What do Tyra Banks, Catherine the Great, Sonia Sotomayor, and Jennifer Lopez have in common? They’re what self-confidence coach Chizoma Cluff calls TRAILBLAZERS – powerful, accomplished women who have made a name for themselves. Sitting among the Entrepreneur Training for Success participants on the first day of class, I said my own name aloud and felt far from the likes of a supermodel or a Supreme Court justice. As class wore on, though, I felt more encouraged thanks to Chizoma’s secrets to success.
The first secret: success starts with you! Self-care is essential to creation, something our 26 female entrepreneurs must listen to in order to build and maintain a fruitful business. We shared our favorites with one another: yoga, journaling, connecting with friends, listening to a favorite song, sipping tea, and walking in nature, all activities that heal the soul and allow us to give back during the day. Some classmates wondered how they could find the time. A past ETS participant, now a mentor, encouraged us to start small, five minutes even, and work up to at least twenty minutes, and before you know it you’re succeeding.
Secrets two and three are more challenging: goal-setting and time management. Chizoma encouraged us to be creative and think differently about what’s possible. She gave the example of trying to break through a piece of paper with the sheer force of one’s forehead. Needless to say, it doesn’t work! With time, tools, and a little ingenuity can we cut the paper, connect the pieces into a loop, and step right through it. Similarly, our entrepreneurs must start where they are now and remember that every step towards their future success counts!
Dressing for success and communicating effectively are the last secrets for our entrepreneurs, who must independently gain contacts and clientele. We can control how we are perceived and command attention with style. Cost can be a deterrent, but, as one participant mentioned, the wealth of thrift and consignment stores in the area that make organizing your image more affordable. A put-together ensemble is complemented by a professional way of communicating. Our participants were reminded to be precise with their language, show personality in their e-mail signature, and respond timely to all requests. Eye contact and a genuine smile never hurt, either!
At the end of the class, one student doubted that she could be as strong and confident as Chizoma. Yet, reflecting on her accomplishments, she realized she had already overcome much in her life by learning to speak English, for example. With the support of her peers and the program’s mentors, I have no doubt that in a few short weeks she will rise proudly and say her name with all its worth.
Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.