I knew I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I never knew about alternative schools like the Montessori school. It was pure luck and the need to find a pre-school for my daughter that led me to a Montessori school in our community. Luckily enough, a gym was connected to the school as well! I began to volunteer in the classrooms, and quickly went on to get officially certified in about two years’ time. I think the reason I gravitated towards Montessori school was the loving environment that felt stronger than just a classroom setting. As a new parent, I didn’t have any parenting skills and had not had much time with my birth and adoptive mother to learn those skills. Maria Montessori, the founder of this school, was an innovator in education, teaching students to not only pass a test but general life skills. I learned so much from my research into Maria Montessori’s approach to sensory education, children, and mentoring for a love of learning.
I went on to develop programs and curriculum for this school. I worked within several Montessori schools to deploy programs, was a teacher-trainer, directed a school and created my own school. I developed Montessori programs that can be accredited for higher education and programs that catered specifically to special needs students. This was amazing, but what I learned was that the programs that I was developing were outgrowing small private schools. The way that I wanted to incorporate them into education wasn’t feasible in the current scope. Honestly, this realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t keep growing this practice and bringing positive change to the community in the current space. I needed to start my own business.
As an employee, you can do a lot, but you cannot change the bottom line of an organization as an employee. It was 2011 when I decided to shift myself from being an employee to being a business owner. I took the programs that I was creating in the school and partnered with behavioral specialists to bring the Montessori school dynamic together with therapy. It was also this time that I got a grant from the state of Utah to allocate to the behavior needs of children.
As I ventured out to create a business with a business partner, we were always connected to private schools.
In 2017, I sold my chunk of that business. I had figured out the therapy sector of behavioral development, but I was ready to get back to education now. I took a huge step back in 2011, and by 2017 I felt that pull back to get to education. I was business coaching and trying to figure out my next move, and that’s when I got connected with ARTC to begin my work consulting and mentoring in the autism space again. Over the last 3 years, I have been serving the special needs community here in SoCal, and it has opened my eyes to the myriad of needs beyond just education and behavioral needs.
In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 hit. As education specialists, we have seen a huge regression in education, especially for special needs children. Now, I am facing the opportunity and challenge to shift education methods to telehealth, source providers, and keep growing this space.
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My family member’s approach to entrepreneurship focused on the flashy parts, but not the business management side, but that’s not how I saw it. Then, I married young. I was only 19 years old. He was a professional in his field, and I didn’t need to work. That didn’t stop me from getting bored of being at home, so I got small side gigs here and there that never really excited me, but kept me busy.
After 7 years of marriage, I began the process of filing for divorce. I knew it was going to be difficult to separate when my son and I had relied on him for 7 years for the majority of our income. So, I went back to school and got a degree in social work to be a licensed clinical social worker. But, I needed money to put myself through school. A friend reached out to me and asked if I wanted to take up selling mortgages with her company, so I did it. Here, I also learned a lot about financial services in general. Quickly, I got licensed to sell life insurance, mortgages, and mutual funds, and loved the conversation of different types of interest, stocks, finance in general.
My motivation for creating my own income came from a book titled Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, who advocates for the importance of financial literacy and independence, something I center my life around now. It was during this time that I reconnected with a buddy from my childhood who was also in the business realm. We started chatting and he asked if I wanted to meet Kiyosaki, to which I responded “heck yeah I do.” I met him at a real estate conference, which is where I discovered that wealth management and growing wealth is directly tied with real estate investing. So I invested some more into my education as a real estate investor and added that to my portfolio of financial services and planning. This is really where creating my own income took off. I began this journey in February 2002, and by August 2002 I had made an income of $100,000. I dropped out of college that semester, and never looked back.
Real estate was lucrative, but not what I liked at all. I operated my own company in the Utah real estate market for a few years. In 2005, I met up with a mentor who had helped me with my real estate business and ended up creating a company that serviced her company from an operations standpoint. From 2005 to 2012, I traveled around the world developing processes, curriculums for business owners, creating revenue models, and becoming an expert in the field of scaling businesses. This was IT, this was what I was good at.
It all sounds like a sexy business: traveling around the world, thinking on your feet, meeting exciting people every day, making amazing money. But I was getting exhausted. I was a single mom working 100+ hour weeks, traveling constantly, and not making enough time for myself or my son. So in 2012, I physically and mentally completely crashed and burned. I put all of my worth in what I did, not who I was. But only about 10 months before that, I had met Jess, and the push of having a new relationship that I really cared about and having my son with me drove me to quit. I took a break for a few months, but once again felt business pulling me back in. How can I have business in my life without having it take over my life? I found a local business coaching company, and even though I was very overqualified, it was a local company that was scalable, saw my value, and allowed me to make time for my family and for business. I coached for them and scaled this company with them to a multi-million dollar business. This was from 2012 to 2016, where I did not get on a plane for work once.
In 2016, Jess and I moved to San Diego. This company wanted me to stay with them in their multiple locations in Arizona, Texas and Utah. I had also picked up another client in Minnesota. So here I was. I set better boundaries between work and life, but was traveling non-stop once again.
So now we get to 2020. I told myself at the beginning of 2020 that I would not get on a plane once a week for work. I would travel a MAX of twice per month. Well, what can I say? I’m an overachiever I guess. COVID-19 has changed education services immensely. So, here I am, a business professional who has made her business success possible in many places around the globe where travel is a necessity. Live events are a necessity. I am so valuable to my clients because I am with them in person, hands-on coaching them. Many businesses have been able to pivot to the new landscape, but many have not. I recently picked up a contract fulfilling coaching services for a company that could not survive COVID.
What i’ve learned from my journey is that I need to trust in myself that I am an expert, I change people’s lives, and I have so much to offer. For a while I felt guilt not having a degree, for not taking the “normal” approach to growing a business. But i’ve learned that entrepreneurship is a double edged sword, allowing you to prosper in ways it is not possible in corporate America, but you have to invest the long hours and effort.
What I want someone to take away from this is that anyone can do it. I’m not special because i’m a successful entrepreneur, I just put in that time and made sacrifices where it was necessary. I always say to my kids “this family doesn’t have problems, we have challenges.” Entrepreneurship is another challenge, and whatever skills you bring to the table, if you are willing to put in the effort, you can be an entrepreneur too.