Pop Culture

Ladies who launch: Get biz-savvy

Have you always dreamed of starting your own business and escaping your un-inspiring 9-5 job? Through their program, Ladies Who Launch, Victoria Colligan and Beth Schoenfeldt encourage would-be entrepreneurs to daydream as a way to define goals, whether it's a new business venture, changing course within a corporation or even a revitalized personal life.

In their new book,“Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship & Creativity as a Lifestyle,” Colligan and Schoenfeldt offer tips and strategies on how to discover your passions, start a business and increase your self-esteem. Here's an excerpt:

Introduction

If you want to pop the lid off anything you ever thought you couldn’t do, shouldn’t have, or couldn’t achieve, you’ve bought the right book. All the tools you need to ignite a fire under a long-smoldering dream, or to catapult a lifestyle, relationship, or career to a higher level, are right here.

Women tend to think of dreams as bigger than themselves, pies in the sky, morsels of imagination saved for a rainy day—in other words, out of reach. Well, guess what? Ladies Who Launch will reprogram how you think about your dreams so that they are as real as the coffee you drink each morning. They’re real and they’re all yours! To be truly happy and inspired by the life you’re living, you can take steps to wake up and launch your dreams right now. It is time to start believing that you can have what you really want. With the help of Ladies Who Launch, you will.

Why Not You?

Were you ever told to stop dreaming that you could be the next Kate Spade, the next Nora Ephron, the next yoga master, the next Nicole Kidman, the next Fortune 500 CEO, the next Oprah, the next It girl, or the next business profiled on Daily Candy? Ladies Who Launch says, “Why not you?” Someone is going to break out and be recognized for achieving success and enjoying the fruits of her dreaming; it might as well be someone as fabulous and deserving as you. In fact, it couldn’t happen to a better person! If you have dreams (and we know you do), then there is an entrepreneurial spirit inside you waiting to break free. The entrepreneurial spirit can include the traditional definition of entrepreneurship and revolve around launching a business, or that spirit can encompass the enthusiasm and ambition all entrepreneurs possess and be channeled into any part of your life.

Our culture tends to discourage women from reaching for the stars and embracing our creativity. The messages we are more likely to receive are: “Work hard,” “Stay out of trouble,” “Get good grades,” “Play it safe,” and “Be responsible.” Because of these admonitions, it becomes easy to let years of precious life go by without writing that book, pitching that idea, creating that loving relationship, or simply decorating the house exactly the way you want it. Your “inner entrepreneur,” the creative engine that can transform your dreams into reality, is kept in check.

Ladies Who Launch is about unlocking your dreams and letting them out into the world, allowing them to be as big as they were meant to be. Rather than suppressing your desires because you don’t want to be too bold, too proud, too much, too greedy, we say let them loose and allow them to grow! If you have reached a level of success, we dare you to go to the next level; you never want to stop looking forward to the next interesting thing. While you should appreciate every delicious bit of what you have, it is absolutely necessary to keep striving for more. Without desires and dreams, the flame in your furnace dies out and life becomes mediocre, inspiration fades, depression sets in, and you stop creating and achieving. However, wanting more goes far beyond material possessions and brings you deep into the realm of well-being and happiness, a place where you can design your life exactly as you’d like it to be, and tap into your creative and entrepreneurial spirit. First, you have to realize that you can have a say in your life; you can escape the expectations that you learned from your school, work, family, and friends. You have to appreciate that you can custom-design your unique path and that no matter what you were told, you are a brilliant, innovative being.

The Program

Ladies Who Launch is a movement. Yes, it’s an in-person and online network for women to connect, grow, and celebrate. But it’s also a way of thinking and being that discards the idea that there is only one way to launch, one way to live, or one way to be creative. Ladies Who Launch is an agreement between a woman and herself that says, “No matter what, I want my life to keep moving forward, keep getting better, and keep being closer to my dreams.”

We’ve designed a four-step program called the Incubator to propel the intrinsic yearning every woman has to launch her life, to embrace her creativity, to move forward into territory only she has the desire to claim for herself. The Ladies Who Launch program is a conduit for creativity. Women place their dreams inside this virtual greenhouse and discover a supportive environment for their precious thoughts, ideas, and visions. The imaginings can take any form—great relationships, a fulfilling career, a creative outlet, an enriching family experience, financial freedom, or being the queen of your kingdom (however you define that)—and through the Ladies Who Launch Incubator program, the dreams grow until they are hatched into reality.

Any desire can be put into this Incubator model and expanded. Some of the real women whose lives are bigger and better than they ever imagined by utilizing the Ladies Who Launch Incubator include:

• Karen Mudrick, who moves to a new city and wants to expand her social life, spice up her nightlife, and befriend a more diverse crowd. She bravely jumps into the Ladies Who Launch Incubator and within days finds herself out at chic parties, spending weekends in a beach house, and creating a Rolodex of close friends.

• Robin Wilson, a former executive recruiter who decides she wants to build a business as an owner’s representative for home renovation—an unusual role in the world of construction and architecture. With only a couple of clients under her belt, she joins the Ladies Who Launch Incubator, and within three months has more than twenty clients for her company, Robin Wilson Home, as well as feature articles on her business in magazines and newspapers across the country. Ultimately, this led to a whole new launch project of giant proportions: Robin was selected by Hearst Magazines to be its spokesperson for its home-oriented publications. This lady can’t be stopped!

• A corporate executive, Carolynn Kutz has a dream of breaking out of her cubicle and getting behind the camera to shoot a movie. With only an inkling of an idea about what, where, and how, she pitches her story to the women in the Ladies Who Launch Incubator, who receive it with wild appreciation and excitement. Amazingly, several others in the group also want to get into the film game. Carolynn is soon on the sidewalks of New York, collaborating with the women in Ladies Who Launch to act, write, and produce the movie for a film competition she courageously dares to enter. Lights, camera, action, she comes in second place!

• Emily Farber is tired of working for a PR agency, uninspired by her daily routine and lethargic lunches over a keyboard. She envisions pitching the press from a grand marble desk in her home, spending time with her new puppy, and continuing her work in communications but on her own time and terms. In a few short months she has her own PR business, Hudson Communications, with a growing client list that appreciates her boutique (independent) agency. They respect and appreciate her at-home work environment and ability to be flexible and execute outside the normal confines of the agency-client contract.

• Jennifer Bessier has a love affair with cooking and decides to grow her culinary hobby into a Web site for the kitchen-challenged. Her Web site, www.chefsline.com, has a mission to empower people in the kitchen. Its flagship offering is a national culinary hotline that offers personalized menu planning, cooking, and wine consultations for busy people seeking to have more fun (and success) in the kitchen and make cooking a more integral part of their lives.

• Ann Greenberg starts her own sweater company, Rouge, in the face of a saturated retail market. Despite warnings from others, she launches with tremendous success, and within a year is selling in Bloomingdale’s By Mail and Neiman Marcus Direct. She has been featured in Women’s Wear Daily and is now free to pursue other press outlets. Indicators said no but the Incubator said yes.

Are any of these dreams like your own? You could easily be one of these stories but not if you let your ideas remain dormant because of an overcommitted schedule, fear of failure, or a world-weary approach to life.

The Ladies Who Launch Dream

Our business and this book were developed out of our actual experience. We were (and still are) following our dreams, discovering our true passions, taking huge leaps, and most important, drawing on the energy of our friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone who was willing to give us any input in creating our company, Ladies Who Launch. Our point in sharing our own story is to help you begin to understand how a project, relationship, job, or situation can manifest itself in an inherently feminine way. We have discovered out of our own experience and that of women who have participated in our Incubators that women approach change, creativity, and business quite differently from men. This is not a bad thing! In fact, it worked for us—it can work for you, too.

We didn’t begin this journey with a specific result or even a very clear vision in mind, and we certainly didn’t have a business plan. What we both had was a very strong and almost overwhelming desire to create something that would make us excited to get out of bed each morning and add a little light and love into the world. Sure, we wanted to make money. We love making money! But we also wanted to make an impact on the world and spend our time doing something that was fulfilling in every way. What really drove us to break out of the corporate mold and launch was creating a lifestyle that gave us freedom and flexibility. We are both hard workers with strong work ethics, but we wanted to be successful on our terms, creating time for the things that are important to us, including our family, our friends, traveling, philanthropy, yoga, and the world around us. What we realized, after working for corporations and for start-ups, was that unless the business was a true reflection of our own dreams, no one else’s business would make us as happy as one that was our sole creation. We knew our path would be entrepreneurial and our mission would be to build on an idea that would allow us to stand on our own beautiful feet.

Coincidentally, we not only started our individual journeys toward making our dreams come true at the same time, but we both had similar ideas. Victoria set out to launch a magazine called Avanti, which means “movement” in Italian. Meanwhile, Beth created FLOinc, an organization whose mission was to move people forward and get them into the “flow” of their lives. We were both solo-preneurs (before we married our businesses together) and wanted to support and forge connections for other women going through the same process. After looking high and low, neither of us was able to find exactly what we were looking for in terms of an organization or resource that combined creativity, business, fun, and lifestyle. We discovered that we weren’t alone. We asked around and found that many women wanted to break out of the corporate mold, use their creativity, do something fulfilling every day, enjoy their femininity, have fun, and connect with other like-minded, motivated, and creative women. There seemed to be nowhere to turn. Networking as a concept and even as a word was never something either of us had found at all enticing or supportive. It involved images of conference rooms, hotel lobbies, business cards, and name tags, and felt boring, tedious, strained, and unnatural to us.

Subsequently, our businesses were born. Victoria turned her magazine concept into www.ladieswholaunch.com, an online resource for women that features entrepreneurial success stories with a focus on lifestyle and creativity. Beth added a workshop called the Incubator to her menu of courses as a way to spend time with like-minded and motivated women and to help them crank up the volume on desires and dreams. Both concepts grew organically and quickly; the Ladies Who Launch subscriber base grew as women across the world signed up to receive their weekly dose of inspiration in the form of a Featured Lady who had herself successfully launched. The Incubator, starting in New York City, became a word-of-mouth phenomenon as women flocked to the program. From marriage proposals to business partnerships and photography treks in Southeast Asia, life got rosier for the women in the Incubator, which evolved into that networking organization that we had dreamed of, combining entrepreneurship, creativity, and lifestyle. Together, we are able to provide the network and resources that women need to launch, both online and offline.

This process wasn’t easy. We learned, in hard but ultimately positive ways, as we went along. We both self-financed our dreams without any guarantee of success. And although we both went to business school, we found the approach we used for launching our dreams to be in almost direct conflict with what we had been taught. When we took the leap of independence, it was an exhilarating but terrifying experience. When you are in the middle of creating something brand-new, it can be almost paralyzing. We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had everything from cold sweats to insomnia thinking about how to advance our brilliant ideas. Even when you know something works and it has proven itself to you in various outstanding ways, there is always a pinch of doubt. Will they use it? Will they like it? We truly believed that women would grow and thrive and become believers by coming to Ladies Who Launch and going through the Incubator process, but at the same time we wondered, will it work? Are there women out there who crave the resources and community we do, without the corporate networking model in place?

Luckily, not only did people come, they spread the word, told their friends, and most important, saw results. Every time a woman associated with Ladies Who Launch takes a tiny step toward her goal, gets a feature article published, makes her first 100K sale, makes a new friend, or gets engaged, it launches the rest of us higher and paves the way for others to follow. Five years later we have a thriving and growing business that changes lives every single day. We have had thousands of women all over the world take part in the Ladies Who Launch Incubator program and we are thrilled with the remarkable women that Ladies Who Launch attracts. Each, like you, is dynamic, creative, supportive, entrepreneurial, ambitious, and most important, kind and generous. They are ready to take major steps in their lives and understand that doing it together is a lot more fun than doing it alone.

What we realized through this experience is that when you’re enthusiastic about an idea and going for it with all your heart and passion, the universe, people, and circumstances line up behind you to make it possible. Family and friends contributed to our efforts, but also people we barely knew but who felt our enthusiasm have given us great ideas, connected us with their friends and associates, and spread the word that ultimately became the foundation for Ladies Who Launch. Had we tried to do this on our own it would have been so much more difficult; we might have spent many years getting up the courage to actually go for it. Our cowriter Amy Swift’s journey has run parallel to ours. Not only has she launched a business as a brilliant and talented writer and brand-identity guru, but she is also the Ladies Who launch Incubator leader in Los Angeles. From the very beginning Amy has championed us, helped us write, created course names and descriptions, and developed our brand. In fact, early on, over lunch at the Cafeteria restaurant in New York City, Beth was explaining the workshop she dreamed of creating for all of her friends who had inspired her and who had helped her start her business. She imagined creating a forum so that they, too, could give birth to their dreams. Amy said, “Like an Incubator?” and so it began. Amy is not only a writer, she is a collaborator who has brought her unique vision and insight into our world, and whose vision so complements ours that we solicit her two cents whenever possible. We know that with her help, whatever we are doing will be that much better and bigger because together we create something even more wonderful than we could have on our own.

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