Nova Review: In The Company of Women

I’m asked a lot about women as role models. Who do I look up to and why?  Who do I turn to for inspiration or advice? As an entrepreneur working with many women, what are common themes that I encounter?

I was thrilled to see so many strong women and role models in In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney.  I like it so much that I gave copies to a handful of younger women that I mentor and I’ve added it to several of my recommended books lists.

It also manages to combine many things that I care deeply about:  Women; Design; Diversity; Courage to Follow Dreams; Power of Story; and Community.

Bonney, in giving people the platform to tell their stories in their own voices, writes, “While each woman’s story is unique, their messages are universal.  They’ve overcome adversity, gone great distances on their own, and learned the power of working together to achieve their goals.”

The women and the businesses are diverse. You have brand new start-ups and mature organizations. Small and large. All ages, ethnicity, and life experiences.

The engaging Q&A format, accompanied with stunning photography, makes you feel like you are sitting in your living room having a heart to heart with each exceptional woman.

The questions vary. In addition to expected ones about lessons learned and challenges in starting a business, I’ve included some of my favorites (along with my own answers) here. Perhaps I can persuade Kathleen and Priscilla to answer these questions sometime down the line!

What did you want to be when you were a child? An archaeologist. Studying people and cultures combined with travel and adventure seemed so exciting. I realize that I’ve had elements of this with my career but in a very different way.

What does success mean to you? Maya Angelou captures it for me. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”  

In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up? I reflect back on the many times that I’ve experienced challenges that later proved to be opportunities in disguise. And I remind myself that this too will pass.

What quotation inspires and motivates you to be yourself and do what you love? “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” by Joseph Campbell and “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover,” by Mark Twain.

Which of your traits are you most proud of? I am kind, generous, gracious but also strong and brave.  

What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without during your workday? A cup of very strong Americano first thing.  Followed by meditation (the order of which never makes sense to me, but the coffee has to come first).

What’s your favorite thing to come home to after a long day at work? A pup. There is nothing like unconditional love at the end of the day to greet you.

Reflecting on these questions and my own answers was a valuable exercise. I plan to start asking many of these with the women I have the privilege to work with. They are all role models in some way. What are your answers?

As Bonney states in her introduction, “Visibility is one of the most powerful tools we have in inspiring people to pursue their dreams and educating them about all the amazing options that exist.”  

What is your unique story that you want to give visibility to that could inspire the same?

Priscilla Carruthers