly, but my relationship with failure is strong. I think I have learned more useful information in the last year than in all my years in school. Of course, you have to be able assess your failures within reason because there is a point where you are just being foolish. That being said, learning from failure, making changes, cutting people out/bringing new people in, and continuing to move forward is key. Of course success is even more enjoyable, but a good failure from time to time keeps me grounded and humble.

Dance like no one is watching

Early in 2014 I asked myself, ‘why don’t we celebrate more?’ Why does it have to be a birthday or a major holiday? Why can’t we celebrate every accomplishment or any given Monday? Life is worth celebrating, the people in my life are worth celebrating. I adopted a celebratory attitude for 2014 and took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy life. It was important to celebrate the people around me, but was even more important to celebrate myself. I highly recommend taking this on in 2015!

Together we are better

This is a very multifaceted theme. The big picture alludes to Collective Impact or Collective Action (for those who follow the Federal Reserve Bank of SF). The idea of Collective Impact with regard to working with populations, tells us that cross-sector collaboration, shared information, open communication, and strong infrastructure results in the strongest impact and the greatest change.  This theme went well beyond my public sector experience in 2014. I realized that the greatest success in business is seen when the right people are put in the right places. As small business owners I think we try to do everything and it reaches a point where nothing is done well.

Through strong collaboration I have seen the greatest successes. I generally don’t even believe in subcontracting or taking a cut from the people I work with. I rather see my network get the work, credit, and success directly. While I found this to be a relatively new and unique idea, I don't know how to justify taking a large cut from subcontractors or even charging my clients what other companies do. I am also known for being entirely honest with my clients. I am always clear about what I am and what I am not. I rather be real than make a sale, always. Together the collaboration and high levels of transparency have created a large amount of success, respect, and momentum in my field. I am very particular about who I work with/refer to because I want them to align with my core values. It is worth the time investment to find the right people because I know general advancement of a similar work ethic, quality of work, etc is better for everyone. We all benefit from the genuine successes of others.

Maber (Amharic Verb): working together with a passion

Another prong of this theme of "togetherness" lies in my experience with my beloved Millennial generation. I often hear about how groups are cliquey, unwelcoming, or uncomfortable. For whatever reason large portions of the millennial generation seem to believe things just come to them, people just come to them, relationships just come to them. Of course my business network is cliquey, I spend a lot of time with these people and we all really enjoy eachother. Business is cliquey, life is cliquey. If you are unwilling to put yourself out there, things will not change. Let me pause by saying, I do realize this is difficult as someone who used to be a shy introvert (turned social introvert). Not only do I dislike small talk, I was scared to even start conversations. While I have always been good at sales, the genuine relationship building needed to build a strong company was foreign to me.  To this day I have to give myself a pep talk from time to time before entering large crowds of strangers. The being said, the best advise I can give is to just, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE, talk to the person next to you, start convos with strangers, go talk to the guy eying you from across the bar, go to dinner by yourself, JUST DO IT. It will be life changing.  

If not me, who? If not now, when?

Along similar lines, I traditionally have been very happy being lost in the crowd. I intentionally wanted to go to a university with 20,000+ people and I am happy in Urban settings. I did perform a lot when I was young, but the sheer fear I experienced before every play or song was nothing to bat an eye at (I know I played it off well and still do). Despite years of public speaking including a speech to 500 people in highschool, when I speak to large groups even now, I still get incredibly nervous. My heart rate goes through the roof, my hands shake, and often if the group is large enough, my eyes will just glaze over and I somehow just manage to get the words out. I have always been involved in civics, organizations, an avid volunteer, and have had my moments in the spotlight, but I was happy in the shadows. I got a very different push in 2014; I got the strong message that I COULD NOT hide any longer. I had to be a public figure, I had to genuinely share myself and my experiences and most importantly, I had to represent what young people are capable of. I had to show people that failure was ok. I had to represent how women can be tech, successful in business, successful in leadership, can be fashion forward, assertive, and I had to show how powerful it is to be happy. I had to throw myself to the wolves experiencing all of the related scrutiny (and there was plenty of scrutiny) in high hopes that our future female leaders would have less of a struggle. I had to share my story; I had to live my purpose.

For people who are running toward their dream, life has a special meaning – Les Brown

Realizing and knowing my purpose was one of the most powerful moments I have experienced in my life thusfar. While aspects of my purpose I assume will change, deciding to live toward my purpose ignited a level of passion, inspiration, and pure enthusiasm that has been contagious. I could have spent an entire career in business and program operations, but something still wasn't quite right. I had reached a point where I was done operationalizing other people’s dreams. I am a creator at heart and I was ready to make my dreams become reality. I had built so many things from the ground up for other people, which provided me with great experience, but now is my time.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my 2014 positively and negatively. It has been an incredibly expansive and intense year for me!

Know your worth and accept nothing less. Thank those who need to be thanked. May your year be Mabered. Cheers to 2015!

Wise words for 2015: "You will realize some day that life is not a fight, it is a dance" -Phyllis