Chosing fulfillment from the start

While most of us spend our days the stuck in the office, Nicole is busy wearing flip flops, getting covered in whip cream or running a cookie business.

No, she’s not your typical NYU grad.

When Nicole graduated college one year early, summa cum laude, with a pocket full of job offers from prestigious New York corporate companies, she headed west to take her place as camp director.

Faced with the crushing pressure to be awesome (and to pay off student loans), Nicole listened to the advice of her favorite professor–always make room for fun. She chose fulfillment from the start.

“I couldn’t do the same thing for 365 days of the year,” she said. “I couldn’t do it. I would be bored out of my mind. I think I’m lucky in that I recognized that pretty early about myself. I graduated a year early because I paid for it myself and because I was bored.”

Well there’s nothing quite like running a day camp and managing a brand new cookie shop to keep things from being boring! Whether it’s making a presentation to the city counsel, fixing the cash register, or helping a 5 year-old who misses her mom, being in charge means that Nicole is problem-solving all day long.

“I want my career to entail not just being successful but being fulfilled. I think that often times those things are confused,” said Nicole. “I want to know that when I go home from work everyday that I have done something that makes some kind of difference to someone, that it’s not just me earning my paycheck.”

As Nicole crafts her place in the world, she knows one thing for certain: it’s not just about where she is going, it’s about how she is getting there.

Nicole’s 3 tips for finding balance:

1. Admit your limitations

2. Find a job that fits within them

3. If you’re not having fun, something has to change!

What are your tips for staying sane and preserving your quality of life? Share it in the comments.

A stylish spin on old-fashioned needlework

Getting laid off is no picnic. Even if your company hands you a generous severance package, it can take a few months to stop the world from feeling like it’s falling down on top of you. But if you can get your head above the fog, if you can stop the spinning insecurity, getting laid off can also be the much needed opportunity to turn your life around.36_jennyh_185x165

Jenny worked at a museum, and, like most of us, she liked that it was steady, dependable work. Also, like most of us, she felt unhappy, underpaid, underappreciated and creatively paralyzed. Finally, she was laid off. Instead of using the pink slip to dry her tears, she used it to light a fire and start a needlework business with a modern twist.

“I had been working towards the goal of leaving my job, but it’s kind of like, one foot on the dock, one foot on the boat, and you really don’t feel like you can make that leap,” she said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘People do this all the time and make it work.’ I really felt that I could, and I knew the resources were out there. Not only that, I really believed in what I wanted to do. I loved it.”

Jenny had started embroidering with some reservation years before her layoff. She was curious about it but also thought it would be tedious, boring, time-consuming work.

“When I actually tried it, I realized it was relaxing,” she said. “I had, in a very short period of time, several family members who either died or were in hospitals. I started needle working since it was something that I could do when I was in the hospital. It was the only thing that really dealt with my anxiety and nervous energy in a way that nothing else had.”

Jenny found herself wanting to do needlework every day, and she wanted to be able to have unfettered time to be as creative with it as she wanted to.

“It was like this new found passion that I discovered,” Jenny said. “I looked at the market and thought, ‘Well, you know, the market does not really offer a creative platform for hobbyists my age and younger. They’re not doing this type of work.’ I thought maybe this would be a way to gain some independence.”
Her layoff was just the push she needed.

When Jenny started working on embroidery, there was such a response to the work and the ideas that doors just started opening. She started getting attention from magazines and realized that her contemporary approach to a traditional craft could be a new way of life for her.

“The first media outlet that contacted me was Entrepreneur and I thought that was a good sign,” she said. “I was really amazed when Chronicle Books contacted me. They said that they had been watching what I was doing – and it had only been about a year – and that they had a line of craft kits. The knitting one just came out and they thought I was the person to do the embroidery kit. That was a pretty huge.”

Jenny never thought that she would become an embroiderer, much less someone who runs a small business. But now she has reached a point where her project has become even bigger than her own vision of it. With two assistants, a bookkeeper, an accountant, a financial advisor, a web developer, and even a warehouse to process inventory, orders, and customer service, calling Jenny’s needlework a success would be an understatement. It’s more like a craft revolution.

“When I was working a 9-to-5 job, I was far more stressed out, and I was not satisfied,” she said. However unconventional and interesting working at the museum was, Jenny knew it was not what she wanted to be doing. She didn’t want to be working for someone else, or make less than a livable wage. Since childhood, Jenny knew that she wanted to be an artist, “I knew that there was a practical, very real way it could be done.” After she lost her job, it was time to find out.

With motto’s like “Get to it and do it” or “Failure is only guaranteed if you give up,”Jenny’s advice is simple:

“Persistence is the key. It really is. This is only going to end if I decide to stop doing it. Really, I think that you’ve got to find your pathway to bliss. And it’s not easy to find it. You just have to be true to yourself.”

What about you, if you got laid off today, what dream would you pursue?

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Jenny’s Website
Due to an overabundance of bunnies and dull, outdated instructions, embroidery badly needed an update. Sublime Stitching is the original company to offer hip and (gasp!) edgy Embroidery Patterns and customizable all-in-one Embroidery Starter Kits.

Recommended Reading
If you are interested in starting a small business, check out Small Time Operator by Bernard Kamoroff . “It was my bible… That was my starting point, and it has always been a book I recommend,” said Jenny.

Cross-stitch and Needlework
Check out America’s Favorite magazine for cross-stitch, needlework, embroidery, and more!

Fighting hunger, one family at a time

Pam found herself drawn to an article about hunger in America. Accompanying the article was a photograph of a young girl, lying on a tattered mattress with a torn up plywood wall behind her, sucking on chicken bones.

“I looked at this and I knew I had to do something,” Pam remembered. “I spent the next 24 hours tracking down the writer from the Times and tracking down the pastor who was featured in the story. I made contact with the pastor and I said, ‘I want to help, what can I do?’ And, I’ll never forget this, he said: “I prayed for a miracle.”

“I said, ‘I’m not a miracle. I’m just an ordinary mom and I want to help.’”

Pam’s organization, Family-to-Family, allows families who have more to adopt families who have profoundly less. The [impoverished] families receive a monthly food allotment that arrives at the end of the month when their food stamps run out.

Once the group got set up, Pam had to figure out how to get the food from Hastings-on-Hudson, to Pembrook, Ill., which was 1800 miles away. So, she started sending emails to FedEx, UPS and DHL. The emails read simply, “Hi, I’m Pam Koner. I’m a mom. Here’s what I’m trying to do.”

“FedEx sent me an email, which I almost deleted because I thought that it was junk mail, and it said, “Hi Pam Koner, we’d love to help you, Lisa Daniel.” Pam recalls. “I jumped up with joy. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Family-to-Family shipped 17 boxes in November of 2002 and has slowly, but surely grown into a national hunger relief organization. But perhaps even more satisfying for Pam than this growth was the opportunity to meet her adopted family. She was especially excited to meet the mom, Lily.

“Lily’s son was sitting in front of a space heater, wrapped up in clothes playing a Game Boy, and there were the boxes I had sent over the last two months,” Pam said. “Her little daughter came out wearing my daughter’s red L.L. Bean jacket. And there was the vacuum cleaner and an old microwave I’d sent. “

For a moment Lily and Pam just looked at each other. Then they both walked out, hugged again, and cried.

Maybe Pam’s story has inspired you to make a difference; if so, here are some words of advice and encouragement to help you along the way.

1. “Believe in yourself.”

If you are interested in doing anything that involves creating something from nothing, which is basically what Pam did, you have to believe that you can make a difference. Believe that you can crash up against barriers and that you can crash through.

2. We, as women, know in our guts when things are valid. Trust your gut.

If someone out there feels they have a cause or an interest, or something that they want to affect, Pam has some unconventional advice to offer.

“Most people would tell you to go out and research it. I say, Go with your guts,” Pam declared. “We as women know in our hearts and in our guts when things are going right. Find something that’s really powerful for you to focus on, then start with baby steps, set achievable short term goals and talk to everyone you know.”

3. Stay focused on the possibilities not the limitations.

When struggling with something, whether it’s work, family or friends, Pam turns to this personal mantra: Stay conscious of the possibilities, not the limitations.

“When you feel the limitations of something, break through,” Pam said. “And if you can’t feel the possibilities, get out of the situation.”

Creating a community that helps other communities, she said, has made Pam feel less significant, but in a good way.

“When you do this work, you realize how your own self isn’t nearly as significant as the work you do,” she said. “This experience has changed how I perceive everything.”

Learn more about giving back from these helpful sites.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Families Unite
A nationwide nonprofit founded by Pam that’s committed to connecting families with more to families with less.

One Child At a Time
The Children’s Hunger Relief Fund works to provide safe drinking water and meals to impoverished children all over the world.

Donate, Advocate, Volunteer
America’s Second Harvest – the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization – distributes more than 2 billions of donated groceries a year. Get involved!

Find Your Purpose
Volunteer Match can pair you with causes that are close to your heart and close to your home.

Walking the Walk
Known, loved and feared for its ability to move the masses through grassroots efforts, MoveOn.org is committed to uniting people for political change, whether to elect a president or stop a proposed strip mall from stealing land from a public park.

Save cash. Be greener.

Remember when your dad would always tell you to turn off the lights when you leave a room? And your inner sassy self would say, “Daaaad, it only costs 6 cents a year to keep a light on all day, every day. Don’t be so cheap.”

Well, it turns out that Dad may have had more on his mind than penny pinching. In these hazy days of going green, we’re learning more and more about how our greedy energy practices are affecting not only our children’s futures, but also the lives of our global neighbors.

The trouble is… we like soft clothes dried in the dryer. We hate doing dishes. We prefer not to feel helpless and the deeper we dig, the more impossible saving the earth seems. But, as Zan Dubin Scott has learned, going green doesn’t have to be black or white.

“The exciting thing about living a greener life is that we can all do something,” she said. “And most of the things we can do are simple and won’t cost anything. In fact, they typically end up saving us all money.”

Here are a few things you can try to lessen your family’s footprint and put some extra cash in your pocket.

  • Connect the dots.

“For every action we take, we must make a connection,” said Zan. “When I go to the gas station, and I buy that gas, I am funding the war in Iraq. I am responsible for the young men who are dying in Iraq. I am contributing to that problem. Do I want to do that? I can shut my mind and decide to be in denial and not make that connection, but that connection still exists.”

Zan said that the best way to make those connections is to stay informed. Read the paper, watch the news, listen to the radio. It’s all there for us, but we have to open our minds to the information.

  • Turn off the lights.

If you’re leaving a room for more than 10 seconds, flip the switch. Zan credits her husband with teaching her this habit when they first got married, and now, to remind her of its importance, she always visualizes a smoke stack when she leaves the room. Not wanting to be responsible for polluting the Earth, she makes this small gesture, which ends up making a big difference.

  • Dry your clothes on a line… most of the way.

No one wants stiff blue jeans, but Zan’s found that if you dry your clothes most of the way on a rack or clothesline outside and then throw them in a dryer for 5-10 minutes to finish the process, you get the same amount of softness as if you dry them entirely in the dryer.

“It’s a great compromise,” she said. “I get softer clothes but that luxury doesn’t cause as much damage to our environment.”

  • Use reusable bags.

Zan said a lot of cities are banning plastic bags, so whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to make the switch to reusable bags. Buy a few canvas bags or organic cotton bags or keep an eye out for sturdier bags from conferences or special events. In many cases you can build quite a collection of bags without spending one penny.

  • Water your plants less.

“I heard from a local utility that you don’t need to water three times a week, that the plants can do just fine on twice a week,” said Zan. “I cut back on my watering, and my plants are doing just fine.”

  • Drive consciously.

It was a bit of a political joke when Barack Obama suggested fighting global warming with inflated tires, but maybe it was only funny because it’s true. Appropriate tire pressure is key for good gas mileage; better gas mileage means using less gas.

Zan also suggests pacing yourself in driving. Don’t accelerate too quickly and don’t brake too hard. Try to coast as much as you can.

  • Buy in bulk.

If you start looking at packaging –cardboard, and then plastic wrapping, and then paper instructions that you’re just going to throw away – it becomes more obvious why there’s a panic over landfills. By buying in bulk, you’ll reduce the amount of packaging headed to the landfills. And if your favorite items don’t come in bulk, you’re not a green failure if you buy them.

“I love string cheese, and I love the individually wrapped string cheese,” she said. “And I’m an environmentalist. To make up for my individually wrapped string cheese, I try to buy in bulk in my other choices at the market.”

Really what is all comes down to, Zan said, is common sense. We all know to reduce, reuse and recycle, but knowing and practicing it as much as we can are two different things.

“It’s amazing how once you start getting into the habit of using less, of reducing your consumption, how easy it is. You start really thinking about what you need,” said Zan. “If I can just make one change in my life, that will make a vast difference. And if each of us just made one change today that we weren’t doing yesterday, you add up all the numbers across the country and we can vastly improve our planet because of the power of numbers. That’s all. Simple.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Soul Crushing
See Zan and Paul in action in Who Killed the Electric Car?

Join the club!
Want to find some like minded electric car fans? Take a look at the Electric Auto Association and get info on how to rally for the cause.

A Trusted Advisor
Get the latest news and advisories on green automotives through Edmund’s Green Car Advisor.

Car advice every woman should know

Car expert Jody DeVere of AskPatty.com became a single mom over night. She always had been interested in cars, but never knew much about the mechanics until her husband passed away. Now that Jody didn’t have someone to call on anymore, it became her job to make sure my car was tuned up and trouble-free.

Because she likes to take her kids out camping alone, Jodi knew that having a breakdown could be really dangerous. “I wanted to still be independent and to take them on adventures, so I started gaining knowledge about how to take care of my car. I learned how to change a tire and more about how the engine works. Not I always have jumper cables, and I always keep spare oil in the car.”

he also learned that if you properly maintain your car, you can make it last for a really long time.

How to Maintain Your Car to Make it Last

A car manufacturer has a very large staff of engineers who design vehicles to run optimally for a very long time if they are serviced regularly. Those services must be performed in the interval that they recommend to keep you safe and to keep you from breakdowns.

1.  Tires

Tires are the only separating you from the pavement, so it’s important to make sure they are in good condition. Ensure that your tires have good tread and are inflated properly, and if you live in an area with harsh winters, make sure you have all-weather tires. You can find out the correct tire pressure for your car on the inside panel of the driver’s door.

2.  Fluids

Get regular oil changes, of course. But also regularly check your wiper fluid, transmission fluid and brake fluid and make sure they are still good and new. All the fluids are usually labeled under the hood and have visible fill lines on their containers, making it even easier to check them. Anytime you get your car serviced, go ahead and ask them to top off or check your fluids.

3.  Windshield Wipers

Wipers that are not operating properly cause visual problems in rainy, foggy or snowy weather. Check them at least every six months because most of them are made out of rubber, and they do crack and rot. Changing windshield wipers is easier than you may think and can be done in less than 10 minutes.

4.  Brakes

Brakes are a very important safety feature of the car, so check them regularly and have them maintained. If you hear any noises when you’re braking, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. It may just be a little bit of moisture on your breaks, but it could be something more serious, and in matters of brakes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5.  Owner’s Manual

Most people don’t read their owner’s manual when they buy a car, and then don’t know what to do if they get locked out or set off the alarm. Learn about your cars features and make a note of specific service intervals. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst if you do.

How to Avoid Being Ripped off by a Mechanic

You know where you’re getting your hair done. You know where you’re getting your nails done. You know where you’re taking your children to the doctor. So in my eyes, you also need to know where you’re going to be taking your car for a repair, or if you have an emergency. If you do that in advance of a car emergency, you can avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable position and avoid being ripped off.

1. Is the shop certified?

Is the shop that you’re taking it to ASE or AAA Certified? This means that they have certified master automotive technicians working there. Find out how many master technicians they have working there. If you choose to go to an independent shop instead, make sure that they have no marks against them with the Better Business Bureau.

2. Are they showing you the problems, instead of just telling you?

If you’re at a shop and they want to change your rotors or break pads, and you don’t think they need to be changed, they should be bringing those out and showing them to you. They should give you all the parts that they changed if you ask for them, so you can see that they are worn down.

3. Have you gone to the best place for your car?

If you bought your car from a dealership, that’s probably the best place to take it. You’ve already established a relationship with them, may have met the service team and they know the most about your new car. If you bought the car from a private owner and are taking it to an independent shop, then really make sure you understand the skill set at that shop. You want to make sure the persons that you’re working with are specialists in your vehicle make and with that problem.

How to Get a Great Deal in a Car Lot

A lot of women have a feeling that they’ll be taken advantage of by a car dealer. And that can be the case, if you don’t do your homework. There is so much information available to us, especially on the internet. You can actually find out the invoice cost that the dealer has and even what the incentives that are being offered on your vehicle.

1.  Pay attention to the contract you are signing

Don’t rush when reading the contract. It’s okay to take your time to make sure you understand it. For example, make sure you’re not paying for a 100,000 mile extended warranty because it’s a waste of money.

2.  Know your credit status.

You may be surprised to hear this, but dealers don’t make a lot of profit on new cars. They make their money on financing. This is where you have to do some research in advance. Go to your bank, run your own credit, understand what your credit score is and what you can qualify for in advance. That way, when the dealer gives you a financing offer, you’ll know whether you can talk them down or not.

3.  A car is the second biggest purchase that most people make, so make it a good one.

When considering a car, I think it’s very important to take a good test drive, and I’m not talking about driving around the block. Take it on the highway and see how it does. Rent the car for a week to get a feel for it. Really do a walk around, sit in the backseat, sit in the passenger’s seat, open up all the compartments, open the trunk, use all the latches, see how everything looks and get a good feel for it.

4.  You can avoid buyer’s remorse by simply taking some time to do your homework.

Go to a lot of dealers over a weekend or over a couple weeks and check out similar models. Go through the internet sales department before you even come into the dealership. You will save money working with the fleet manager, and you will save time because you will have done a number of steps before you get there. All of these factors will help you have an easy, comfortable and positive experience.

At the end of the day, it’s all about educating yourself, empowering yourself, and staying in touch with what’s important. It takes a little bit of effort, but the money you’ll save and the peace of mind you’ll have will make it all worth it.

Are you ready to educate yourself? Check out the following resources to get started.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

It Never Hurts to Ask
Visit AskPatty, the one-stop source for women to learn the ins and outs of car buying, safety and repair.

Perfect Match
Find your “car soulmate” at CarTango, a handy site that helps you decide what you should and could be driving.
The Car Chicks
AskPatty’s panel of auto-savvy ladies will help you find an answer to any car issue you may have.

Supporting my family with a home-based beauty business

Tara will tell you… she was cheap before cheap was in style. She enjoyed luxury salon treatments, but she didn’t enjoy their inflated prices.

Why was it that having healthy, soft locks should cost a car payment?

Tara felt there had to be an easy way to deep condition her hair the way they did at the salon in her own home. Of course she couldn’t bring in a salon size dryer, so she set out to find the right mix of materials that would create the same effect.

After finding the secret ingredient while watching a marathon race, she had 100 of her deep conditioning caps made and sold them to different salons and beauty shops in her city. An infomercial company saw the product and began to market it along with some shampoo.

That’s when her need for deep conditioning started to fill her need for some serious dough. Tara realized that she had a business on her hands. Something that would be able to make money for her family and herself.

“Once the infomercial was on the air and did fairly well, I realized that this work could go from the realm of a fun hobby, something to do in my spare time, to a real business,” she said.

Soon afterward Tara came up with her second invention.

“Ever since high school, I had always had the idea of putting nail polish in a pen, like a felt-tip marker,” she says, “I was working on an art project with my daughter, with poster board and pens, and the idea came back to me. That was my genesis for a manicure pen.”

Trusting in her ideas helped Tara become successful. Follow her pointers and you can be a successful inventor too–in due time. Inventions take patience.

1. Create a prototype. Nobody buys an idea.

It’s important to get your idea to the prototype stage. Find something that’s like the product, even though it might be in a completely different industry.

For example, Tara contacted the manufacturers of the pen that she used in her daughter’s art project, and while they couldn’t do cosmetics because they weren’t cosmetic-qualified, they sold her the pen parts that she used to create the first prototype of Manicure Magic.

2. Have your prototype priced out.

Take a look at the marketplace to determine a reasonable cost to create your product.

3. Ask yourself, “How much do I want to invest?”

It’s usually not expensive to get to the point of a prototype, so after that, you need to figure out where the manufacturing money is coming from, and how much of the product you want to produce initially.

4. Figure out where to sell it.

Could you sell it on the internet? Could you present it to one of the shopping channels and sell it that way? Could you take it just down the street to your local store and see if they would carry it? Since Tara’s product was a manicure pen, she knew that if she could demonstrate it and explain it, it would sell. That’s why QVC was the perfect way to launch her product.

If you’re interested in taking your product to a large manufacturer or a large retailer that you think would have an interest in it, find an agent or a consultant to help you get in the door.

5. Define success on your own terms.

“You have to define success for yourself,” said Tara. “You don’t have to be the next Martha Stewart to be successful. If your vision of success is just to supplement your family’s income, or just to make enough money to take a really nice vacation, or help pay for tuition for the kids, then you should be proud of that success.”

For those of you with a fascination for new inventions, there’s always something new at the Inventor Spot, a blog that targets new creations from the worlds of food, technology and fashion.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

File It Under Toys
Carving a home office out of the playroom? Consider Home Based Working Moms.

Make the Jump
If you’re about to crash and burn from boredom at your job, try What Color Is Your Parachute, the book that’s been leading people to their passion for more than 40 years.

Smarter, Not Harder
Bust through the glass ceiling with the National Network for Women’s Employment.

It’s Magic!
Buy Tara Murphy’s Manicure Magic set, available at QVC.

Changing the world, one girl at a time

As much as we’d like to believe that we are given what we have earned, the truth is that we don’t live in a meritocracy. And we certainly don’t live in a world where everyone is given equal chances in the educational system. There are jaw-dropping, stomach turning differences between which schools get certain programs, funding, and teachers. Some of this has to do with money, some with location, but some of it can be attributed to good old fashion social roles and stereotypes.

Recalling the tree houses of childhood, the grown-up exclusive clubs are ever as menacing, but much more subtle. Take the world of math and science, for instance, written in the eyes of professors, teachers, and fellow students is that familiar knell, “No Girls Allowed.”

“When I was growing up, I got the message that girls were bad at math.” Dreaming of becoming a veterinarian was nice and cute when Rachel was a child. But as she came of age it was time face the facts: without the right math or the science classes, she couldn’t become a doctor. So that was that, Rachel moved on.

It was not until she graduated college and started volunteering with middle school girls that the problem became apparent for Rachel, 10 years later nothing had changed. Something had to be done. So Rachel founded a non-profit organization for elementary and middle school-aged girls called GirlStart to empower girls in math, science and technology.

“We take the trends that appeal to girls, and we show them the math and science and technology behind those trends,” says Rachel. GirlStart shows girls how to do everything from taking apart a computer, building a website, making music videos, to ooey-gooey sticky science.

That’s right, Rachel started her own company without a trust fund, a master’s degree, or an engineering degree! No one her family had started a company, it was created “on a shoes string” of passion, $500 in the bank, and a credit card.

And so, GirlStart began in the living room of Rachel’s apartment. She had spent almost a whole year living on rice and beans, struggling to make ends meet when she finally got the grant. The day had come, “I went to the post office. I opened my box, and I couldn’t believe it. I hopped in my car and turned on ABBA really loud. It felt like the biggest euphoric rush I had ever experienced.”

But the truth is, part of being an entrepreneur are these dark days just like those years Rachel was scraping by, and trying to find strength to sell her idea. “There are bombs and ups-and-downs along the way,” Rachel says, “but the payoff is so worth the challenges. The opportunity to see these girls and the difference this program is making in their lives is worth every hardship. And even the hardships are really opportunities in disguise. When you really, truly believe that you will be successful, you will be able to handle all the bumps in your path.”

As long as there are little girls in the world who are afraid of math class and who think that technology is for boys, there’s always a reason for GirlStart.

Turns out girls aren’t so bad at math, “We have girls who walk into GirlStart and do not know the difference between a computer chip and a potato chip. But they come into GirlStart, and they get into it. We have girls that have gone on to start their own companies. We have one girl who was only in eighth grade and she has her own Web design firm. We have girls who did not have a relationship with their dad because their dad’s a techie. Then they went to GirlStart and learned how to build a Web page. Now they can talk to their dad. We have girls who came to GirlStart and did not speak a word of English. And they learn how to speak English through GirlStart, because math is the universal language. We have girls who have gone on to be engineering majors and came back to mentor other girls.”

Even though girls live in a stressful bubble inundated with advertisements practically commanding them to be self conscious and isolated because that’s “just what it’s like to be a teenager,” there are places like GirlStart where they’re being themselves. They’re taking risks. They’re doing things they’ve never done before—just like Rachel.

If Rachel could tell you just one thing it would be:

  • Think about who you really want to be

and

  • Start working toward that goal today

That is all it takes. After all, starting small is starting somewhere; if you take one step a day you are still moving forward.

“We throw out so many obstacles for ourselves, but they’re really only perceived limitations. I see it with the girls that we serve at GirlStart every day, and there’s nothing that women can’t do. We need more women out there doing great things.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

GirlStart
Now that you’ve heard all about GirlStart, go check it out!

Volunteer Match
Get connected with the right volunteer program and invest in your community.

Guide Star
Guide Star connects people with non-profits.

Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls
A non-profit, builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance. Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills.

Secrets for Building an Eco-Friendly Business

Even as a child, Summer was interested in saving the earth.

“Growing up, it was just my mom and me, and she instilled environmental awareness in me,” she said. “Even when I was really young, I’d knock on my neighbors’ doors and tell them to not use so many plastic bags.”

Summer carried her passion for the environment with her through college at UC Berkeley, where she majored in sociology and conservation and resource studies.

After graduation, Summer took a job as a 6th grade teacher. She loved teaching and the lifestyle that it afforded, but soon she found herself going through the motions a little too comfortably.

“I was busy all the time, grading papers constantly at coffee shops, and just living my life,” she said. “But at some point, I realized I had gotten away from those things that had been really important to me.”

As she concentrated her efforts more on reconnecting with her passion, she found she was spending a lot of her free time researching what she bought and what products were good for the earth. Especially when it came to buying clothes, it was difficult to shop responsibly.

“There was nothing I could wear to work. There was nothing I could wear out, going out to clubs or going out to dinner. Frankly, I couldn’t find anything I liked,” she said. “I decided to stop complaining about the fact that nobody had changed this and be the change, create my own resource.”

Summer is passionate about the environment because she cares about what happens in the future.

“Everything that I sell is certified organic, which means a third party comes in and certifies how it’s grown,” she said. “It’s also either domestically made by artisans who create their own wage, under U.S. labor laws, or it’s sourced through the fair trade federations. Every single product has a sort of certification that makes it definitely earth-friendly.”

Being able to help others make better decisions more easily is far more rewarding for Summer than she ever imagined it would be. She feels like she is living a life of purpose, that she is following the admonition on her favorite refrigerator magnet: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

“I feel really happy for what I’ve done,” she said. “I am proud of myself that I’ve really been true to what I believe in but have also made a livelihood in doing that, in doing something small to benefit the bigger picture.”

Check out Summer’s online store BTC Elements, it’s got everything from organic cotton tablecloths to recycled fleece winter coats.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Elements of Style
Summer’s online store BTC Elements includes everything from organic cotton tablecloths to recycled fleece winter coats.

Fair Trade, Woman-Made
An online boutique of handmade clothing, home goods and accessories created by women all over the world who are working toward economic security.

Green? Great!
Check out this comprehensive shopping blog that highlights eco-friendly apparel and goods from all over the web.

Mind Your Biz
At GreenBiz, the eco-enthusiast can learn how to succeed in business while being environmentally responsible.

Wife, Mother, Career Woman… HELP!

Antonella had it all-a successful career, two beautiful children, a loving husband-and it was wearing her out.

One of the biggest concerns for Antonella and her family was, of course, if they could financially afford for her to stay at home. She had been the main source of income for the family, and even though her husband was working, he had just started his job and lacked the same security she had.

Antonella and her husband decided to enlist the help of a financial planner in their decision making process. They decided how much money they wanted to save every month and talked to a lot of people to figure out how to make the transition as smoothly as possible.

“Now we are watchful,” she said. “We don’t stay in the best room in the hotel, and we don’t just go out and buy a new car because we feel like it. We look at our goals and stay on track. You can really save money this way.”

Antonella’s a full time mother and wife; still, that doesn’t mean she abandoned her career. Even after she left her job Antonella would call coworkers and visit the office, where she found that many people were surprised but supportive.

Until she re-enters the workforce, Antonella is enjoying doing the things that were impossible before.

“I’m there to clap for my kids. I’m there for the Christmas show. I taught my son how to ride his bike,” she said. “Some days, it is so beautiful I can no longer even imagine being in an office working.”

If you’re finding it tough to be all things to all people, find solace and support through these resources:

Dishing it Out
Taking parenting too seriously is not something Heather Armstrong does. Experience the adventures of a Stay-at-Home-Mom whose honesty and human error is as hilarious as motherhood ought to be.

Mission Impossible
Give up on being mother of the year (they think you already are) and relish in your perfect flaws at Imperfect Parent.

Organized Chaos
Working moms can make it work. Visit Mommytrack’d for multitasking tools, comic relief and relevant news tips.

File It Under Toys
Carving a home office out of the playroom? Consider Home Based Working Moms.

Have It All
BlueSuitMom and Career Journal help you have your kid’s cake and pay for it too.

Why I left my successful career to dig wells in Africa

Kristen had been a television executive in Hollywood for 10 years when she realized she wanted to change her life. She loved the creative aspect of her job, going onto the set and mixing with the actors and the producers. She found it very fun and social. However, she never felt like she was doing anything meaningful.

“The job just wasn’t in line with my spirit. I’d always had this dream of going to Africa. My last day of work, I packed up my office, went to my goodbye lunch and that afternoon I was on a plane to Kenya.”

Kenya was definitely one of the most challenging experiences of Kristen’s whole life. She had the opportunity to travel with a female tribal leader and went through out the bush and talked with other women. Day after day she heard the same story. “These women spend their entire lives looking for water.”

Women look for water all day, so it does not leave them anything thing else to do during the day, such as have a job, or care for their children. The women don’t have the ability to make money or to have freedom. They are oppressed and live under the rein of the men in their society.

“They don’t have the ability to make choices, such as saying yes to having sex with their husbands who are infected with HIV. Because they don’t have water the kids don’t go to school. The list just goes on!”

After spending many weeks with these women and learning about their issue with water and not having it, Kristen decided she wanted to do something to help these women change their lives. “What I decided was that if I was going to do anything I was going to help them get water. So I came back to L.A. and started The Samburu Project which is a non-profit organization that helps bring these people water.”

Since starting this project, every aspect of her life has changed. Kristen used to make money, and now she doesn’t. She has had to scale back, in order to run a non-profit organization and hold four other odd jobs all at the same time.

“I realize now I wasn’t unhappy with my life in Los Angeles, I just didn’t feel like I was doing what I was supposed to do, what my spirit was called to do. Now, I feel like I am doing what I was supposed to do. In [America] we have the luxury of following our dreams…and that is what I am doing, my dream.”

If you would like to get involved, check out the following resources.

The Great Project
Kristen came up with the Samburu Project after traveling through Kenya. The project aims to build 25 wells in parched Samburu, Kenya.

Give Til It Feels Good
You’ve got that giving gene in you, and Just Give helps you feel even better about your generosity with inspiring stories of change and challenges to do more.

Find Your Purpose
Volunteer Match can pair you with causes that are close to your heart and close to your home.

One Child At a Time
The Children’s Hunger Relief Fund works to provide safe drinking water and meals to impoverished children all over the world.