Welcome to the very first edition of Women’s Spotlight! I want to use this platform to connect women with other amazing entrepreneurs, leaders and bad ass ladies who are doing big things in the world. Each month, I will interview a women that inspires me and showcase their business and what they are doing. Join the inner circle to receive an email when each interview is live!
Our very first guest is Deborah Clarke, owner of 519web, Pinpoint Local in Kincardine Ontario. Deborah helped me launch my new website and I am so thankful for her guidance and support through the whole process. Her entrepreneurial experience and her expertise with creating websites that help businesses grow made the whole endeavour a pleasure.
Meet Deborah Clarke,
Owner of 519Web
Deborah Clarke, Owner, 519Web, PinPoint Local (Kincardine, ON)
Tell me about your business and how you help women?
519Web … my business today helps small businesses and entrepreneurs to establish an online presence. That’s pretty much a requirement for anyone wanting to grow a business these days. I help women (entrepreneurs) with business strategy skills, marketing skills to help them build confidence in themselves and in return help them bring ideas to fruition.
When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Hmm… I don’t remember from the youngest years … but I can tell you by the age of 12 I was working at a roadside fruit stand for a women my dad thought was a pretty savvy entrepreneur. My dad pretty much instilled in me, at a very young age, that I was a leader, and if I wanted to be financially successful I needed to work for myself, to have my own business.
What were some of your biggest obstacles on your road to entrepreneurship and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t know where to start. It wasn’t so easy to find information back when I was starting out … I couldn’t just ‘Google’ something. I was resourceful. I remember saying to someone, ‘if I just knew what questions I should even be asking … I could find the answers.’ I just didn’t know where to even start.
I OVERCAME these, by looking into small franchises, so I could work with someone who had the business part down pat, someone who had a proven formula that worked and could guide me with processes. I was 24 when I bought my first franchise, and I remember saying to someone it was like having a parent long distance … they let me run the business, within parameters and they were there to answer questions and help me resolve any problems. It was a great fit … a great way to get started.
Who has been one of your greatest sources of inspiration?
- My mom (the eternal optimist, able to overcome anything)
- My dad (happy to hear my success stories, then quick to add what’s next)
- Business mentors: several (joined a business women’s network in my early years, had several women as great role models and inspiration) … dear friend, Carolyn Russell, successful business woman in Sarnia, self-made success story … worked her way up through the ranks to run a few successful businesses. I got to work alongside her (imagine two ‘A’ type personalities) … she taught me, not to wait, ‘just do it’ … get it done.
- In Recent years … I’ve had two male CEOs who have been an inspiration to work for. Both were great at setting goals for the organization and seeing them through. Interestingly, both also had business coaches, which is inspiring to me just to realize we need people to consult with … at all stages of our careers and business success cycles.
Tell me about a really tough time when you just felt like throwing in the towel? And how did you get to the other side?
Early in my career .. in my second business (after I sold the franchise), I learned it’s maybe not always easy to start earning six-figures in your first year of business. I struggled with my second business. It’s during that time that I started looking into more education (credentials). I thought if I got some financial credentials, it would be like hedging my bet … if I couldn’t make enough money on my own, and I had to go to work for someone, having a professional accounting designation would help me to get a senior level position (that wouldn’t be available to me without credentials).
For six years, I studied at University part-time to eventually get my CPA, CMA designation.
THIS IS THE PART WHERE I ALMOST THREW IN THE TOWEL: I was four years into the pursuit of my CMA, when they changed the program. I found myself with my back against the wall. I had two exams left, with no chance for a rewrite if I failed before the program was changing. If I flipped to the new program, it would take 2 more years. THAT WAS a big decision. My husband told everyone, we all knew what she should do, but she had to decide for herself. I FLIPPED to the new program … and spent two more years. (6 years in total).
HOW IT CAME OUT THE OTHER SIDE! … after a short career in finance and management positions for two different organizations (about 7 years) … I started working for CMA Ontario (the professional organization), recruiting for them. I would NEVER HAVE GOT THAT POSITION had I not taken the new program with them. I retired with them 15 years later, after helping with the 3-way merger of CMA, CA and CGA to become CPA Ontario. I enjoyed a great career with CMA Ontario.
AND MORE TO THE STORY … about 3 years into my career with CMA Ontario, my husband lost his 6 figure job (downsizing of middle management with a large oil company), it was devastating for us with two young girls just getting ready to start university. … and losing a full pension (10 years ahead of retirement).
If I hadn’t invested in myself with education during those tough early years … it would have been very hard to continue on financially … I’ve pretty much supported our family ever since.
How did you balance family and career?
I’m not sure I ever did … when I had my second business (and was also studying for my CMA, I did a lot of travelling and a lot of studying at our kitchen table). My daughters were about 8 and 10 when I received my CMA … in the few years prior we would pass the Sarnia airport and the girls would say, ‘that’s mommy’s airport’.
My sons in law would tell you today, I didn’t do a very good job preparing our girls with domestic skills, we always had a cleaning lady while they were growing up … so didn’t prepare them for cleaning, cooking .. and my daughter just recently said, “I never did learn to sew.” … LOL
Seriously though … balancing life / work … learn how to work ‘guilt-free’. When you are working you can’t feel guilty about being away from your family.
When you are with your family, or taking personal time, you can’t feel guilty about being away from your work. (There is always more work can be done).
What’s one piece of advice you could share with your audience?
Establish a morning routine to start each day right. It’s crucial to being productive.
- Exercise, walk, yoga, meditation
- Find an accountability partner: For me (PERSONAL LEVEL) it has been walking buddies, someone you can chat with on a daily basis … I’ve been fortunate to have walking buddies for the last 30+ years of my life and I can tell you, ‘the walk talk’ is as therapeutic as the exercise of walking itself.
- Even in my business now (BUSINESS LEVEL), the top Partners in our organization get together every Monday morning … it’s a great way to start the week.
Connect with Deb at 519web.com or send her an email at email@example.com.