Meet Trisha Waldron. At age 28, she realized her life wasn’t quite heading in the direction she had always dreamed it would. Though she had two beautiful little girls, ages 4 and 6, she was now single and barely surviving on food stamps in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owned a small yet humble, two-bedroom home, had no college degree, no real work experience under her belt, and she had absolutely no clue what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. What she did know, was that she wanted something better for her family.
Six Words: “You Can Create Your Own Life”
One day while volunteering at her daughters’ school, she listened as a teacher told the class, “You can create your own life.”
That was the sentence that changed it all.
As Trisha puts it, “I knew I had to take responsibility for my own life. I had been running it according to others and things hadn’t worked out very well.”
So, she geared up for what she knew was going to be a rough, yet life-changing adventure.
Trisha applied for a student loan and went back to school. For the first year, her and her girls lived on welfare and she did odd jobs around town. The second year, an opportunity presented itself and Trisha seized it!
A friend who was an artist offered her a job assembling jewelry for a mail order catalogue. Trisha knew that it wouldn’t be easy: during the day she would be in school and in the evenings she would be taking care of her girls—so that meant she would have to work late into the night if she wanted this job. But she did want this job because it meant that she would be able to get off welfare. It also would enable her to work for herself.
What Trisha didn’t realize this job would bring was a real sense of confidence. Being self-employed and in school built-up Trisha’s self-esteem exponentially. Before she knew it, she was ready to approach the catalogue owner with an idea: she wanted to design his entire line of jewelry for him. And he loved the idea!
She says, “As an entrepreneur you are always going to be confronted by things you don’t know, but you can’t let it stop you.”
So Trisha, (not knowing much about jewelry design) utilized her town library and taught herself the basics. She explored several different jewelry designs, including Native American patterns, which she would eventually draw inspiration from.
Growing Yourself & Your Business
Soon, Trisha’s little at-home business grew and moved from her kitchen table to the garage. She installed a wooden stove, wore gloves and a heavy coat to stay warm in the frosty cold South Dakota weather.
After two years, she decided she was ready for a bigger challenge and in 1985 Trisha started her own company.
After only five years in business, she had made her first million dollars. As Trisha recalls, “Getting there was incredibly challenging, I learned by trial and error, I cried a lot. But I lived simply and didn’t need much to survive. I was in a small town and hired my girlfriends to help me. My neighbors pitched in with the kids. My big break came in 1987 when the catalogue of the Smithsonian Institution started featuring my work.”
Soon, Trisha was able to move into a proper jewelry studio. Other catalogues, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, started picking up the line. And when she got busy, she would hire other women (sometimes as many as 40). Most of the women she worked with were single moms working out of their homes, just like Trisha was when she first started.
Nearly 20 years later, in 2006, Trisha sold her company to one of her employees and retired to California with her second husband.
So What’s Trisha’s Advice?
Trisha’s advice for other moms who want to start their own businesses:
- Your responsibility is to be clear about your vision. Then you can ask others to help.
- There is a lot of assistance out there for entrepreneurs if you look for it: I learned bookkeeping from a volunteer group of retired accountants.
- Surround yourself with people who support you. A lot of people said I was crazy to start my own business as a single mom. But I had a few people who believed in me.
- Be okay with the knowledge that you won’t know how to do everything right away and trust that you can learn.
- Create a “mastermind group” – 2 or 3 people who are willing to have you bounce ideas off them every few weeks. I kept my group going for 10 years.
- Realize it will be hard, and accept that.
Have you ever thought about starting you own business?