WomanUP panelists share inspiration

February 21, 2018

We all face obstacles on our path to success – whether they come from external forces or the limits we’ve placed on ourselves. As the 2018 WomanUP: Women Inspiring Women panelists can attest, if we take time to focus on our successes, we can turn obstacles into opportunities. At the February event, local Asheville business women Melissa Murray of Mosaix Group, Sarah Benoit of JB Media Institute and Brandy Mills of T.B.M. Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery shared their personal stories of how they faced obstacles head-on, learned to adapt and fought to pursue their dreams.

“You can’t do that”

While women now represent 46.8% of the workforce. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), Sarah Benoit, co-founder of JB Media Institute, says early in her digital marketing career there were often no other women in the room. Perseverance and belief in herself were key to finding success in the male-dominated tech industry.

While people subtly and not so subtly suggested she had nothing to contribute, Sarah pushed against stereotypes and expectations to make her contributions. “Going into a meeting, whether you think we are on equal footing, I’m going to make sure you know we are. I’m not going to apologize for being assertive.”

Brandy Mills, owner of T.B.M. Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, found herself fighting society stigmas and expectations first as a young woman from a low-income, single-parent family and later as a working mother and new business owner. You have to turn those voices off, Brandy said.

“I try always to stay a positive person to stay proud of every moment. Forget half-full or half-empty. Give me some ice and I’ll make something of it.”

For Melissa Murray of Mosaix Group, obstacles also took a personal form. As someone with dyslexia, Melissa struggled to find her niche, particularly after facing challenges in traditional settings like school.  She found her forte in a love and talent for logistics that she has turned into a successful event planning business. Some stats suggest more than a third of entrepreneurs, like Melissa, are dyslexic.

Melissa is constantly looking outside her comfort zone to learn more. “It is important to own our mistakes, learn from them and then move on.”

“This is what success looks like”

For all three of these women, the path to their current roles has taken several turns. Brandy, for instance, worked for sixteen years as a nurse before reaching her dream of opening her own business.

“If we let society define success for us, we will constantly feel like we never measure up. Redefine success for yourself,” Brandy said. She continues to defy odds by setting new standards for herself that mandate her to step up on a daily basis as a wife, mother and new business owner.

Melissa echoed that, “We all expect ourselves to be perfect. LET IT GO! Women put so much on ourselves – give yourself a break.” For Melissa, in part, that means defining her priorities and committing to them.

If there is one common current to their paths to success, it is being flexible and learning to adapt.

Sarah has been working in web development and digital marketing since 2003. Along the way, she transitioned into teaching and presenting. “I realized that uncomfortable change can transform into something amazing.”

 “A nugget of wisdom”

So what advice do these Asheville business women have for other women in business?

“Stop the competition as women and women in business,” said Brandy. “Learn to feed off of each other and look out for each other.”

“When you feel that inner voice comparing yourself to other women, tell the voice to go away,” said Sarah. “We’re culturally trained to do this, and it is not helpful.”

All three women offered very practical advice to pursuing your dreams: look for people you admire, learn continuously, define your priorities, write down your goals and take action. And be willing to put something down when you just can’t juggle it all.

“Reach for the stars but keep your feet on the ground,” said Melissa. “Take the time to dream but do the due diligence.”

Be open to the turns in your path, Sarah said. “Dream but allow that dream to evolve. Allow it to flourish in its own way. Don’t choke the life out of it.”

As one audience member said, “Every experience you have in life leads you to where you are. Be in tune to the nugget of wisdom in each experience.”

Thank you to Brandy, Sarah and Melissa for sharing a few nuggets of wisdom with us at WomanUP!

WomanUP is an initiative of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce designed to meet the needs of our area’s professional women. Our 2018 WomanUP sponsors are: Park Ridge Health, Webb Investment Services, Celine and Company Catering “On Broadway”, iHeartMedia Inc., Diamond Brand, Johnson Price Sprinkle PA, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Duke Energy, First Bank, Arby’s – Brumit Restaurant Group, Asheville Citizen Times, Montreat College School of Adult and Graduate Studies, Sheppard Insurance Group, WNC Woman, Kudzu Brands, American Red Cross – Asheville-Mountain Chapter, BPR News – Blue Ridge Public Radio and Signarama.