How to Leverage Your Strengths to Be Your Own Boss

Want to hear something funny about freelancing? While a lot of people make the switch to freelancing to “be their own boss” or “do their own thing,” the popular construct of “the ideal, successful freelancer” seems to consist of a conspicuously small cluster of traits. This kind of freelancer pounces on every opportunity, is a mini-mogul, and has their elevator pitch down pat. It’s like leaving the “successful company employee” box only to feel pressured to fit into the “successful freelancer” box.

For instance, a good friend of mine let me know she had left her job at a design agency and begun to pursue freelance graphic design full-time. When she asked me if I had any pointers for a newbie solopreneur, I suggested she tap into her network and let everyone know she was available for projects.

My advice was met with a bit of hesitancy. She was afraid of coming off too salesy. My friend is certainly not alone. If you’re uncomfortable with the hustle or having to put yourself out there, don’t fret.

What I’ve found to be the most useful in building your own business? Tap into your inherent strengths and ways of being. Here’s how:

Use Your Abilities as a Natural Connector to Build Your Network

If you’re a natural connector and helper (like me), think about cultivating your network by building rapport on LinkedIn and Twitter. My good friend Kate is a pro at connecting with folks on Twitter by engaging them in message threads. What’s more, because she’s so active on LinkedIn, and is connected to editors and marketing managers, she’s usually the first to know of cool freelancing writing gigs.

I’m definitely more behind-the-scenes when it comes to connecting colleagues with opportunities. I get a nagging feeling when I can see how two people can benefit each other professionally, and feel inclined to link people up. I typically spend a few minutes shooting an introductory email or providing referrals to someone seeking freelancing help.

Focus On Creating Standout Work

If the work itself is strong, then people will find you. My partner is an artist and because of his compelling, unique work, people reach out to him. He’s received commissions from major food brands, participated in shows funded by corporate sponsors, worked with innovators in the immersive art space such as Meow Wolf, and collaborated with major fashion labels. His Instagram presence and press clippings have made him an even more powerful magnet for opportunities.

If you’re most comfortable putting yourself out there in the world by way of what you make or do, then focus on the work itself. Whether you put a unique spin on things or simply produce rock-solid work, people will take notice and seek you out.

Home in on Your Personal Brand

Some folks are naturals at personal branding. They know how to convey their story and message through their online presence, and how to fold that message into the work they do. Some are more comfortable being more visible as a spokesperson of sorts and identifying themselves as experts in a specific niche.

If branding is where your strengths lie, then you can use that to position yourself to land more gigs or to serve as a brand spokesperson of sorts for your clients, then continue to increase your visibility through your personal brand and individual story.

Get Super Niche

It’s easy to feel intimidated when you’re getting your feet wet. A few years ago I attended a marketing presentation for small businesses. One of the panelists used to head the marketing department for a major company that made instant rice. She said that rather than cater to the broadest possible market for instant rice, they focused on their most devoted consumers, for whom instant rice was a daily part of their lives. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of getting very specific with your audience.

For the unfamiliar, getting niche is figuring out exactly what services or products you offer in a specific industry. For instance, maybe you’re a graphic designer who specializes in data visualization in the health and tech fields. Or you’re a logo and branding expert in the beauty industry. That kind of specificity will do wonders for getting you noticed.

A lot of freelancers when just starting out don’t want to feel boxed in due to fear of getting bored or missing out on opportunities. They would rather dabble in a bunch of different industries and offer a bevy of skills. I get it. But here’s the thing: It’s far easier to land work if you get deep within a specific industry. And at least at first, start looking for jobs within a single niche and go from there.

Focus on Connecting Needs to Wants

Freelancing is a lot like dating. You’re on this ultra-connected superhighway with a bunch of  people who are looking for something specific, all trying to meet someone who fits their criteria. Some of the solopreneurs who I admire the most seem to be really skilled at connecting wants to needs. They’re super organized and have the intake questionnaires handy when making initial contact with a potential client.

When you’re connecting with a potential client, it helps to know where they’re headed, and how they’d like you to help them get there. On the flip side, you’ll want to gauge whether it’s a good fit with your larger goals. Sure, getting paid for a gig that has nothing to do with what you want to do could help you cover bills, but how will it help you in the long run?

By focusing on connecting needs to wants, and pinpointing your particular zone of genius, it can help you stand out from the crowd. After all, someone out there certainly could use your talent and know-how. And instead of thinking that you’re tactlessly hawking your wares, so to speak, just focus on how you can solve a problem, or alleviate what’s painful or hard for someone else to do.

To build a thriving freelancing business, you don’t have to fit into this image of the brash hustler with impenetrable gusto. You can arrive at success using your natural interests and well-honed skills. The most important thing is to get started and figure out what jives best with you.

The post How to Leverage Your Strengths to Be Your Own Boss appeared first on MintLife Blog.

from MintLife Blog https://blog.mint.com/early-career/how-to-leverage-your-strengths-to-be-your-own-boss/
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3 Ways Female Leaders Can Successfully Manage Multigenerational Teams

women leadersWritten for EO by Lu Zhang, the founder and managing partner of Fusion Fund and a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Upper management has a gender problem. According to 2018 data from Pew Research Center, only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and less than a quarter of boardroom seats among Fortune 500 companies are occupied by women. The startup world isn’t immune, either: A 2019 report by Silicon Valley Bank found that half of startup leadership teams include no women at all.

To close this gap, many organizations are encouraging risk-taking and mentoring among their female employees. But these strategies simply aren’t enough. Once women do reach top leadership positions, they find themselves wildly outnumbered by their male counterparts. They face deep-rooted stereotypes, particularly among older team members. Many women leaders develop imposter syndrome, an unshakable feeling their success isn’t deserved.

When I became the leader of a team with male colleagues who were older than me, I bumped up against many of these stereotypes. People assumed that I wouldn’t have big ambitions or that I’d be aggressive and hard to work with if I did. They thought I wouldn’t be able to handle older male colleagues. They would automatically assume an older male team member was the leader, rather than me, the young female. The list goes on.

These stereotypes are particularly harmful to women entrepreneurs. Recent data from TechCrunch Disrupt New York City found that women are twice as likely to be viewed negatively when asking for money. And according to data from PitchBook and All Raise, female-founded startups received just over 2 percent of venture capital funding in 2018. The statistics are even more grim for women of color, who received less than 1 percent.

The onus shouldn’t be on women to diffuse stereotypes. However, we also must work with what we have. I have used the following tactics throughout my own career to prove naysayers wrong. The key is to trust yourself and, perhaps more importantly, to project unwavering confidence and authority.

1. Create an open, communicative environment. Be straightforward about what you expect from team members, and provide opportunities for people to both get and give honest feedback. When people feel heard, they’re more likely to respect you as a leader and feel like valued members of the team. By creating an environment of open communication, you’ll be able to better identify problems and stereotypes and confront them head-on.

2. Focus on results. Experience is overrated as a measuring stick for the value employees bring to the table. Instead, steer the team toward placing a heavier value on results and solutions. Set specific goals and establish a clear structure for decision-making that is rooted in hard, rather than anecdotal, evidence. When you get a win, own your role in the success, but also give credit to your team.

3. Stay calm in the face of antiquated attitudes. When you do encounter a sexist attitude, don’t waste your energy getting mad. Anger won’t change a person’s mind, but you might shift his attitude by refusing to stoop to his level and by demonstrating how a real leader acts: strong, confident, and dedicated to results. Again, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of women to “fix” sexist attitudes, but the reality is that, as leaders, we’ll occasionally bump into them. That said, I’ve converted more than one person with a sexist attitude into a loyal business partner.

Being a female leader in VC and tech has its challenges. But by following the tactics above, I’ve won respect from my older male colleagues and experienced years of success.

Lu Zhang is the founder and managing partner of Fusion Fund, a company dedicated to promoting early-stage venture capital for entrepreneurs. She’s also an elite member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was nominated as a World Economic Forum Davos 2018 Young Global Leader.

The post 3 Ways Female Leaders Can Successfully Manage Multigenerational Teams appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.

from Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization https://blog.eonetwork.org/2019/09/3-ways-female-leaders-can-successfully-manage-multigenerational-teams/
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Develop Effective Communication at a Company

Dan Idhenga Business Communication

One of the most important factors in the success of any successful project, be it within the business world or without, is being able to communicate. Whether you are looking to facilitate communication between team members in the trenches, get managers to confer better with one another, stimulate discussion in the boardroom, or generate an interchange of ideas between these different levels, you need to make sure that there is a culture of communication in your company.

Of course, something like that doesn’t simply pop up overnight. Rather, it is an aspect of your company which needs to be carefully cultivated over time. To that end, here are a few tips and tricks to help you further develop an atmosphere of effective communication within your company.

Avoiding Pitfalls

You first need to make sure that your company is able to avoid making some of the mistakes which plague other companies and impede their ability to communicate. Chief among these is an atmosphere that promotes adversarial rather than collaborative relationships. While there is nothing wrong with a little healthy communication, “healthy” is the keyword here. You cannot have effective communication while members are at each other’s throats or paranoid about people stealing one another’s ideas.

You likewise don’t want to create an environment in which team members are too afraid of being belittled or harassed to speak up.

Making sure that you have a climate in which communication can occur is the most important step towards making it actually happen.

Make the Purpose Clear

Another impediment to workplace communication is a lack of understanding on employees’ part. If they don’t know what the project they are supposed to be working on is all about, they are more likely to keep things to themselves for fear of being called out.

Universal Standards

Last, but not least, you need to reinforce the idea that there are standards of conduct in place. Having universal standards of what is and is not acceptable workplace behavior will help ensure that the communication you stir up is a healthy, productive kind.

With these factors in mind, you’ll be able to facilitate communication within your company more effectively.

from Dan Idhenga | Business & Entrepreneurship http://danidhenga.net/develop-effective-communication-at-a-company/
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How to Stand Out in a Competitive Field

Dan Idhenga Stand Out

 

We live in an age where individuality is both celebrated and suppressed. On the one hand, the tech and social media boom have (for better and for worse) made it easier than ever for people to share their opinions and their self with the world. Social media influencers are a hot commodity in the corporate world right now, and they’re a direct byproduct of that boom. On the other hand, modern corporate culture still has a lot of catching up to do in catching on to the powers of individuality, with many companies still favoring uniformity.

When you’re trying to distinguish yourself as an entrepreneur, however, you want to do everything in your power to call attention to yourself. That means finding good ways of differentiating yourself from your competition.

  1. Choose Good Role Models

The New York Yankees. The New England Patriots. Duke University Basketball. Manchester United. 

Whether you’re a sports fan or you couldn’t tell one form of “sportsball” from another, chances are you have at least heard of the successes of these franchises. They rank among the most successful teams in the world, past and present, and routinely make news broadcasts and magazine covers in victory – which is, after all, precisely what you want to do.

Whether or not you care about Aaron Judge or Coach K, you’ll want to be sure to choose good role models in your own industry. Watch them, study them, listen to them, and if you are lucky enough, take the chance to talk to them. Learn their secrets to success, and use their model as the basis for your own trajectory.

  1. Focus versus Flexibility

On the one hand, focusing on your role models and your plan is vital for success. On the other hand, even the best coaches and quarterbacks know that sometimes even the best-laid plans go astray, and you need to audible and change tack on the fly. Know when it’s time to focus on the plan and plow ahead despite the difficulty. Know when the opposite is true, and reassessment and changes are called for.

  1. Challenge Yourself

You’ll never make it to the top unless you challenge yourself to get there. Welcome competition, work hard, build skills, and do everything you can to get better.

There’s no greater individuality than victory. Work to build your skills, train yourself, and learn from the best, and you’ll be ready to take your place among the champions of your field.

from Dan Idhenga | Leadership http://danidhenga.com/how-to-stand-out-in-a-competitive-field/
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7 Tips to Enjoy Debt Free Holidays This Year

How much money are you planning on spending this year during the holidays?

For the average American family, it’s a good chunk of change. During the 2017 holiday season, Bank of America found that of those surveyed, they spent on average $1,143 for purchases.

Another survey found that respondents spent over $600 on gifts for friends, family, and coworkers.

While being generous is a fantastic quality, some families are struggling to stay debt-free during the holidays.

Stay Debt Free This Holiday Season

The good news is that you can spend time with your loved ones and create cherished memories without having to rely on credit cards to cover the bills.

You’d not only be saving money, but you’d also be reducing stress as you don’t have that debt hanging over you after the celebrations.

Want to know how? Here are seven ways you can skip the debt this year!

Create a Budget for the Holidays

Did I really start this list with making a budget?

When people hear budgets, their first thought is typically restrictions, but that’s not true.

A budget is simply a way to prioritize your time and money so you’re getting the most out of both.

As parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a ton of different invitations to different parties.

When you have a firm number, you’re better able to keep your spending in check and avoid unnecessary debt.

Better yet, you can make things even easier on yourself by creating a goal on Mint to automatically track your spending so you can see if you’re getting close to your limit.

That frees you up to focus on the big picture.

Don’t Procrastinate on Shopping

Don’t let advertisers dictate when you buy your gifts. If you’re planning on purchasing gifts, start shopping now if you haven’t already.

Black Friday can snag you some deals, but it’s also a trap for you to get stuck in long lines and extra spending. That’s a recipe for more stress, which you don’t need.

Take off some stress and pressure by pacing your purchases. If you created your budget, go ahead and break it down by paycheck.

That allows you to pick up gifts at more quieter times and give you time to really think about what you’d like to give.

Become a Deal Hunter

Black Friday is the best-advertised sale by far during the holidays, but you can still snatch up some fantastic deals.

If you’re shopping online, use apps and sites like Honey and RetailMeNot to find promo codes and coupons to save even more.

If you’re a fan of a particular brand, joining their newsletter may give you some additional access to sales and a heads up on steep discounts.

And once the shopping season is done, you can use a service like Unroll.me to unsubscribe to all those newsletters!

Think Personal Gifts

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s important – There’s no rule that you have to buy your gifts.

Have you thought about instead getting supplies and setting aside a weekend or two to craft something special? You don’t have to be the king or queen of crafts to make something special.

A personal note with some sweets for your co-worker can be a more meaningful gift than the regular random $20 gift.

One of our hobbies was homebrewing. Not only did we get to enjoy our work, but we shared. We used to make batches of our friends’ favorite brews as gifts and came up with fun names using inside jokes for the brews.

Suggest a Gift Exchange

A trend that’s really helpful with keeping your budget in check are gift exchanges.

Every person gets assign one gift to buy instead of several small ones for every person in the office or family.

It’s much less stressful as you’re able to focus on finding a gift for a specific person rather than running around several stores to hit everyone on your list.

And on the environmental and minimalism side, you’re also reducing the amount of clutter and stuff around the house.

Keep Travel Cheap

Many people visit their loved ones during the holiday season and if you have kids, it can get pricey quick.

Add in that you’re traveling during the popular season and it can be a recipe for a budget disaster. You have to wise with your reservations.

Use sites like Priceline, Kayak, and Trivago to scour deals and save even more money on your hotel and flights.

Google Flights can make finding flights much easier as they can track trends with prices and offer suggestions about when to buy.

When I shared how we snatched up a hotel for $50/night in Los Angeles on Twitter, someone asked how we were able to get it.

The short answer is we shop around and make sure we take advantage of every deal feature we can find.

Many travel sites will price match and more are offering express deals with hotels. With this one-two combo, we’ve been able to minimize expenses while still finding wonderful hotels to stay in.

Take a Frugal and Fun Road Trip

Out of the estimated 54 million Americans traveled during the holidays, the vast majority did theirs by car. This year will most likely be the same.

Apps like GasBuddy can help you while you’re on the road to find the best deals on gas. If you’re doing a long trip, that can be a big cost saver.

When you have kids snacks can slow you down and be a big budget buster if you’re making several stops. The best way to keep costs in check is by packing smart.

Grab those bigger bags of chips, granola bars, and whatever you enjoy before you leave. You’ll get a much better price than what’s offered at those gas stations on the road.

Taking along reusable cups can also keep costs down and your car cleaner with less junk in the back seat!

Your Take

However you wrap up this year, please enjoy it! I hope these tips help you have a fantastic time with your loved ones this year while skipping the debt and reducing the stress. If you have any tips, you’d like to add, please let me know!

 

 

 

The post 7 Tips to Enjoy Debt Free Holidays This Year appeared first on MintLife Blog.

from MintLife Blog https://blog.mint.com/family/7-tips-to-enjoy-debt-free-holidays-this-year/
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The Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Dream Gap Year

Table of Contents 

For many young adults, it can feel like there’s an expected life path that they’re supposed to follow. You do well in school, get into a good college, take a well-paying job after graduation and begin “adulting.” But this typical path isn’t what everyone wants — and that’s okay! In countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, taking a gap year is a popular option for people that don’t feel quite ready to head off to college right away, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in the United States. 

A gap year, sometimes also referred to as a sabbatical year, is an opportunity to unchain yourself from classrooms and conference rooms to explore and experience what the world has to offer. While the concept of taking time off of work or education may not make sense to some, there are many successful people, such as J.K. Rowling and even Prince William, who have taken a gap year and used it to their advantage. 

If you’re considering taking a gap year —  whether it’s taking some time before heading off to college, or leaving your job to explore the world — we’ve laid out some tips on why a gap year can be beneficial, how you can save money for a gap year and spend wisely during it, and ways you can get back on track once you come back. 

Why Students Should Consider Taking a Gap Year

Attending college can feel like a lot of pressure, especially if you aren’t positive what career path you want to take in life. Taking a gap year can help provide you some clarity on what your passions are, and help make you a well-rounded individual. It’s a big choice to make, but these benefits of taking a gap year may help you make your decision. 

Independence

For many young adults, college can feel like their first real moment of independence. But with class schedules, homework, studying, and authority figures like teachers and parents still having a say in at least some part of your life, how independent are you really? By taking a gap year, you have the opportunity to set out truly on your own for the first time.

Time to Reflect 

Our lives tend to be fast-paced, and time passes in the blink of an eye. It can be hard to find moments to take a step back and think about the big picture. By taking a gap year, you allow yourself time to figure out what you truly want for yourself out of life, and come up with a plan to achieve those goals. 

Learn a New Language and Culture

If you choose to take your gap year in a foreign country, it is a great opportunity to practice a new language. Understanding the language will help you become more socially integrated into your new community, which in turn will help you understand the culture. According to the Gap Year Association, 94% of people said they spent their time abroad learning how to communicate with people from different backgrounds. The ability to acknowledge and respect other cultures will allow you to be more open-minded throughout your life, including in the workplace where you may encounter various beliefs and values. 

Improve Career Opportunities 

Some people may view taking a year off of work or school as a setback, but in reality it can offer a lot of new opportunities for you. People who travel abroad and take a gap year have better people skills, strong problem-solving abilities, and possess a better sense of self. These characteristics are highly attractive to employers — but be ready to address these soft skills in your cover letter or a job interview. 

How to Save for a Gap Year

One factor that deters many from taking a gap year is the concern of how you can afford to take a year off to travel. Before you jet off on your new adventure, use these tips to help you save up the funds you’ll need to support yourself throughout the gap year. 

Set a Goal

Think about everything you want to accomplish during your gap year and put a monetary estimate on it. Consider things like transportation costs, housing, and various living expenses that you’ll have to afford throughout your 12 months. There are simple ways you can save money, like cutting back on your subscriptions, or you can make a plan to put a certain amount aside every paycheck that you’ll use for your gap year. 

Do Your Research  

While traveling abroad can offer you a lot of spontaneous experiences, planning your gap year should not. Before heading off on your adventure, research things like the cost of living and transportation. Countries in Southeast Asia are more affordable for someone traveling on a budget versus European countries. You’ll also want to understand the exchange rate in the countries you’ll be visiting to make sure you’re making the most of your dollar. 

Make Sacrifices 

While it’s not something that most 20-somethings want to do, in order to save money you may have to make some sacrifices. Social expenses like bar tabs, movie tickets, and eating out at restaurants can add up quickly and take away from your gap year budget. Cut back on these activities will be beneficial for your wallet and your health! 

Work As Much As Possible 

The purpose of a gap year is to take a break from our regular day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, but you will have to work hard beforehand. If your job allows, take on extra hours or shifts to earn more money. You may also want to consider a part-time job or side hustle to help you save additional funds.

Plan and Book Ahead

Once you’ve started saving additional money for your gap year, consider spending some of that extra cash on accommodations or travel. Booking these things at the last minute can end up costing you more, which may prevent you from doing everything you wanted during your gap year. Use platforms like Google Flights or Kayak to set up price tracking so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible deal.  

Money-Saving Tips During Your Gap Year

You’ve saved the money, made the plans, and on your way to somewhere new to begin your gap year. But once you arrive, it may be tempting to splurge and blow your budget. These tips will help you stick to your budgeting plan and ensure you come home with money to spare. 

Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport

While it’s super convenient to exchange money at the airport, it also comes with a high commission fee. If you know what regions you plan to visit, exchange cash at your bank before leaving for your trip. You can also wait until you get to the main part of the city you’re visiting to exchange, where you’ll likely find better rates. 

Carry a Prepaid Card 

If you choose to go to your bank and exchange money before leaving, also consider picking up a preloaded currency card as well. This card will help you avoid ATM and overdraft fees, keep a better handle on your spending, and even lock in the exchange rate. If possible, wait until the rate is favorable to load your card — a prepaid currency card will protect you from any rate fluctuations. 

Use a Budgeting App 

Your gap year is all about gaining experiences and creating memories, and sometimes those come at a price. From dinners with new friends, to drinks at a piazza, and excursions through exotic locations, you might see your money disappear more quickly than you anticipated. Using a budgeting app like Mint can help you see exactly what you’re spending your money on and help you make adjustments.

Applying for College After a Gap Year 

At some point, your adventure abroad and gap year has to come to an end. While you may not want to immediately get back into the swing of things, it’s important you take steps to prepare yourself for applying to college upon your return. 

Deferring Your Acceptance 

If you’ve applied to college, received your acceptance letter, and suddenly feel a bit hesitant about to head off to school in the fall, that’s okay. Universities and colleges are more commonly recognizing gap years as a way for students to grow and experience the world. Check with your college’s deferral policy, outline your gap year plans, and share with the admissions board for approval of your request to defer. 

Records and Transcripts

If you choose to take a gap year between high school and college, it is recommended that you discuss with your guidance or college counselor first. While many high schools will have your transcripts and records on file for a few years after graduation, it is important to confirm with your counselor that they will keep these for you. 

Standardized Test Scores

Your test scores will still be valid after you return from your gap year, if you take either the ACT or SAT before you leave. These scores are valid for five years, and you can request score reports through the tests respective websites. If you’re unhappy with your scores, you can always retake the tests — just be sure to continue studying throughout your gap year to ensure you’re prepared.  

Accounting for Your Gap Year

Approximately 40,000 Americans take a gap year between high school and college, so most admissions counselors are familiar with what they entail. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide an account for your year. Whether you choose to write your personal essay about your experience, or submit it as additional information with your application, be ready to clearly explain why you chose to take a year off and what you gained from the experience. 

Additional Resources

If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, there are a lot of factors to consider. It’ll take thoughtful planning, saving and budgeting to ensure you make the most of your time, but it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. By taking a gap year before college, you can grow yourself into a more well-rounded individual and set yourself up for a successful college experience and full life.

Sources 

Year On | Winterline | Go Overseas (1, 2) | Travelex | Forbes | Collegevine | Gap Year Association | HuffPost 

The post The Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Dream Gap Year appeared first on MintLife Blog.

from MintLife Blog https://blog.mint.com/student-finances/guide-to-taking-gap-year/
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Build a Better Tribe, Build a Better World

Women of EO Kimberly SmithIn August 2019, Kimberly Hickok Smith spoke at the MyEO Women of EO Summit in Bogota, Colombia. While sharing her professional journey—from tween entrepreneur to international executive—she also spoke to the audience of men and women about supporting each other and making a difference in the world. 

I was the first elected president of EO and the first chairman of the Global Board. Given that I am also a woman, I guess that makes me the first Woman of EO. I wasn’t the first female member, but I was the first of any gender to hold these important leadership positions—and I believe that says something important about the ethos of EO and how the organization sees everybody as equal and of value.

Living every day

When I was 8, two of my brothers were killed in a car accident at ages 12 and 16. My parents divorced soon after. These events really formed the way I view life. It taught me to live every day in case there is no tomorrow. And I learned to live outside the box and to sometimes breaks rules.

I started my first business when I was 12, Kim’s Katering. I was basically cooking and organizing parties for my mother’s friends, but it grew enough that I had to hire college students to serve drinks because I was underage. At 16, I started a trading company buying and selling art from Brazil and other places in Latin America.

Eventually, I moved to DC to study international relations and languages at Georgetown and completed six months in Brazil for economics. One of my part-time college jobs was as a receptionist for an international trade firm. Within three months I was promoted to vice president and I was hooked on trade. After graduation, I got married and was hired by a big firm.

Then I was in a car accident and I broke my neck. Six months in the hospital changed the way I looked at life yet again—from living one day at a time to looking toward the future. I knew I needed to start my own firm that acted and reacted the way I wanted, that worked to build fair trade in Latin America and Africa.

My mother lent me US$1,000 and I was off! My first contract was in Honduras, and all the bid docs were in Spanish. Imagine my surprise as I translated that among other things I had to purchase 3,000 artificial vaginas—for cows! Getting financing for the contract was a struggle. All the banks said, “you are a 23-year-old girl with a new company; no money for you!” Even so, the company eventually did very well and less than two years later, I was flying my mother to DC to watch me be awarded the exporter of the year award!

UNSDG Finding your people

Intercon International trading and consulting was a force to be reckoned with—that “young blonde woman” traveling all over the world, on the cover of business magazines and doing deals all day on my five-pound car phone. My clients were all in the then “under-developed world” of Latin America and Africa and a typical trip was 16 countries in 18 days. We focused on south-south trade, built technical training institutes, sold Brazilian cattle dip to Somalia, made creams in Guatemala, sold fuel bladders to Zambia and just about all you could imagine.

Days were exciting, hectic and fun but often challenging with no one to talk to or to answer the many questions that arose in my mind every day.

My father, Ray Hickok, also had that need to share with his peers, and he founded YPO around the time I was born. So I saw from an early age the importance of support and camaraderie with like-minded executives who could grow together by learning from each other. I understood the need for a safe space to discuss issues and learn from peers. I also understood that the chances of my qualifying for YPO at that point were slim, and plus I realized that the challenges faced as an entrepreneur, someone who started their own business, are very different from those faced by a hired executive.

By the late 80s, Verne Harnish approached my father about being the honorary founder of YEO (in those days, you had to be Y for young). Dad came to DC to have a meeting. Charming Verne convinced my father, who loved the idea of working with young people with big ideas. As for me, I met all the criteria of YEO—a 20-something-year-old doing more than US$2 million per your year—apart from having at least 15 employees. So they changed the criteria so I could join!

A few months later, Verne was feeling like he wanted to start his own business so he asked me if I would take over the reins and grow the fledgling organization and professionalize it. I said yes.

It was clear that EO could be something of real value and I jumped in to help grow it. Starting by providing space in my corporate “barn,” hiring the first executive director and hosting some of the first international events. I was elected the first president of the organization with my father and about 40 YEO members in the room, which was very special for both of us. I am proud to say we created the succession plan which is now EO Path of Leadership and we also started the Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP) at MIT program, among others.

Kimberly Hickok Smith An evolving tribe

And look at EO now! We’ve had eight women global board members, a female global chair and about 150 women in global leadership. And 1,859 women members!

The growth and development of EO is a beautiful example of how a tribe evolves to meet the needs of its members. The whole MyEO concept and movement is revolutionary and will keep the organization moving forward. Its focus on inclusivity is so important in that we all have so much to share. Your vibe really does attract your tribe.

In the early 90s, I am a 30-something and my business is growing well. EO is growing well. I have two adorable little blonde babes and a house in Architectural Digest. I have it all right? Well, maybe not. Washington DC was all about power and money, and I was very good at these things, but I wanted my children to grow up with different priorities.

With the support and encouragement of my adventurous and innovative EO peers, I decided to follow my dream to eradicate poverty and hunger and move my family to Kenya. I knew that the next three EO chairs were already in place and the management team had things under control. So I sold my EO-eligible firm and began my next journey, which would last until today. I’ve been working all over Africa for economic empowerment and creating solutions one step, one new entrepreneur, one child at a time.

I realized I needed to be purpose-driven not profit-driven. EO taught me the power of coming together and working together, and I have leveraged that knowledge and insight to change mindsets and conduct millions in trade from Africa.

I feel blessed to be a part of so many amazing initiatives—leadership transformation, organizational development, increasing international trade, helping develop self-sufficient associations, creating entrepreneurs and economic growth in 20 countries in Africa. I have realized that my main role is to bring people together to reach consensus, essentially building a tribe around issues that need to be championed for change.

A game-changer for girls

And it must have been a good decision to move my family to Africa because my daughters have returned to Kenya and want to raise their children there. Together, we have started a charity called It’s a Girl Thing, which provides menstrual cups to young girls and their mothers and teachers to enable them to stay in school with a sustainable eco-friendly solution.

In my years of working to eradicate poverty and hunger all over the African continent, our research has made it clear that the biggest economic game-changer is for a girl to stay in school. The UN reckons around 131 million girls worldwide are out of school. In Uganda, one country where I work, there are districts where 78 percent of the children, both boys and girls, between ages 8 and 12 report being sexually abused at school. If a girl can stay in school until high school, she can avoid early pregnancy and she can avoid HIV. Plus, with education, she can go on to a career and become a leader in her community.

My work in this field is one reason that I am so excited about EO working with the United Nations to make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have to remember that these girls I am talking about are part of our tribe and our future. We have the opportunity to do so much work together as a tribe—and some of this work must be to change traditional antiquated “tribal” practices. What are the tribal practices we think of? In Africa it’s marrying girls by kidnapping, selling or raping them, female genital mutilation and male circumcision ceremonies. There are also positive tribal practices in Africa, including caring for the extended family and keeping an open hearth for food.

What are those negative and positive tribal practices in your home country? How can you make a difference? Is there enough love, support, concern, compassion mentoring to build this better world? You know that whatever you can do on your own will be much stronger and better if you find your tribe of like-minded people with the same vision.

kim hickok smithLead the change

Consider this: It’s been proven that trees communicate. They spread their branches just enough to touch each other without taking each others space and their branches become stronger as a result.

Let’s focus our attention on defining and building our tribal vision to build a better world together. Let’s motivate and inspire each other toward our common goals, find our place in the tribe and strengthen our branches.

Our tribe can lead the change and be the change. Women of EO is the tribe that can provide a global platform for mentoring, building, innovating and financing the future we want our children to inherit. Now that EO is back in my life and on my to-do and To-BE list, I’m excited to help build new chapters in Africa.

Together, let’s build our tribe to build a better world.

Learn more about why entrepreneurs choose EO and the MyEO Women of EO group

The post Build a Better Tribe, Build a Better World appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.

from Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization https://blog.eonetwork.org/2019/09/build-a-better-tribe-build-a-better-world/
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10 TED Talks on Minimalism to Inspire You to Spend Less

We’ve all heard the expression “less is more,” and the concept of minimalism embraces that fully. While it is not a new concept, the minimalism trend has gained popularity in recent years,  especially amongst Millennials in the United States. From tiny houses to the KonMari organization method, people are finding unique ways to declutter their lives.

At its core, minimalism is a lifestyle that chooses everything with intent and gets rid of things that cause distraction or serve no purpose. When people eliminate distracting things from their lives, it opens new opportunities to focus on other areas. One area that minimalism can help you refocus on is your finances. With less material items in your life, you can better prioritize how you budget and spend your money.

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle isn’t as simple as throwing a few things away, and it can require a lot of discipline to fully take on. If you’re in need of some extra inspiration to help you embrace minimalism, these TED Talks will help you see the value in it and how it can help you to spend less and begin your path to a debt-free life. Click on the image of any presenter to view their talk! 

Minimalism primarily focuses on decluttering your physical space of material items, and only keeping or purchasing items that provide value to you. In doing this, you free yourself of distractions and the temptation to buy unnecessarily. While minimalism does not stop you from spending money, it can help you shift your focus on more important ways to budget and spend. Over time, the changes in your spending habits by adopting minimalism can add up and make a difference, and you can find yourself in a healthier financial situation. 

 Sources

Money Under 30 | The Balance | Frugaling | Project Hot Mess | Apartment Therapy | The Singju Post | Business Insider | The Moneyless Man | The Art of Letting Go | Getting Rid of 1000 Things | Less Stuff, More Happiness | From Clutter to Clarity | Sell Your Crap, Pay Your Debt, Do What You Love | The Ten-Item Wardrobe | The Less You Own, The More You Have | Get Rid of the Unnecessary to Get Down to Basics | Minimalism – For a More Full Life

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Why You Might Want to Start Paying Your Student Loans in College

When I was 26 years old, I paid off my student loans just three years after graduation. People congratulated me on my task and couldn’t believe how quickly I’d done it, especially since I was only making $30,000 a year. 

But I wasn’t that impressed. I knew how much money I had wasted in college, eating out, buying new clothes.  

When I was in college, I didn’t budget or think much about my student loans. I knew I had “only” taken out $24,000 and wasn’t concerned about paying it back. 

If you ask me what one of my biggest financial regrets is, it’s not paying money on my student loans in college.   

Save on Interest 

The biggest reason to start paying off your student loans while in college is to save on interest.  

There are two types of federal student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. If you have subsidized student loans, you don’t start accruing interest until you graduate. If you have unsubsidized federal loans, the interest accrues while you’re in school and capitalizes or becomes part of the principal.  

Because the interest grows, the amount you originally borrowed can balloon while you’re out partying and skipping classes. Each dollar you repay in college is one less dollar you have to pay after graduation.  

Private lenders may also charge interest while you’re in school, but their policy may vary. You should contact your lenders to see if they do. 

Get in the Habit of Paying 

Even if you only pay $25 a month toward your student loans, starting to make payments will teach you the habit of paying your bills. Personal finance isn’t an innate skill; it’s a series of successful habits. 

If you start paying your student loans while in college, you’ll learn how to manage your money, how much a dollar is worth and how to balance bills with other priorities. You may start to become more motivated to be frugal, live on a budget and focus on early debt payoff.  

It’s much harder to start a habit from scratch than it is to continue one. Even if you slip up and stop making payments for a few months, you’ll still have the experience of doing it. Getting back on the horse will be a lot easier.   

Give Yourself a Head Start 

When you pay your student loans early, you can have the payments applied to the principal or have them count as future payments. If you choose the latter, it will push your next due date. When I was paying extra on my student loans, my soonest due date would sometimes be more than six months away.  

That means that if you find yourself struggling financially, you can take a break from paying your student loans without deferring your student loans or applying for forbearance.  

When You Shouldn’t Pay off Student Loans in College 

There are a few situations when you shouldn’t start repaying your student loans in college. If you have high-interest debt, like a credit card balance or personal loan, you should focus on repaying that before your student loans. 

Look at your other loans and compare their interest rates to your student loan interest rate. If the rate is higher, then focus on putting extra money toward that debt.  

If your savings is below $1,000, you should also focus on building that up instead of repaying your student loans. A basic emergency or rainy day fund is essential because it helps pay for emergencies like a trip to the ER, a visit to the vet, or replacing a flat tire.   

It may be tempting to start paying your student loans, but you really need an emergency fund first. If you have a true emergency, like your car needs a new alternator, you may either go without or resort to putting that money on a credit card. This means you’ll owe interest if you can’t pay that bill in full.  

Be patient and focus on the basic building blocks. Once you have $1,000 in your emergency fund, you can start paying your student loans.  

How to Start Paying off Your Student Loans in College 

First, contact your student loan provider. You may need to create an online account, which can require some official documents and identity verification. The process may vary depending if you’re applying for a federal or private loan. 

If you’re not sure who you owe money to, look at your official credit report. All your lenders should have reported your information to one or more of the three official credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. 

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free credit report. Look up reports from all three credit bureaus, just in case a provider didn’t report your loan to all three.  

If you already have an online account with a lender, go to their website and see if you can start making payments. You may have to call them directly to ask how to begin making payments. Before you do, ask them if that will affect your grace period. You should also ask them if it’s ok to make sporadic payments while you’re in college.  

Next, decide if you want to make manual or automatic payments. If you choose manual payments, you’ll have the flexibility to decide when to make a payment and how much. If you’re buying expensive textbooks one month, you may choose to skip a student loan payment. But if you get a raise from your part-time job, you may increase your payment.  

If you opt for automatic payments, you won’t have to log onto the account every month. Automatic payments are also good because there’s no chance you’ll talk yourself out of paying that money every month. It’s easy to think that you may need money for other priorities instead of your student loans. Plus, some loan providers give you a discount on interest if you set up automatic payments.  

When you start paying off your student loans, you probably won’t see a huge drop in your total balance. Anytime you pay back a debt, the first few year’s of repayment are interest-heavy. Most of your monthly payments will go toward interest, not principal.  

The post Why You Might Want to Start Paying Your Student Loans in College appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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4 Inexpensive East Coast Destinations to Travel to With Your Family

It’s amazing how things change when you have kids. Before kids, weekend getaways and trips were fairly easy. When we needed to take a break, I remember we could look at the calendar and twenty minutes later, have a few dates to run by work for time off.  Even the destinations would already be top of mind and after looking for deals on travel sites and asking around, we’d settle with whatever had the best price. Pretty easy.

Fast forward a few years and now we’re parents of an eight-year-old and a four-year-old.  

Those first few years with our little ones were honestly rough. We’re trying to coordinate between two jobs and one school schedule. It was tough finding the perfect time to take a week or so off. Once we had our dates, we’d then have to make sure that we could find a deal. Thankfully, we’ve gotten a little bit wiser. We found our footing and came up with our little system for timing our vacations and snagging some good savings. We’ve also found some spots that allow us to unwind without breaking the budget 

Affordable Family Vacations to Take This Fall 

While school is back in season, that doesn’t mean you have to write off the rest of the year.  You still have time to take one last getaway to recharge your battery, have some fun, and connect as a family.  

To make things easy for you, I want to share a few of our favorite spots that both we and the kids enjoyed. The cherry on top? They’re also affordable spots!  

Daytona Beach, Florida 

If you’re looking to escape and have some beach time, then Florida is the way to go. However, staying in Orlando is not on the list if you’re looking for a chance to relax and actually save money. Instead, soak up some beach time before the weather gets too cold and hang out for a bit in Daytona Beach.  

When we did our trip last October in Florida, it couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather was still warm, the large crowds of tourists were gone (along with the overpriced hotels), and there were plenty of things to do around.  

Racing fans can enjoy the Daytona International Speedway or if you’re in the mood for stars, you can head over to MOA’s planetarium.  And if your kids really want to visit the Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios, you can make it a more affordable day trip rather than blow your budget by spending your whole time there.  We once went to Universal right after Thanksgiving and were able to skip waiting in line because it was so quiet.  

Charleston, South Carolina 

We took trips to Charleston for the last few Decembers and I have to say, we’ve enjoyed every one. While the temperatures have cooled down a bit, making beach time minimal, we still managed to be out and about. Throw on a jacket, wear your fall layers, and you’re all set to hit the town and enjoy some history and food.  

You have to visit The Tavern at Rainbow Row. Besides being the oldest liquor store in the country, the vibe there is incredible. It’s small, but the selection is wide. Want to have an incredible lunch that’s still cheap? Try out The Blind Tiger. The truffle duck, bourbon bread pudding, buffalo cheese curds are delicious.  

Asheville, North Carolina 

One of our favorite low-key trips we’ve taken was a camping adventure with some friends just outside of Asheville. Being able to see the mountains shift into autumn colors was incredible. If you’re a photographer or love being outdoors, you have to take a trip here. It’s so peaceful and the views are amazing. For the parents, Asheville is the hot spot for fantastic food and a wide array of awesome breweries.   

After spending your days enjoying the parks and maybe getting some tubing in, treat yourself and the kids to Double D’s Coffee and Dessert. It’s a cool double-decker bus in the city that’s also nearby Wicked Weed brewery.  

Tuxedo, New York 

If you absolutely love New York City but also relish some peace and relaxation that a more rural spot gives, then you should check out some of the small towns upstate.   

I may be a little biased since I lived here for a few years, but fall is pretty much the best time to visit. You can truly have the best of both worlds with renting a spot in a town just outside the city.  The Metro-North Railroad means you can take a train to New York City, allowing you to enjoy a scenic ride and skip put on the nightmare of driving in Manhattan.  

Have your day trips to shop, visit the museums, and explore some of the best restaurants. You can then head back to your affordable getaway spot and enjoy some of the local events including celebrating autumn with exquisite apple cider.  

Saving Up for Family Trips 

While you hunt for the deals, you can start now saving up for your trip. You can create a vacation fund as separate savings to keep you motivated.  

Using a tool like Mint makes it easy to track your progress and help you find ways to trim your budget a smidge so you have more money for fun during your trip. Knowing our money leaks allowed us to try some fun monthly challenges to sock away an extra couple hundred dollars.  Keep your vacations debt-free also means there’s less stress as you don’t have to worry about a bill afterward. Double win in my book!  

If you’re looking for tips, please check out my post on how to shift gears and become a savvy saver.  It’s much easier than you think and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in one month.  

Your Take on Family Getaways 

Wherever you go, I hope you have a wonderful time together. Now that you know my favorites, I’d love to hear about your spots.  What have been some of your best vacations together?  

 

 

 

The post 4 Inexpensive East Coast Destinations to Travel to With Your Family appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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