It is always refreshing to be in a room full of women who lift each other up. This was the feeling in the rooms at the recent Texas Conference for Women in Austin. I was blown away by all of the incredible women there and left feeling inspired by each of them. One of those individuals is Vernetta R. Freeney. I participated in a roundtable discussion that she was leading about blogging. I learned so much from her—I’m slowly applying her wisdom to this blog! The thing that struck me most about Vernetta is her ability to turn a negative life circumstance into a great blessing. Here’s her powerful story. Thanks, Vernetta, for sharing your encouraging words of strength and hope.
I’ve heard you say that you moved “from fired to freedom?” Can you explain?
That’s the title of a blog post on another blog. She wanted something catchy to attract the attention of her readers. I actually resigned from teaching in 2011 during the budget cut crisis. I wasn’t happy at that school and there was a lot of unnecessary drama I didn’t want to be a part of. But I did leave with no Plan B, so I sunk into a depressed state over that summer. My friend suggested I start blogging again to give me something to do. Then I realized I enjoyed it, and I almost immediately started making money and getting noticed. The “Fired to Freedom” title is actually a blog post I wrote for the blogger who inspired me to take my blog more serious.
You had a dream to become an entrepreneur. And, unlike many people, you actually did it! How did you find the courage and belief in yourself?
Yes, I had a dream for years but never acted on it. I wanted to save some money from teaching first. Have that safety net. That’s what I was told to do. But that plan didn’t work out. I didn’t have a choice after going on a lot of job interviews after leaving teaching with only one offer. I took that offer teaching ESL to oil and gas employees while I built my business up. Once I understood the type of business I wanted to create and that I would do it for free, I left the ESL teaching job in January 2013. I knew if I wanted to be happy and live the life I wanted, I couldn’t wait until a certain time to become an entrepreneur. Now I did give up and sacrifice a lot to get where I am. The only thing I would change was making the decision earlier.
Your website, vernettarfreeney.com, says, “Devote yourself to an idea. Go make it happen.” Can you please share a few tangible steps on how to actually do that?
First, people need to stop thinking and just do. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll know whether you want to do it or not. If you choose to continue on the entrepreneurial path after failure (which we all experience) then you begin to map out how to make it happen. I suggest these three things that cost little to no money to help you get your idea off the ground.
• Go to the public library if you can’t afford to purchase books. Read everything and about everyone in the field of your interest.
• Attend small business seminars/classes. Some colleges actually offer them free of charge, because they have federal grants. Or attend classes at SCORE. This allows you to understand how to operate a business.
• Attend networking events. You need people to know you exist. So get out there and meet people who could be your potential clients/customers. I always suggest Fusion Tour since I created it. The key is to go where your clients/customers will be, NOT where people who do what you do are. You can’t sell to your competition.
What has been your biggest challenge in succeeding as an entrepreneur? How did you conquer it?
My biggest challenge was saying NO to every opportunity that came my way. As a new entrepreneur, I didn’t like turning down any money. So I always said yes. Then I realized I was spreading myself too thin. I began to understand that saying yes instead of no was diluting the brand I wanted to build. And what I wanted to be known for. Now, if it doesn’t align with blogging or people wanting to learn how to create their own National Tour, I say NO.
A young women, Amanda Olsen, told me, “Finally found a dream big enough to beat Ed [eating disorder].” Her dream of studying abroad inspired her to fight for recovery. Do you have a dream that has helped you to overcome adversity?
My dream was to travel the world. And Fusion allows me to travel the country for the time being. I am actually answering your questions from Abu Dhabi. Being able to live the purpose I was given allows me to travel as much as I want. And still run my business. I can honestly say I am living my dream of giving back, traveling and connecting women everyday.
You started the award-winning blog WomenAreGameChangers.com. What is your favorite Women Are Game Changers story?
There are so many. What I can say is the most enriching feeling is when I receive a message that I inspired another woman to live her dream. Then she does it. That wasn’t my purpose initially. I just wanted a space to share stories of everyday women and a business grew from it. I started receiving messages that I was empowering and inspiring others (even a few men). The greatest story from Women Are Gamechangers is knowing that I helped at least one women leave her 9-5 and start her virtual bakery business. Now she appears on the local Houston news, caters big events and will start hiring employees. We also became friends and she helped me to see that what I was doing was so much bigger than an event. This friendship helped me take running my business more serious.
Please tell us about Fusion Tour and how it can help women. Will you come to my hometown of Austin?!
Unfortunately Austin is not on the schedule for 2014. But 3 other Texas cities are and hopefully some of you can drive to one of them.
I noticed women weren’t able to make connections that lead to collaborations in their community, so I helped make introductions.
Fusion is the event where you have a real chance to actually speak in-depth and connect with other women. It has been called “networking on steroids” for the targeted connecting circles, expert panels and information freely shared.
I created an intimate, safe space for women to leave with real connections and learn how to effectively brand their business. Women have left with collaborative partners, accountability partners, created a blog group, referred others for business and more. Long after the event, you stay connected because you were given time to speak to one another and get to know them. The best part is you begin to add women to your tribe who are willing to help you elevate your business.
What words of inspiration do you have for women who are ready to make a change?
“Devote yourself to an idea. Go make it happen.” First, find an idea that interests you past daydreaming. Then find ways to make it a reality. It doesn’t have to be creating a business. But if you want to start something in your neighborhood, travel, write a book, get a promotion on your job, you must take steps to make it a reality. We all have something in life we feel if we accomplish life is complete. Find yours and then do it. You shouldn’t just want to exist in this life. You must want to experience this life.
What is your dream? Please share your thoughts here. Let’s build a community of people who support one another in reaching their goals!