September 1, 2020 - As executives, entrepreneurs and leaders, women play a more important role in the economy and the public life of Milford and Connecticut than ever before. With thousands of female leaders, and their numbers are growing daily, there are so many reasons to honor women in business. This month, we will be celebrating Women who Mean Business, their achievements and their commitment to lead by example and encourage others on the path to success. This Week, we are talking with Barbara Alexander, owner of Arts in CT.
How do you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
Consistency and the fight to finish has been my focus in life. It is so important that I make a statement in the world that cannot be erased and leave a legacy for children to be able to make their imprint in life. I believe I got to where I was today through hard work and creating dreams and acting on them. As an African-American, it has been challenging to be an entrepreneur. People can reject you, leaving you wondering why. However, I have to remember why I started this, set my feelings, put the ridicule behind me and press on. I have a mission and I must fulfill it by any means necessary.
What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
Leadership is servitude. The person that is leading should be the biggest servant to the community and the people they are serving. It teaches you how to be humble and listen to the needs of the people so you can be able to be the best servant possible. When I mentor others, I teach them to have full awareness of their surroundings, their territory, and their mission. If they understand all the ramifications, they can be prepared for anything that comes their way.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I work very hard during, before and after the workday, many times stretching into the middle of the night. However, family and friends are very precious to me and it's important to give them my full attention when I am with them. I enjoy the pleasures of life, traveling, food and fellowship in just the state of being.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own businesses.
I would tell a new business owner to write out their plans, write out a second plan for pitfalls and look at the options all around them. Make sure to maintain a full-time job, while building their businesses because they are going to need the financial support. Ensure they have a great mentor, seek out available grants and build a good supportive team. Especially if you are a minority, you will have to develop a thick skin to be in this race. This race as an entrepreneur is not always fair, even though Black Lives Matter. Remember to consider all avenues without them compromising yourself and your values.
What is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
We should have equal pay just as our counterparts do. A lot of times when they find out that woman is at the helm, we get a lot of resistance and slack. We have to be smart, think two steps ahead and know our gifts will make room for us.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
If I was a young person and I knew then what I know now, I would have tried to interns at different corporations throughout high school and college. Internships give the best hands-on training and insight into a corporation and how the day-to-day operations work.
What are the female leaders do you admire and why?
First would be Lady Obama, "When they go low, you go high!" She teaches you not only how to deal with opposition but how to be tactful in your response. You need to respond and not react. Oprah Winfrey showed me that I can do anything I want to do if I put in the work. It is as if she drew on the canvas and then she started activating the colors in this canvas until it became her life. I admire my former pastor, Dr. Kim Carmichael. She has since passed but she was a leader not only in the church but also in the business world. She taught business ethics in the church that I took with me to build the basic principles in my organization that were lessons taken from the Bible. You would never think that you can go to church and get the best leadership in the world. They'll teach you how to build corporations and then brand them. I remember one of the last sermon she preached and she said, "What Will You Be Remembered For?" I won't forget that.
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