This month, we are celebrating the strong, independent and loving women in our lives! Happy Women’s Month!
We interviewed Alaskan Women in Business and asked what it took them to succeed in the paths that they have chosen. Even in this age, women still do face unique challenges in the corporate world.
So, let’s dive into the colorful worlds of these ladies!
Christina Gamache is the owner of Audax Wealth Management. She does financial planning to business owners, combining business and personal finances.
Michele Girault is the Executive Director of Hope Community Resources, a local nonprofit, based in Anchorage. They also have offices throughout the state providing support to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as mental health challenges.
Shannon Martindale Is with Five Rings Financial. Their vision is to help the middle-class Americans get out of debt and grow their hard-earned wealth. They promote financial education through events like Money 101, Wine Women & Wealth, and Mommy Money and Me. The events teach wealth tips and financial education that is not taught in our local schools or communities. We find out where people are at whether it is personal or business and help move them forward into their financial and retirement goals.
Ohenewa Anno is the Founder of BrushPic, a digital marketing and design services agency.
Julia Tenison is the owner and creator of an online news website called Anchorage Good News, a very local and focused news site. It is an idea that came to her when she was in college. She thinks that it is beneficial to any town, but particularly to Anchorage with the changing economy over the last several years, to be able to get good news about where they live. To help people feel good about where they live. She has been on YouTube and Facebook for over 3 and a 1/2 years.
As an empowered female leader, what has been the most challenging part of your business?
Christina: Mostly I think the most frustrating part is finding qualified help. Right? It’s probably the same as many other businesses today. Finding the right person to do the right job for my business has been difficult. And thank goodness, I found you. One other thing, I checked off my list.
Michele: I’ve been in this business for decades, but the last couple years have probably been the most challenging in terms of the pandemic variables and workforce shortage, which existed prior to the pandemic. But I think developing workers that are talented and invested in helping people, and assuring that they have a living wage has been one of the biggest challenges.
Shannon: It has been fun getting out there and helping to give back to other women through financial literacy and education to really help them further understand and empower them to move forward. The hard part but most exciting part is moving out of the corporate JOB and into an entrepreneur roll where I can be authentic and deciding what that would look like and being consistent with it.
Ohenewa: Time management or Management of activities. That has been very important and challenging to master.
Julia: The most challenging part of my business has been able to distinguish content that I create as unique and adding value to people’s lives. There’s a lot of news out there that’s based on fear and war, and people have become very accustomed to hearing that. As one classmate of mine said to me years ago, ‘I am far too obsessed with the bad news to want to pay attention to the good news’.
What do you think helped you the most to make your business successful as a woman?
Christina: I originally thought that having to go remote would be a challenge for my business. But I actually think that in hindsight, it has been good for me to go with because I’m able to flex really quickly, whereas if I had stayed in corporate, it would have been a little bit more difficult for me to meet my clients.
Michele: That’s a really good question. I think that I fell in love with this work kind of by happenstance; I was invited to work at a small institution in California by a college friend. It wasn’t a path that I chose. But I fell in love with the work and the people. So I think realizing that disability justice was something I had a passion for was something that helped me stay grounded in the work. And it was realizing that it’s a marathon, not a sprint , that social change takes investment of time and effort. Seeing and surrounding yourself with people that share that passion has been really important. I think having the social support of others, has kept me upright and moving forward.
Shannon: My husband and I went through a time in our marriage where we were having financial struggles and had a difficult time being able to communicate to one another about financials. We were in debt and to get out of debt you had to have those conversations to learn how to make some kind of agreement on how we will allocate our money. It is in my heart that there are other families out there that have some of those same struggles, and they just need a hand up to help work through those difficult conversations and times they may be currently facing. Given we have experienced trying times and have recovered too, I can give hope to other women, relationships, or families out there.
Ohenewa: As a woman, just looking to learn from others’ mistakes or other women and just from other people. Learn from their accomplishments and learn from their mistakes has helped me the most in making my business successful.
Julia: I care about other people and want to nurture them in ways because I’m a mom. I’m able to look at situations and see good stuff. Not necessarily Iook at the bad stuff that’s going but this is a good side of it. Just to be able to see good news that is happening amongst all of the bad stuff that is happening out there.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known earlier?
Michele: I think it’s important to this business when you are connected to state funding and legislative issues. I think I wish I had developed personal relationship with legislators earlier in my career. I’ve got that now, but I think not being afraid to do that, to realize that legislators or elected officials work for me. I think sometimes people put them on a pedestal; and it’s too far away. I think leveraging those relationships for the good of the people that you’re supporting is really important, whether it’s a state level or a federal level- those representatives are working for you.
Shannon: That I am capable of being an entrepreneur and not have to have a status within a company in order to be successful! I use to look at a beautifully dressed woman and think “oh they have it all together” when in reality they have a story where they had to work through junk or struggle’s to get where they are or, possibly they have not made it there and creating an outside identity. Everyone has their own struggles just as you or I may be going though, and it is OK to experience them. They are lessons for your growth, not to be a disappointment to you.
Ohenewa: The way women relate to each other and the chemicals that it produces within them. If I had known that earlier, I might have taken a deeper dive into the psychology of women and just people and understanding how they function on a fundamental level. This is not related to business. This is just something that I’m interested in.
Julia: My biggest mistake has been being far too timid about asking for financial support. As in approaching people about ads or going after financing campaigns through online services such as Patreon. Also, being far too concerned about what other people think about me, which is something I think women struggle with more than men.
What’s your style in leading your team?
Christina: I don’t know what my leadership style would be. But I do know that the last two years have taught me to lead with a lot of grace and forgiveness of life happen and there’s not a whole lot that we can control sometimes just understanding that people are human, and they make mistake. And really just seeing that they are not just vendors or customers or partners, that we’re all people at the end of the day.
Michele: I think I’m probably known to be a collaborative leader, to pull people in and use the gifts and talents of others. And I think that really shepherding and acknowledging the gifts and talents of others and letting them shine. is I think we all shine brighter when we stand in the light of others. So that’s been my style.
Shannon: Everyone has their own learning styles and what connects in order to move them forward in their growth. I have great interest in learning their style of learning, whether it is hands-on or reading and try to lead them in that direction other than doing what worked for me.
Ohenewa: My Leadership Style is really to provide direction and opportunity for people to grow into a better version of themselves. Come equipped and to give people the opportunity to just take the lead themselves with a little guidance. So I just want everybody to feel strong enough and capable enough to accomplish what everyone is trying to do for the whole team. And my style is to hand the tools over that allow people to blossom into their own stronger version.
Julia: I work alone most of the time. I do have a camera operator that I work with recently. For me, it’s about communicating the purpose and intent of the work as much as possible so that he understands and know what’s expected of him.
What are your biggest sacrifices in making your business successful?
Christina: Sacrifice? I think my biggest sacrifice was giving up my cushy corporate job. Okay, I had a very cushy job. And that was the biggest sacrifice. But looking back, it’s not so much of a sacrifice when I see what I’ve built.
Michele: Well, I think it’s interesting we’ve talked a lot at about work life balance at Hope. I think that throughout a career when you’re working in a field that’s 24/7 it never stops, you know. I was planning to go into a teaching career and there are moments where the world stops, you get a holiday vacation or a summer vacation. But when you work in residential services or services to people, it’s nonstop. So I think that there have been some sacrifices of personal /family time. But I think for me, it’s been a choice not a sacrifice. For me it’s something that I have chosen- to blend my passion for what we do with my personal life.
Shannon: What I am doing right now! Getting out, meeting people, and starting from the ground up to really grow the roots and make an ultimate foundation for itself. Just like the oak tree, the roots grow miles wide below the surface before you see the sprouts of your hard work.
Ohenewa: Time has been my biggest sacrifice. I’ve put in tons of time: everyday, year after year, in order to take my business to the next level.
Julia: Being able to communicate with people and my family and keep connections on a personal level long distance. Because something’s always happening or something’s going on or I need to keep my eye on the ball then I have a tendency to let communications with my family go.
Who are there female leaders or mentors that you look up to? What did you learn from them?
Christina: Many? Yeah, when I was in corporate, I did not have any bosses that were female for my entire career of over 20 years. And so when I left to start my own business, I actively sought out women mentors. And I have two mentors now. One is her name is Teresa Jacobson. And she is with JW Industry Group over in Anchorage, and she is fantastic! And then I also have a woman by the name of Holly Donaldson who is also a financial advisor, but out of Florida.
Michele: I think that there are. It’s interesting that a loved aunt just passed away, and her name is Emily. She was definitely a mentor, but her peer group is Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Betty White, you know, icons of their generation. I am a fan of Michelle Obama. Somebody said, “if you could have lunch with anybody, who would you choose”? For me it would be Michelle Obama, I so respect her and how she walks through the world. But I think, women who have stood for justice, stood for the rights of women, love animals, those types of things have always been something I look up to, and I’ve learned from.
Shannon: I am passionate about personal development. I have worked harder on myself than anything through personal development. I was invited years ago to attend a weekend conference called Dani Johnson. This wonderful lady had personally gone through a lot of junk. She does an amazing job teaching people to use that just as lessons, not as a downer or cause misery in your life. Through her work and my intentional studies, I believe that is what played a huge role of who I am today. I continue to work on personal development today. It will be an important role in my life forever!
Ohenewa: Female mentors I look to for guidance on how to be the most holistic version of yourself, like I actually am inspired by Bjork, the musician, because she’s a truly authentic woman and successful too. In terms of leadership, from the woman in my life, my mother and I suppose from the other close women I personally know. I learn from what they gained over the years and how to just make better choices and just be a great person and help others. A community is a big thing for women and that’s part of why I’m interested in highlighting women this month to connect with community on a higher level.
Julia: I have seen Laurie Brewer who is owner operator of Caffé D’arte here in Alaska and very much respect how she runs her very successful coffee business. I learned from her what it is to be able to look around to see good resources and learn how to utilize them, specifically to let her compassion work in her business. To help other women who have been in very unhealthy positions in life, be able to have an opportunity to improve their life.
How do you use your influence to help other women who are in business too?
Christina: So right now I’m serving as a committee member for Alaska behavioral health, and they’re doing a project partnership with the Steven A. Cohen clinic. They provide mental health services for veterans and their family. I’m also on the board of directors for the Alaska Women’s Leadership Forum.
Michele: Just that idea of, there’s so much more work to do worldwide and elevating women. We have a staff member or a previous staff member at home that’s doing filmmaking that’s elevating women; the issues are shining the light on issues for women in other countries. And I think that, working together continuing to elevate whether it’s pay equity, whether it’s access, whether it’s education in developing countries that that those of us that have that don’t walk out the door, being afraid of going to work or having a job or being able to drive a car need to support the women of other countries where that’s that freedom does not fully exist yet.
Shannon: Being an example of taking a leap of faith and getting out there, being authentic of whom God made you. Within our community of events, we host is Wine Women and Wealth. At this event we are pouring into the women of personal development, mindsets, and being the hub for ladies to further grow in all areas of their life. This event is monthly and has been so powerful amongst the group!
Ohenewa: This is one of the ways that I’m hoping that I can influence other women by just sharing stories in the city that I’m in at the moment. BrushPic is a worldwide company, but I am currently in Anchorage and I want to share with my present community on what other women and business owners are doing.
Julia: One of my most recent stories has been about Lady Snow Meditation. It’s run by Lady Snow Mustang, who is a local businesswoman with a YouTube feed that runs weekly. She does meditation now, wants to teach it in the future, but she’s starting with talks about encouraging self-improvement and handling domestic problems.
What’s your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Christina: So if they say: if you find something that you love to do, then you never have to work a day in your life. We’ve all heard of that. Yeah, yeah and it’s so true. But at the end of the day, where a lot of women, business owners, I think they just recognize that owning a business is just one way that we can take care of the people and the things that we love. I mean, to an end. So fine, if you can find that means to an end, that’s great. But if you can make it so that it’s fun for you, then it makes the entire tedious thing, not so difficult. And then also just networking, and nobody likes networking. They always say, Oh, I have to go to another networking event. But really, it’s just getting to know people, and not really asking them to help us, but kind of figuring out how you can help that person that you’re moving. Can you connect with that person too? What resources can you share with that person? Because that’s going to build up your community faster than you ever thought possible.
Michele: I think that the generation of today has so much more expectation for good, maybe than women of previous generations. I walked through a world where there’s been disparity in income for many years: recognizing that men were making more than I was just because they were men. So I think to stand up for yourself, value your talents; use other women to collaborate with and to be fearless. That’s probably not a message that’s new for the women that are coming up today. They’re much more. There’s been a good track laid by women of my generation and the generation ahead of me to say you are somebody, you are a big deal and walk through the world with your head up.
Shannon: Go do it. Go give it a shot. You will be blessed time and time again for giving back into God’s country and helping his children grow. Alling you to work for yourself as an entrepreneur gives you time and grace of freedom. Or for the lifestyle that you want to live. Whether you are raising a family or you are trying out what your purpose is in life. The more you get out and exercise your own business that you are working to build, you will either resonate with it and be passionate about it or it’s just not your cup of tea.
Ohenewa: Do what you love because then you don’t have to work a day in your life. But do what you’re passionate about because there’s a huge satisfaction in seeing something beautiful coming from your passion because your passion is a gift to everybody. So that would be my advice.
Julia: For any young women out there that want to become entrepreneurs I would suggest… First of all, be OK with who you are. Who cares about what other people think about you, just bring your best to the table and be OK with who you are. Secondly, if you haven’t had any kind of financial background experience or taking any classes in finance and business, take a few. Get to know someone really well that has a business and pick his or her brain a little bit about what it takes realistically to run a successful business
Michele’s interview highlights can also be watched here:
We do hope that you enjoyed these interviews as much as we did! Always remember that you are not alone. Women from all walks of life are now helping and collaborating with each other to strengthen each other’s businesses.
If you need more guidance on what to do, BrushPic is always open for a conversation.
No strings and no pressure. Let’s just sit for a few minutes and see where it leads us!
Audax Wealth Management
Hope Community Resources
Five Rings Financial
Anchorage Good News