This month marks four years since I started my own branding, marketing and leadership development company, ISH-Productions, Inc. Four years!
This also happens to be the month of the annual Women’s March and so I’ve had working women on my mind. As I reflect on my four years of being a female Solopreneur, it felt most fitting to salute four remarkable women that have been and continue to be a source of inspiration to me.
I believe that people come into your life for a reason. The ones that leave lasting impressions are the ones that challenge you to think differently, celebrate your successes, lift you up in setbacks and help pave the way to accomplish the things you once thought were out of reach.
We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.”
Although these four women don’t know each other, they share a common thread as pioneers of both their own self-reinvention and the businesses that are their brainchild.
They’ve each crossed my path at different points in my career, yet we all share something in common: We’ve each had long, illustrious corporate careers and made the decision to take the best of what we’ve learned and experienced and continue our journeys our own ways. We’ve each tapped into known and unknown talents that would ultimately lead each of us to start our own companies.
Allow me to introduce to you four remarkable women of reinvention.
Meet Shannon Tipton
Shannon and I met through our former employer, Ambius in 2008, where she engineered and orchestrated the Learning & Development programs across North America. She later was promoted to Global Head of Online Learning for our UK-based parent company, Rentokil Initial, where she aligned businesses into a single online learning platform.
Shannon and I worked closely in translating brand value into relevant, actionable business outcomes. Having her as a partner to carry out many of our wider value propositions and buyer personas to sales and frontline colleagues was invaluable.
Shannon taught me a lot about how people learn, what motivates them, and ways to get them enrolled. She cultivated my interest in human potential, which I have incorporated into the growing scope of work I do today.
We parted ways with Ambius at the same time. At the start, neither of us intentionally planned on starting our own companies. We both began with taking on consulting projects while seeking another full-time corporate employment. As time moved on, each of us found purpose and meaning in the work we were doing; so much so, that the attraction and motivation to start our own companies was born. Thus, her company, Learning Rebels, LLC came to be, and whose noble mission is to help organizations overcome learning mediocrity in the workplace.
I’ve marveled at her success and enjoy seeing the evolution over the past four years. She inspires me to never say never and reaffirms my pursuit in helping others see and realize their true potential.
Today, Shannon works with organizations to build progressive learning strategies and initiatives to produce solutions to real business problems. She is also a certified ATD (Association for Talent Development) program facilitator, and frequently travels the world delivering speeches, workshops, and training related to improving learning in the workplace. You will find her tweeting (@stipton) to vast and loyal followers as she shares her knowledge and champions the art of connectedness. She is currently writing a book, “Microlearning, Creating Bite-Sized Learning for the Workplace”.
Meet Emily Rogers
Emily and I were members of the Vistage Key Executive Group. During the time we spent together in the group, she was the President & Chief Growth Officer for IEG (now ESP Properties, a WPP company). I witnessed firsthand the transformation of untangling from a 12-year career with IEG to starting her own company, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching.
She’s now a business consultant, executive coach, and retreat leader. She offers programs for individuals and businesses sharing how to grow with purpose. As a long-time yoga practitioner and instructor, she weaves the values and aesthetic of yoga into her business coaching methods. In fact, she can usually be found in her coaching studio at her peaceful ranch in Lakeland, Florida, cannily named, “The Rogerosa.”
However, her company’s genesis was a long time in the making. There isn’t anything that Emily does that isn’t marked with purpose. Her soft-spoken, calming voice has been a gentle reminder to help me find my true north. I feel fortunate to have met her when she held a C-level position and witness the evolution of starting her own company.
Emily is a stellar role model of leading by example and achieving that enviable balance between work and personal. When she isn’t working, you can find her taking her treasured horse, Blue, out for a ride.
She has taught me so many things, but she always reminds me to stay true to myself; be agile when needed, but never, ever compromise your beliefs; and be resolute in your convictions.
People come into your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime.”
Meet Jane Hirt
I met Jane through a contract position with one of my clients. She was finishing up a 4-month engagement and I was picking up where she left off. During our few weeks of transition, I grew to know and admire her, not only for what she had just accomplished but by her long and impressive career.
The immediate first impression Jane made was a lasting one. First of all, if Jane hadn’t made the unprecedented choice to try her hand in marketing, I would have never found myself face-to-face with the former Managing Editor/Vice President of The Chicago Tribune. The tales of her 25-year career with the Tribune and her involvement as the co-founding editor of the innovative startup, RedEye, were fascinating to hear, but what struck me most was her decision to leave her current post and take a yearlong “radical sabbatical” to discover what might be next for her.
It was during her sabbatical year that we met. She was filling in for a marketing executive on maternity leave. Jane is admittedly not a marketer (by trade that is) and didn’t necessarily see herself in a marketing role. As any great journalist would do, she did her homework, applied her intuition, self-taught as needed and leveraged resources at her disposal, all the while managing to do exceptional marketing work.
Her unwavering belief “Know that whatever comes next is going to be great,” has carried her farther than one would have imagined. Jane, to me, is someone that inspires you just by observing how she masterfully navigates unchartered waters. Since her sabbatical, she has founded her own consulting company, Jane Hirt Consulting, LLC where she uses her 25 years’ experience as a journalist and executive to help companies communicate better.
To know Jane is to admire her and applaud the many accomplishments she has achieved and ones still to be realized. In her own wise and insightful words “Take the path less obvious.” And that is precisely what she has done.
Meet Armida Markarova
Armida and I met through A Giving Heart Foundation, where she is a board member and we collaborate on a marketing committee aimed at fueling their branding and marketing initiatives.
Armida spent 12 years with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) leading their digital marketing strategy. At the time of our first meeting, she had just recently left NMMA and launched her own marketing company, Marketing Strategy Hub.
She hadn’t planned on going out on her own, but after hearing a speaker presentation on confronting self-limiting beliefs it inspired her to leave her steady job and follow her passion. Less than six weeks after the inspiration struck her, she launched her business. But what impressed me the most was that in spite of how quickly she made the leap, she debuted a meticulously professional brand complete with services, marketing, and a value proposition that didn’t have the look or feel of a startup.
Armida’s expertise in the digital marketing space is impressive and she exhibits the confidence that underscores her tagline “Turning Marketing Dollars Into Business Outcomes That Matter.”
With only a year under her belt, she already sees marked success advising companies on marketing plans, inbound marketing, and social and digital marketing through strategic plan development, speaking engagements and workshops.
Armida skillfully draws from her prior experience to help propel her business towards one that provides the necessary tools to educate and execute the most discerning marketing challenges.
Women at Work
These women have decades of experience. Each of them felt the calling, the necessity for self-reinvention. Taking the giant leap has not only started new chapters in their lives but more importantly has given them each a higher level of meaning and newfound purpose. I hope you’ll find them as inspirational as I have.
The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”
Michelle Mariola is founder & managing director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding, marketing and leadership development company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities as well as advancement through culture coaching, leadership development, workshopping, and team engagement exercised.