Ball Gowns to Yoga Pants

CHAPTER ONE:

SUCCESS SECRET #2:

Base YOUR Big Crazy Idea on Solving Clients' Problems While Following Your Passion

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is

to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you

do.”

—Steve Jobs, Cofounder, CEO, Chairman Apple Inc.

“Send.” I did it! I hit the send button on my resignation email to the university.

No one believed that I would leave a cushy tenured professor position. After all, I had

been making 6-figures with benefits and respect that I had worked so hard to earn.

Before we go any further, let’s examine the pros and cons of jumping into

entrepreneurship. Please don’t skip this step. Certainly, don’t just up and quit a good job without

thinking it all through! As a friend once said to me, if you have a stable job that allows you to

collect a paycheck and benefits while working your side-hustle, “Ride that bad boy ‘til the

wheels fall off!”

What would the issues be if you left your stable job for entrepreneurship?

1.

2.

3.

Now that we got that out of the way, what would the benefits of being your own boss

and a thriving entrepreneur be?

1.

2.

3.

Let’s look at how I became a CEO. I had a rocky start that forced me into being a

business woman based on my dream of inspiring the world.

Let me lay it out for you . . . after years of writing academic books based on what I taught

my future teachers and leaders from the undergrad to the Ph.D. level, I started writing

inspirational books. The real-life stories were so compelling and inspiring that I was drawn

toward creating a television show based on them.

All was going full steam ahead with my TV show. I had secured sponsorship for the

television show to be produced and distributed, the talk show scripts were created and loaded

into the teleprompters, people were hired, the multimillion-dollar NBC-affiliated studio was

booked, and the guests were ready to fly in from around the globe to my hometown to film.

My sponsors asked for a lot of voluntary work before the actual check would be cut,

though, so I was ready to be the face of a financial institution. They had me do multiple pro-bono

speaking keynotes for their leadership teams, and I hosted women-in-business events, attended

multiple meetings about our sponsoring partnership, and led videotaped focus groups with

respected women from my network. This was all under the understanding that the company was

going to be the lead sponsor for my television show.

Days before I was to hand over the big check to the studio, I received a call from the

financial sponsor. They had decided that they may not get the return on their investment in the

talk show, so they were pulling out completely from the sponsorship.

My heart sank. I just had to figure it out. I didn't consider myself to be a business woman,

but I knew I had to become one quickly, or my dream wouldn’t come to fruition. 

I nervously went into my small local bank alone and sat down with the lead business

banker. I didn't focus on the sponsor backing out; rather, I started telling her some of the stories

of my guests who were going to be on my show and who were in my books. I knew in my heartof-hearts that I was going to make an impact with the show by truly inspiring lives. After she

listened to my story, we both had to wipe away tears that were welling up in our eyes. We both

knew that I was going to reach people with my stories and empower lives.

She no longer looked at me as just an education professor with just a lofty idea. Instead,

she perceived me as a business woman with a plan, purpose, and passion. She made a few phone

calls and secured my first business line of credit. I walked into the studio the next day and

presented them with the full check for 13 episodes of my television show Inspiring Lives with

Dr. Shellie.

I fell into needing startup capital. Take a moment and think through where you could get

money to start your business or fund taking it to the next level if you have been operating small.

• Would you be able to “boot strap” and pay for it with money you had saved? If so,

how much would you have to work with if you did it now? If you resigned in a year?

In two years?

• Would you need a small business loan or line of credit? Check your credit score and

see if you could secure funding through a bank.

• Could someone invest in you? Would you utilize an angel investor (a person who

provides financial backing for an entrepreneur’s startup)? If so, are you willing to

surrender some control and a percentage of the profits to an outside investor?

I turned to the bank for capital to start my television show because it was the only valid

option I could foresee at the time as a brand-new businessperson. And it worked! The shows

included powerful interviews such as the harrowing story of Alicia Kozakiewicz, the first cyber

kidnapping survivor, and how her trauma led to preventative safety education, National Child

Abuse Awareness Month, and effective legislation to keep others safe. Each episode featured

segments like “What’s Inspiring You” and “Gratitude Giving” for products that gave back a

large percentage to a charity.

The socially conscious programing was globally streamed with an active chat room

through a New York City television station that picked up the show. By hosting discussions on

important topics ranging from domestic violence to homelessness in real-time, my audience

grew. I loved having my TV show. I was interviewing fascinating people who had been through

so much, but Inspiring Lives with Dr. Shellie really focused on the guest’s happy endings. I was

telling the stories of people internationally who had conquered their obstacles and gone on to

help others.

Then one day, I went to a seminar for women small business owners. We were all sitting

at round tables in a hotel banquet room. At this point, some of the audience in the room knew me

from my professor position, I was on their TVs weekly, and I was being followed by many on

social media. The hostess of the workshop spotted me sitting there and, with a smile, inquired

into the mic, “So Dr. Shellie, what's new in your very public and perfect life that we are seeing

everywhere lately?”

I burst into tears. (You are probably reading this and thinking I cry an awful lot . . . and

you would be right with that assumption, especially during that time of my life.) I had just gotten

evidence the day before that I would have to divorce my husband. I explained to the crowd that, 

yes, my life is public. But it was far from perfect. That I had just realized I needed to get a

divorce. Also, that I could no longer do my TV show that I loved, because my life was going to

be turned upside down financially and emotionally, and I needed to be there for my children.

Needing to go through a divorce while raising a toddler and a kindergartner, it was so

clear that producing a studio show while maintaining a full-time professor position wasn’t going

to work. I poured myself into parenting and teaching at the university and all the while, more and

more fantastic stories were appearing my life. Stories that I knew needed to be told.

Fortunately, with the guidance of a friend in the media world, I changed my platform to

Empowering Women Radio. I was syndicated to over 120 radio stations internationally. I was

able to tape from my own home on my own time after my kids were asleep at night and then edit

and send out to the radio stations.

Real life happens when we are building a business. And my divorce altered the way I

presented my content and ran my company.

• What personal life challenges have you been faced with lately that could impact

your business in the future? From health issues to relationship insecurities, take a

moment to think how these could affect you.

• Speaking of relationships, how would it affect your partner, aging parents, spouse,

and/or children (if you have them) if you were to leave your current position to

pursue building a company? For example, are they counting on you providing the

health insurance for your family?

Once I had started the divorce process and custody was being smoothed out, I was able to

form some great friendships with the women I interviewed for my radio show. I saw a book

emerging from the stories that were being told to me and my radio listeners. I started to see that

there were common threads between the stories. I earned a sabbatical from the university, and I

dove into writing the book Common Threads based on my radio interviews.

One night, as I was analyzing the tremendous amount of transcripts (over a thousand

pages worth in binder), I was struck with a desperate need to paint. I went to my 5-year-old

daughter's art easel that my father had built for her, and I grabbed her paint brushes and primary

colors.

Lacking a canvas, I pulled a sheet from my linen closet. I was compelled to boldly paint

in three different styles and colors the words “INSPIRATION,” “EMPOWERMENT,” and

“BALANCE.” I stared at the words. Not knowing yet what they meant to me, I cut holes in the

top folded and sewn part of the sheet. Then, I stood on a chair and pulled down the curtain in my

bedroom. I threaded the sheet with the words facing me so I could see them on the curtain rod.

Thank goodness I was newly single, because I am sure that a life-mate would have been

so confused by the scribbled words hung over the big window!

I stared at the sheet with my arms folded and a confused scowl on my face. Finally, oneword sprung to my mind . . .

“Trilogy!”

I needed to create three books based on the 100 top interviews from my Empowering

Women Radio show: Inspiration, Empowerment, and Balance.

As the books were taking shape, I interviewed Wendy Lydon, an awesome business

coach, for Empowering Women Radio. I remember planning out my life from personal to

business goals with her. Then, she had me talk about them and rank my urgency. And she said to

me, “The one dream that you keep bringing up is that you have always wanted to go to Paris. 

Why can’t you make that a reality?” A month later, I was told by my friend about an incredible

yoga and writing retreat in Paris. I decided it was time for me to make it happen.

I booked the Parisian trip, and off I flew during my sabbatical. Writing in quaint cafes.

Meditation and yoga with powerful women. Group writing with intriguing prompts in French

rose gardens and at the base of the Eiffel Tower. It was exactly what I needed to breathe life into

my book series.

At that time in my life, I needed to make my Paris dream come true. It wasn’t until I

wrote down what I needed in all areas of my life that I realized how important this dream had

been to me since I was a young girl. I actually recall being an elementary-aged child and filling

my pockets with quarters. I grabbed a large wide-brimmed hat with black sequins and tulle from

my mother’s costume closet (she ran the local theater and had fabulous dress up pieces). I

walked all the way to the local deli, Lou and Hy’s. I was seated at a table by a confused hostess

who probably thought I looked ridiculous: a child wearing a Kermit the Frog t-shirt, corduroy

pants, and a gigantic black hat.

In my mind, though, I was not in a deli in Akron, Ohio. I was transported to a Parisian

café, and I was ordering my delicious cup of tea with sugar. In my imagination, I was having the

adventure of a lifetime, and I looked so sophisticated to all who saw this mysterious young lady

in the black hat. I had envisioned my Paris writing adventure decades before I ever got to really

experience it!

After I was able to truly journey to Paris and create real memories, I was delighted with

the richness of the experience. My senses seemed heightened, and my writing was improving as I

told the women’s stories in the books.

I was able to follow my heart’s desires, which led me down a winding alley to a vintage

Parisian boutique. I found a 1950s couture gown that I modeled in front of the Eiffel Tower for

the cover of the first book in the series, titled Common Threads: Inspiration. It was a girlie

dream-come-true for me. And this experience foreshadowed modeling in my future as Inspiring

Lives evolved.

Let’s look at what experiences you desire. To open your mind to the possibilities, let’s

look at what your dreams are.

• What experience is on your “bucket list” that you must find a way to make happen?

• Would your current job allow you to attain those dreams on your bucket list? If not,

is there a side-hustle or job that would be better suited for you to check off your

bucket list? (For example, in the book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about

waitressing and bartending jobs that allowed her to write, travel, and not take job

pressures home with her.)

• If you had your dream life and you could travel anywhere and have any experience,

what would it be?

I returned to my Pittsburgh home from my Paris yoga and writing retreat with renewed

energy. I had a burning passion for more travel, though, so I knew it would be difficult to return

to the monotony of teaching the same lesson plans over-and-over for a decade after my

sabbatical. Not to mention following the administration’s strict office hours rules. Or being

discouraged from forming friendships with my students. That was especially tough because I was

forming mentoring bonds with them and was clearly making a profound difference. These things

started to weigh heavily on me. I could imagine what I could do with the freedom to really take

my little Inspiring Lives, LLC to the next level and make it Inspiring Lives International.

Then, when I interviewed Kate Batten out of the United Kingdom, who recorded the15

Minute Motivation podcast, she told me that she was planning a women’s retreat and that all the

ladies would be in a pin-up calendar. I was so in! My dear friend Beth Shari, who is a costume

designer and vintage clothing expert, and I headed to the beaches in California for this trip.

During a group circle beachside discussion, we all said what we would do if we had no

limits. I exclaimed aloud for the first time, “I will quit my tenured professor job. I will make my

book series a bestseller. And I will make my company Inspiring Lives International a huge

success around the world!” And wow did I ever!

• What would you do to become successful if you had no limits?

• What noise in your head is holding you back from trying to reach that limitless

dream?

Right after I made that claim to the women about what I would do with no limits, I

couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth, and with people I barely knew listening to me. I

thought, “My parents would be so disappointed if I quit after I worked so hard to earn tenure.

What if the books don’t sell? What if I am never a real business woman . . . if I am just 'faking it

until I make it,' forever?”

• Do you have “imposter syndrome,” which makes you feel like you will be discovered

as a fraud? Like you are not a true business person, and you will be found out? If

so, take a moment, and write down your deepest fear about this.

• Now, take that fear (such as “I am not a real business woman, and they will find

out!”), and rewrite it for yourself in reverse so you can see it in black and white:

“People will find out that I am a real business woman, and they will want to work

with me!” Type or write this phrase somewhere where you will be able to see it

because you are not an imposter. You, my friend, are the real deal!

I did go back to being a university professor after my sabbatical, but not for long. While I

loved the students, my Inspiring Lives International company was growing. Universities and

companies around the world were requesting me to keynote and inspire their audiences. And I

was getting married to an amazing man who was very supportive of me pursuing my dream

career while raising my children. My three books were launched as Common Threads, the trilogy

in Inspiration, Empowerment, and Balance. All three books made the Amazon International

Bestseller List at the same time! My life had turned around, and I was ready to make the leap of

faith into entrepreneurship full time.

My big crazy idea was that I would be inspiring lives internationally through a

motivational media company. Let’s start brainstorming YOUR big crazy idea! First, evaluate

whether it would be smarter for you to simply buy into a franchise or do network marketing with

a ready-made business that is already pre-branded and established as a business entity. You can

still use this book to enhance that business and yourself leading it, but if you need to discover

your unique idea and make a business from that idea . . . I can’t wait to watch you blossom into a

successful entrepreneur!

• What are you truly passionate about?

• What would your ideal business be based on? What are your skills? Your purpose?

To have a business, you need to create demand. And to get the demand for your product

or service, you need to solve a problem for your customer.

• What problem do you want to solve for people?

• Brain dump all the ideas for a business that you would like to create.

• Write out a one-sentence description of what you would like your business to be.

• What will you name your company? (Pro-tip: Make sure that you trademark it and

legally create a corporation with your name).

Now that you have your basic concept and a name for your company, you are well on

your way to bringing your dreams to fruition, to being your own boss!