Some fall into it, plan for it or create it based on need. With practically every member of my immediate and extended family working for themselves, it’s not surprising that I chose to become an entrepreneur.
Of all of them, my mother is the one I look up to as my mentor and hero.
From the first moment I can remember, Julie Harris, my mom, had some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor going on.
My parents had four kids in their 20’s and wanted to make sure my mom was home to raise us. With my dad running a growing home-building company, my mom found ways to add to our family income.
She set up an informal daycare helping other neighborhood parents. She raised all of us to school age and found herself excited at the prospect of filling her quieter days with her own business.
When my youngest brother was off to kindergarten, my 31-year-old mom found a barn and utilized my dad’s carpentry skills to turn it into a huge consignment shop. Although it was called Bears Repeating, it became known as Julie’s Barn and offered a way for locals to make money on their used clothes while being able to enjoy “new” clothes.
When asked why she decided to do this type of business, she said “… so many people gave to me. It’s my turn to give back.”
Her business outlook was always one of supporting her own family by helping others support their own.
Working in my mom’s store from age 11 taught me about hard work, dedication and superior customer service.
I learned how to count back change, greet people when they came and went, keep a clean store, show off merchandise, and help customers find the things they needed. My mom always had a smile on her face, always made sure every customer got attention and that everyone felt comfortable in her store.
Watching her and getting this experience at a young age was the key finding my own entrepreneurial spirit.
Finding a niche in the early days of businesses needing websites, I stumbled into being an entrepreneur at 20. Following in my family’s footsteps and taking my mother’s lead, I learned how to stand out by providing enthusiasm in customer service.
I knew the inner workings of being a business owner from growing up in a family business and my mom became a resource for dealing with hard clients, figuring out taxes and making sense of paperwork.
She knew nothing about websites but knew what customers needed.
After disappointing my dad by going to work for “the man” for a number of years, I realized it was time to go back into business for myself.
While brainstorming unique names it was my mom who suggested using my childhood imaginary friend’s name, Sisarina. After signing the lease on my first office space, she was the one who suggested I ask my dad to make big desks out of 100-year-old doors. She even sometimes provides unbiased hiring advice.
Without realizing it, she was an integral part of my venture back to entrepreneurship.
I got started fresh and excited about the newness of it all, while she sold her barn and business after 16 successful years. Her passion for what she did had left her, and she set out to find what it was that would make her happy again.
While searching for her next venture she became a Realtor, took pottery classes, set up booth space at a local antique store, started cleaning out her house and realized that she just wasn’t meant to be sitting around.
She thought about opening a restaurant or a bed and breakfast.
She worked for the State for a bit but nothing fit just right.
She’d lost her passion, sold her business, her life had completely changed.
She remembered what it was like to start Bears Repeating – she wanted that excitement back.
So she bought a cute little brick building, had my dad help her remodel it and setup a boutique consignment shop for women. Julie’s Consignment Cottage gave her the place to show off her passion again. The focus of her niche clothing store is helping women dress for success on a budget, and pulls from her boutique shopping experiences to setup the displays like a shop owner would in the Hamptons.
My mom works because she has passion for what she does.
It doesn’t feel like work. She loves dressing her windows, peeking into bags of consigned clothes, helping her customers find what fits their body style, and putting up Facebook posts about what’s going on at her store.
My mom’s passion showed me the value of hard work and gave me the inspiration to be passionate for my customers as well.
I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom and I’m sure she has no idea how much of my success is owed to her.
Most girls look up to their mothers in some way. We dress up like them as little girls and hope someday we can be as amazing as they are. I only hope someday I can be as successful as my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!
More from Women Grow Business:
- Slipping happily into the gap, by Tinu Abayomi-Paul
- What’s her story got to do with me? by Patricia Frame
- The gratitude council, by Lori Saitz
Photo of Melanie and her mother © Melanie Spring, used with permission
Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.