I’m an Ann marie Houghtailing disciple. When she starts talking, I reach for my notebook and pen, not wanting to miss one of her gems of wisdom. And so, when I found myself seated on a plane between Ann marie and a physician, I paid attention.
BIG SALARY NEGOTIATION
The doctor had a big salary negotiation coming up, she told us. Not one to miss an opportunity to help a woman negotiate her worth, Ann marie launched into a full-fledged negotiations strategy session. A communication plan was developed and refined. Likely counterarguments were considered and addressed. “Bullet point all your contributions,” Ann marie told the doctor (who had a great many contributions to list). “Use facts, not feelings. You’re simply asking to be appropriately compensated.” Ann marie continued generously dispensing negotiations advice for free until the doctor (and I by osmosis) were armed with an entire arsenal of negotiations tools.
A few weeks later, on a chilly Saturday morning, I found myself toweling off a dewy swing at the park. Another mom, a long-time friend of mine, was doing the same. We smiled at each other, silently acknowledging the absurdity of drying swings with towels. Once our toddlers were safely seated in semi-dry swings, we began talking about holiday plans, pre-school crafts, and our jobs. She told me, “I really need to figure out a way to ask for a raise. It’s ridiculous what they pay me.”
“The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it.”
Without even making a conscious decision to do so, Ann marie’s wisdom started coming from my mouth. I heard myself advising my friend to list her contributions and to avoid talking about what she “felt” or “believed.” We discussed how to set up the meeting and what to say if the first answer was No.
I said, “Ask to be appropriately compensated.” She looked at me and commented, “Oh, that’s good. Way easier to say than, ‘I want a raise.’”
She looked resolute, determined to make her ask. By then, our boys were squirming to get out of their swings, and our strategy session ended, complete enough to do its job.
About a week later, I got an email with the subject line of “It Worked!!!!” My friend related how she’d used the negotiations strategy we’d developed at the park and gotten her raise. Every penny she’d requested, she received.
Esther Williams said, “The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it.” It’s true. We all have knowledge to share, if only we pay attention to what we know and who it can help.
Pay attention, and pass on your wisdom. You never know where—on a plane, beside a swing set—you’ll meet someone who needs your knowledge.
About Kate Mayer Mangan: Kate Mayer Mangan’s work has appeared in the Huffington Post, LA Daily Journal, and Ms. JD. Learn more at: www.Donocle.com
MGM: Please tell us how you came to be President and CEO of Parker Staffing Services.
Debbie: I was at the right place at the right time! Truly, that’s what it was. Elizabeth Parker, the founder of Parker Staffing Services, retired, and sold the company to a publically traded company in the mid-west. That company’s business was medical staffing – something that we didn’t do. The CEO gave her a deal she couldn’t refuse and, in January 2005, Parker joined the medical staffing company.
Within the year, the company went up for sale again. The CEO of the medical staffing company stepped down after the board of directors found he was conducting some unscrupulous business practices. I was made President of Parker Staffing at that time and my main responsibility was to represent Parker to potential buyers. It was then that I decided that I wanted to buy Parker. I put together an investment group and I went to the Board of Directors and made a pitch. They turned me down because Parker was very successful, and a successful piece of their business, and they didn’t want to sell it. They wanted to sell the business as a whole.
Jackson Healthcare bought us, and so my next step was to approach the buyer, Rick Jackson, and try to carve Parker out, and buy it. He said, “Yes, I’ll sell it to you.” He named the price, and I said, “You’re crazy.” It was too much. He then said, “Here’s the deal. I want you to stay with the company and I want to make you President and CEO.” I said, “We have to come to an agreement on a few things,” and he said, “Write them down.” I had a list of about ten items, and I emailed it over to him and within five minutes he agreed to them, signed the document, and had it back to me. He gave me the opportunity to purchase a piece of the company, which I did.
MGM: Do you have a financial background?
MGM: What do you believe were the attributes that Rick Jackson saw in you that had him agree to sell a piece of the company to you and make you President and CEO?
Debbie: I knew the business really well. I had a lot of background and I’d been in the staffing industry for many years. I worked for a national service where I oversaw eight offices, and I worked for a locally owned service down in San Francisco. When I came to Parker, 15 years ago, I made a conscious decision to come back to a privately held, locally owned, high-quality, staffing company. That’s where my heart is. It fits my personality. When I moved to Seattle I researched the best staffing company in Seattle, and it was Parker. I joined them, and all of the circumstances I just explained took place. I knew the business, but I’ve also learned a lot since.
MGM: Please tell us more about what you have learned?
Debbie: I’ve learned what it takes to make a business successful – and, it’s the people, the people that work for you. It’s also the culture that you create. Yes, you have to have a sound business model, and you have to have a great value proposition, and you have to understand what you are selling, and make sure you understand your market. But, it’s all about the people, it truly is. There was a time in my career when I thought I could do it all, and it was all up to me. And it was very frustrating. But once I got it – I got that piece of it – that’s when the business took off, and I started enjoying it even more.
MGM: Please tell us more about that ‘piece’ you say you got?
Debbie: When I knew that I couldn’t do it all. Giving people the autonomy and the power to use their brain. And have them engaged in the business and be able to make decisions, and take part in strategy meetings. It all came together when I got it. It was an ah-ha moment for me when it hit.
MGM: The Puget Sound Business Journal has, for the second year in a row, honored Parker as a finalist for Washington’s Best Workplaces. This is a prestigious acknowledgment due to the in-depth survey process that covered four key areas: leadership, culture, employee benefits, and work/life balance. Tell us where your fingerprints are – your DNA – on those four key areas.
Debbie: My secret sauce?
MGM: Yes, your secret sauce! (Loud laughter)
Debbie: It is the engagement of the employees. I can explain it best by telling you a little story.
We have an annual kick-off meeting every year, and, at that meeting, in 2012, I announced to the whole company that I was not going to hire anyone from outside the company during 2012. I was giving everyone the opportunity to move up. I wasn’t specific about it. I just put it out there. In 2012, I promoted 11 people, which is a lot for a small company. People got it. They saw clearly that there was an opportunity for them to move their career forward. It was great watching people step up, take responsibility and start having a voice. That was the point when the culture turned the most. It was when I showed that hard work, creativity and engagement were the keys to their careers.
MGM: What else helped turn the culture around?
Debbie: I also made a change in myself. I was willing to listen, and I let them know that it was safe for them to speak up – whether it was positive or negative. If you keep asking, and you listen, and you take action they see that you are not just talking off the top of your head.
MGM: What is the biggest challenge that you face day-to-day?
Debbie: Staying in front of the changing economy. Our industry is affected so much by the economy. Hiring. We’re the first to go, and the first to come back. It’s trying to project what’s going to be happening in the years to come. Staying current, staying in front of the trend, and staying in front of my competition. And I don’t mean competition for the business. I mean competition for my internal employees. I want to retain them. I don’t have the kind of financial strength that a lot of the companies in my space have, for example the national services or the Amazons and the Google’s – the sexy companies that can, and are, offering so much. That’s a huge challenge to make sure that I am offering a great benefit package and all the perks I can to keep my employees.
MGM: Do you think the professional job market is becoming easier, or more challenging, for women to navigate today?
Debbie: Easier, easier for sure. Women know what they can accomplish today. The world is a lot more open and accepting of intelligent women – the skies the limit. It is now accepted and a way of life for women to not want to be legal secretaries, but attorneys. Women don’t want to be administrative assistants; they want to be the boss. They want to be engineers. Now, the glass ceiling, as far as salary is concerned, is still there. It’s a lot more out in the open today, but it’s still there.
MGM: Why do you think it is so difficult for women to articulate and ask for their worth?
Debbie: In the US, I think it is the culture and how women are brought up. It will be a lot different for the next generation, for sure. I can only talk from my personal experience. I was brought up to not stand out, to be polite, and to not rock the boat, and that good things will come to you if you just work hard. I think the generation after me, which is my sister, is different and not like me at all. And, the generation after that will be even more demanding of what they believe they are worth, and more. I think an organization like Millionaire Girls’ Movement is a prime example of what women should be involved in.
MGM: If you could go back and talk to your 25-year old self, what would you tell her?
Debbie: Pay attention to your accomplishments. Write down your accomplishments – journal. Build a network of professional people around you – of mentors – and listen to them. Embrace your own, unique persona.
MGM: What are three skills women in business need?
Debbie: #1: A thick skin. It’s a good thing. You need to balance it with the feminine side of you – a thick skin with a soft hand. That’s the differentiator between men and women.
#2: A financial background. I did not have one when I got into business, and it held me back for a while. When I saw that it was holding me back I stopped and said, “Ok, you have to learn this stuff.” So I did.
#3: To have the ability to come in every single day feeling great. Looking at the glass half full, and if it’s not half full figuring out how it’s going to get there in a short amount of time. Oh, I have one more.
#4: Humility. A leader has to have a sense of humility about them. It goes with looking inward. What part in a situation are you playing? Sometimes you have to step up and apologize.
MGM: What is the best decision you ever made?
Debbie: Staying with Parker through the acquisition, and all of the ups and downs. It was very tumultuous. We didn’t know who we were going to be sold to. My employees were scared. It would have been a lot easier to walk away.
MGM: What was the worst decision you ever made?
Debbie: I hired someone back in 2010 that was a totally wrong decision. I had to eat some humble pie. I had to step up and tell my executive team. I am still admitting it – even to this day – explaining where we were, and where we’ve come. That person still haunts me. I’m still feeling the impact.
MGM: What is something that would surprise people to learn about you?
Debbie: Probably that I have an introverted side to me. And that is, when I go home at night I get into my pajamas and I curl up with my cat, and watch TV. I read, and I love that time by myself. I like my alone time. I just started reading for pleasure three years ago. Everything before that was work related.
MGM: What’s one piece of advice you can offer the professional women reading this interview?
Debbie: I would encourage them to know themselves, and then get to know themselves even better. Know your weaknesses and your strengths. That takes a long time. Learn through coaching, mentoring, counseling, and do it now. Get it now. That will help you.
Also, don’t think you have to move up the ladder just because that’s someone’s expectation, or one you have in your head. Sometimes that’s not the best position for you. Don’t think you have to manage people – that that’s a big promotion. Oftentimes you can add more value by not managing people, but by managing a function.
MGM: What is your greatest achievement so far in life?
Debbie: I don’t have children. That was a conscious decision that my husband and I made, together. Because I’ve been so focused on my career my greatest achievement is that, right now, I am surrounded by the best people – the best friends, and family, and colleagues. I think that is a huge achievement. At one point in my life I could look around and count on one hand how many close people I had in my life. That didn’t feel good, and so I’ve made it a point to spend time – make time – to develop those relationships, and I’m just surrounded by wonderful, wonderful people – both men and women.
MGM: What a lovely way to wrap up this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?
Debbie: I don’t think so. You’re going to make me cry.
This year I was fortunate enough to be a part of a unique group of women coming together to learn and grow from each other’s experience, wisdom and grace. We have been facilitated by the fearless founder of the Millionaire Girl’s Movement, Ann marie Houghtailing. And together we have learned that our greatest strengths come from supporting each other, sharing information and mentoring other women.
I frequently share my exciting new found knowledge, motivation, and confidence with my own daughters, who will begin their second year in college in a few short weeks. (They are twins.) I am constantly sharing articles and video clips on the importance of taking charge of their own destiny. Some of it they connect with immediately, some of it doesn’t stick right away. I comfort myself with the notion that in the right moment, the “lesson” will come back to them when they need it.
PAY IT FORWARD
However, my most poignant “pay it forward” moment came in the recently when one of my associates came into my office to discuss a pay raise. Like so many of us, she is a Mom with a career as well as a family. She recently requested and was granted the opportunity to flex her schedule to give her more time with her children in the afternoon. She is still working on the logistics of this arrangement, but I am excited to be part of a firm that could even provide her this opportunity. Let’s face it, she is me, fifteen years ago.
She came to me the day before our monthly partners’ meeting to discuss if I thought it might not be a good time for her to ask for a raise given that she had just requested and been granted a flex work schedule. I found her approach disheartening so I pushed. Did she want a raise? “Yes.” Was she asking me for a raise? “No.” She was afraid of offending the partnership because she is a mom working a modified schedule. That was it. I could take no more. I told her to get up and leave my office as though this discussion had never taken place. I would send her an article. She would read it and then, when and if she felt like a discussion was necessary, she could return to my office.
THE CULTURE OF GRATITUDE – THE UNDERBELLY
After she left, I found my link to Ann marie’s article on the culture of gratitude that keeps so many women from honoring themselves and asking for their true worth. (http://www.dailyworth.com/posts/2574-the-price-of-gratitude-on-your-career)
About an hour later, my associate returned to my office and asked if she could talk to me. She told me how long she has been with the firm, how long it had been since she last received a pay increase and that she believed she had grown as an attorney, and was more valuable to the firm. We discussed her work and what she wanted in a pay raise. The discussion wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than our first try.
I took her request to my partners at our meeting. My associate got a raise. In our meeting where I informed her of her raise, we discussed the next time she asks for a pay increase and how to do an even better job. (For example, she knew specific hours and dollars information that she had not brought up during her meeting with me requesting a raise. That information would have been valuable to me in my meeting with my partners advocating that she get the increase.)
THE VALUE OF GIVING A WELL-EARNED RAISE
I jokingly thanked Ann marie for her article that helped me pay my employee a higher salary. However, my gratitude to Ann marie and my group should be and is legitimate. My associate is happier and more invested in her place in our firm. I am counting on her investment in herself to create a better work product and thereby increase the value of our firm’s brand. I have no doubt that by helping her I have helped myself.
Do you catch yourself humming the lyrics of Destiny’s Child “Independent Woman” as you organize your monthly expenses and gleefully read up on your newly opened Roth IRA?
If the above describes you at all, you are a millennial female. The millennial female has a unique mix of passion-driven but mindful financial goals. She grew up with parents that nurtured her with the same monetary potential as her male siblings, learned how to earn and spend her money, and witnessed the skewed distribution of wealth in our world. When the Great Recession hit, she realized that the rosy timeline of college, job, and marriage was not an automatic ticket to personal or financial happiness.
As a product of this unique time, we have subconsciously developed money mindsets to create the most out of our skill sets, passions, and financial growth.
As young professionals, we are saving more than ever, creating multiple streams of income, and spending in areas that invest in us. We are delaying marriage and children to build our own financial empire first and foremost.
As we navigate through new tools and opportunities for building wealth, we uncover how our money mindsets can help or hurt us. Here are four Money Mindsets developed by the Female Millennial and how we can thrive in each:
1- In Debt and at Peace
In 2013, 34% of millennial (25 to 32-year-old) had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 25% of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 24% of Baby Boomers when they were at the same age, according to the Pew Research Center.
Many millennials began their professional careers with a pile of debt. While this is a major area of stress for the millennial, we are also resourceful by nature, often seen crowd funding for projects, applying for scholarships, and making a case with our employers to help fund higher education. To thrive in this mindset, learn more about the market, develop plans for accelerated payments, and create a healthy relationship with paying off debt.
The early practice of creating a payment plan and sticking to it will empower you to see money as a resource, take control of your financial goals, and understand how to approach any large investment you make in the future.
2- Mindful Spending
Another mindset that is unique to the female millennial is an interest in mindful spending. Though many millennials, including myself, jumped straight into an obligatory 9-5, happy hour, and going out routine, many didn’t take long to realize the value of our money and how to channel it to specific causes or priorities.
Millennials thrive when spending on health, fitness, travel, art, and building relationships. We resonate with services and socially conscious businesses built to nourish our physical and mental health. Our generation has funded major movements for mindful eating and lifestyle design. As a millennial female, make the most of this mindset by supporting businesses that align with your values, investing in healthy activities, and spending money on expansive experiences rather than temporary items.
3- Girl Boss
One thing has certainly stood out to me in the many females I’ve coached along the way. Millennial females are branding mavens, multi-passionate, and proactive self-starters. This has naturally birthed a generation of women who thrive with side gigs, start-ups, or independent work. Our mindset that a secure job is no longer the one where you work for “The Man” has encouraged us to tap into our passions, expand skill sets, and create multiple streams of income.
We thrive with the flexibility to set our own schedules, create work that is aligned with a passion, and leverage technology to make sales or provide services remotely. To exercise the beauty of this mindset, create a website, start a side business, and get certified in other skills to expand your expertise across multiple platforms. It’s the perfect time to take action on our ideas and master income diversification.
4- Turn up for Tech
Finally, the millennial female loves technology. She grew up with instant messenger and access to real-time data. It’s no surprise that she is great at leveraging technology and online resources to engage with her money.
As the landscape of money management and financial planning dramatically become more engaging and easier to access, more and more professional women are approaching their budgeting and savings like an interactive game and less like a chore. Not only are companies and banks building apps and programs that cater to the millennial goal-oriented mindset, but also information is curated and delivered daily by successful women of all backgrounds.
We can expand in this money mindset by learning from female financial mentors, supporting technology startups, and integrating apps into our personal and professional finances. Blogs like commonsensemillennial.com and apps like LearnVest are just a couple places to get started.
Millennial females have a unique platform to launch their ideas, work, and financial future. Thrive in your individual money mindsets by staying challenged, maintaining full responsibility over your finances, and reaching outside of your circle when you need extra mentorship. What are your millennial money mindsets?
It turns out that I’m a complete raging jackass when someone compliments me about practically anything. When someone says something really lovely, instead of receiving the gift I throw the gift down on the ground and give the gift giver the verbal equivalent of a punch in the snout. I should probably get on Dr. Phil for analysis so he could ask, “How’s that working out for ya?” I would respond, “Well, Phil as it happens, I don’t really care for being an jackass, so not that great.”
It’s like I have some form of Turrets that’s triggered by compliments. For example, if someone compliments my beauty (by the way – just writing that makes me squirm, but hey, I’m all about discomfort) I might question that person’s eyesight or make a statement on the excessive kindness of the remark. It’s as if to suggest they’ve extended an act of charity that should be considered a taxable deduction by the IRS. I recently knew I had an incredible problem when someone very kindly said, “You’re one of the smartest people I know.” I repaid this statement as any raging jacksass would with, “You must not know many people. You need to get out more.” Notice the hostility in the comeback. I respond as if someone insulted me rather than complimented me. Recently I walked into the office of a law firm for an event and the receptionist said, “You have the most beautiful skin. You’re just gorgeous.” I looked at her, laughed, and said, “Have you started drinking the wine already?” Questioning someone’s sobriety is an excellent way to express your gratitude. After she laughed and I felt like a jackass I went with, “Thank you, that’s so kind or you. I would like you to be my new best friend.” After you serve up a mug of rudeness, I suggest a sarcasm chaser to really finish things off.
When I’m not being hostile I do something that’s equally unattractive and jackassesque, I diminish myself. It goes something like this, “I can’t thank you enough for what you did. You’re an amazing human being.” While a simple “you’re welcome” would probably serve quite nicely here, I prefer to go with, “I’m not amazing. Any decent person would do the same.” This would be my response if say I gave someone a kidney, allowed them to live with me until they got back on their feet or watched their children for a week while they went on vacation. Please don’t acknowledge me. Just being average over here, please keep walking, nothing to see here. It’s like I’m covering my eyes and saying, “You can’t see me.”
I value humble people. There is something beautiful about just being in the world as you are without constantly chasing validation, compliments and recognition. Social media has become a place to constantly brag. But I wasn’t being humble I was trying to be invisible and I’m not alone. The impulse to shrink, dismiss, deflect and deny are ways to devalue ourselves. If we fail to accept our greatness, how can we possibly expect to earn our worth or expect to be valued? I’m practically screaming at people PLEASE DON’T VALUE OR ACKNOWLEDGE ME!
Recently, I was enjoying lunch with some amazing women when one of the women mentioned how I had completely changed her thinking about something. I was in the middle of one of my ninja compliment deflection moves when the friend sitting next to me placed her hand on mine and said, “Just say thank you.” So I did. I’ve known for a long time that my response was inappropriate and frankly, rude. When someone gives you a gift the only appropriate response is, “thank you.”
Some of us make ourselves smaller to make others more comfortable. We do our best to take up less space literally and figuratively. In the last month I’ve worked on just saying “thank you.” It’s hard. I want to default to the comfort of sarcasm but I don’t. I stand firm because I know that the habit is destructive to me and to every woman watching me. Sometimes the discomfort is so great I shift in my seat, but I’m working hard to look people in the eye and accept compliments with grace. I invite you to do the same and see how it changes how you feel about your value.
I encountered pay discrimination early in my career in a very specific way. I was working as a mid-level finance manager for a company that was otherwise quite well run. Out of curiosity one day, I did some payroll analysis and discovered that in every job category, every female was paid less than any man. It was as though there were two pay scales for every job level. In addition, the most senior positions were held exclusively by men. I was astounded.
I hope you’re not waiting for me to tell you what I did to bring this travesty to the fore, transform this company into an enlightened one, and usher in a new age of pay equality because I did nothing like that. You know what I did? I ignored it. And when I got the opportunity to move to a new division and leave the problem behind, I took it.
BIAS AGAINST WOMEN IS HIDDEN
I recounted that story in my first book, a career advice book for women working in male-dominated environments. I told the story because I think it’s an example of how discrimination can exist without any awareness on the part of those being discriminated against. A lot of the bias against women is hidden, and only statistical analysis and quantitative studies bring it to light. I did however confess to my sister that I was embarrassed that everyone would now know what a coward I was. “It’s not true that you did nothing!” she replied. “You wrote a book and talked about it.” That made me feel better.
“…SHE HASN’T SAID ANYTHING.”
I’m still surprised to hear even human resource professionals assume a woman is satisfied with her salary if they haven’t heard otherwise. At more senior levels, several times I’ve had to question why no salary adjustment was being made for women at year-end when an increase was given to men in the same department. “She’s happy,” was the response. How do they know she’s happy? “Well, she hasn’t said anything.”
It seems to take some women a few years before they become aware that discrimination still exists. Women just out of school proclaim gaily that things are different now, and for the first few years gender discrimination may not be obvious to them. But I am reminded of a woman who told me recently, “When I first started at my company, it was all guys, but that was okay with me: play like a boy, talk like a boy—basically, be a boy.” After four years, however, she noticed that all the boys had been promoted—except her. Clearly, she was not really a boy after all.
THESE QUESTIONS REMAIN THE SAME
Since the book came out, I have learned more dismal facts about women and salaries, how women who negotiate are viewed (poorly), and the alarming problems that sometimes arise when women attempt to negotiate (including having job offers and opportunities withdrawn). I am asked frequently for advice about salary negotiations, what to do if you find out that a male peer makes more than you do, and fundamentally how and when to stand up for yourself. These questions have not changed, and I find some young women as perplexed as my generation was about the most effective way to earn their worth.
SALARY NEGOTIATIONS: THE LONG RUN
So, what to do? I’d love to blithely offer “Seven Tips for Salary Negotiation,” or “Six Ways to Get a Raise,” but the reality is that it’s not that simple. Everyone’s situation is different, negotiation can’t be taught in a 1000-word blog, and not everyone deserves a raise. We writers love to offer advice in sound bites that sound happy and do-able; it makes our readers feel that they are much smarter than they were 30 seconds before they read the article. Unfortunately, that kind of superficial thinking can lead to problems when you are dealing with something as delicate and important as salary negotiations.
In contrast, here are some more serious thoughts that may be harder to absorb in an instant but may be more helpful in the long run:
NOW IS THE TIME
I wish you luck and hope that your managers and colleagues understand your interest in this issue. Let’s all make a pact right now to support each other in our efforts to understand our worth, whether it means asking for more money or not. Women, as well as men, exhibit bias against other women who ask for more money, so we need to actively remind each other that it is fair for a woman to objectively investigate what her salary should be and potentially ask for greater compensation. There is a subtle belief in our culture that women and money should be kept separate, sometimes under the guise of “protecting” the women from such a dirty topic and sometimes when the real intention is to keep women dependent and powerless.
Now is the time to dispense with those old ideas. Women and money go together very well.
LEAH SINGER INTERVIEWS RACHEL OLSEN
When you watch the season six premiere of Shark Tank this week, you’ll undoubtedly be intrigued by the gadgets, pitches, and the banter in the Tank among the Sharks themselves. But what many people watching do not realize is that Shark Tank is a place that many female entrepreneurs (many of whom are mothers) have gone to pitch their business in hopes of securing funding for their business ventures.
Rachel Olsen is the founder of Best Mom Products, a show and podcast where she interviews mom entrepreneurs in their first five years of business and talks to them about what it’s really like working in business. During her work, Rachel interviewed five women who would eventually be featured on and successfully funded on Shark Tank.
What Rachel discovered from talking with these women (and hundreds of others) is that achieving success is hard work. And despite appearing on Shark Tank, none of them made millions overnight. Their stories are real ones, with valuable lessons that women can learn from to become successful entrepreneurs.
Rachel interviewed Tiffany Krumins (Ava the Elephant), Amber Schaub (Rufflebutts), Megan Gage (Hot Tot), Betsy Johnson (SwimZip), and Shelly Ehler (Showno). These individual stories became the basis of her book, Shark Tank MOMpreneurs Take a Bite Out of Publicity: How 5 Inventors Leveraged Media to Build Their Business + How YOU Can, Too.
Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank investor and member of the Tank, said about Rachel’s book, “As a Shark, I’ve been in the tank with these entrepreneurs and I can tell you Rachel gets right to the heart of how they succeeded. Shark Tank MOMpreneurs is a must read for anyone looking to learn the inside secrets of getting on Shark Tank and landing a deal, or getting the publicity that’s essential for any successful business.”
MGM: Why did you decide to write this book?
Rachel: After interviewing 50 mompreneurs, five of which were on Shark Tank (but not at the time), and talking with many others, I started seeing some trends. One comment I would get over and over again was, “If I could only get my product on [this] TV show, I just know my business will take off.”
But, in reality, that is not the case except for a few. A one-time television airing isn’t necessarily going to sell products but it will provide brand awareness. The women I talked to felt like this was the answer so I wanted to take a deeper look at the process and results of going on a major television show like Shark Tank that has 8 million viewers and see how they prepared, what was it about their particular story and presence that made them stand out, and what were the real results years later.
MGM: What lessons did you find the most meaningful after interviewing the moms?
Rachel: The key lesson was that although they all went on for funding and received deals, 80% of them didn’t say to go on the show for the funding. They didn’t not say it either. But when I put all their answers in one chapter together; it was very obvious they weren’t overtly thrilled with the outcome, in that respect.
The other lesson that I learned from interviewing these incredible women prior to the book was that the products they invented are to make families lives’ better, safer and easier. They incorporate their values into their products and it is a true reflection of who they are as mothers that drive them.
MGM: Your book does a great job on teaching women how to articulate their worth and value, and how to pitch that to an investor. Do you think this is something that’s missing for entrepreneurs (especially women)? Why or why not?
Rachel: I don’t think the issue is women not being able to express their worth and value in most cases. Women are passionate about what they are doing and create businesses based on heart and need and that comes across immediately.
Women are pitching men
From my experience, I don’t think women entrepreneurs are as comfortable talking about and asking for money as men are. I listen to a few male entrepreneur podcasts and the men share their financials openly and confidently. The women I interview rarely want to talk about or share how they got investors or how much they spent in any particular area of business. They may tell me off-camera, but I find they are embarrassed of what they perceive as mistakes or spending too much in a certain area. They are hard on themselves and feel that money and financials are very private.
Another aspect to take into consideration is that women are usually pitching men, especially when looking for angel investors or venture capital. I’ve heard stories of men asking the women for coffee or dismissing them because of gender.
MGM: You do a lot of media consulting for entrepreneurs. How does understanding media help a businessperson?
Rachel: My intention for this book is to teach entrepreneurs and anyone looking to get media attention that their story needs to resonate with their audience. It can be the greatest story ever but if you are telling it to the wrong person; it will fall on deaf ears and you won’t get results. The women in this book did an excellent job of tying in passion, authenticity and business knowledge.
Media, like every other aspect of business, needs to be ongoing
I hope entrepreneurs will treat media like every other aspect of their business … something that needs to be ongoing, not just a one-time placement. There is a huge misconception that one media placement is going to change the trajectory of their business. Creating brand awareness through the media is an on-going process with multiple customer touch-points, not just one.
MGM: Given your experience, interviews and background, how should mompreneurs pursue funding – venture capitalists, angel investors, crowd funding, Shark Tank?
Rachel: It all depends on the type of product they are selling. Two types of common products are consumer product goods (CPG) and technology. If it’s a consumer product good (CPG), a physical product to sell; then I think crowdfunding is an excellent way because it allows you to sell the product before you manufacture it. Manufacturing is usually the biggest expense so it takes away a lot of the risk because you can assess the interest and commitment of potential customers.
Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors
Venture capitalists and many angel investors focus on high growth that have massive opportunity because they are looking for the “big” win and most consumer product goods companies aren’t going to end up in that category. However, if you are working on a tech product or app, then going to angel investors first and trying to raise a seed round makes sense. A seed round is usually $500k-$1million.
MGM: Will you share one or two tips for mompreneurs pursuing funding?
Rachel: Create a business plan and know your numbers, how much money you are asking for, how you will spend it and why. Look into grants like the Huggies Mom Inspired $15k grant, or the Chase $250k small business grant.
Read more about Rachel and Shark Tank Mompreneurs Take a Bite Out of Publicity on the Best Mom Products website.
MICHELLE BAKER INTERVIEWS MS. TIFFANY BLUEMLE
After learning about Rosie’s Girls from their feature on the Today Show this summer, I reached out to Tiffany Bluemle for this interview. Upon first hearing about the program, I knew we had more than just the iconic symbol of Rosie the Riveter in common. Here, she shares with us her vision and commitment to effectively influencing the financial and professional choices women make by starting with educating girls.
Thank you, Tiffany, for taking the time for this insightful and encouraging interview. Your work is truly a game-changer.
MGM: Please tell us about Rosie’s Girls as well as Vermont Works for Women.
TIFFANY: Vermont Works for Women works to ensure that the lives of Vermont’s women and girls are shaped by aspiration and aptitude, and not by tradition or stereotypes, and that their skills and capacities are developed expansively – towards the goal of long-term economic independence.
Rosie’s Girls is one of our core programs. It’s a three-week summer camp for middle school girls that engages participants in three sets of activities that in combination arm girls with a strong and expanded sense of who they are and what they can do with both talent and ambition.
MGM: What gave you the idea to start Rosie’s Girls?
TIFFANY: I was a teacher in an all-girls middle school in Manhattan. I’d witness students change dramatically from 6th to tenth grade. Where they’d regularly challenged me at 11, at sixteen they would apologize before speaking. What had happened to their voices? Their confidence? Their intellectual courage?
A colleague who was asking the same questions attended a week-long carpentry course for women and returned with a new sense of individual power and competence. Her experience, and a colloquium we attended led by Mary Pipher (author of Reviving Ophelia) inspired a thought: could power tools help nurture confidence in girls at a time when it is most likely to flag?
Over a couple of years and after a move to Vermont, the idea turned into a proposal to the Vermont Women’s Fund – and in 2000 we piloted our first camp.
MEETING WOMEN WHERE THEY ARE.
MGM: How are you seeing women turning their professional, personal, and financial lives around with the tools they learn through VT Works for Women?
TIFFANY: There are hundreds of stories we could tell about women whose lives have changed in part through their work with VWW. Some of the changes are dramatic: women who have never been employed who find permanent jobs and stay in them; women who start their own businesses and are so successful that they now hire our trainees; young women who are the first in their family to go to college.
Some of the successes we witness are less obvious but no less dramatic: a mother whose efforts allow her to regain custody of a child; an inmate with a long prison record who celebrates her fifth year of sobriety and freedom; a woman who leaves an abusive relationship for good.
The path to success in work and economic security is rarely a straight-line trajectory; more often it is filled with twists and turns, negotiated in small steps. Our job is to meet women where they are, help them discern possibility when they may see only closed doors, and offer tools that can make their journey easier.
MGM: With Rosie’s Girls now 15 years old, what are you hearing back from participants in the program re: their confidence entering the workforce?
TIFFANY: A colleague in Ohio who ran Rosie’s Girls for years, overheard a young woman on the subway talking excitedly about a summer experience that she said changed the way she felt as a girl and about her prospects as a young woman. At some point, it became clear that the young woman was talking about Rosie’s Girls.
Reflecting on the conversation in an email to me, Kelly summed up what makes the program such a powerful experience. “Those of us who have had the opportunity to work with the Rosie’s Girls program know in our hearts…that the program is about opening the door for girls to see themselves as all that they are and are capable of being. It’s about introducing them to opportunities and challenges and self-awareness. It’s about saying to them, ‘You are strong. You are capable.’”
IMPARTING THE IDEA THAT GIRLS CAN BE MORE AND DO MORE.
The point of Rosie’s Girls isn’t to turn out carpenters or engineers – but to impart the idea that girls can be those things, and more. How do we know we’re achieving this end? We collect evaluations administered to campers and their parents and stories we hear in the years that follow.
Surveys collected from Rosie’s Girls sites are clear in showing that the program increases career awareness, self-confidence, and broadens an interest in exploring a full range of fields. Parents regularly make a point to tell us how former campers are doing, and how they continue to talk about their Rosie’s Girls experience as formative.
Graduates come back, again and again, to serve as Counselors-in-Training and later as Counselors Two of the CIT’s working at one of the camps this summer enrolled as students at the area technical center in construction trades and IT. A Rosie’s Girl fell in love with flying at camp, and is now within hours of getting her pilot’s license.
A GALLUP STUDY ON THE VALUE OF MENTORS AND HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE.
Tom Friedman recently published a column about the importance of mentors and hands-on experience, citing a new Gallup study of those factors critical to success and engagement at work (September 10, 2014). The jury is in, the evidence is clear: if girls are to achieve their full economic potential, they must meet women in the field, handle the tools of the trade, and be encouraged by someone who believes in them. The ideas that inform the Rosie’s Girls model simply reflect common sense.
MGM: Please tell us about the Enough Said study.
TIFFANY: In 2013, Vermont Works for Women (VWW) published an in-depth report on what young Vermont women say about how well-equipped they feel for the challenges of school, work, career, and economic independence as adults.
ENOUGH SAID — Young Women Talk about School, Work, and Becoming Adults: Why We Should Listen and What We Can Do is the result of in-depth interviews, surveys, and conversations with more than 210 young women and girls, ages 15–25, from 28 Vermont communities, and how the concerns they raised are reflected in national research.
Young women told us:
A VERMONT STATEWIDE TASK FORCE.
Concern about the report’s conclusions prompted the formation of a statewide Task Force on Young Women and the Vermont Economy, which articulated a vision and a set of recommendations to Governor Peter Shumlin and the legislature in December 2013. The Task Force determined that by 2024:
CHANGING THE STORY.
Changing the story that young women tell us in ten years will require concerted, consistent, and coordinated action – across sectors. Much of what needs to change is embedded in our culture and assumptions: the language that we use; the questions that we ask young women (or don’t); the women we celebrate as role models.
We have issued a call to action to partners in higher education and business, the nonprofit sector and schools, parents and young people themselves to see this work as a collective responsibility. Addressing the economic well-being of women is not just a women’s issue. It is a critical issue for families, communities, and for the very vitality of our economy.
Focusing on women and girls doesn’t imply that their needs are more important than those of men and boys, but that they are in some ways different – and that these unique needs should inform the direction and substance of public policy and program investments we make going forward.
THE COST OF SUCCESS.
MGM: What do you see is the connection between self-advocacy and being willing to try something new?
TIFFANY: Girls who come to camp often tell us how often they elect to hang back in small group projects at school, believing it easier to allow boys to take over than to assert their interest or skill. To many girls, the greatest risk lies, not in possible failure, but in the cost of success – at which point she may be called bossy, a show-off, or teacher’s pet.
Rosie’s Girls challenges campers to try new things in spite of discomfort. The more experience girls have in doing that, the more likely they are to embrace subsequent challenges – like participating fully in a science lab, asking a question that might seem silly, or running for student body president. The tools we use in Rosie’s Girls activities– chop saws, backhoes, and welding torches – are vehicles for building confidence, strengthening voice, and opening eyes.
EVEN WITH INCREMENTAL SHIFTS IN INCOME.
MGM: How do you see earning potential boosting, diminishing or neutralizing self-worth?
TIFFANY: I think that there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to take care of oneself – to be able to cook a decent meal, fix a leaky faucet, travel alone, or pay one’s bills. When you are able to support yourself, you have the power to make deliberate choices – about the people with whom you hang out, where you spend time, the goals you set. We see a remarkable shift in the women with whom we work with even with incremental shifts in income; they see enough change to stay the course.
MGM: What do most of your adult women clients say they wish they had access to as girls growing up? As adults now?
TIFFANY: Across the board, women tell us they wish they’d been able to go to Rosie’s Girls. Indeed, it’s why many of them enroll their daughters in the program. It’s what fueled interest on social media platforms after Rosie’s Girls was featured on the Today Show in July.
What specifically do they wish they’d enjoyed?
I think it is the exposure – to so many fields and tools, to cool female role models, and to an all-girls’ environment in which they could truly be themselves.
MGM: How many cities around the country offer a Rosie’s Girls program? How can a community bring Rosie’s Girls to their community?
TIFFANY: Fifteen summers since its founding, Rosie’s Girls has engaged more than 2,500 girls in 20 locations throughout the U.S., including California, Ohio, South Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Our website has a page dedicated to replication to provide information to anyone interested in bringing the program to their community.
The page can be found at http://vtworksforwomen.org/rosiesreplication/
ABOUT TIFFANY BLUEMLE
Tiffany Bluemle, Executive Director, Vermont Works for Women
Tiffany Bluemle has spent her entire professional career in the field of education – first as a history teacher and high school administrator in New York City, as director of development for New York City Outward Bound, and as Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women where she has been since 1997. Vermont Works for Women provides women and girls with opportunities to explore, pursue, and excel in work that leads to economic independence.
Tiffany received a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a B.A. from Princeton. She is a former member of Princeton’s Board of Trustees and is very proud to have been appointed to the board of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. She lives in Burlington with her partner and two sons, whose feet have grown far too large for their mudroom.
Let’s get one thing straight – divorce doesn’t ruin a kid’s life. I’m tired of hearing variations of “Oh, he’s been really angry since the divorce” or “She’s all messed up ever since her parents got that divorce”. No, the divorce didn’t do that. The parents did.
That being said, as a casualty in a rather vicious divorce (vicious to the point of me never seeing or speaking to one parent again), I like to think of myself as a divorce success story. I am not emotionally inept, deep-seeded with daddy issues, or protesting against the institution of marriage.
My parents’ divorce came at an interesting time – three years after the nationwide economic crash, two years after they declared bankruptcy, and one year after I started college. By the start of my sophomore year, my college fund had been drained during the bankruptcy, and the divorce left me with a single (extremely hard working) mother. I had a tough decision to make for the remaining years of undergrad: take out student loans and rack up the debt early or figure out another way. I am a fan of not being in debt and staying in the green so I decided to figure out another way.
This is how I figured it out.
Plan ahead…. especially if you know its coming.
Granted, I was lucky in that my parents taught me the importance of saving from an early age. A portion (small, but still a portion) of all the money I made from babysitting, waitressing, house sitting, etc. that I dabbled in in high school left me with a small savings account. When my parents filed for bankruptcy and the word divorce started to get thrown around the house, I took it as a sign of the calm before the storm.
I started putting a massive chunk of any money I acquired into my savings (sorry, that Kate Spade bag would not be making its way into my closet this year). This served as a small base to buy me some time while I figured out how I was going to pay for the rest of my tuition and living expenses.
Research available outside help.
First, there are hundreds of scholarships set up either by school, gender, field of study, or a variety of other things that are just looking to give away money. These scholarships range from a couple hundred dollars to a several thousands of dollars. If you are in college or about to send someone off to college and they have not looked into available scholarships, you are doing yourself a disservice.
I applied to every single scholarship that I was eligible for. A few hundred dollars here and there, a couple scholarships with heftier money attached, and before I knew it I had enough to pay for an entire semester of tuition.
Secondly, apply for financial aid. It is a lengthy and often confusing process, but believe me, it is worth it. This is a great option for all single parents, low-income families, or students who are claimed as dependents. The government wants to help. Take it.
My mother and I applied for financial aid, and I got enough to cover my entire junior year…and then some.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
I am fortunate to have a very loving extended family. They are happy to help in any way they can. They were fully aware of the saga that was my parents’ bankruptcy and divorce so they understood my predicament. When Christmas or birthdays came around, instead of wrapping up a package that may or may not contain a gift I’d like or use, I simply asked for gift cards. Target gift cards are like magic in college. Visa gift cards also work like a charm. They would occasionally send cards in the mail too (“Happy first day of Autumn…here’s a gift card to Harris Teeter so you can make pumpkin bread!). It is amazing how a little bit of help or extra money here and there can add up and help cut down on living expenses.
Work your A$$ off.
The bottom line is that if you want something bad enough, you will work hard for it. I wanted to go to school and get out debt free, so I worked my A$$ off to make sure that happened. While the help of scholarships, financial aid, and family helped, I refused to rely on that as my sole means of support. I love working with children, and needed a job that could be flexible around my class schedule but still not cut down too much on hours. Therefore, nannying was a perfect job for me.
I ended up working upwards of 35 hours a week (on top of 21 credit hours at school) to bring home the bacon. I would go to class until mid-afternoon and then babysit into the wee hours of the night. Sometimes I would be babysitting before classes started, on the weekends, overnight, basically whatever I could get. Instead of going on a raging spring break or traveling abroad all summer, I stayed at UNC to work, save money, and take some extra summer classes and cut down on my yearly load. It may seem like that was a sacrifice, but it did not feel like it because I was ultimately getting closer to making it through college with a degree, and debt free.
So there it is, ladies. A “divorce success” story. A “college success” story. My story. These formative years as an undergrad taught me the importance of working hard towards a goal. I ultimately learned that if I wanted something bad enough, I wasn’t going to stop until I got it.
There is some merit to the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. This is the same mindset that I am in as I embark on the next chapter of my career… going to law school. I have planned ahead and started my nest egg. I have researched the financial aid that is available depending on which school I go to. I have faith my family will support me in any way they can. And I can guarantee you that I will work my A$$ off whenever I get there.