When it comes to starting a successful business, there is no source of inspiration more powerful than our own personal challenges. Though it can be a vulnerable place to start, when we overcome a challenge or obstacle, we are taught valuable lessons that can be worth sharing. The ability to persevere and emerge from the trying time in a positive way connects us to the problem in a meaningful way and creates an authentic and enduring passion for finding a solution.
My mother, Amelia Kirchoff, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. It was devastating news, but I remember thinking at the time that there had to be a reason that this was happening to our family – and that some good would come out of it. Rather than move forward with the doctor-recommended five-year regimen of Tamoxifen – and its potentially harmful side effects, my mother opted for an all-natural remedy. She chose to make the lifestyle switch to a macrobiotic diet featuring healthy, whole foods grown mostly on her farm in Wisconsin. I joined her in solidarity and, eventually, the diet helped her achieve recovery. We chose to remain committed to the macrobiotic diet, but began incorporating special, macrobiotic cookies and bars that my mother homemade. One day my husband suggested that we sell them and that was the moment it clicked – this was the good that would come from our struggle.
I joined her in solidarity and, eventually, the diet helped her achieve recovery.
At the time, I was living my dream designing and implementing a Latin program for grade school children in Chicago. I would have never imagined willfully walking away from the career I had worked so hard to achieve. The thought of walking away from my schoolroom had never crossed my mind. With a bachelor’s degree in classical languages and a master’s degree in education, I took a chance on taking the homemade macrobiotic snacks to a local health food store. That store became GoMacro’s first retail customer!
Today, more than 13 years later, my mother and I are co-founders of GoMacro, a 100 percent privately-owned and funded, clean nutrition bar company. We have successfully expanded to more than 20,000 health food stores, grocery chains and fitness centers both in the U.S. and internationally. Along the way, we have seen first-hand how powerful a diet full of plant-based, wholesome nutrition can be and have worked tirelessly to bring those benefits to more people through our bars. Our goal is to ensure that we make the nutritional benefits accessible for everyone to experience what we are so thankful to have discovered. As female business leaders, we want to encourage all women to think about their own struggles or challenges, what they have learned along the way and how they can use those lessons to bring something good into the world. While this is easier said than done, I’ve outlined a few helpful reminders that help keep me grounded and focused on along the journey.
You are not what happens to you
When faced with a setback in life – a sick parent, financial loss, personal rejection, career disappointments, and so on– it can be easy to let what happened to you start to define who you are or detract from your self-worth. It’s important not to fall into the trap of feeling like we are a victim of our circumstance! Keep these things separate and constantly remind yourself that you are valuable and have a lot to offer. If we let outside voices drown out our own, it can be impossible to listen to that voice telling you what can be gained from this experience.
Take time to meditate
One way to quiet those voice is through meditation, which both my mother and I practice regularly – both through stillness and the meditative exercise of yoga. Whichever method is most beneficial to you, try to carve out at least 10 minutes each day to focus on breathing, being still and noticing your thoughts without judgement. It will help you recenter yourself so you can direct your energy toward positive growth and keep your focus on your ultimate goal. It’s so easy to become distracted by internal battles and external disruptions in today’s world. A brief moment to realign can make all the difference in making the most of the remaining hours in any given day. Again, each of our experiences have vested us with the knowledge and power we need, meditation just helps us tap into the everything garnered along the way.
Meditation will help you recenter yourself so you can direct your energy toward positive growth and keep your focus on your ultimate goal.
Stay focused on helping others
Once you discern how you can best utilize what you have learned to create a solution for others facing similar challenges, it’s important not to lose sight of the gift you can now pay forward. Human beings are social creatures and it comes naturally for most of us to want to help out in our community. If we lose sight of that goal as our careers grow increasingly more demanding, we will lose sight of what we need to be truly successful – and equally fulfilled. With a foundation the rose from adversity, we understand the impact positivity can have on lives. For us, it remains of utmost importance to remember our root as we grow to affect change in an increasing number of lives. At GoMacro, in addition to creating better access to clean, plant-based nutrition for more people, we remain committed to donating proceeds of our various “Give Back” MacroBars to certain philanthropic organizations we believe in. In 2017, we were fortunate enough to raise $53,000 for a variety of charitable causes and we hope to continue to increase that number in the years to come.
In my experience, remembering these simple guidelines has helped me turn a negative moment into a lifetime of positivity. It has been a life altering change that neither of us could have predicted – and a profitable one at that! Businesses born from struggles and setbacks are the ones most able to connect with consumers on a human level and create real solutions to real problems that can affect our world.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.