#SWAAYthenarrative

We Went To The Women’s March: Here’s What We Learned

Culture

The Women's March started long before we marched, and it will continue long after.


We headed to the Baltimore train station Saturday morning around 6 AM for the 7:45 AM train. Despite our effort to beat the traffic, myself and four others, including one gentleman friend, stood for almost four hours in the frigid early morning alongside throngs of women (and men) from all over the country and beyond waiting to embark on the hour-long journey to Washington, D.C., where fellow participants would meet to begin the one and a half mile march through the center of the city. Among the thousands waiting in lines that wrapped around, across and (again) around the train station was a palpable sense of purpose and collective clarity, as the chaotic overflow of the station also had a certain calm to it.

It was here that the march began.

People waiting for hours shared food, held places in lines, moved aside for those trying to get through, and shared stories of what brought them there; creating a sense of community that would continue throughout the day. We were pissed, but we were on the same team. We were ready to be heard. As we continued waiting, locals on foot and in cars passing by cheered us on, helping make the cold a little more bearable.

"This is what democracy looks like"

The march continued when the Amtrak conductor (who was working on her day off in her own act of defiance) said we had arrived at D.C.. The track was packed with people from all over the country, wearing pink “pussy hats" and holding signs that voiced dissidence for everything from Islamaphobia to homophobia to violence against women to climate change to health care, all issues seemingly under attack by our new administration. We followed the flow of foot traffic out towards the monument-lined sky, which on this Saturday morning was a dismal off-white color, matching DC's stark midwinter weather.

This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up.

-March mission statement

All photos by Maria Cobb

One thing that immediately struck me was the varied age range of the crowd. There were babies in strollers wearing “Future Feminist" shirts, toddlers with Crayola-illustrated posters on their backs, teenagers covered in neon pink accessories, middle-aged women and men chanting “This is what democracy looks like," and grandfathers and grandmothers donning “Her Body Her Choice" and “Now You've Gone and Made Grandma Mad" signs, respectively.

If the wide-ranging messages were any indication, march attendees each had very specific, very personal reasons for being there. The beauty of the day was that everyone cheered for everyone's causes. One gentleman who waved a huge rainbow flag generated a vibrating uproar from us as we marched. An older caucasian lady who screamed out against racist police brutality was met with an equally raucous response. It was clear that this may have started as a woman's march, but it belonged to the people.

With each step I walked I felt more and more powerful. Alone I was one woman with a sign, but here I made up a vast tapestry of people standing in defiance of injustice and hate. There was a moment when we were all chanting phrases like "Love Trumps Hate" and "No Justice, No Peace" along with a drum, that I actually felt I could hear my own voice among the masses echoing loudly off the monuments, over the crowd and back into my ears. It was surreal. It was powerful.

Trump's messages of division and fear have been truly far-reaching, and the reaction was equal but opposite throughout the world.

After the march, we found ourselves in a bar a few blocks from the route's ending point (which felt premature but we were forbidden from getting anywhere near The White House). Women, weary and chilled from a day outside on their feet, began to thaw out with a beer and a burger. The venue's large flatscreen showed us the massive crowds in over 600 protests throughout the world. We cheered loudly upon seeing this, happily Facetiming our worried parents, friends and children who hadn't heard from us all day due to overburdened cell towers. From New York to Chicago to Australia to Switzerland, we saw women wearing the same hats and holding the same signs as we were, protesting in their own cities. I can't explain what it felt like to see that. We were all in this together, and the sheer volume of people in the streets meant Trump had to take a second look at our message. Right?

While chomping down on fries, we saw that the White House was about to hold an impromptu press conference. We couldn't believe it. We did it! On this day millions of people had come together in non-violent protest of a Trump America, resulting in the the largest inaugural protest in history, and he had noticed. "Let's see what he has to say," we all thought hopefully. As America's new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, assumed his position on the screen, he bizarrely began to speak about Trump's inauguration crowd size (?) and how the networks had incorrectly reported it was smaller than it was due to deceptive issues like white plastic flooring. Wait...what? That was the pressing issue you called a conference for? And you had to do it now? Mr. Spicer then abruptly stepped off the podium with no opportunity for questions from the press. It felt like someone screaming “I'm popular" to a room of people who didn't like him, then running away. Clearly, the march was far from over.

"This Was The Largest Audience To Ever Witness An Inauguration, Period."

-Sean Spicer

To me, the purposeful decision to make a completely unnecessary announcement whining about how well-liked Trump is just moments after an entire gender protested his presidency was in itself the new president's reaction. The timing, the blatant omission of the most newsworthy information of the day, and the focus on vilifying the media, was all Trump had to say when faced with this historically massive protest against his policies. Classic Trump. This man thinks like a boss, not a President, as he clearly believes that people will accept whatever he says as truth simply because he's the most powerful man in the boardroom...er. country.

To get to the truth throughout this presidency, Americans will have to practice their researching and between-the-line reading skills.

Size Matters

Because the size of things has become such an integral facet of Trump's few-day presidency (Freud are you listening?), we want to be careful about the numbers and are being very conservative in our estimates, each of which come from scrutinizing multiple sources. One thing we can say is that just D.C. had more than one million protestors, which is reportedly more than three times the number of those who attended Trump's prized inauguration, and impromptu popularity contest. The crowd in the nation's capital was so large, in fact, that cell service was nonexistent during the entirety of the event, and bathroom lines for the portable toilets exceeded an hour.

If we look at the globe, as a whole, the numbers are simply staggering (again leaving us with open mouths at the fact that Press Secretary didn't address it in the slightest). Los Angeles had a reported 750,000 marchers, while New York had half a million. Internationally, cities like London had 100,000 protestors, while Toronto had 50,000, and Sydney had about 9,000. Overall there were more than 5 million who came out to voice their support for the movement. Well played ladies.

Celebrities also came out and spoke out against Trump in record numbers. Emotional speeches from America Ferrara, Ashley Judd and Scarlett Johansen made us cry, throughout the day while comedian Aziz Ansari (who finally gave us the shout out we were looking for on his hilarious evening appearance on SNL) made us laugh.

Organized a day after the election, the Women's March was created by women concerned about Trump's decisive rhetoric. What started with just a handful of women from Hawaii agreeing on Facebook to come together and march, ballooned into a worldwide homage to free speech and tolerance.

January 21 was definitely a day to remember. Not only was it a testament to the power and strength of women and nonviolent protests, but most importantly it made us feel less alone, and part of something greater that we could get behind. The March on Washington was also a testament to the power of social media, as the entire event was amazingly created from the voices of just 40 women who originally took to Facebook to voice their frustration with Trump and his hateful rhetoric.

Throughout these next four years, we are going to find ourselves frustrated...many times. If Day 1 was any indication of this presidency, we are going to want to scream at the TV, cry and wonder what Barack is doing at that very moment. When this happens and feelings of defeat begin to rise, please remind yourself of this past Saturday and remember how just many people across this earth feel the same way we do about tolerance, equality and human decency. Also remind yourself that this country is still the best on earth, and we are proud of our constitution as it allows us to speak up against injustice. Not every country can say the same.

Lastly, don't stop now while you're on this high. Keep the movement alive with 10 Actions For The First 100 Days, which will continue the march for all of us in our everyday lives. Don't grow weary ladies! There's so much to do. Let's just keep marching.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.