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Empowerment: “I am the Boss!”

TTW-headshot-colorI recently gave a speech before An Empowerment Luncheon for the 100 Black Women of Suffolk County. I was so honored to speak before such an impressive group of women. The topic was economic empowerment and compiling this speech required that I examine my own view of how to become empowered.

I believe that there are four areas that contribute to defining empowerment. We are able to attain empowerment through education, financial gain, helping others through mentoring and friendship and finally through sharing.

I want to add one more component that allows many of us to be empowered and that comes from being the boss – not bossy – but THE BOSS.

Cosmo editor Sheryl Sandburg recently kicked off a campaign called ‘Ban the B word.’ Joining Ms. Sandburg in this global campaign are celebrities including Beyoncé, Condoleeza Rice and Diane Von Furstenberg.

This campaign is focusing specifically on banning the word ‘Bossy’ in industry, corporate America and boardrooms.
I love the thought of this campaign, but I think they are being a bit polite about the names women like us have been called.

Empowerment comes from being the boss – not bossy – but ‘THE BOSS.’

For me it has been decades of standing against men in an industry, the newspaper industry that was dominated by sexist, old boy networking that sought to exclude me from the club. I was considered young when I started New York Trend and derogatory terms like little girl, grew to the description of bitchy and graduated to manly.

These terms are used to accuse strong, confident women of being too empowered, of being overly assertive, of even trying to be a man – which I was so eloquently asked by one less than informed and intimidated colleague, if I thought my testicles (and he didn’t use the word testicles) were bigger than his to feel that I could come into a meeting and speak my mind?

Being a businesswoman has had its peaks and valleys, and the valleys have been deep. But when I think back to the thrill of holding the first issue of New York Trend in my hands, it was overwhelming. I remember driving and singing and taking a glance at every chance to look at what I had done. My dream had become a reality,

This is the feeling that keeps entrepreneur’s waking up every day ready to face the fire to make your own way another day.

So what makes us different and if you are considering joining this group of driven, sleep deprived, risk-taking, ferocious, motivated, thick -skinned, inventive and creative club of very special women it will mean that
your life will never be the same.

When others are daydreaming, we are thinking about our business. We carry notepads, I-pads, I-phones, scraps of paper, I’ve even written a proposal on a Starbucks napkin, because your mind never rests about developing new
product or improving your current product.

We have a crazed look in our eyes when we have successful brought a plan together and it worked. I love it when a plan comes together

We may not have a lot of disposable cash, because we do feed the business from personal funds, waiting for the receivables to come in and needing to cover payroll, taxes, more taxes, workmen’s comp, liability insurance, professional insurances, membership fees, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture.

Ask me for a business card? And I will ask you what kind of service are you looking for? If I don’t do it, I can find someone who can and pass along the referral and maybe make a commission. We never say No, or I don’t know, we
say ‘I will get back to you.’ All along we are thinking…… Hmm maybe that’s an industry I should get into and here’s my first client.

I don’t want to scare anyone off from dipping your toe in the water or plunging right in.

The day I was blessed to open my first business I had no idea that a formerly shy, timid and quiet young girl from 200th street & Linden Blvd in St Albans, Queens could one day own a newspaper.

I did not know that way, way, way down inside there was the makings of woman who would one day own a company. TO have that same shy little girl stand shoulder to shoulder with adversaries and yes, some enemies to fight for my rights to get opportunity to get my fair share.

The test of knowing whether or not you have what it takes is very simple. Who you are as a woman in this world, is who you will be as a business owner.

I don’t know if being an entrepreneur prepared me with the skills to fight life’s battles or did life’s experiences make me into a better entrepreneur. It’s which came first the chicken or the egg?

What I do know is that each one of us has the responsibility to empower another. We cannot be fully empowered economically, socially, politically or financially if one amongst us is weak. We are only as strong as our weakest link.


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