What is your story?
I grew up with powerful, self-staring women who fostered my entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. I used to play “office” under my mom’s desk and watched her balance her professional and personal life with grit and grace. After working several years in real estate, I founded my own coaching and consulting organization. Black Dress Partners was born in 2011 with a mission to help emerging and evolving women business owners improve organizational performance. A few years after launching BDP, my team and I introduced Black Dress Circle (BDC), a peer-based roundtable program that addresses the common challenges faced by leaders of emerging and evolving organizations. BDC is now the focus of our business and brings women from all over St. Louis together to discuss real issues in an inspiring and supportive environment.
I am deeply passionate about empowering women in business and fueling their success. I understand the various challenges and rewards of starting a company and therefore, I’ve made it my life’s mission to bolster bold women who want to make an impactful difference in their communities and in their own lives. My whole life, I’ve always looked for ways to keep learning, growing, and supporting people in the community I love. I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. in business psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology to deliver observations that truly transform companies. When I’m not working with the women of BDC or studying, I’m kept busy with my daughter and little entrepreneur, Audrey!
What message does Black Dress Circle like to promote?
Black Dress Circle promotes empowerment and fearless leadership and we are committed to educating and cultivating a culture where women business owners feel confident and well-rounded in their business knowledge. We’re focused on beating the outdated notion of female competitiveness and lifting one another up to new heights through genuine support and expert guidance. Our goal is to help women find more time to work ON their business and less time IN their business. Being CEO can be isolating at times and our mission is to create a space that allows women to be the best version of themselves with a team of other women from different industries who can provide the insight they need to take them to that next level.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
Black Dress Circle is all about equipping women business owners with the tools and resources to lead smarter and overcome hurdles that may be holding them back from achieving professional, financial, or personal success. Outside of my organization, I look for unique avenues to support my St. Louis community to LEAD UP in different ways. In 2015, our team conceived the Midwest Women Business Owners Conference – an educational event bringing top female business owners together to discuss relevant, provocative business topics like corporate culture, marketing, finance, operations, growth, mindset, and more. The growth that takes place and the new relationships that have come about as a result of this conference are incredibly rewarding to see year after year. I’m also fortunate to have had the opportunity to volunteer with St. Louis-based Connections to Success and serve on the board for Transparent, a non-profit organization that aims to normalize the transgender experience for children and their families through connection, support, and resources. I work hard to create a community that fosters collaboration, acceptance, and education.
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to?
As ambitious entrepreneurs and career women, I think we all at some point or another, fall victim to the idea that you have to do it all. Achieving the perfect work-life balance can become an obsessive and not always realistic goal we strive towards. I think, and the research supports, that women especially feel the full effect of this. When I decided to pursue a Ph.D., I began to experience the overwhelm that comes when you bite off more than you can chew, so to speak. My methodical brain worked to find ways to manage my work, studies, parenting, health, family and friends evenly. The truth is life and work are not two separate entities – there’s just your one life and all these domains of our life that we have to manage. I’ve learned to embrace the overlap and use my zest and passion for what I do professionally to inform how I live and act outside of the office.
Did you have a Mentor, Coach or Sponsor along the way that was essential to your growth and success? If so, who was it and why?
There are so many inspiring people that I admire and learn from every day, but there’s one woman who stands out in particular. I met Ginny Patterson in the late nineties when we were in real estate together and she really made an impression on me. Ginny was a fearless leader who made things happen and wasn’t afraid to take bold risks. There are two mindsets that I adopted from Ginny. The first was learning to take action right away. I’ll never forget an instance where she needed information during a meeting and instead of making a note to find that info later, she immediately picked up the phone and got that bit of detail right then and there. She took action. She made it happen. In addition to being a total powerhouse, Ginny was also known for expressing her gratitude frequently and genuinely. She would write hand-written notes letting people know what she appreciated most about their unique contributions to her business. I think it’s so important that we share our gratitude often with the people that have made an impact on our lives. Ginny’s way of thinking and her purpose-filled actions resonate with me deeply and inspire me to lead my business similarly.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do at Black Dress Circle?
Making a powerful impact on the clients I serve keeps me coming back to give my all to this business and community. In the Black Dress Circle roundtables, women are willing to share their unique experiences in the hopes that their learnings will help someone else who might be facing a similar obstacle. I love discovering new ideas with these powerhouse women and cheering them on through every stage of their learning journey. No matter how big or small the “win”, it’s incredibly rewarding to witness these breakthroughs and see in real time just how effective our training together has been for their business.
If you could give one piece of advice for the women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?
Surround yourself with smart people who can fuel your success. We should never be afraid to reach out and ask for help and seek knowledge and guidance from people who know things we don’t. There is power in collaboration and meaningful connections. Build a network that you can be proud of – preferably a network of women who LEAD UP!