In July 2010, I held my first Spark & Hustle conference—spark for the ideas, passion and expertise that so many women have, hustle for what it takes to turn that into cash. For three scorching summer days in Atlanta, two hundred smart, savvy women shared their vision and dreams, while soaking up all kinds of tips and tactics from our roster of handpicked speakers—women who had started with nothing but guts and created successful businesses. They built their destinies brick by brick and shared their hard-won wisdom with others who wanted to do the same. The feedback from the Atlanta event was so strong that I decided to take Spark & Hustle on the road. I wanted other women with established or fledgling businesses to learn from people who'd been there and done that—sometimes with the gray hairs to prove it.
I've spent the last year meeting thousands of talented current and would-be entrepreneurs at Spark & Hustle events in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia and Tulsa.
What I learned from these women made writing this book possible and affirmed what I know to be true: desire and hustle trump education, experience and economics.
Forget the MBA. If you have one, great. But you don't need it; I'm a college dropout who launched a very successful business with very little money and no special connections. The women I work with are hungry to make things happen, but none of them have sugar daddies and I can't recall a single one saying she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. They know it's all about the hustle: the decisions they make and the actions they take each and every day.
Now it's your turn to hustle. I hope you're at least a tad crazy. It helps in this line of work.
At my Philadelphia Spark & Hustle event, maternity retail pioneer Liz Lange said, "Those of us who succeed do so because we're nuts." She's my kind of girl—making me feel normal (whatever that is) for being somewhat insane. This was a sentiment echoed on our stage by many of the most successful women today. Stella & Dot cofounder Jessica Herrin said it, too: "You have to be a little bit (or a lot) crazy to make it as a small business owner."
If you're OK with that—in fact, ready to embrace it—then let's make your business dream a reality. Only you can define what success looks like for you, but on these pages you'll learn what I did on my journey and what I've shared with others at my Spark & Hustle events: the nuts and bolts of starting and growing a profitable small business.
If there is a common trait among the women I meet who make it, it's this: they believe in themselves and what they are doing. That's the most potent fuel for an entrepreneur. Follow their lead and believe unflinchingly in yourself. And know that I'm rooting for your small business success.
CHAPTER ONE: My "Why"
My entrepreneurial path began in 1990. An exciting summer internship, which ended with an entry-level job offer at ABC News, prompted me to quit college in favor of moving to New York City. From there I landed a position as a publicist at NBC News, promoting the network's superstars—Jane Pauley, Maria Shriver, the late Tim Russert, investigative ace Brian Ross, among others—and the programs they anchored. I loved the pace of breaking news, the thrill of working with the best in the business and the paycheck that afforded me, then a twenty-one-year-old kid, a decent lifestyle.