Lifestyle 14 February 2018
Tami Fitzpatrick's story is so intense, fascinating and astonishing that you'll surely wonder if you're reading a movie script. But, the story of this entrepreneur is real and incredibly true. She skeptically moved to Beirut with her oppressive husband (and had three children by him) and ended up leaving the country and her marriage under dramatic circumstances.
It was upon her return home to the United States that she launched the business Thunderbolt International (TBI) with inventor Edward Shaver and sold three million dollars in tornado defection software.
But, Tami's story doesn't end there with a happy ending tied up neatly in a bow. It's not just about good business sense—it's about empowerment and standing up for yourself—and worth—when no one else will. It's about taking risks, following your gut and doing the right thing—which is extremely different from doing the easy thing. Fitzpatrick walked away from TBI because she was undervalued. But, today, her company Entropy Technology Design, Inc. is launching Nimbus 4, an advanced, real-time, severe weather detector—including real-time lightning and tornados—that's a true game changer. But, to hear the woman who lived it talk about it, it becomes clear that it's more than just saving lives and getting people out of harm's way—it's a movement to change the world and how we help one another.
“I want women to understand you don't have to sacrifice," says Fitzpatrick. “There's always a way out." Here, Fitzpatrick explains in her own words how her journey unfolded, what it's taught her and what she wants other women who feel trapped—be it in a relationship or career—to know.“I was in a marriage of ten years that was oppressive, depressing, isolating. I followed this man to where he lived [in Beirut] believing that it was going to be a fairy tale princess kind of lifestyle for myself and it was completely the opposite. We had three small children and for the first five years that we lived in Beirut, he never took me to the US Embassy to register or meet any other Americans. The seclusion was very real and I didn't tell family or friends back in the States because I didn't want them to see that I'd made such a huge mistake. After I hit rock bottom, I realized I had to find my own way out. He didn't do anything to help me. When I woke up the next day and was still alive, I went, 'Wow! I'm still here!' Something snapped inside of me—something that I pull from even today. I said, 'You're the only person who's going to get you out of here—you're not going to rely on someone else, you're not going to rely on family—it's going to be you and I've got to dig deep inside and find the strength to get out of this impossible situation.'
Three months after, I managed to get myself contracted by the State Department, working in the public affairs office of the US embassy. Five years later when war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah—I knew that was my opportunity to get out. The Ambassador approved us to leave on a military chopper. I told my husband, “I'm leaving—you can come or you can go—but I'm leaving."
So, with one suitcase each, and bombs going off everywhere, we managed to leave on the last chopper out of the country. It was exhilarating because, after 15 years, I saw the light and I knew I was about to be free. I was about to go back on my turf, to my world. Within three weeks of being back in the US, I had the kids in a new home, a new school and I was about to set off some bombs of my own to free myself from my marriage. He gave me nothing—no child support, no money—but, I said, “That's fine, I want nothing from you! I will take care of the three kids, I will do everything myself."
I pulled from that inner strength when I started my first business, Thunderbolt International, selling severe weather lightning detectors. I sold three million dollars' worth of these devices. I met the inventor Edward Shaver and as he explained his technology to me, I knew it was something that I could market around the world. I'm unafraid of unchartered waters and I've always been entrepreneurial. When I was young, instead of dreaming of getting married and having children, I fantasized about having a business career and inspiring other women.
But, ultimately, Thunderbolt failed—the product itself didn't fail but I refused to give up 51 percent ownership of my company to a creditor that wanted to control everything. I fought back on that and when I refused to give in, I lost everything again. I took a few months to lick the wounds. I had to sell my car so I could take care of my kids and pay the rent. I had to sell my furniture to keep my kids supported. And then I asked myself, 'Okay, what do you want to be when you grow up?'
I was continually pulled back into this environment because Shaver, really pioneered this industry with the first handheld lightning detector back in the late 90s. That's why I stay with this because I saw the value in Thunderbolt and I realized no one was doing what we're doing. I started Entropy by turning to Mr. Shaver and saying, 'Look, I believe in what you're doing, I believe that you have even more things to invent, better than the Thunderbolt.
Let's get back in this arena again.' We started with a negative—I had nothing in my bank account—and I went out and raised a million dollars towards the 1.5 million goal. We started from scratch and what we've created with the Nimbus is so incredibly powerful that it will literally change the way that the world reacts to weather.
My dream is that when it's fully developed, it'll feature sensors that can be placed on cable and phone towers and building—and then cover entire cities, states and nations with its detection.I want the Nimbus beacons to be visible from miles away as a sign of weather and safety information—but also a visual sign of hope. I want to create facilities where people see those beacons and know they can come to that area for food, shelter, clothing and more. It's much more than providing safety. Once I really make the billions of dollars that I believe Nimbus will make, I have this dream that I'll give it back into finding the women who aren't visible—the ones like me at my darkest hour. I didn't have internet or a phone.
You get swallowed up and forgotten. You're sitting alone in the corner of your room and feel like the world doesn't know you're there. I want to find a way to pull women out of that when they don't have any other way to wave their hand and say, 'Hey, I'm here.'
Women think they're supposed to hide the pain and they're supposed to accept that's just the way things are. But, every woman has her strength, and every woman has her story. Feeling you must accept what you're given is simply no longer true. Don't accept it— fight back. I'm not saying fight with claws—I think it's important that we're classy, sophisticated and have dignity. But, don't accept being put down simply because you're a woman. Believe in yourself and trust yourself. All women are strong. We share that common thread."
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.