This is a story 22 years in the making.
There’s no such thing as an overnight success. I kept wondering what was that secret that all of these successful business owners were NOT telling us. Truth is there is no secret. There was no one thing. No one big break. There were breaks but after them came hard work. And there were great successes and before the victory dance ended they were on to the next project.
Because the secret is that once you do good for people, you immediately want to do more good. Yes you can create business models with residual income but that doesn’t mean your work ends and that you don’t keep serving your audience.
It took me 22 years to figure that out and finally take the scary leap to running my own business. I hope you can read this and shorten that cycle by a lot.
As a mother of 4 kids, married to a firefighter with a crazy schedule, and having spent 20 years in corporate America in a very high travel, international executive kind of role, our life was way too busy. And my corporate work, while challenging and profitable, was not fulfilling to my soul. It was boring. I loved the people and the company was so honorable and well run. But the products, well, industrial and just not so inspiring. And I needed something more flexible. Where I could be more creative. Be home more for my family. And that meant something more to the world than moving around more spreadsheets and data.
I really craved making a difference in the world in a bigger way.
I was feeding my creative juices by doing side consulting for non-profits helping them setup their websites, social media and marketing strategies. I started FirefighterWife.com in May 2012 as an example platform of my own so I could test out the techniques I was teaching them. I really thought I’d exit corporate America as a freelance techie business consultant. But then FirefighterWife.com exploded and the need for this mission became so obvious and so urgent that I knew I had to focus there. The divorce rate in the fire service is quoted as high as 75% and my stories from our early years of marriage were really resonating with people. They wanted to know how we did it. And were so grateful to connect to women (and other firefighters) who understood their life. Basically, I’d open my email, cry, pray for that couple and immediately think….I can’t keep helping all these people one by one via email. We really need resources here.
But talk about overwhelm. Now I’m a mom of 4, wife of a firefighter, with a nearly full time corporate gig (I reduced to 80%) *and* a suddenly giant social media platform to manage. And I had no clue how we would fund it, but I knew these people needed a support system no matter what.
When I made this shift to focus on the non-profit, I was already in a very high dollar business coaching program for my consulting work. You know what happened? I got kicked out. They said I’d only make $20k per year as a non-profit and was no longer a match for their program. Ouch. Talk about losing faith and feeling frustrated. But I really needed structure and a system and jumping into B-School in early 2014 was my “last chance effort” to find that.
What kept me going? Every single day I was getting emails and messages from wives, husbands and couples that said “I needed this 3 years ago when my wife left me.”
or “You saved my marriage, how can I help you do more?” or “I thought my marriage was good but we are so much stronger now. I didn’t even know I needed this.” or “I finally have girlfriends who understand my life. ” (and I personally felt that! I’d been praying for a best friend and suddenly I have fire wife friends all over the country!) And here is my favorite, “Ever since my wife joined the Fire Wife Sisterhood, our sex life has improved.” And it was true! When girls connect, they talk about intimate things, like mom guilt and depression and anxiety and weight loss struggles and sex. We encouraged each other in our marriages and our sex lives got better (we really think this is why all our husbands let us meet at our first national weekend getaway because they had to meet these friends we were all talking about who seemed to be responsible for the improved sex life.
I truly believed we were onto something incredibly special. We knew how to make a safe, encouraging online community to connect like minded people and improve their lives. There HAD to be a way to make this sustainable. I am a Christian believer and I just didn’t believe God would pull together something so good and let it just not bear more fruit. But I really needed to find the steps to make this all come together. My whole life balance and this business.
In 2015 we converted to a non-profit called 24-7 COMMITMENT so that we could serve not only the wives (FirefighterWife.com) but also the firefighters. Because working on marriage takes two people. And we ended the year just shy of $200K in funding, over 100,000 people on our social media channels and over 5,000 registered members in our online peer support communities. And over 300 people who have attended our Commitment Weekends. I hate bragging in any way but want to show you these numbers so see that it’s the real deal.
This has become my passion. But you all have a story like this in you.
How Do YOU Take That Leap?
You have to take the steps.
Carve out space in your life to do them.
And don’t lose sight of the GOOD you were meant to do in the world.
And, having some tools to help you through is mandatory.