Book excerpt

Ladies Who Launch

An Innovative Program That Will Help You Get Your Dreams Off the Ground

Victoria Colligan and Beth Schoenfeldt with Amy Swift

St. Martin's Press

Ladies Who Launch
Part IGreat Ladies Launch AlikeThe Feminine Approach to Launching1Introduction to LaunchingWe don't like to limit any area of our lives that could be launched. For one person it's a business, for another it's a social life, and for someone else it might be an exercise program. Launching means getting anything off the ground, or at least into a more evolved state than it's currently in. Anything can be launched once you understand the specifics of how to do it. You will no longer be the person who catches herself, years down the road, wishing she'd learned French, made a documentary, or started a matchmaking business. Once you have the tools to launch you will have the tools to get anything up and running, now and for the rest of your life.Our philosophy is that launching doesn't have to mean writing a business plan, selling the house, moving to another city, or even leaving your job. Launching is a state of mind, a way of thinking. If you don't have the luxury to go away to a deserted island to write your novel, there is no reason you can't get started in some significant way today. Too often we put off starting something because it seems too far-fetched or would take too much energy. Some of us don't know how to follow through or fear it might change our lives too much. The reality is that when you have a map of how to get somewhere, it immediately seems much more attainable. If Everestwere simply some Goliath peak in the sky, with no guidelines on how to scale it, do you think anyone other than crazy explorers would dare climb to the top?Authors' Note: How long can you stand to let your dreams go unnoticed? What daydream comes to you again and again? If wishing could make it so, what would be yours? Is there something you're waiting for? How long are you willing to wait? How long is too long? Is now soon enough?We're giving you a map. You can go to the base camp or all the way to the summit. How high to go will always be up to you, but our experience has shown that once a woman figures out the launching process, she can't be stopped. Launching becomes a verb that describes both her appetite for creativity and her ability to execute.We are fanatical about launching because we know that the movement toward your desires and dreams is the key to happiness and self-esteem. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his landmark book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, says it best when he writes:Contrary to what we usually believe, the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times--although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.He goes on to say that optimal experience is something that we make happen and that is how you get into the flow of your life. Nothing is more active than launching; it is how you make things happen. It's critical for your self-esteem and happiness to get you thinking about your dream right from the start, and get it out there as soon as possible. It's one thing to have a dream locked somewhere in your head, be a decent human being, and feel good about yourself and your life. It's quite another to let it out so that it can actually happen and so you can see what this does to how you feel about youself.To further support our theories that women launch in different ways and for different reasons than men, and that launching brings happiness and fulfillment, we conducted a nationwide survey of Ladies within our subscriber base (women who have or who are developing an entrepreneurial spirit). We then surveyed corporate women outside our subscriber base as well as gentlemen, both those in corporate environments and others launching outside the corporate arena. The results were fascinating, challenging, and at times surprising. We also surveyed women who have been profiled on www.ladieswholaunch.com (the Featured Ladies) as our "success" stories. We consider them successful for reasons beyond their bank accounts or business models. These women are living their dreams; they enjoy amazingly rich lifestyles, have fascinating, industrious friends and supportive families, many have children, and naturally many of them have been rewarded with the financial success they so certainly deserve for their efforts. Key, though, to each of them, is the sense that a dream was imagined and carried out. Their particular "project" could have just as easily ended up a passing fancy ... not a nationally known brand!Launching and Self-EsteemWe knew that we felt better about ourselves after launching our businesses, so we wondered if launching could be a prescription for boosting self-esteem and happiness. In our survey we asked all the women and men if they felt good about themselves, and we all know that people who felt good about themselves are happier and have higher self-esteem.The answer was a resounding yes, launching is good for self-esteem, especially for women. Look at the difference between the self-esteem index of Launching Ladies compared to their friends in the corporate world. Wouldn't you like to feel almost 20 percent better? This isn't to say that you feel down or bad, you just might feel better if you are taking actions that lead to a new venture. When you're birthing something, from a new room in the house to a lemonade stand, your inner magic wand is in action. It's not about what, but more about doing. This means that going out in the world, making things happen,and stirring the pot is more than just fun and possibly lucrative; it could save you big bucks on therapy bills and also fill in a few of the holes that crop up and make you feel like something might be missing.Shades of GraySome people see launching as black or white. You may be thinking, "I can't launch because if I do, everything else will fall apart, or things will change so much that I won't be able to handle them. Conversely, if I don't, life will stay the same forever and fail to inspire me sometime down the road." Propelling ideas outward doesn't require sacrifice and perpetual change. The bottom line here is that reaching for dreams makes you feel good, and for a long time. So, if launching is so good for your self-esteem, why wouldn't you launch? We asked that question of our corporate sisters and brothers in the context of entrepreneurship, one part of the launching concept, to find out what it is that holds people back.It is scary to leave the stability of a paycheck and your health insur-ance and to put yourself on the line, to take that risk, when you may have a family at home or not a lot of cash in the bank. If you are in the corporate boat and not ready to get off, this book will help you think about launching in a slightly different way, and you can even use these skills and mind-set within a corporation. In the traditional model it's been black and white--either you're an entrepreneur or working in a corporation. We see things in a beautiful shade of Weimaraner gray. This gray area could be working full time in the corporate world, and possibly doing something toward your passion on the side, or perhaps pursuing something creative as a hobby. Looking back to the self-esteem question, those who work in a corporate environment and who are pursuing a dream and launching something on the side feel better about themselves. When we talk about launching, it's easy to think we are only addressing it in the "start your own gig" sphere. This is partly true, but not completely. We know that women can launch in hundreds of ways that don't necessarily involve work at all. There is a mind-set of launching that involves figuring out what you love and infusing some action in your life that isn't necessarily pragmatic, obligatory, or purely functional. You may also be someone who has a burning desire to launch but doesn't know exactly what it is you would like to do. If that's the case, this book will help you sort it out. 
 
Portrait of a LadyWhen Caren Henry Glatcz, founder of ecokiss, joined the Ladies Who Launch Incubator, she had an idea to launch a store that sold all environmentally friendly green products. Her background and experience was in advertising and marketing for a large conglomerate, but she was feeling increasingly uninspired and unfulfilled. Caren took the leap when she realized she could apply skills she already had toward helping small businesses with brand-related strategies, while slowly moving forward with ecokiss. Not only did the consulting bring in extra income, but in this capacity she was able to trade her marketing skills for products and services that she needed to launch ecokiss. She traded brand development work for a cabinet she needed in her space; she wrote a press release for someone in the Incubator in exchange for participation at an event that would help promote her company. Her creative bargaining finally paid off. ecokiss, based in Cleveland, Ohio, opened its doors as a store within the well-known health-conscious store Mustard Seed Market in April 2006 with plans to grow online and in other creative venues.Moving Beyond TraditionSometimes we ladies don't feel "right" about the way we approach our lives or our businesses. Our premise is that this is because we live in a male-standard society. What we mean is that in most cases, the feminine voice has been left out of the laws, rules, religions, and corporations thatgovern and create infrastructure in our communities. We call this male standard the "traditional model" throughout the book. We're happy to report that the feminine voice has become more prominent over the last twenty years, but as women discover and acknowledge that their way of working, living, and being differs from men, they are becoming even more impassioned and interested in finding a new approach that mirrors their natural inclinations. There is a new way to look at your lifestyle, your relationships, your money, and the overall way you design your life. We call it the Ladies Who Launch way. We hope to fully document this feminine approach so that you learn to trust yourself more and feel right about launching your dreams and desires.Some of you might feel stuck from having lived in the traditional model for so long and may need a major traditional model detox. Someone suffering from being tradition bound has gone numb, become a cog in the wheel, and possibly let her style and femininity get kicked to the curb. She doesn't question her routine, her nine-to-five hours, her life and time dictated to her by others. She's so asleep that she can't see what another way of living and working might look like. Sometimes she lets herself go and might put on extra weight, go out less, isolate herself, feel endlessly tired, and be despondent about the future. She also probably wrestles with a nagging feeling of not being good enough, of anxiety over getting fired or staying in an unfulfilling relationship, of "Where would I go if I didn't have this?" Those less affected might be able to express curiosity about "What might be out there, if not this?" No matter what your level of traditional toxicity, there is a path to recovery. The first step is to question your current situation. You might not be in the corporate environment; in fact, you could be at home raising kids, thinking about "What's next?" You can be in any stage of your life, from your twenties to transitioning toward retirement, and find yourself wondering "What if?" or "I don't know what I want, but I want something!"Often, upon realizing that we have been living (and for some, suffering) in the traditional model, we can feel deceived, angry, disturbed, or confused about why certain environments (such as corporate structures) feel so constraining. The traditional model is dominant in our society, creating a huge imbalance between the masculine and thefeminine in our everyday lives. Upon deeper reflection you will see that many of us have been living in a world of self-doubt and low self-esteem, feeling guilty about who we are and what we think about, as well as having a complete lack of confidence in many of the decisions we make. Though many of us make the decisions anyway, seemingly acting true to ourselves, these decisions are often clouded with extreme doubt and anxiety, energy-sapping emotions that can impede creative forward movement. We start a business or launch a creative project but become riddled with self-doubt in the process. Should I be doing this? Will I make any money? Do I have what it takes to be successful? For many of us, it is a process to regain our confidence, to see another way, to consider a different perspective. We usually don't acknowledge or understand that it's usually circumstances and cultural messaging that has made us feel this way. We think it's just our own constitution, our own doubt. So we live, and adjust. Women are typically good at managing change and appeasing conflict, even if it's inside their own minds! 
Before you can move toward launching and creating anything and everything you desire in your life, and before we introduce you to the Ladies Who Launch Incubator model that will help you get there, it's important to have an understanding of how great ladies launch alike so that you can use what naturally comes easily to you to propel yourself forward.After interviewing droves of successful women for Ladies Who Launch, surveying our entire subscriber list, and working with thousands of women in the Ladies Who Launch Incubator, we saw distinctly that not only do women launch differently than men, they launch for different reasons as well. We wondered why we hadn't read about this or learned about these differences in college, business school, or any type of school for that matter. When we were launching Ladies Who Launch, we set out to connect with hundreds of women. We were relieved to find that we were not alone, that our successful sisters were thinking and going through the same process that we were, but nobody was talking about it; nobody was pulling all the information together. What we have found is that these differences between how menand women launch amount to much more than a trend; we would define it as a movement, a new way of being, and Ladies Who Launch is the first book to define this approach. When we talk about these differences to the women in our Ladies Who Launch Incubator, they are relieved and feel validated. What's more, after much digging and doing our own research, we find that there are hard statistics to support the existence and validity of this feminine approach.We discovered the following about the ways that women are launching:• Women are launching for lifestyle reasons; more than anything they want control over their creativity and schedule (they want to do what they want to do when they want to do it).• Women are natural connectors and Ladies use this natural resource to launch.• It is not solely about the money. The primary motivation for women launching is not money, it's passion.• Launchers are in touch with their inherent creativity and intuition and place trust in these resources (which often can't be seen, only felt) to wade through obstacles and take leaps of faith.In reading this book, we hope that you feel validated in the way that you think about and approach your life, feel less alone in the world, and become more connected to your sisters who are leading the way.LaunchworkNote on launchwork: these exercises are meant to inspire you to discover more about yourself. The key is to have as much fun as possible with them. Try to approach each learning experience with a sense of adventure and playfulness. It's part of the process that will lead to great rewards. We enthusiastically suggest you buy a launch journal to keep all your exercises together in one place; you can track your progress, growth, movement, and self-discovery.Traditional Model DetoxIn order to launch as high and as far as we know you are capable, you need a clean slate and a clear mind. Releasing some of the patterns of thoughts and actions that have kept you stuck in the traditional model will help. If you remember the movie The Matrix, the humans who lived in the Matrix were literally stuck in their patterns and had to be deprogrammed in order to re-enter "reality." Detox can be difficult and sometimes painful, but it is worth it to deprogram and break free of ideas, behaviors, and patterns that will no longer serve you. You can then make room in your life and your space to move forward free and clear. Here are some ways to do this: 
Clear your space. Look around you and see what can be thrown away, given away, or recycled. Look beyond material items and consider the people in your life who may be holding you back. Sometimes a closet needs weeding out, a kitchen pantry needs some love, or a toxic and negative person needs to be left behind. Many people who start new businesses clean out filing cabinets and desks as a first step because they don't want to think about making a sale or hatching a single idea until they have a clear space for what's to come. Dig into the corners and detox your house, office, bedroom (under the bed is typically a place where things get dumped, and unless it's organized, many a feng shui expert contends it creates unwanted heavy energy), and tackle any areas you can handle. Think about the people around you: are they supporting you in reaching your goals or sucking the energy out of your life? It can be hard to let go. The first step toward cleaning up is acknowledging what needs to go. This process may carry on throughout the time it takes you to read this book or through the next year. Take as long as you want; just be sure to clear out the cobwebs and make room for what's next. 
Clear your calendar. Many of us are in debt with our time, overly committed and booked for weeks on end. This exercise helps you to look at your schedule and see what can be eliminated, so that you have time to not only read this book and do the exercises, but also tolaunch your heart's desire. Are you having too many coffee meetings with people you don't particularly want to spend time with? Is there a way someone else can help you with a car pool? Could time be saved by getting up thirty minutes earlier (and going to bed earlier, too)? Think carefully about what is unnecessary and what you really aren't that interested in continuing. Do you have too many activities or commitments that no longer serve you? Do you need to resign from some boards, extricate yourself from a book club, or scale back the number of evenings you slave over dinner? When you start to take a closer look at how you are spending your time or what you are engaging in, some of these activities may appear worthy on the surface: You are on the board of the art museum, in charge of your child's homeroom activities, or partaking in a monthly book club. It might just be the wrong time in your life for any one of these worthy (but overbearing) engagements. Or they may be energy drains, meaning they have no place in your creative life and they have become more of a burden or a dreaded activity than something that provides you with meaning or fulfillment. Most people find they have quite a few appointments they have little or no interest in keeping. If friends who are continually negative or untrustworthy get the boot during this phase, be prepared for their negative reactions to you and to what you are doing. They may be sad or disappointed that they no longer feel connected to you. Acknowledge their disappointment to yourself (and to them if it comes up), but keep moving. You know instinctively where you are going. Because this is a gradual process that will require your time and energy, be aware of how you are spending these precious resources. Cleaning out can be hard, even emotional! But it's worth it. 
Clear your mind. The last area to wring out is your thought process, which will require cleaning up some of your existing beliefs about the meaning of launching. We're not asking you to become a blank slate and forget everything you've ever learned, we're just asking you to be conscious of what ways of thinking might have held you back in the past, and to consider letting go of those thoughts. Here is what one thirty-something Incubatress put on her list of thought detox:No one in my family is an entrepreneur, which means I don't have what it takes. Launching something means it has to be a business. I don't have the money. I don't know how to write a business plan. I'm not creative. Launching means changing everything. I have nothing to launch.Write down anything that comes to mind that might keep you from launching. From financial concerns to time constraints, anything can go on your list. Once you get it all down in your launch journal, look it over, and write the opposite! 
For example:The detoxing process can feel scary and hard as you go through it, but when you finish you will feel clear, free, and ready to launch.Maintain your focus on this process and remind yourself daily that you are in detox, and see how life makes room for what you really need, and how it easily lets go of what's extraneous.LAUNCHING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DETOXThe Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. This book inspired us to examine every area of our lives for toxins and excess. A great physical inspiration, the book offers relevant parallels with respect to making space, getting rid of old stuff, and putting the newer, more evolved choices into the physical and mental machine.Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. A fascinating read on many levels, but primarily a good guide to identifying happiness and fulfillment in your everyday life. 
LAUNCHING MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DETOXThe Matrix. Redefine and examine the reality you're living in by noticing the many levels of reality that exist in this movie. It's possible that your reality could be altered for the better by opening your mind to alternate ways of thinking. They are always there, but are you noticing them?The Corporation, directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, and written by Joel Bakan. This documentary explores traditional corporations and exposes some of the major flaws inside them. Beware, this is a disturbing, provocative, and astute assessment of the corporate personality.LADIES WHO LAUNCH. Copyright © 2007 by Victoria Colligan and Beth Schoenfeldt. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

VICTORIA COLLIGAN and BETH SCHOENFELDT, co-founders of Ladies Who Launch, created their company as a blend of on-line social networking and offline support system.  The offline support system takes the form of Incubators – inventive, supportive, networking workshops that take place in more than 30 cities across the country.  They also act as a marketing, public relations, and distribution channel for the thousands of women who are members of Ladies Who Launch.  They have been featured in women’s and business publications including Fortune, the LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Working Mother, and much more. AMY SWIFT has been a close and early collaborator with Ladies Who Launch as a brand communications strategist, writer and as the leader of the Los Angeles and Orange County Ladies Who Launch Incubators.