Ever been so motivated by someone or something that you just had to tell everyone? Where you weren’t paid to share about it, but you were so motivated that it was coming out of your pores? This is my story about something that just changed my life. And, Idon’t say that flippantly. In a sense it’s a story about “paying it forward,” which isn’t a new concept, I know, but now I have seen it encouraged on a much larger scale -- mainly for women in business, but it can be universally applied. It’s also a story about true sisterhood. Now that I have experienced it, I am so energized that it has sparked some amazing creativity, activity and change in me forever.
A few months back, my longtime friend Cammy reached out to me and made an introduction to her longtime friend/mentor Shelley Zalis who is a CEO, an innovator and a true activator of change. Shelley is not only the CEO of Ipsos OTX, she is also, perhaps more importantly, the Founder of The Girl’s Lounge. Perhaps you have heard of it. Its popularity is surely growing. What is this lounge? What happens there? What is the need? I was very curious, too.
In my words, after being lucky enough to be invited to share my organic skincare line there for the past 48 hours, The Girls’ Lounge is a place where women really connect (not “network”) in a setting that isinviting (kind of like your living room), a place to get motivated, inspired, rejuvenated, share ideas and build confidence. Sounds awesome, but you may be wondering how? It’s largely Shelley and the warmth and generosity that she emanates and creates in the lounge and the women she attracts to work there and visit there -- a trickle-down effect. It’s also the awareness of the need many women feel to connect at large corporate conferences, but don’t necessarily have a forum for it. Whether the conference is in a male dominated industry or not, this traveling lounge promises women a haven -- a place to find other women, to discuss real issues, to create, unite, build, do work andhave fun together.
I have already seen it first hand and it’s exhilarating! The women come in, not necessarily knowing what to expect, and they walk out with 10 or more new friends for the rest of the event and beyond. There is an energy to it that is both relaxed and charged at once. It somehow nurtures and brings out the passion in everyone. You cannot help but feel it! In the lounge you will find fabulous refreshments, inspirational artwork and quotes, uplifting services (reflexology, hair, nails, makeup, workout classes) panel talks, meetings, really awesome giveaways and more!
For me, The Girls’ Lounge came at the perfect time. I have been steadily growing my skincare business and have been sending it way more love in the past couple of years. The Girls’ Lounge is a way my business is now loving me back! In two days I met women CEOs, sprouting entrepreneurs and everyone in between. They all offered their advice and contacts freely to me, and I did the same. I have connected women there who are now already doing business together and that feels wonderful to me. I even connected two women at home to women I met there. If we all worked like this, imagine what we could accomplish together! This is Shelley’s vision. And, now it’s being adopted by all lounge attendees. It embodies the following concepts that I plan on bringing to every aspect of my business from this day forward:
1. Find and embrace your tribe. What women in your life are your biggest cheerleaders? Who are your champions, your advocates? Who empowers you? You know who they are; the ones genuinely happy to see your growth. The ones who will help you, because your success feels like theirs. Find these women and give them what they give you -- 1000%! Don’t have any yet? Get your butt to The Girls’ Lounge (not kidding)!
2. Don’t leave your feminine qualities at carpool drop-off. Embrace them, don’t hide them! Empathy, generosity, patience and warmth are wonderful leadership traits and are your strength not your weakness. The world needs more femininity. We need to sing the praises of our tender qualities (something women haven’t always been good at). I once did some freelance work for a woman who asked that I not mention I am a mother to any of her customers on the telephone and pretend I was in an office, when I was in fact on a carpool line. WTF? Pretend I am someone or something I am not? This leads me to my next rule:
3. Familyfirst(well, actually second -- you first, but more on that next). You can have the good life at work and home. The good life to me is defining a work schedule that is rewarding and accommodates being present for my family, without apologizing! What is yours? How are you working towards this? How is society working towards this notion? How can weactivate change together? Are we even asking our employers for what we desire and need? If you are not in control of your career, who is? Is your job jail? Don’t wait for others to change what you want changed. We can do this together! When I am ready to hire (soon!) you can be sure I will want my team to know that their lives matter and that I share their priorities.
4. Take care of YOU! What energizes you? What do you need to feel like a shining star every day? Is it a daily workout, yoga, a green juice, a blowout (nothing like a good blowout), a massage? I know that if I don’t do what makes me feel fabulous, I cannot bring my full fabulosity to my work. Don’t be a martyr, be the sustainer of your self-care!
5. Step out of your comfort zone(perhaps in a great pair of heels).Be bold. Be brave! Go give that speech, woman! Be the guest blogger, call the editor, and make the meeting with Whole Foods! What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best? Is your “comfort zone” even that comfy? Wouldn’t growth and success feel even more pleasant and cozy?
6. Bring your sparkle to everyencounter. Follow your passions and be authentic. Have you been watering down your message and marketing to be more generic? Are you afraid to be yourself and bring that special something that your friends and family justlove about you to your company? Are you marketing to everybody (and ultimately to nobody)? How do you present yourself? Are you bringing your best self to your life each and every day? What about your clothing? If someone asks me what my favorite color is, I say “red” without even thinking, yet I find I wear mostly grey and black and black and grey. Boring! P.S. I added a little pizzazz to my outfit today and it was definitely reflected in my meetings.
7. Give, Give and Give some more! You’ve heard it before, but really act on this and you won’t believe what will come to you. Be someone’s mentor, give your time to help someone who has a similar business as you and don’t look at them as competition -- rather as someone with similar passions and sensibilities. Give little gifts to people in your life, unexpected and thoughtful. Even a genuine compliment can go a really, really long way. It can (and will) inspire a ripple of colossal change.
8. Collaborate witheveryone. Forget people’s age, gender, race, religion and hierarchy in the workplace. You neverknow who can teach you something invaluable. When you come from a place of equality, your team will bend over backwards for you. They will also feel comfortable sharing ideas that can potentially catapult your business (which is also their business).
So yeah, meeting Shelley and being part of just ONE girls lounge didchange my life, and I expect the next one to change it even more! Dramatic? Not the slightest. Wherever you are in your career, or even if you don’t have one, finding like-minded women who inspire growth in us is atruegift. For more information on upcoming events and the beauty The Girls’ Lounge is spreading, please check out theipsosgirlslounge. I have no doubt you will be exhilarated, too!
Gillian Stollwerk Garrett (aka "Gilly") is a multi-passionate entrepreneur. A writer, a daydreamer, an inspiration and adventure-seeking wellness advocate, Gilly is part self-help/spirit junkie, part workaholic. Her organic and vegan skincare products can be found at www.heysugarlookingood.com (a Gilly’s Organics company) or at (New Jersey) Whole Foods.
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