The World is Your Oyster. What’s holding you back?

Oyster

Last week, I joined a friend of mine to visit his cousin who became a professional athlete at age 18.  Twenty five years later, the cousin has aspirations of owning his own business and bringing the “cool” factor back to the sport.  He says that the sport has gone corporate, and he has some great ideas of how he can generate a lot of revenue while bringing an old school vibe back.  This included customized equipment, cool apparel, and school & training programs.  Everything sounded solid, and I later found out that he has been discussing this same plan for the past five years.

When I had asked why he hadn’t started his own business, he replied in one word “FEAR”.  He’s now a father of 3 and a husband.  He works for a corporation, and generates a salary.  My friend believes in his cousin, and has offered to fund the start up, but yet he hasn’t pulled the trigger.

When I’ve spoken to others who want to start their own business, I hear similar verbiage.  They don’t know if they will fail, and they are comfortable with their steady income and benefits.

My feedback is simple: What is the worst thing that is going to happen if you start this business, and it doesn’t work out?  Typically, the new business venture is something that they are talented in or they are experts at in their current job.  I believe the worst thing that can happen is that they would have to go back to their job or get another job.  Sure, there may be loss of time and money, but if you don’t even give it a shot, how will you know?

I do believe writing down a business plan is important.  It should be deliberate, but doesn’t need to be a huge endeavor to create.  This will provide a guideline as you work your way through the process, and regular reviews can keep you on track.  This includes how much you’d like to invest into the business, what kind of clients/markets you will be involved, and why you are doing this.  Check out this guideline:  http://theeverygirl.com/what-to-include-in-your-business-plan

Call to action:  What’s holding you back from living the best life you envision?  First, let’s write it down, do a little due diligence and pull the pieces together.  Go slow or go fast, but do something to live a life that you are passionate about.

What To Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home

10364042_10203262477736864_754696161956816490_n Kiana, 10, heading to camp & Rachel, 18, headed to Dartmouth in September
My 10 year old daughter will be headed off to camp this summer, and I was wondering what skills we have taught her to prepare her for being without her parents.  Also, this is the summer before the high school graduates head off to college, and I am curious as to how prepared they are when they leave home.  I know technology has put information immediately at our hands with our cell phones, but I do think there are basic skills that we should be actively trying to teach our kids. 
I’m thinking that it would be great if every young person could do the following:
DOMESTIC SKILLS
Cook a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not out of a can)
Wash and iron clothes without ruining them
Replace a button, fix a hem, and polish their own shoes
 PRACTICAL SKILLS
Drive a car including one with manual transmission, and maintain it properly
Change a flat tire
SURVIVAL SKILLS
Know basic first aid and maintain a complete first-aid kit
Know what to do if you get sick, especially if you’re alone
Know when to defend yourself
Know CPR
ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS
Create a budget
Balance a checkbook even if you bank online
Set up a filing system so all of they paperwork in your life is in one place
SOCIAL SKILLS
Carry on a conversation for fifteen minutes with a person you don’t know
Speak before a small group of friends for a few minutes
Tell a joke
Learn basic ballroom dancing skills 
HUMAN SKILLS
Care for a dog, cat or other animal including when they are sick
Baby-sit for children ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years old.
Aid the elderly or handicapped people
ORIENTATION SKILLS
Get around the city on a bus or train even if you typically walk or drive
Know what direction is north, south, east, and west (without a compass) whenever you’re outside
Read a map 
PHYSICAL SKILLS
Throw and catch balls of all sizes without breaking your fingers
Swim half a mile, tread water for half an hour and float for an hour
Ride a bike with confidence
 HANDYMAN SKILLS
Hang a picture straight without making extra holes in the wall
Paint neatly including cleaning up the mess
Know which tools perform what functions and how to use them around the house
Sharpen a knife without cutting yourself
OUTDOOR SKILLS
Hike with friends all day without getting lost, bitten or covered with a rash
Bait a hook, catch a fish, reel it in, remove the hook, then clean and cook the fish
RECREATIONAL SKILLS
Play a team sport
Maintain a fitness regiment
Learn a game (like chess) you can play with friends for life
ARTISTIC SKILLS
Draw an illustration at least well enough to get your point across.
Have confidence to sing aloud
Know how to play a musical instrument
Challenge: Do the young people in your life have command of the above skills?  Are you up for teaching them as life lessons?

My Sisters – AAPI Everyday Sheroes

AAPI EVERYDAY SHEROES

This May, we celebrated AAPI Everyday Sheroes in honor of APA Heritage Month.

AAPI women are creating change in their local communities and on the national stage. NAPAWF is proud to highlight the Everyday Sheroes among us – the fierce movement-makers who are building a more just world for AAPI women and girls.

Below are three of my “sisters” that have been diligently working in the community & the United States to make an impact.  I am proud to be part of a group of such empowering women.

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Dr. Theresa Mah (Chicago, Illinois)

Dr. Theresa Mah is a Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach in the Office of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied history and ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley before attending the University of Chicago where she earned her Ph.D. in U.S. history. She has researched and written about housing segregation in the United States and has taught history, ethnic studies, and Asian American studies at various universities, including Northwestern University, New York University, Bowling Green State University, University of Illinois Chicago and the The University of Chicago. She has served on the boards of The Toledo Fair Housing Center and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. During the 2008 presidential campaign she served as a member of Barack Obama’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Council.

Since returning to Chicago in 2006, she has been a strong advocate and activist in the Asian American community. In 2012 she was elected Community Representative on the Local School Council at Thomas Kelly High School and appointed to the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education. While on staff at the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, an advocacy coalition in Chicago’s Chinatown, she led a successful redistricting effort for the Chicago Chinatown community; helped pass the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011; conceived the effort to establish an Asian American Caucus in the General Assembly; and spearheaded the passage of the Asian American Employment Plan Act. In her current position, she oversees the implementation of policies that promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of state government, paying particular attention to the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of Asian Americans in order to better reflect the diversity of the state’s population. She works closely with the Governor’s cabinet to ensure that state agencies provide adequate outreach and services to the Asian American population. She serves as the Governor’s representative in the Asian American community and advocates for the state’s 600,000+ Asian Americans, bringing their issues and concerns to the highest levels of state government and working on policies to address them.

On a more personal note, I am the child of immigrants and the granddaughter of a paper son who came to the United States from southern China in 1924. I am motivated to do what I do because of what I know about Asian American history and the experiences of people like my grandfather. I would not be where I am today were it not for their sacrifices, so I feel a deep obligation to give back what I can, to use my relative privilege to fight for justice and equality for our communities. Because I grew up in a working class immigrant family, I am particularly sensitive to issues of language access, immigrant rights, educational opportunity, equity and representation. Those are issues I work on every day, and I feel tremendously privileged to be able to do personally rewarding work that I love and feel a deep commitment to.

I support NAPAWF because I think it’s really important to support the next generation of AAPI women leaders, provide a local safe space for AAPI women and girls, fight for reproductive justice, and protect immigrant rights.

 

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Kiran Ahuja (Washington, DC)

Kiran Ahuja has served as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) since December 2009, working to improve the quality of life for AAPIs through increased access to and participation in federal programs.

Well-known as a leader among national and grassroots AAPI and women’s rights organizations, Ms. Ahuja served as the founding Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) from 2003-2008. Through her leadership, Ms. Ahuja built NAPAWF from an all-volunteer organization to one with a paid professional staff and organized a strong, vibrant network of AAPI women community leaders across the country. She attended Spelman College, an historically black college, and the University of Georgia School of Law.

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Anne Shaw (Chicago, Illinois)

Born the daughter of Asian American immigrants in Atlanta, Georgia, Anne Shaw has lived and worked in the greater Chicagoland area almost her entire life, and is a proud wife, daughter, sister, small business owner and attorney.

Ms. Shaw and her husband, Matt, live in East Village/Wicker Park Chicago where they are both active with family life and community service.

Now the founding officer and shareholder of Shaw Legal Services, Ltd., Ms. Shaw’s legal practice centers around taking care of families and the businesses that support those families. Her and her firms’ work focuses on civil litigation in the areas of commercial, civil rights and personal injury. Her firm also handles estate planning, small business representation, bankruptcy, family law and real estate.

Ms. Shaw strongly believes that we need more Asian Americans and women in public office. Ms. Shaw ran for public office in 2011-2012 in an effort to save a local police station from closing. She organized thousands of people, 4 rallies, and gathered over 6000 signatures to save the police station from closing. With less than three months to campaign, she beat the incumbent and came in second place with 30% of the vote as a first time candidate. She is now a candidate for Chicago City Council and will make history if elected as the first Asian American woman to join the Chicago City Council in February 2015.

In 2012, Ms. Shaw discovered that the cosmetology and nail technician State licensing exams were only offered in English and Spanish but not in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or any other Asian languages. She immediately started working pro bono to have these licensing exams translated into Asian languages to help the Asian community. By 2013, working closely with Governor Quinn’s Policy Director, Theresa Mah, the Governor agreed to work on translating and offering these exams in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean and by February 2014, the first cosmetology exam in Chinese was offered to students.

Ms. Shaw is regularly invited to teach other attorneys business and financial laws. Knowing that the Asian Pacific story is part of the fabric of the American story, Ms. Shaw has remained incredibly active in her cultural community, and in May of 2013 she was honored by the National Association of Asian American Professionals Chicago for her achievements in our community and was invited to speak as a keynote speaker at their Asian American Heritage Month Leadership Celebration.

In 2010, Ms. Shaw co-founded the first pro bono legal clinic in Chinatown with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and the Chinese American Service League, now in its fourth year and serving thousands of underserved and underrepresented immigrants and Asian American minorities.

Ms. Shaw has been invited to speak to numerous other organizations, including the Chinese American Service League, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and others.

Ms. Shaw received the prestigious Hon. Sandra Otaka Leadership Award, the highest honor from the Asian American Bar Association in 2010 for her work in the legal profession and the community.

In 2008 she was named one of the top lawyers under 40 in Chicago by Chicago Law Bulletin. In 2009 she was named a “Best Lawyer Under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

In 2009, Ms. Shaw was appointed to serve as the first Asian American Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Ethics.

This year she received the Asian American Coalition of Chicago’s Community Service Award.

Ms. Shaw supports NAPAWF because she strongly believes that the greater community needs strong AAPI women leaders in the professional, civic, and political arenas and NAPAWF gives women leaders the support and resources to be able to do this.

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Dr. Karen Eng (Chicago, Illinois)

Dr. Karen Eng has worked to build CSMI as a leading process & packaging engineering firm in the FDA & USDA regulated industries.  CSMI provides project management, field and construction support, electrical, mechanical, controls, automation, and packaging engineering services.  Upon Dr. Eng becoming President in 2000, CSMI has grown exponentially in both revenues and staff, and continues its growth by developing a stronger client base, more in depth projects, and more experienced staff.

Dr. Eng received a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego and her doctorate from the New England College of Optometry.

Most recently, she has spoken at the Export Import Bank of the United States regarding exporting back to China, and the Food and Drug Law Institute’s conference in Beijing.  She has been a panelist for Senator Durbin’s U.S. Export seminar, North Park University Executive Director Boot Camp, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Chicago Globalization conference, and Working Mother Media’s Chicago Women’s Leadership Summit.

Dr. Eng serves on the Board of Directors of the Export Import Bank of the United States, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois College of Optometry, and Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.  She chairs the STEM Task Force through the Girl Scouts which aims to be the liaison between Chicago headquartered corporations & the Girl Scouts.

Dr. Eng supports NAPAWF because she is passionate about developing more AAPI women leaders and growing local safe spaces for progressive AAPI women and girls.

I Want To See You Be Brave – A Beginner’s Guide to Networking

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I love the song “Brave” by Sara Barielles on many levels.  When talking with North Park University graduating students at the Etiquette and Networking dinner on March 27, 2014, I wanted them to walk away with the beliefs from her lyrics of  “You can be amazing!” and “Say what you want to say honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

What does this have to do with Networking?  I think that these are a couple components of successful networking. One is believing you are amazing, not arrogant. You have a great story based on YOUR life.  Another component is bravery when interacting with others either in a familiar or unfamiliar setting.

A couple of items to remember when introducing yourself include:

  1. Introduce yourself using your name
  2. Shake hands
  3. Have eye contact
  4. Speak clearly
  5. Speak confidently with a good flow
  6. Make yourself memorable? (be authentic and compelling)


Networking. What exactly is it?  

Networking is such a powerful entity.  It’s an exchange of information between individuals and groups.  You’ve heard of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  There is true validity to this; not saying you don’t have to be knowledgeable, but networking yields knowledge beyond yourself.  If you have a strong network, you have access to answers and solutions versus obtaining it blindly both professionally and personally.   Wouldn’t you rather call someone you know and trust to help you with an electrical problem in your home versus google “electricians” and pick one randomly?    Have you ever gotten an opportunity to do something perhaps an internship, a job, go to an event, got a huge discount all because someone provided you an introduction? 

You only have one shot and 10 seconds to make a first impression so let’s talk about making YOU as amazing as you can be.

 Specific tips to try

My mantra is to try and make everything a no brainer. How you take care of yourself is typically the first impression of you.  Let’s eliminate the variables.

YOU: Physical Aspect

  • Dress appropriately for the situation (business attire vs nightclub attire, be clean and pressed, shoes in good shape)
  • Hygiene (clean hair, clean body, good breath, appropriate make up, cologne/perfume appropriate, nails trimmed)
  • Posture
  • Be on time

YOU: Mental Aspect

  • Check your attitude: Are you conveying a positive of negative attitude?
  • Are you feeling good about yourself?
  • Eat good foods
  • Exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce your stress

YOU and Others: Psychological Aspect

  • Make sure you are listening
  • Try and Ask applicable questions
  • Reengage if you are interrupted

My Secret to Networking

I want to tell you my secret about being an effective networker.  When I meet someone, I get to know them regardless of what they can do for me.  

There is a delicate balance of meeting someone deliberately at a networking event because you want the opportunity for the internship or job.  My advice is to be authentic and compelling by saying something like: “This may not be the right time, but can I follow up with you to discuss the opportunity of working with you?”

Networking As A Way Of Life

You never know who you are going to run into, and then you never know what opportunities they may bring.  So it is important to know what your brand is, what you represent, what you want to do and how you are going to get there.You know how excited you get about things you are passionate about, and sometimes you can talk endlessly about it.  Why wouldn’t you surround yourself with that passion?

My brand is strongly linked to my Twitter profile: CEO of an engineering firm, President of a wine branding company, golf and Harley enthusiast, mom, and a passion to empower women & girls.

So I challenge you to come up with your brand.  And if you have, do you need to revisit it and revise?

One thing to remember: Networking gets easier and better the more you do it. 

Entrepreneurship Mindset

I had a wonderful evening with a group of dynamic women participating in the POWER: Chicago conference.  The venue was Sandra Rand’s home in Hyde Park that provided an intimate setting with a candid opportunity to discuss entrepreneurship.  About 40-50% of the women are entrepreneurs with the remaining interested in pursuing their own business. Ms. Rand was an excellent moderator who leveraged her experiences in both corporate and entrepreneurship.  Hedy Ratner was a thought leader who discussed the benefits of the Women’s Business Development Council.  The panel discussion included Pat Pulido Sanchez of Pulido Sanchez Communications, Danielle Hrzic of Gourmet Gorilla, and myself.  A quick summation of our core points:

  1. “Do your research. And then do more research.” Creating a business plan and understanding the market is essential for entrepreneurs.  You need to understand who will utilize your services and products.  You need to understand your competition, and the impact it will have on your business.  You need to understand all the costs associated- in addition to all of the time it will occupy to launch your business.
  2. “Take risks, but know that you can always say ‘No’ if it doesn’t feel right.”  Entrepreneurs are already taking risks by starting something new.  This may include leaving a corporate position with high pay, numerous benefits, and a corporate reputation.  I recommend that if you are making bigger decisions, to create smaller bite size decisions that you are comfortable with that will eventually lead you to your goal.  It’s rarely a life or death situation.
  3. “Make time for work/life balance.” It’s a gentle reminder that spending time away from your work is good for the soul and can make you more productive with your business.  This includes spending time with family and friends, exercising, meditating, and taking up a hobby.
  4. “Failure is not an option.”  Entrepreneurship is such a humbling experience.  Pat spoke about how you learn something from every situation that occurs.  She mentioned that some of her career changes that seemed like failures were opportunities for bigger and better things. If you lose your biggest client, view it an opportunity to seek a better client.  You learn to be flexible and nimble and create your own opportunities.

Personally, I feel that none of the discussion included rocket science or brain surgery, but it was reinforcement and encouragement that it IS viable to have a successful company and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  There’s nothing worse than listening to someone complain day after day (even year after year) about how unappreciated and underpaid she is with her current employer when she has the capacity to be the CEO & Chair of the Board of her own company.

Invitation: Is your life not fulfilled because you feel under appreciated, under paid, and you are not growing at your current employer?  I invite you to consider entrepreneurship.  If you choose to go into business, there are numerous resources such as other (women) entrepreneurs to help you succeed and provide assistance.