When we look at entrepreneurs, we tend to wonder what or who inspired them to take on so much ownership. Was it a family member? Was it a teacher? Did they just wake up one morning with an entrepreneurial mindset? Every child has been asked the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? We asked some of Farmville’s own female entrepreneurs to see what they wanted to be versus what they are doing with their lives today.
Terri Atkins Wilson said at the age of 13 that she wanted to be a CPA. At the age of 16, she wanted to become an attorney. Her dreams came true, and she is now known as Terri Atkins Wilson, P.C., owner of her own law firm on Main Street in Downtown Farmville. As a little girl, she looked up to her father, Landon G. Atkins, who she says was a very successful business owner. A quote that inspires her from Star Wars is “Do or do not. There is no try,” from the wise Yoda. Wilson believes that young entrepreneurs should find a mentor in their field. She recommends, Listen to their guidance and watch their actions.”
Melissa Wheeler is the owner of Penelope, Inc. When she was a little girl, she wanted to be a ballet dancer or a professional cheerleader. Her role model is her mother, Penelope Searcy. Wheeler proclaims, “Not only can my mother do anything and everything, mom built Penelope, Inc. with a very low start-up investment into a successful ten-store chain (including Penelope.com), all the while continuing to always make time for our family and serve in her local church. Now in retirement, serving God and caring for her family are her full time jobs.” When we asked Wheeler, what is one piece of advice she would give to a potential female entrepreneur, she shared, “Don’t be fooled into thinking that running your own business is going to be easy. Success requires a lot of work and dedication. A lot of people mistakenly believe that by owning your own business you can just work when you want to work. At times, it probably is more flexible than working for someone else but when it is your business, it is ever-present. Every problem is your problem, whether you are planning to work that day or not, someone has to deal with it.” And, deal with it she does! A visit to Penelope, Inc. in Downtown Farmville is a lovely experience. Not only can you find the latest in on-trend ladies fashion, but the customer service and personal attention is also top-notch.
Bridget Flannagan is the owner of A Great Escape Spalon. She wanted to be a Naval Officer when she was a little girl. Flannagan’s role model was her father. No matter what adversity her father faced in life, he always put family first and found a way to make things work. We asked Flannagan what her favorite inspirational quote was, and she said, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words only when necessary.” It has been attributed to St Francis of Assisi, though that is disputed. Flannagan went on to share that this quote resonated with her because it was basically saying to live what you say you believe in. In other words, your actions should speak for you. Don’t be a hypocrite. She tries very hard to live up to that concept. If Flannagan had to give advice to a potential female entrepreneur, she said it would be that “People will call you ‘bossy,’ but your male colleagues will be called ‘go getters’ (and other various comparisons). Just keep being professional, give it your all, and your work will eventually speak for itself.”
Pam Butler, owner of Mainly Clay, wasn’t too sure if she wanted to grow up. She declares, “It was such fun playing outside all day in a neighborhood with woods, a pond, and a bunch of dogs, cats, and kids.” Butler’s inspiration was her dad, J. Pat Williams, an optimist, a person who valued others, dealt honestly in business and shared generously. Butler shared that her dad was most enthusiastic, and great fun, with a positive attitude, illustrated by his joyful whistling. My family has often commented that the sun always shone on my Dad. He would often remind us that, “It is a wonderful day out there; enjoy it!”
“I have decided to stick with love, Hate is too great a burden to bear,” a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., is Butler’s favorite inspirational quote. Lastly, we asked Pam, what piece of advice she would give to a potential female entrepreneur? She said, “Practice ‘stick-to-it-ness’ –don’t give up, push through and listen to your heart.” Those are wise words from this creative, successful, and thoughtful female entrepreneur.
We round out our interviews with small business owner, Michelle Walters, owner of Island Glow Sunless Tanning and Beauty. Michelle had a long list of childhood dreams with regards to what she wanted to be when she grew up. Flight Attendant, Florist, Lawyer, and Hair Stylist were occupations that Michelle thought about as a child. Female entrepreneur, owning Farmville, Virginia’s first spray tanning salon, was what she actually became, and we are thrilled!
Michelle was lucky enough to have two strong female role models in her life. One fit in the mom role and the other served as her business coach. Fun fact: Michelle began her work in the beauty industry by selling Mary Kay products. Michelle is faithful in spirit and feels that no matter what, God is the one who blesses her with everything. She shared a favorite scripture with us. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17.
According to a 2020 study done by Fundera, men receive an average business financing loan size of $43,916 while women only receive $38,942, which is about $5,000 less. The US has 12.3 million women owned businesses, which totals up to 40% of US businesses. Fun fact, there are 114% more women entrepreneurs than there were 20 years ago.
Every little girl has a dream job or something they really want to be when they grow up. Even if your dreams change and life takes you on a different course, remember never to have “ I can’t” in your vocabulary. It does not belong there because ladies, you are unstoppable!