Since starting my company, Shaboo Prints, I have never been more fulfilled. Like most business owners, it is an extension of who I am; it’s my freedom of expression. And I continue to be amazed at how each day brings new opportunities for me to strengthen my voice.
My business is the magic bean that sprouted from my suppression. I spent most of my working life doing what others told me to do: obeying their parameters and not speaking my truth. It sprouted from the guilt for going home on time or taking my weekends off. It sprouted from being paid less than my male counterparts. It sprouted from being discouraged to pursue a higher education (I did it anyway). It sprouted from punching time clocks, stressful board meetings and unsettling situations, like the time an angry drunk employer accused me of faking a back injury. I endured decades of this because that’s what others did, too. Then I got depressed like others did, too.
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In order for me to live within that context, for pure survival’s sake, I searched for joy and began doing the things that I loved — creative writing, drawing and playing. I didn’t know it then, but doing what I loved was personal emancipation. It was laying topsoil for the magic bean. Joy gave me the courage to jump full time into my own business after I’d had enough of pushing executive hands off my knees under tables.
I launched Shaboo Prints, a boutique lifestyle brand designing and manufacturing products to reawaken others to their happy place. I now live and work from my happy place and help others do the same. I also promised myself to reject the “business is war” methodology. I set out to generate an income having fun operating a fair business my way, but I had no idea what that was going to require of me.
Emancipation requires voice
To network and get advice for my new company, I joined a business workshop amongst corporate consultants, motivational speakers and symposium leaders. I felt very out of place presenting colorfully animated characters crooning the power of play. I started to realize then that my business, my unique expression, was not going to fit in any pre-constructed box.
Since then, my company’s success has been a direct result of expressing my voice regarding strategic positioning, tactics, media channels and vendor relationships. In order for my business to stay relevant, effective and honest, I can’t allow myself to be stifled or use someone else’s voice.
For example, I was looking for a local photographer and found a production studio that grabbed my attention. In my past life, I would have felt a production studio was too grandiose, but my new inner voice said, “Call the studio.”
The owner of the studio answered and said that he only provided production space, but graciously listened as I shared with him my mission; I voiced what I needed with honesty. He loved my project so much that he offered to do the photography himself. I now regularly bring my business into his studio and share space with professional and celebrity giants. Voicing myself honestly elevated my business on par with creative luminaries.
Fair-value exchange requires voice
Being my own best advocate and possessing an honest voice is incredibly motivating. Relationships of all kinds value transparency now more than ever before. The more honest I am in expressing myself through my business, the more successful my business becomes. I also provide greater value to those I partner with because I am reliable, transparent and leading-edge.
I now know what value I bring to my business partnerships, but it requires me to voice it to them. Not only do I need to state the value I and my business offer but, if I am to be an effective CEO, I need to claim a fair-value exchange in these relationships.
I recently created an agreement with a new-vendor who sought access to my network partners; I voiced the value of my business and he heard it. The benefits he gained through my association were clear, but it wasn’t until I asked for a fair-value exchange that he outlined what benefits his association would provide. I have had potential partners say, “Let me think on it and get back to you,” but I will not advance an agreement until I am guaranteed good terms, which may require me to voice fair-value exchange again and again.
In my past life, I would have hoped for a return of value, and it would have likely been on his terms, if at all. I was taught that women are accommodating, helpful, and generous — and we are! However, I understand now that guaranteeing a return is an expression of self-value, so I claim it.
Having a voice is empowering
Every aspect of my business has been an exercise in expressing my unique voice. I use it to determine product price points, ask for support, ask for consumer feedback, and decide which marketing tactics to use.
Honest freedom of expression is the loudest, clearest voice there is. It can cut through market noise and confusion, and it also feels so good! When I speak up, I feel empowered and creative and energetic and light. In my past life when I kept quiet, I got depressed because stifling oneself is hard work that feels heavy.
Repression isn’t natural. Having a voice energizes my products and designs, uplifts my brand, and even supercharges my marketing copy. It also positions me and my business as leaders because an honest voice is magnetic.
I was recently working out the agreement terms of a new partnership and I didn’t feel their initial offer was balanced, so I gently pushed back, claiming that what I brought to the agreement was worth more. In my past life, I would have been concerned that I was being the “bad guy” or “difficult” — and there were, in fact, moments I saw frustration on this potential partner’s face, but I knew my value, held my value, and therefore had to voice my value. Eventually, we accepted terms that were equally beneficial. I not only fairly positioned my business, but I apparently earned the respect of the new partner.
Look around any environment that advocates suppression and you will see low-energy people. Not truthfully expressing yourself is like perpetually holding a beachball underwater: it’s exhausting! Sharing your ideas, asking questions, declaring your value, and announcing expectations creates forward movement and gives others permission to claim their voice and seek freedom of expression, as well.