I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. These things do not define me, but refine me. These roles make me a better person. The responsibilities associated with these roles require that I be a leader and innovator. The strength and knowledge I've gained from performing these responsibilities have helped me successfully launch a new and exciting business in a highly competitive and male dominant industry.
I'm not a health nut, but I can't ignore the news about pesticide risks. As a mother, I see it as my duty to protect my family from anything that may bring them harm. As a member of the same small community for my entire life, I also care deeply about the health and well-being of all the people around me. The area that we live in tests high for nitrates in the water due to farm runoff. We made a significant investment in water purification systems in our home and places of business, so that I know my family and customers - both local and national - have the healthiest option.
When I was advised that I needed to spray the inside of our local restaurant once a month for insects… I cringed! I eat there. My family eats there. Thousands of other people eat there. I don't want a mystery chemical sprayed where food is stored, prepared and served! I quickly sought a solution. Luckily, it wasn't far away. Along with our small restaurant, our family has always been in the limestone business. We were able to naturally convert the strongest type of limestone, hydrated lime, into a safe form that still dehydrated and repelled insects. Unlike, the normal hydrated lime, or barn lime you've always been able to find in stores, our new limestone based product is both safe and non-caustic to humans. So, with my sister's support, we started our business.
We made it for ourselves and anyone else who was in need of a pesticide alternative. We researched, built our plant, and hit the market. First Saturday Lime was made to be applied once a month, on the “First Saturday" of the month. We offer a subscription service as well as fun giveaways and reminders on the first Saturday of every month. The demand for our product grew exponentially.
Through production, study, and customer interaction, we discovered this all-natural product, due to its harmless nature, had a host of other uses!
After some student testing, we found that it qualifies as a sanitizer, and has now taken off with the farming community to treat chicken coops and horse stalls for bacteria.
It is also used as algae and mosquito prevention in standing water. It can also be used as a chalk paint. A few customers used First Saturday Lime to successfully deodorize some stinky situations and now it is widely used for just that. The list of uses keeps growing.
I mentioned my sister earlier, but what I said wasn't enough… not nearly enough. I wouldn't have started this business without her. She is my driving force and my strongest ally. We are highly critical of each other's work, but we complement each other well, and together we've built and continue to grow a company in which we are both extremely proud of. We have both learned to not take anything personally. We accept feedback and step in when one or the other needs help. When you're related, it's often better to keep family matters separate from business matters. But on the other hand, I consider the other employees in our privately owned businesses as family. We care about each other. We care about the product. We care about our customers. We care about the world!
I don't know what it's like to be a white man… or African American, or Mexican, or homosexual or transsexual, and so on, but I do know what it's like to be a woman. Although I do feel very fortunate, I can admit that at times things have been tough and seemed unfair. Ok, they were definitely unfair. But, as I often tell my children, “That's life!" It has made me who I am, and I see myself as strong. Sometimes, I imagine trading it for the ability to pee standing up. Oh, to be able to take a 5 minutes shower! And it would be nice to know I'm not being judged differently because I'm wearing a dress instead of a suit. However, it doesn't take much consideration to know that I would never make that trade.
The lawn and garden industry may be historically male dominant, but the purchasing power of customers has become more and more female-driven. As women working in the industry, we recognized, respected and most importantly related to what women want. It turns out that many men want the same thing. They've just been doing it the same way too long without any alternatives.
We were happy to shake things up! One thing I have learned, male or female, is don't be afraid to accept help. Also, keep close the important things in life. Don't let the things that can't be replaced slip away. Choose your time wisely. It may be fun to “network" but make sure it's with people who value your time as much as you do. Know your audience, recognize the situation, and always act accordingly. Starting a business comes with a series of unknowns, but always maintain your composure and confidence when it counts most. It should be fun, but it's still serious business. You invest so much time and money, don't let an opportunity to impress slip through your fingers.
Communication is key. New ideas and exponential amounts of new tasks are common occurrences that must be delegated in a startup business, and as Owner and CEO, I often forget people can't read my mind. Furthermore, the more brains, the better. Yes, two are better than one, but you don't have to stop there. Let as many people as you trust critique, proof, edit and contribute to everything you can. My brain is wired for engineering and math. So, I get as many eyes on things as I can before hitting send. For example, I consulted with my sister on the content of this article. Also, this would also be a good time to thank my wonderful husband for proofreading the final product. (Editor's note: Her husband is happy to help and is a very lucky man.)
I try to live with no excuses. For anything. Stepping on toes rarely breaks bones. You have to open some doors yourself. In the hectic pace of a startup company that is full of passionate people, it's easy to overreact and lose one's temper. But I try to see all people for who they are. I try not to judge. The only thing I care about is treating people kindly. I care about caring. If what you believe and want to do doesn't hurt others, I support you and your decisions. I am no better than anyone else. I do, however, work very hard.
We created First Saturday Lime to help people, to protect children and animals, and to provide safe alternatives to other people who care. It brings me joy to contribute something that is safe for the environment when the alternatives can be detrimental. Maybe it's that sense of accomplishment that compels me to move forward. Maybe that's selfish. But if that's my downside, then I will take it.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.