Sonya Overstreet

sonyaOverstreet_smallFor years Sonya Overstreet dreamed of being a voice-over artist. In her early teens, she used her “voice-over” voice to read movie listings, real estate ads, fashion catalog descriptions and just about anything she could find. Years passed before she decided to pursue her dream, but the first time she recorded her voice in a professional studio, she felt right at home. “I’ve found a new passion,” she said at that time. Today, Sonya is the owner and voice-over talent for Vision Voice, a business that provides professional and affordable voice-over services. Sonya’s dream to use her voice-over talent as a way to help business owners bring their vision to life is born out of her belief that all business owners want a successful and prosperous business. “I started to think how visions become realities,” she said. “A vision begins in your head and in your heart. But for a vision to take shape, it needs to be communicated through words and actions.” Now the company tagline says it all: The voice that brings vision to life.

While Sonya is busy living out her dream, she warns other potential entrepreneurs not to procrastinate. Instead, set a date and go for it, she says. “Everything I have achieved and will achieve begins with me setting a date to take the first step,” she explains. “I dreamed about launching my company for years, but that was all I did because I was busy chasing down other goals. Then I decided to make my dream a reality, so I set a firm date to begin.”

You, too, can get started with the business dream you’ve been postponing. Don’t wait another moment. Instead, learn more about Sonya in the questions and answers that follow. Let her story be an inspiration to transform your own vision for entrepreneurship into a reality.

What talent do you wish you had? Sonya: I wish I could sing in a way that would touch people’s hearts. If you hosted a dinner party and could invite any three individuals, who would you invite, and why? Sonya: Apostle Paul because he fought a good fight; he finished his course; and he kept the faith. Harriet Tubman because she was determined to be free and see others free. And I’d also choose George Washington because he was the first president of our great nation. What’s the best book you ever read—and why? Sonya: Jane Eyre. I love the book so much because Jane’s life was not easy, but through it all she never strayed from her core values, even against great temptation. She made some heart-wrenching decisions to avoid temptation and be true to herself, and in the end, she was rewarded with a happy and wonderful life.


Bernice Ross

berniceRoss_smallShe loves the freedom of entrepreneurship—the ability to innovate and set her own course.

We’re talking about Bernice Ross, CEO and founder of, a virtual company that provides real-estate training, coaching and consulting for Realtors®. Ross is also a nationally syndicated real estate columnist for Inman News and the author of three books, including Real Estate Dough: The Recipe for Real Estate Success, due out mid-2008. To represent the new book and a new series of products, Ross recently changed the company tag line to:—the Place You Go to Make Real Estate Dough. There’s no doubt she’s passionate about helping Realtors® grow their business.

Clear Vision

Every business needs a vision statement, and for Ross that was the easy part. She’s crystal clear about her company’s mission: is committed to providing our clients with the highest quality coaching, training and consulting services in the real estate industry in order to optimize, inspire and enrich both their personal and business lives. This vision statement brings her goals into focus for everyone to see—and that’s a must for the Realtors® who sign up for her services.

Entrepreneurial Freedom

Like so many others, Ross chose to become an entrepreneur primarily because there are no restrictions. “I love the freedom of setting my own course and being able to innovate without working through the bureaucracy that exists in many organizations,” she says. For creative and inspiring women like Ross, it’s the only way to do business. Ross is passionate about researching innovations and meeting people who are doing new and exciting things. That enthusiasm—that zeal—is then transferred to her work—and the ways in which she helps others. Today, with a new book on the horizon, Ross is more excited than ever. “I love the opportunity to interact with the best and most innovative people in the real estate industry,” she says. “However, the best part is helping someone improve their business so they can better help the people they serve.” To learn more about creating your vision statement, read Life Lesson 9 in Real You Incorporated. berniceRoss_chart

Debba Haupert

debbaHaupert_smallDebba Haupert didn’t have to go far to establish the idea for Girlfriendology.  It started with a blog she created to show appreciation for one of her girlfriends. That, in turn, prompted Debba to research the topic, which reinforced what she already knew—that girlfriends make women happier, healthier and less stressed. She also learned that girlfriends increase longevity and make women feel more beautiful. This confirmed the goal of the site: to make the world a better place, one girlfriendship at a time. Today, is an online community for women based on female friendship. It is designed to inspire women through semi-weekly podcast interviews with amazing women. The site also features shopping, reviews, blogs and more. The entire endeavor is a reflection of Debba’s passions for marketing, learning and friends. “The creative process of writing, finding images to support the story and finding products to offer girlfriends to give as gifts is a joy every day,” says Debba. “I love posting new blogs and offering cool girlfriend gifts; I enjoy connecting women through contests and reviews; and I am humbled by the wonderful girlfriend stories that are shared with me for our contest and through the site.” Debba takes the girlfriend concept a step further by participating in a California-based charity called The Girlfriend Factor. This nonprofit organization raises money to support women who are returning to school later in life. Debba loves that the organization goes beyond simply writing a check for the recipients to the point of getting involved at various levels. “They stay in touch and basically become girlfriends with these women,” she says. Finally, like so many women entrepreneurs, Debba is following her passion. “I feel strongly that the power of female friendship can change the world,” she says. “Men and children look to women for tending, as do other women. So, if we take care of women, we take care of everyone.” Want to learn more about girlfriend Debba Haupert? Read on.

What three things are in your handbag that you can’t do without? Debba: Lipstick, cell phone and business cards (I only carry a little purse!)

What song would most likely make you sing out loud, and why? Debba: There are several contemporary gospel songs that make me sing LOUD and even wave my hands—when no one else is in the car. Someone even waved back at me once. I think my childhood in the South and listening to Mahalia Jackson has something to do with it!

What is your dream vacation? Debba: My dream vacation is exploring Europe. I love London and Paris and would be thrilled to spend time in Europe visiting large and little towns. My creative energy is heightened, and when traveling, I notice little things people do and how they smile. I wonder how things work and how people there live. I even get inspired just walking through markets, riding the ‘tube” and spending time in airports. I love the energy and the power of “time travel” to locations totally different within a few hours time. debbaHaupert_chart

Linda Kick

lindaKick_smallBased in Dublin, Ohio, Our CupCakery is the brainchild of Linda Kick, a former teacher who left education to pursue her passion for baking. Our CupCakery began as a custom cake, cookie and cupcake business, catering to weddings, birthdays and other special events. Then in 2006, Linda introduced the idea of a retail cupcake bar where customers can decorate their own cupcake masterpieces to go. More recently, she expanded even further by adding classes, parties and camps, which are really more opportunities to enjoy delicious desserts with friends. Today, visitors to the cupcake bar can witness great-tasting treats and a kitchen overflowing with activity. Says Linda: “If you’re in need of something sweet, Our CupCakery is the place to create, order—and eat!But make no mistake. Linda is an astute businesswoman and entrepreneur. Inquisitive by nature, she is motivated to try new things, and she is committed to providing products and services that exceed customer expectations. Quite simply, she wants to put a smile on people’s faces. Linda also knows that pursuing your passions is one of the keys to success. “Identify what you love to do,” she says. “Turn your avocation into a vocation, and you’ll never ‘work’ another day.” According to Linda, it all started with the Easy-Bake Oven she received as a child. That’s what introduced her to baking, and through the years she often referred to herself as a closet baker. That’s why she views Our CupCakery as a dream-turned-reality, and she greets every day with the excitement of marketing her business. Catch a little bit of Linda’s contagious enthusiasm. Begin by learning more about her in the questions and answers that follow:

If you hosted a dinner party and could invite any three individuals, who would you invite—and why? Linda: My father, William Bishop. A man with barely a high-school diploma and legally blind in one eye, he is my hero. He was a true entrepreneur and built his own business for 45 years. He passed away three years ago, and I’d like to hear him say again: “So, how’s the cake business, honey?” I’d also invite Frank Sinatra to hear him sing “My Way,” and finally, Warren Buffett to pitch my business model and get his opinion about whether it is franchise-able. What song would most likely make you sing out loud? Why? Linda: “I’m Proud to be an American” because it always gives me chills when I hear it. We are so fortunate to live in a country where women can make their own path in life. What talent do you wish you had? Linda: To be able to spell really well. What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another woman? Linda: Go to a college with a world-wide reputation. I chose Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University. lindaKick_chart

Monique Hayward

moniquehaywordMonique Hayward is a woman with a mission -- for her business and her community. And now Monique is on a new mission – to reinvent herself and her company. When she first launched her company, Nouveau Connoisseurs Corporation, in April 2004, Monique envisioned that she would create sophisticated, welcoming places that take evening entertainment in the suburbs to a higher level of indulgence and sophistication. The entrepreneur and author did just that with her first concept, Dessert Noir Café & Bar, in Beaverton, Oregon, in January 2005. In addition to delivering great desserts, fantastic cocktails, and delectable dishes, the restaurant focused on supporting the local community and being “the place” in Beaverton for live music, local art, and special events.

“From the first day Dessert Noir Café & Bar opened, I supported charitable causes and organizations because it made good business sense,” Monique said. “I increased my visibility in the community, created a positive perception with my customers and supporters, and built a reputation for being a good corporate citizen.” She encouraged local artists to display their artwork on the restaurant’s walls at no charge and provided a venue to up-and-coming musicians so they could perform their work for restaurant patrons and sell CDs. Even as the recession forced venue owners to cut back on many activities that were considered “nice to have,” artists and musicians expressed their gratitude and appreciation to Monique for supporting them and providing a place where they could share their art and music with the community.

Continued predictions for a long, slow economic recovery and her inability to land additional financing to survive downturn forced Monique to close Dessert Noir Café & Bar in July 2009. “Closing this restaurant does not make me a failure as an individual,” Monique said. “Even the most optimistic of entrepreneurs like me still cannot overcome negative cash flow in the long term.”

Monique said that she will parlay this learning into her next entrepreneurial venture as a much smarter, wiser person. “I have valuable experience and more insight into what it takes to be successful.”

In the meantime, you’ll find Monique actively writing and speaking about women in business and promoting her debut book, Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don’t Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur. Believe it when Monique says her second act on the entrepreneurial stage will be a much bigger, better performance for the world to see.

Learn more about Monique:

What advice do you have for other women? Monique: Do your business and do it well. Be part of the 10 percent of our workforce who is directing the work of the 90 percent who are showing up for their jobs everyday. Make them deliver for you. Live your dream.

What talent do you wish you had?

Monique: I wish I could sing well. I’m OK at karaoke in general, but I wish I could really belt some tunes!

If you hosted a dinner party and could invite any three individuals, who would you invite—and why?

Monique: Madonna: She is the master of her destiny. I’ve learned a lot by watching her constantly reinvent herself and her brand over the years. Oprah: She has built a multimedia empire that has enormous reach and influence. Barack Obama: I want to meet our country’s first African-American president.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another woman?

Monique: Don’t do anything to jeopardize your ride or your roof. (Thanks, Mom!)


Lisa Hinson

lisaHinson_smallCall her the quiet warrior. Calmly and patiently, she just gets the job done.

We’re talking about Lisa Hinson, owner of Hinson Ltd. Public Relations in Columbus, Ohio. Formerly the director of public relations for Limited Brands, Lisa’s client list now includes real estate developers, retailers and healthcare businesses. She gets the job done with the help of three employees and two high school or college interns.

Overcoming Hiring Hurdles

It’s no surprise that Lisa attributes much of the company’s success to the people on her team. “Because I believe strongly in mentorship, I watch very closely people that I have worked with over the years and select carefully from them when we need to hire,” she says. “I only want people who can thrive in an entrepreneurial environment where priorities change quickly and execution is everything.”

Managing with Moxie

So, how does Lisa conduct business? In a way that facilitates family and personal time, she says, referring to a management style that stems from her own personal struggles with work-family-life balance. That means a hefty dose of flexibility when it comes to family, leisure and community time for her employees. It’s a philosophy that yields impressive results. “I started my business initially because of the misguided impression that I could attain better work-life balance. I had overcome two difficult pregnancies in which both children were born extremely early,” says Lisa, adding that the experiences caused her to re-evaluate her personal and professional life. While Lisa knew she needed a vibrant professional life, she wasn’t sure how to couple that with her role of wife and mother. She thought a business of her own was the answer, but it took eight years to reach some semblance of balance between the two! Today, Lisa’s company thrives because of the close-knit, team atmosphere that prevails. Together, it’s all about execution—and just getting the job done. To learn more on expressing your brand through hiring, read Real Fact 5 in Real You Incorporated. debbaHaupert_chart

Karen Hough

karenHough_smallWhat happens when you combine business with artistic performance, and then you spike it with a heavy dose of empathy and positive creativity? The answer: ImprovEdge LLC, a unique business that uses improvisation to provide training and consulting to teach business skills. The company’s products and services include workshops, retreats, long-term leadership development and strategic planning, content design and online training, and tools for creativity and critical conversations. “Through 10 years of research with Wharton School of Business and Otterbein College, we’ve uncovered ways to help people communicate, behave and work differently,” says Founder and CEO Karen Hough. It’s all about getting unstuck, she says, and that requires a mix of serious research, organizational psychology and play.Karen is understandably at home in this environment, having trained with Second City and performed with Improv Olympic and other troupes. After seven years of acting, she entered the field of network engineering. That background—improv actor and businesswoman—led her to the business idea for ImprovEdge LLC. She knew firsthand that the techniques and philosophy of improv had plenty to offer the business world. Along with co-founder, Frances Barney, Karen decided to make the leap—and ImprovEdge was born.

Today the company boasts 20 ensemble members in seven cities, serving businesses that understand the value of developing and investing in their people. They work in what Karen describes as a crazy—but fun—environment powered by that underlying philosophy of empathy and positive creativity. To learn more about this unique business venture, and about Karen’s take on a few things in life, read on:

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another woman?

Karen: Focus. My mentor and early supporter, Bev Bethge, founder of Ologie, told me to stick with my niche early on. We were enjoying some success, and suddenly a lot of people were telling us to go into all sorts of “profitable” areas. But then we wouldn’t have been ImprovEdge. Our mission is: Get unstuck. So, if what we are considering doesn’t help people communicate, behave and work differently, we don’t do it. What is your dream vacation? Karen:A currently unknown place in Tuscany that would satisfy the needs of my entire family simultaneously: access to arts performances and museums; shopping and an incredible spa for myself and my daughter; the finest restaurants, sports events, gym and video games for my husband and oldest son; and every amusement park ride and superhero character event ever dreamed of for the littlest one. And yes, I did say in Tuscany. Oh, and please throw in a beach and water-ski boat—we all like that!

What talent do you wish you had? Karen: Ball sports. I’m a dancer, swimmer and water skier, but I can’t play a sport involving a ball to save my life. What three things are in your handbag that you simply cannot do without? Karen: Gum, lipstick and my PDA!karenHough_chart

Carrie Runnals

carrieRunnals_smallBoth empowering and engaging, she’s building a community of authors and readers.

We’re talking about Carrie Runnals, founder, producer and host of  Words to Mouth, an Internet talk show and companion blog Web site where “readers meet authors beyond the printed page.” She introduces readers to new and seasoned authors and the books they write. And she does it via downloadable media, or podcasting, and written blog posts.

Words to Mouth

Equipped with a background in marketing, recruiting and human resources, Carrie had no problem identifying her passions: interviewing, networking, reading and promoting. That made for an easy transition to entrepreneurship and the creation of her business brand. The name, Words to Mouth, was an easy choice, primarily because new media is a word-of-mouth industry—a world of viral promotion through social networking and downloadable audio MP3 files available on iTunes and other directories. Even at a more basic level, Carrie says, “Promoting books—even before the Internet and Oprah—has always had much to do with one person telling another, ‘You’ve got to read this book!’”

Loving It

Carrie insists that she’s neither a literary expert nor a published author. Instead, she calls herself “an everyday woman interested in promoting authors and the books they write.” Still, she works hard, primarily because she loves what she does. “I’ll sit down, and before I realize it, it’s dinner time and I’ve forgotten to eat lunch,” she says. But Carrie believes that hard work nets results, and since she’s a self-motivated individual with a strong work ethic, she’s experiencing success—and having a blast at the same time.

Best of all, Carrie is an encourager, and that shows in the way she runs her business and in the interviews she conducts. “I like the thought of embracing and celebrating femininity and encouraging in whatever I do,” she says. “For me, encouraging others, while having the flexibility to do the things in life that are important to me, that’s the most rewarding part of owning this business.”

You, too, can be passionate about your vocation. But first you’ll need to define your passions. Begin with Real Fact #2 in Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs.

View Carrie Runnals's Chart

Rachel Anne Mazur

RachelMazur_smallFull of energy, she leads a balanced life.

We’re talking about Rachel Anne Mazur, CEO of DASCO Home Medical Equipment in Westerville, Ohio. Her father started the family-owned business in 1987, but Rachel spent some time working for a similar company in New Hampshire before joining her dad. That’s when she discovered her passion for the industry, and it’s the reason she returned home to learn the family business. “One day it hit me: Why work for someone else?” she recalls.

With an Attitude

With 102 employees on board, hiring is a big part of Rachel’s job description. And the most important quality she looks for in a new employee is attitude. That’s no surprise considering that DASCO is a high-energy, fun place to work where associates have positive attitudes—and a sincere passion for helping people. Rachel best describes it like this: “We look like a seeing-eye dog, watching out for our customers’ best interests while having a great time living in the moment.”

Maintaining the Balance

In addition to running the family business, Rachel rates hanging out with friends and family as a high priority. She and her husband Matt have an 18-month-old daughter, Seeley Ellen. As of this writing, the couple was anticipating the birth of their second child (gender unknown). So, it’s pretty clear why maintaining a balanced life is job number-one for Rachel. It’s why she believes so strongly in having a passion for what you do, and why she suggests writing your own job description based on what you really enjoy doing. “I don’t ever want to resent our company because I couldn’t figure out a way to keep my life balanced,” she says. Rachel maintains balance in her life by being real. She is able to define her passions, and she surrounds herself with the real people in her life. Together, they build both business and family.

You, too, can sustain balance in your life. Begin by reading Real Fact #2 in Real You Incorporated: Define your passions.


Marianne Frantz


Driven to succeed, she’s turned her passion into a business.

We’re talking about Marianne Frantz, president of the American Wine School and the Cleveland Wine School. Formerly a chemistry teacher, Marianne moved to New York City to change careers. With a keen interest in the theatre, she worked for various Broadway and off-Broadway theatres producing special events, including the opening of Miss Saigon on Broadway. After working as a special events coordinator, she spent four years developing a culinary department and eventually started her own food and wine marketing company. In 2002, that company morphed into the Cleveland Wine School, followed by the American Wine School in Chicago in 2005.

Destined for Entrepreneurship

Marianne’s career took off as soon as she hit the streets of New York. But she also spent years compiling experiences, and they have made her what she is today. Everything she learned moved her one step closer to starting her own business. Best of all, she was able to take her passion, make it part of her personal brand, and then pilot it into a business where she could enjoy the freedom of setting goals and creating a plan or strategy to get there. And with no red tape to get in the way, she adds.

From Personal Brand to Business Brand

When asked if she ever feels conflicted between work and home life, Marianne says, “No. I work most of the time. It has become my social life, my professional life and part of my family.” She loves chatting with good wine people. She immerses herself in the business of educating people about wine. And she makes some wine tastings her philanthropy. For Marianne, success is measured by a well-attended tasting, a flawless event that makes attendees happy.

Want to make your personal brand stand out like Marianne’s? Real You Incorporated can help. Real Fact #1, It All Starts with You, is just what you need to jumpstart the process.


Thuy Bowyer

She’s a pioneer in her field, dedicated to restoring wellness in patients with chronic pain.

thuyBowyer_smallWe’re talking about Thuy Bowyer, owner of M. T. Wellness Clinic in Columbus, Ohio. In 1975, 12-year-old Thuy and her family fled Vietnam two days before the fall of Saigon. Overnight, they went from a nice home and a privileged lifestyle to the harsh life of a refugee. But hard work and determination turned Thuy’s life around. In 2004, she founded M. T. Wellness Clinic, a provider of medical restorative therapy. The following year she opened the M. T. Wellness Masters Center, an advanced training program for the profession. And recently she was honored as one of Central Ohio’s Twelve Outstanding Women Leaders for 2008 by the Women for Economic and Leadership Development.

Clarifying Her Vision

Filled with compassion, Thuy initially went into massage therapy to help relieve her mother of lower back pain. Through that experience she discovered her passion for helping others reduce pain and restore physical function. She envisioned the potential for bringing quality of life to her patients by using a new and emerging discipline—medical restorative massage therapy.

Taking the Lead

A born leader, Thuy was determined to develop the profession by helping future therapists broaden the scope of their practice. “I believe in bringing out the hidden talent in each one of my employees and encouraging the awareness that we can all benefit from each other’s greatness,” she says. Thuy’s employees know that she is real—that she’s not only about creating a new and valued discipline, but she also wants to make a difference in the financial and professional rewards of her therapists. A pioneer and a leader, she’s like a marathon runner, focused and committed to completing the race!

Today, M. T. Wellness is thriving. The company works with more than 70 physicians in central Ohio, and the business has doubled in the last two years. Creative leadership and a clear vision have made the difference.

To learn more about being a creative leader, read Life Lesson 13 in Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs.

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Lisa Cini

She’s a problem-solver who’s passionate about design.

lisaCini_smallWe’re talking about Lisa Cini, owner of Mosaic Design Studio in Columbus, Ohio. Formerly the interior design director at Karrington Health, Lisa’s business now encompasses commercial interior design and project management, with clients in long-term care, hospitality, healthcare, restaurant and corporate. But becoming an entrepreneur was not her idea, she insists. “I was more or less presented with an opportunity that I would have been foolish to refuse,” she says. “The timing, access, funding and mentoring were all aligned—so I jumped!”

Discovering Her Brand

Leave it to a creative designer to have a keen sense of brand identity. From the get-go, Lisa knew that her mission was to improve quality of life by design. She chose “Mosaic” for her company name because it’s one of the oldest sustainable art forms in history, and it’s the combination of other elements that, when arranged properly, become a work of art. That’s why she says: “Mosaic is where all the elements of design come together.”

On The Street

If Mosaic Design Studio walked down the street, what would it look like personified? A head turner, to be sure. Clothed in a black, fashionable suit with European styling, there would be no mistaking the sophistication of this brand. This is the kind of ensemble that you just know is hand-tailored—and not even the smallest detail is overlooked. In fact, this unique package would undoubtedly cause passersby to stop and take notice, perhaps even asking: Where did it come from, and how do I get one?

Today, Mosaic boasts a clear brand essence, characterized by a passion for serving clients and the ability to solve problems. Cini and her team get a great deal of satisfaction from providing their clients with a high level of service. It’s the reason for their success.

To learn more on discovering your brand, including naming your company and defining your brand essence, read Real Fact 3 in Real You Incorporated.

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Elizabeth Lessner

elizabethLessner_small Elizabeth Lessner is the owner of Betty’s Family of Restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, which includes a lineup of some of the city’s most-happening fun spots—Betty’s Fine Food and Spirits, The Surly Girl Saloon, Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails, and Dirty Frank’s Hot Dogs. As a business owner, Elizabeth is all about social entrepreneurship, civic engagement and connecting to the community and environment on a real level. She empowers her nearly 150 employees with the belief that every person can make a difference. That means hiring individuals, including entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and creative types, who understand the goals and mission of the company, but bring their own unique perspectives to the table.

Elizabeth is also engaged in numerous philanthropic efforts for the neighborhood and community that support her restaurants. Along with her managers, she participates in boards and committees that address issues related to sustainability and green living. She is involved with neighborhoods and groups that help with job creation, training and development. And not to be overlooked, the company sponsors its own all-day rock festival with all proceeds benefiting the Columbus Music Co-Op. Beyond that, Betty’s donates around $50,000 in gift certificates, food and cash to local charities each year.

If you’re out and about in the Capital City, day or night, be sure to put these restaurants on your list of stops. Until then, here are some thoughts from Elizabeth:

What talent do you wish you had?

Elizabeth: I wish I were more organized!

What is your dream vacation?

Elizabeth: Northern Michigan in the summer. Fresh produce everywhere, Lake Michigan and lots of big pine trees—my own heaven.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another woman?

Elizabeth: I’m not sure if it was a woman that originally said this, but it was a trusted woman mentor that instilled this idea in me: We create our own reality.

Assuming you were unexpectedly given a block of free time to do as you wish, how would you choose to spend that time?

Elizabeth: I would travel to another region of the United States.

What advice do you have for women?

Elizabeth: Find clarity about what it is you are seeking, and go after it. If you don’t have a clear picture about what you want, you will never get it.


Sue Kinzer

SueKinzer_smallAlthough fiercely independent, she’s a giver at heart.

We’re talking about Sue Kinzer, owner of Paint Creek Computers, a computer repair and support service for small businesses and home users. Living in rural Ohio didn’t leave Sue much opportunity for career fulfillment. So, with two of her three daughters in high school, she decided to return to the workforce—on her own. “I got my first computer in 1989, and I couldn’t find anyone who would help me fix it without charging me an arm and a leg. So I had to learn to fix it myself,” she says. “I went to work for a small computer shop and learned as much as possible. A few years later, I bought the business and moved it just outside of my home.” Today, Sue helps many people fix their computers, while at the same time earning a living and experiencing a rewarding career.

Independently Resourceful

With a varied resume that included an undergraduate degree in Japanese and experience as a bank reconciler, teacher, Japanese interpreter and computer tech, Sue found a way to have a rewarding career in an off-the-beaten-path location. She was willing to try new things, learn from others and take risks. It paid off—both financially and personally. Her advice: Don’t be intimidated by anyone; be willing to do whatever it takes to get the business going; and finally, don’t let anyone discourage you. For Sue, the independence is the best part, although she admits that staying disciplined is critical to getting the job done. But it doesn’t end there. “The most rewarding part is seeing people succeed on their computers,” she says. “It gives me great satisfaction to know that I helped someone finish his or her project.”

Giving Back

For Sue, giving back is a way of life. It’s her mantra as a citizen, as a mother—and now as a business owner. “It’s all about integrity and service,” she says. “If people have questions, I’ll answer them. There isn’t a charge for questions.” That’s just one of the reasons why she’s earned the trust and support of her clientele. But Sue’s giving goes way beyond her business. She has been a Girl Scout leader and 4-H advisor, and she actively supports all Eastern Star charities. “Someone helped me, and I love to help others,” she says. That same giving attitude is apparent in all that she does. Pay attention to the needs in your community, and when it feels right, respond. Read more in Real You Incorporated, Life Lesson 21: Capture your charitable passion.


Tracey Ballas

 Forget safe and easy. This entrepreneur is all about rising to the challenge.

TraceyBallas_smallWe’re talking about Tracey Ballas, CEO and president of School-Age NOTES in New Albany, Ohio. Tracey got her start in after-school education when she received a call from her former superintendent, asking her to launch an after-school program. “Once I got involved with providing a safe, nurturing environment for school-age children where they could have social and recreational outlets while receiving academic support and creative, skill-building opportunities, I was hooked,” she says.

Tracey’s career has been far-reaching, taking on roles that ranged from president of the National After-School Association to advisor to former Vice President Al Gore on the Welfare to Work Committee.

But life took an unexpected turn when Rich Scofield, Tracey’s dear friend and colleague and founder of School-Age NOTES, passed away unexpectedly. She did not hesitate to rise to the challenge. In June of 2005, Tracey purchased the company and moved it from Nashville, Tenn. to its current location in New Albany, Ohio. Since then, the company, which re-sells and publishes resources for after-school professionals, has doubled in size.

Multiple Mentors

Tracey has had several female mentors throughout her life, beginning with a dance instructor who placed the bar of accomplishment quite high. “She expected me to not just meet it—but surpass it,” says Tracey. Still, it was Tracey’s fourth-grade teacher who taught her about being passionate and shared her enthusiasm for life. “She modeled that teaching is less about telling you something and more about giving you a chance to do it,” she adds.

Then there was her Great-Aunt Sara, a teacher for 43 years. During the summer months, she traveled the world, only to return with treasures from her travels. “She taught me—in her actions—to follow your passion and live life to the fullest.”

Professionally, Tracey learned from Ellen Gannett, executive director for the National Institute of Out-of-School Time. “She saw skills and talents in me before I could even see them myself,” says Tracey.  Fortunately, these mentors respected what Tracey had to say, while encouraging her to speak up and be creative.

Think back. Who are the people who have helped you along the way? Read more about finding the real people in your life in Life Lesson 4 of Real You Incorporated.

Kaira’s Realism: Fill your life with real people—friends, mentors and such—who make you feel good because they think like you, share your passions and empower you.


Tanya Baker

 "She’s an efficient self-starter who has the ability to work well on her own.


The Wow Factor

Tanya is clearly motivated by what she can do for her clients. Since she works with meeting and event planners within an organization who may not have the time, knowledge or interest to negotiate the best hotel contracts, she is able to wow them with her expertise. “My clients frequently stumble onto me, reluctantly give me a chance and then have their hair blown back by what I deliver!” she says. “I frequently get one- or two-word email responses that say, ‘You rock’ or ‘Marvelous’ as they see me in action getting their best interest negotiated.”

Sure, the money Tanya makes is a factor, but it’s not enough to qualify as the sole motivator. Instead, it’s the thrill of the hunt, the give-and-take and the gentle banter focused on nailing down the business. It’s what keeps her awake until 2 a.m., working in her home office.

Making it Work for You

Tanya believes that one of the biggest benefits of running your own business is that you control the workload. At a time when she wanted to be able to spend more time with her children, ages 7 and 4 ½, she chose entrepreneurship. “I see other women stress themselves out trying to balance work, childcare and wifely activities, only to find themselves a basket-case a few years later,” she says. “Find something that works with and improves your desired lifestyle—and don’t accept unbearable sacrifice.”

Tanya has clearly found what works for her. Now that she controls her work schedule and business load, she no longer feels conflicted between work and home life. “I am very happy with my choices,” she adds. “I believe that you have to see the valley before you can climb the mountain, so even though I wish I would have gone independent sooner, I realize that I had to experience frustration before I was ready to make the key jump.”

"What about you? Have you found a work-life balance that you can live with? Is it one that allows you to live your dreams? Get inspired. Pick up a copy of Real You Incorporated and fast-forward to Life Lesson 1: Your future starts now."tanyachart

Just survived a snark attack!

If you've read my book, you know I'm fond of labeling snarks as the folks who try to inflict harm on the Real You as you strike out to step into your power and grab your entrepreneurial dreams. And unfortunately, it's almost always the case that the more successful you become, the more yourself you become, the more you stir up the snarks. That's why I've created a microsite called Snark Infested Waters for you to rate snarks and tell your story of survival. Because it's also true that with each set-back, with each snark attack you do become stronger. (I know, it still hurst while it's happening, and you may need time to heal.) So which snark attacked me today? Was it a Con-Artist Snark, Bubble-Bursting Snark, Sexist Snark? I'm not telling, suffice it to say it was enough of an attack for me to remind you if you've had one lately, you're not alone. Go ahead. Rate your snark attack and jump back into calm, pleasant waters! Happy swimming!

How Women-Owned Businesses are Surviving the Recession

Women are starting businesses at rapid rates and thriving, despite the economic downturn. According to a recent study conducted by Florida International University’s Center for Leadership and The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, women-owned businesses are doing better in the recession than most. Key Factors:

  1. Women traditionally take on less debt and thus have more flexibility during tough times.
  2. Women also try to strategize and reach out instead of jumping to cost-cutting measures.

This is exactly the route Rachel Sapoznik, CEO of Sapoznik Insurance, took to grow her business without eliminating staff. See the full story on how Sapoznik’s and other women business owners’ determination and networking led to success in hard times.

Looking for recession proofing tips? Sign up for my tip of the week or follow me on Twitter!

Celebrate Life and Loved Ones

You've heard it a million times: Don't take things for granted. Yet, it's difficult for us to grasp the concept in our everyday lives that seem to move at the speed of light. We're so busy. We have just one more thing to do and then we can have dinner with our kids or grab a drink with a friend we haven't had time to see. With the recent loss of several American icons, it makes me once again take a step back and admire all the wonderful people I have in my life. My family, my friends and my co-workers.

Don't take those around you for granted. Re-connect. Reach out to those you haven't seen or talked to in awhile. Maybe it's just a quick catch-up on the phone, or maybe it's a long weekend with family. No matter what, thank them for being a part of your life.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend and call at least one person who you've been thinking about!

Kindle Lovers… This is for you!

Amazon’s Kindle allows you to download and read thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and now blogs. This is great news for people like me, who read multiple blogs daily. There are tons of blogs listed in categories ranging from arts and entertainmentAmazonKindleUser2 to business and investing to travel, lifestyle, culture and more.

And as of today, the Real You Incorporated blog is also available on Kindle blogs!

Other blogs available for download include: The New York Times- Latest News, Huffington Post, The Onion, Seth’s Blog (Seth Godin) and Vanity Fair’s VF Daily Blog, among others.

Blogs downloaded via Kindle blogs provide you with full text content and images and are updated wirelessly throughout the day. To learn more, visit and download your Real You Incorporated Kindle blog!