Monthly Archives: March 2017

Episode 30: Repurpose Your Past for Future Success, with Meshell Baker



Good afternoon everyone, my name is Lynn S. Evans and I am the host of Power of the Purse podcast. 

There was a time in my life not long ago when I believed three things about money. One, women are not supposed to talk about or be included in any conversations about money. Two, women don’t have the natural ability to understand anything about money. And number three, men know best how to manage money. 

And those truths I made up about money guided me for years, until I realized money was not a foreign language or some other obscure academic exercise. And it was something I could not only understand, but teach to other women. 

Too many times I’ve heard stories from women who ought to know better about money but didn’t, until they were forced to, because of divorce, widowhood, job loss or the approach of retirement.

This podcast will add another chapter to a rich history of women who, when faced with some personal challenges, found the ability to step beyond them. We’ll examine some of the truths they made up about money from their life experiences, and how that shaped the paths they chose. My mission is to help women have a healthy, positive relationship with money. With that in mind, my guest today is Meshell Baker. 

Meshell is the congruency catalyst, a highly engaging and captivating international speaker, purpose coach, trainer and well-respected teacher of vision. Her mission is to empower as many as possible to experience joy and excitement for their lives. She does this through the unique vision development process. 

Meshell’s clients move from uncomfortable to uncompromising by creating successful vision and mission strategies that increase revenues, build social awareness, and become key players in their communities.

Welcome, Meshell.

Thank you Lynn. This is so wonderful to be here, and an honor to be speaking with you today.

Well, thank you. I really think that from everything I’ve heard of you, everybody just praises you to the hilt and talks about you with an energy force that’s probably greater than gravity. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have a suspicion it may be.

Let’s talk first about your business. I’m interested in knowing how you picked the term “congruency” in the first place.

How does congruency work in with what you do?

Congruency is a fancy word for alignment. And I have the gift for alliteration, so what I found was that people really got that energy, that excitement, and go into action when they were around me.

My clients, they take off. I watch their trajectory change. So I started with a couple of different iterations, vision, development, and action, catalyst. And then we came with congruency because I just needed to have alliteration.

Okay, so the congruency catalyst. I love it, I’ve never heard anything like that before. But I think it’s a … when I read it the first time, my question was, “What does that mean?” And you just explained it.

So I guess it’s not so much the title but the results.

It is indicative … I help people to go and align their belief and behaviors so they can have a better life and a better business.

And what inspired you to do this?

Well, when I stepped into entrepreneurship, I was coached that everyone is an expert in something already. So it’s that question, what is the number one question you are asked? And the number one question I’ve always been asked was, how do you do that? And I would go, “Do what?” And they were like, “How do you do you? You’re the same person all the time. Everything rolls off you like water off a duck’s back. How do you do that? How are you always smiling? How are you always happy?”

And that’s what I found was, as I sat with self and journaled and did some internal work, I’m like, “Yeah, I guess that is a good question.”

And I found that it’s because I have a clarity of purpose, which gives the mind’s eye a picture to where I want to be. And I don’t let outside circumstances deter me, distract me, delay me or deny me from what I know that I’m capable of doing.

And what is that purpose that you’ve discovered?

So, my purpose is to empower as many people as possible so that they can experience joy and excitement. My natural gift to the world is that I am a relentless optimist. I actually basically help people repurpose their past. The number one reason I see that my clients are struggling is they talk about stuff they didn’t have or they didn’t get, or disappointments, or what they can’t do.

And I talk all of that energy, it’s like buckshot. It’s like they’re spraying buckshot, and I get it to the laser focus of what I call the sniper scope. And then when you take all that energy, you’re already doing something. Because I don’t move parked cars, so you need to be in motion and take all that energy, and focus it on one destination.

My question always is, how many places can you arrive at once? And they say one. I say, so why are you trying to arrive at 10?

That’s a good question. I like that one. It kinda helps people say, “Yeah, where have I been scattering all of my focus and my energies, when the reality is that if I can focus on one thing and get that done, boy, I’ll be happy. That would be a nice thing.”

So how do you help people find that focus?

I’m a person of faith, and I tell people I’m not a religious snob. You can call on God, I’ll call on my universe’s divine spirit, the goddess, whatever you call  there’s a higher power. And something that’s out there, the universe, that wants to work on your behalf. So what I do is I ask the question, how can I most efficiently help people do this? Because we’re all squirrels, there’s so much grabbing at our attention right now.

So how do I capture someone’s attention and help them get focused and stay focused? Acquire that focus, and then maintain it for the long haul. I’m a true believer that purpose in life, anything good, it doesn’t come in a tuxedo with a red carpet and a limo. It comes with an overall, a pickax and shovel, and a pickup truck. It’s work.

Oh, that’s good. There’s a visual. I like that.

It’s work. So the question that I help my clients answer is, what would you do if you knew you would not fail? That generally uncovers their elephant. And some people don’t even have an answer to that, because they’ve never really thought about it, they’ve been spending their life doing what they thought they should do, what they ought to do, or doing for other people. So sometimes it takes them more work just to find the answer to that question.

Yeah, that is a great question. And I think it’s one of those questions that you say to yourself, why didn’t I think about that before? Because that really does uncover all the noise that’s there, about why it is that you can’t do that particular thing that you want.

And I think failure is the thing that’s usually thrown up in our face as the reason why we shouldn’t do this. We hear all of the naysayers about, “Well, did you think about this? Did you think about this? Because if you do this, you can’t have that,” and blah blah blah.

Much of what I do and have been doing, is working with women who are close to retirement. You can’t imagine all of the reasons why I hear about, “I can’t do this.”

And it’s all stuff about, “What if this happens? What if that happens?” And that’s a great question to ask them. What would they do if they knew they couldn’t fail?

Because I think that would open up the doors for so many people to just really live a very rich and joyful life in so-called retirement. And it’s a great question. I really appreciate that. 

Let me ask you something else. I know that you’ve had a very interesting childhood in the sense that it caused some defining moments for you as you experienced things as a teenager. So would you share some of that with our listeners?

Oh, absolutely. My life is an open book. When I was younger, my grandfather was a sharecropper in Louisiana who actually bought his property and was well known for his fruit and vegetable stand. And my father later took a turn, and he owns a small business.

So I had an entrepreneurial spirit in me, but parents divorced, was raised in not the greatest neighborhood, urban environment. But I had three businesses when I was 13. Babysitting, baking and sewing.

Tell me about that baking one, because I’m fascinated by that. How did you get that started, and how did you find the people to sell the baked goods to?

So I started with the Easy Bake oven.

Get out. Did you really?

I got an Easy Bake oven as a little girl and I just found I love to bake.

Oh okay, I thought you were telling me you were baking those things in an Easy Bake oven. That would be an amazing thing to see. So that’s what got you started. So then from there?

I found that as any child looking for affirmation and affection, I really enjoyed baking. And I had a natural gifting for it, and it really made people happy. I saw that baked goods really brought about joy.

Being in such a tumultuous upbringing, I was just thirsting as the oldest sibling to try to make the parents and the adults around me happy, because when the adults were happy, it made life easy for us.

Yeah. So what were your favorite things that you baked?

My favorite things to bake were cookies and cakes.

And what were your best sellers?

Pardon?

What were your best sellers?

Probably my chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.

All right.

Yeah. Oatmeal raisin, with or without nuts, and chocolate chip with or without nuts, were my best sellers.

That’s great.

And my mom worked at the phone company, she was a manager of operators. So I took a three-ring binder, took a Ladies’ Home Journal and a Good Housekeeping, and created a book. Half of it was pages and made prices, stuck it on. Half the book was where you could order, and the second half was placing your order.

So she was home on Wednesdays, and she delivered the goods on Fridays.

That’s great. Well obviously you had an assistant to help with all this.

Yeah.

So that’s what made it work, I suppose, because you had the audience to sell to. But what was the third thing you said you had as a business?

Babysitting and then sewing. All the women in my family, we know how to sew. Tailoring, it’s one of those things that we don’t even know why. It’s kinda like that story, they cut off the end of the hand, you don’t know why, you just do.

Yeah. So then what happened after you had all these businesses? How old were you then?

Well, my mom was challenged between boyfriends or whatever was going on. A lot of stuff was going on in the household that probably shouldn’t have happened. And I just got tired … I got really frustrated where I was. There was no one who spoke thoughtful, kind things.

And all my friends in the public school system, everyone around me teased me. They made me feel really bad because I had all these endeavors. Like why are you doing it? That’s so stupid.

And at 13, it requires someone, an adult, to come in and really help a child understand that what people are saying to you don’t matter, to tell you why it doesn’t matter. And to really just help you step outside of your circumstances.

So I gave up, I just stopped. I don’t even remember when I stopped, or why I stopped. I just know that at one point, I just got tired of being teased and being different, so I just gave in and did what the crowd did. And by the time I was 20 years old, I was incarcerated.

Incarcerated for what?

Grand theft larceny.

Oh. That’s good. I know how that happened, so why don’t you tell everybody what the circumstances were?

I actually worked at a store, and it was some fraud involved, but we were stealing stuff from the store we worked at. Me and a couple of colleagues, we were actually stealing, we were straight-up stealing, and using other people’s credit cards to do it.

So once you were caught and sent to jail, where was the moment where you just said, “I’m not gonna live like this at all anymore, I’m gonna change what I’m doing.”

How did that happen?

Once I got into jail and started meeting the other prisoners and realized that if I thought I was weird before, or out of place before, I was really out of place.

You were out of place because why, a different set of values than they did?

A different set of values and just vocabulary, spoke a lot different than everyone there.

Uh-huh. I can almost hear that now, I’m sure.

Yeah, so that was the first time when I sat and created this business. I realized that was the first time I experienced the power of vision. In my mind’s eye, all I knew is that when I got out of there, I wasn’t going back and I was willing to do whatever it took no matter what.

To me, when you get into proper purpose, and vision and power that will propel you past obstacles, hurdles, naysayers, critics, your fears, doubt, is when you get to that no matter what.

And what was the purpose? You’ve mentioned what you thought your purpose was. But how did you corral that into a business? What was your thought about how you’re gonna create a business out of that purpose?

When I stepped out of corporate, it was to be my sister’s live in aide and caregiver. I had a six-figure salary as a biotechnology consumables and bench top instruments rep for a company, a very Fortune 500 company. I was a travel rep, executive, 80 percent travel, 10-state territory doing exceptionally well.

But I saw my sister was struggling and living with our parents, and I had her come down to Austin to attend an adult program here. And I just realized once she was here, what was I gonna do, send her back? It just didn’t seem right. So I stepped out. And I understood SMART goals, so I went and started Googling goals and purpose, because I heard someone speak at a networking event, and I heard them talk about purpose was a perpetual goal. And that when you chase stuff in status, you want to get a house, you want to get a promotion, you want to get …

It’s all, once you get there, it’s almost like you’re depressed. When you’re a high-drive person, that when you know your purpose, everything else is just part of that. You’ll never have the ups and downs…you’ll just be in constant momentum. And I was like, that’s what I want. I want to be in constant momentum. Because I knew and had experienced momentum, but it was for stuff in status.

Yeah. And then you developed a vision, a process?

I went and saw a vision board, and I looked at what they said. Basically everything I pulled down was telling me to put everything on a board, which was more stuff in status. So I didn’t like that, so I thought about how I had lived my life, which was being a person of value. My mantra is, “You will be better off for having met me, period.”

Oh, that’s wonderful.

My circumstances don’t get to dictate that. It’s the inside job. So I took the process of who I was and what the number one question people ask me, and I added to it. So the board that people create is simply the visual manifestation of who they’re going to become and the things they’ll acquire on that journey. It’s not about them going to get a house and a husband. It’s about who they’re going to become, and understanding that you’re not getting a husband, you’re creating a marriage. You’re not getting a house, it’s a home for you and your family, where you will be an incredible wife and mother.

So I’m very clear on that in my workshop.

Do people struggle to find what that purpose is?

Oh dear god, yes. And that’s why I ask as part of my purpose, how can I help more people? How can I get clear on how to create something that would help people get there quicker, or more efficiently, or have a better understanding? So this is where I’m setting off the next year, on an RV.

I purchased an RV. It’s gonna get wrapped and I’m going around the country, cause I just really want to speak to more people in person and understand why there’s such a struggle for purpose.

If you do that, what happens with your commitment to your sister?

Oh, my sister … oh my god, please. We could have a Sophie’s Choice crying moment on that one.

My sister was actually the one who planted the seed.

Really?

She’s the one in the living room and said, cause she’s seen me be up all night. “Go to sleep,” and I’d be there prepping, and she’d wake up, and she knows I love to drive, cause I’ve driven her on many trips and taken her on many places because her sight is dissipating, so I’m trying to help her create as many memories as possible.

So she said, “Man, you love to drive, you love to travel, you love working with people. Why don’t you just get one of those RV things and travel around the country and do that?” And then she walked out the room. So matter-of-factly.

She dropped a bomb in your lap.

It was like a mic drop moment, I kid you not, Lynn. And she walked out.

So I went in her room, and I was like, “Oh my god, that’s brilliant. Where did you get…”

And she said, “Well, you gave me one of these Dream Big boards, and I look at it every day.” She’s like, “Go for your dream.” She’s like, “What? I’m doing what you told me to do.”

She was just so…

That’s funny. I love it. So is she coming with you?

No, she has disabilities that require that she always be in close proximity to a major healthcare center. So unfortunately … she went with me to pick it up, and I could see how much … so I’m gonna try as much as possible to take her to some places that aren’t too far off the grid, but she can’t actually be with me at all times. Oh god, I wish.

Well now, how is that gonna work when you drive a bus into Chattanooga, Tennessee, and you park it somewhere? Are people gonna know that you’re coming? How are you gonna get people to come onto the bus, the RV?

Well, it’s actually an RV, so it’s a conversion van, I don’t have an actual bus yet, that’s the goal. The name is actually, I bought the URL, and the hashtag,  I’ve got Twitter accounts, Instagram, they’re just not up yet, and it’s the Dream Big bus. That was not taken.

So it’s the Dream Big bus. And for now, people will be able to take tours, but I’ll have it wrapped, so you can see the outside, and if there’s conferences, most of those conferences you can drive things in. More than anything, the question that I’m putting on the side of the RV is, what would you do if you knew you would not fail?

So even if you never meet me, you just drive past me, that question is going to be seated in your mind.

So let’s follow through with that. Let’s say you’re in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and you’re there because there’s a convention there, and you’re gonna go and park the RV there. What would people do with that? Do they just step onto the RV whenever and talk to you? Do they schedule time? How much time will they have?

Yeah, so right now I’m working to create the vision development process, so there’s an online tool. So by the time I leave and set off in April, because we’re in the final stages, I had someone come in and videotape one of my workshops, so that’ll be an offering that they can actually acquire online.

I have a Facebook page that I’ve set up, that’s coming through. I have  crowdfunding. So there’ll be different levels of interfacing with me, where you’ll be able to be part of a private monthly call, to be part of different things if you opt in and support at a certain crowdfunding level.

So I’m gonna give people as many opportunities to engage with me and follow me. And then we’ll do a contest for the next year, for people to post their boards. I have things come on from their boards, I want to see, who are the big dreamers out there? Get people to start posting boards so that they can post what’s on their board and then post when they actually have done it.

That’s great. That’ll be very exciting to see all that. You’ll really know how many lives you changed when you see something like that.

Exactly. So the goal for me is that it’s not that I didn’t hear this, it’s just that I didn’t hear it in a way that I understood it. And I get that…there’s seven billion people on the planet. I don’t need to touch seven billion, I just need to touch the ones that I’m called to touch. I don’t need to take over the world.

I always think of that Marianne Williamson poem, it’s about letting your light shine because someone else needs me to shine so that they can shine.

Yeah. Let me turn this focus around here, to something that I’m curious about. I know that when we are growing up, as I mentioned initially, I developed what I would call some truths about money that weren’t necessarily true.

But I think that for all of us who reached some level of adulthood, and some level of success, money is very much a part of all of that. The lack of it, or the abundance of it, or the desire for more, whatever it is. And when we stop and take a look at where did we create these myths about money, in most cases it happens when we’re children or young adults. 

So let me ask you a couple questions, because I’m curious to know how you created whatever the stories are you have about money.

So when you were a child, what was the one thing you learned about money? 

All I can remember is being raised in church and hearing that money is the root of all evil. Seriously. So that really set me up to have a really bad relationship. That’s self-limiting belief, right?

Yep, that’s a big one. So then, when did it occur to you that that wasn’t necessarily true?

When I found a church that had a better teaching, and they basically said, “Many of you have probably heard this, but it’s not. It’s the love of money.”

Well, there you go. Yeah. What was one of your first experiences with money?

I was really good at acquiring it. Because, 13, my parents were divorced. My mom at the time was married to, I don’t even want to say the man’s name, he was such a horrible person. But he was an alcoholic who just really ran through her wallet and he was just a horrible person.

But I remember her coming to me for money. I’m 13 and I’m giving her money.

Yeah, that’s not good.

Okay, so were there any defining moments you can think of that made you say, “That’s never gonna happen to me”?

Yes. This one incident where she was actually begging him not to take the last of her money.

Oh okay. And he either did or he didn’t?

Oh, he did.

Oh, okay. Oh well. All right.

So when you were looking at all of this … I had that moment there, when I observed something like that going on in my house. Not exactly that, but something that made me create these myths about money.

So when you saw that happen with your mother, and that conversation that she was asking you for money and this guy took the last penny she had, what did you say about yourself and your relationship with money?

That I’m never going to rely on anybody else to be my provider. That I will always be able to provide my own roof over my own head.

Yeah. So you’ve pretty much done that.

Yes, I have.

Are there any women that were in your life that you can recall who provided you with any kind of advice that you think really made a difference?

When it came to money, not that I can think of, no.

What would you say would be the best and the worst financial decisions you’ve ever made?

The best financial decision I ever made was when I bought my first house. That was a great experience. The worst decision I ever made was getting so caught up in what other people were doing and had, that instead of buying more houses to rent, I actually renovated my house so it would be pretty.

Oh, well that’s cool. That’s really great. I like that story. Most people would say, you just keep acquiring them.

And there’s value in that. I don’t want to diss that thing, because certainly many people buy commercial properties that they renovate and then they rent them out, and that’s a very viable way to create wealth. There’s no question about it.

But I want to think farther along the lines here. I wonder if you’ve ever given any thought to what I termed before, retirement.

Termed before retirement? No.

What I’ve termed before, I use the word retirement. And I don’t want to lead you down the path, but what I’m saying is, for the most part, people think of it as a particular time in their life and age. It’s usually related to an age, and there’s usually a number attached to that of what they think they need in order to have what they might call a successful retirement. 

You don’t strike me as somebody who is working until a certain age, and then you’re gonna retire. So I’m looking at this and saying, where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Do you see yourself retired? Do you see yourself moving on to something else? Or is this a commitment you have to what you’re doing that you’ll probably do for as long as you can? 

I will do this for as long as I can. This is literally why I was so bent on purpose. I don’t retire from purpose because purpose is just me, it’s who I am.

Exactly. Yeah. That’s the point I wanted to hear you say, when you’re actually that “into” what you’re doing, there is no timeframe to it, there’s no desire to get out of it or move away from it into something else. And that, I think, is the key to what you’re talking about. That when you really are living your life on purpose, it has no timeframe. I think you would agree.

Absolutely. It has no timeframe.

What’s your next step?

Right now, my next step is to build a business that allows me to be mobile, as well as it allows me to buy some properties.

So now I don’t have home ownership, and I would like to own some investment properties. Austin is my home base, that I have something here, where I can have a portion of it for me, but the other portion of it is actually a four-plex. Three units paying for the thing itself and then when I come to Austin I’ll have somewhere. And the other times, it can be like an Airbnb, something like that.

Oh, that’s cool. I like that.

Thinking about some key places where I’d like to be able to be comfortable. Dallas is where my parents are, my sister is actually, she’s going back to Dallas. She decided that she wanted to go back to Dallas. And I was just so grateful that we didn’t force her hand, she actually said, she wants to go back and be close to our parents. And she’s okay with that.

Yeah, that’s nice. So after you do that, what’s next for you with your purpose?

One of the consistent requests that I’ve had, because I’ve been blessed that part of my vision was to be able to use this process as supporting other entrepreneurs who have conferences, and what happens is, when they have me come in and do vision development at the beginning of whatever their retreat or conference is, their clients actually walk away and do so much better, because they’re clear.

So that process, if I’m at their retreat or conference, they actually do it themselves. So I’ve been asked that I license that. So my next thing is to create a licensing process for this so that…that’ll create a stream of income, again, for me to be able to build something so that I can…

I don’t have children, so there’s no need to leave something. But I want to hire universities, I can create a scholarship, or there’s people who are incarcerated who want to be entrepreneurs. Create a scholarship for something like that.

That’s spectacular. I love it. That’s really great stuff. Well, I want to thank you, Meshell Baker, for being a guest on my Power of the Purse podcast today.

To all of you in my Power of the Purse community, I hope today’s podcast was helpful in enriching your understanding of money and how it can help you in achieving your life goals. If you’d like to spend 15 minutes on a call with me and ask me questions about your personal finances, please go to my website, PowerofthePursePodcast.com. Select the Contact tab, and find a time that works for you.

Thanks again, Meshell, for sharing your time and knowledge, and would you share with everyone how they can get a hold of you?

Yes. You can go to my website, that’s M-E-S-H-E-L-L, Baker, B-A-K-E-R, dot com. And you can go onto the tab Contact, and you can scroll down and select time to have a conversation. Or just email me directly at info@meshellbaker.com. And that’s my name. Info@meshellbaker.com

Fabulous. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. And until the next time, thanks for listening. And remember, money is not the enemy. Your ignorance of it is. Goodbye.

How to contact Meshell:

More Information on Meshell’s Offerings:

VISION makes the invisible visible and the impossible possible. Time to ignite the momentum needed to sustain your drive through the challenges, obstacles, disappointments, naysayers, rejection, failures that life throws at you! Grab your copy of How to Make Your VISION Billboard. Making the investment to create a more passionate life will put you squarely on a path to intersect with A CLEARLY DEFINED PURPOSE. http://meshellrbaker.com/vision-billboard/


Episode 29: The Path to Success is Circuitous, with Catherine Shafer



Catherine Shafer is the General Manager of Lightspeed Technologies. As a leader in providing Northeastern Pennsylvania with the latest in convergence technologies, Lightspeed Technologies believes that network and communications infrastructures are the foundation for success. Acknowledging that no two organizations are exactly the same in structure or needs, and focusing on each organizations unique communication requirements, Lightspeed designs customized computer network solutions for clients in higher education, financial services, county government, media, records management, healthcare, transportation, insurance and other industries. Founded in 1997, Lightspeed Technologies has been a Cisco Premier Partner since 1998.

The Path to Success is Circuitous, with Catherine Shafer:

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Lynn S. Evans, and I am the host of Power of the Purse Podcast. We should know that personal finance isn’t about being rich or getting rich quick. It’s about buying independence and freedom of choice. You are not alone as you struggle with being the perfect wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, and all the other traditional roles assigned to us by our culture. These pressures can feel overwhelming, and when we add the demands of a career on top of it all, many women choose to pass on dealing with money issues until they’re forced to. That’s not the best time to learn.

Here, we explore the stories of women and how they had handled the demands of finances, family, and career. We talk about falling short of perfection, but also about the lessons we’ve learned, and the best advice our peers have to offer for financial security and putting our perceived failures in their proper place. My mission is to help women have a healthy, positive relationship with money.

With that in mind, my guest today is Catherine Shafer. Catherine is the general manager of Lightspeed Technologies. She’s been with them since 2014. They are a leader in providing Northeastern Pennsylvania with the latest in convergent technologies. They believe that network and communication infrastructures are the foundation for success. Acknowledging that no two organizations are exactly the same in structure or needs and focusing on each organization’s unique communication requirements, Lightspeed designs customized computer network solutions for clients in higher education, financial services, county government, media, records management, healthcare, transportation, insurance and other industries. Founded in 1997, Lightspeed Technologies has been a Cisco Premier Partner since 1998.

Catherine was also the president of CDS Creative from 1984 to 2014, and she did a lot of work with that when she was there. In 2007, she made it a virtual company, stepping away from retail sales clients and adding services-based companies such as technology companies and international trucking firm, while continuing work with nonprofit organizations. In addition, CDS Creative Inc. specializes in assisting startup service-based companies in developing business strategic plans. The company became a consulting firm in the areas of brand development and strategic planning.

We’re going to talk about something a little later that’s unique to what Catherine was doing called Create-A-Thon. It’s a wonderful idea, and I know it was backbreaking to do it, but we’ll talk about that in a bit, so welcome Catherine.

Thank you, glad to be here.

I’m glad you’re here too. We had a little difficulty scheduling this, but we finally got together, so here we are today.

Yay!

Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done. I’m curious to know, when I read through your bio, that you were a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater, and then you went to Wilkes University a couple of years later to get an MBA in management. What were your plans? What were your ideas and your dreams of being in theater?

Well, it was interesting. When I actually applied to Bucknell, I applied as a chemistry major.

What?

I’ve always loved chemistry. I always did, but my senior year in high school, you know how you run into that one teacher that just changes your life?

Yup.

Well, I did, and I had always been a writer of some sort, and she encouraged me to write. I had always participated in the shows at school. I was in the choral. I’m an alto, so they always needed women who could sing tenor also kind of thing, but she encouraged me to write. I started writing plays, one acts and those kinds of things. We actually performed a number of them, and I was hooked. By the time I got to Bucknell and went to the chemistry classes, and the professor said, “And we all know this from high school chemistry,” and I went, “Uh-oh, no, this is not what I want to do.” I changed my majors right then and there and became a theater major when really Bucknell didn’t have theater major. It was really considered an English major, but every course I took was theater-based in some way or the other.

I directed a whole bunch of plays. I participated, obviously, in a number of plays, stage managed. You name it. I got to explore all the different facets of theater. When I graduated, I was also certified to teach English, and moved to the Valley with my husband who is also a Bucknell graduate, and really couldn’t find a teaching job, for a number of reasons, and needed to find some work. My first job was actually as a bank teller with First Valley Bank, which no longer even exists, but that’s where I started, working at the bank as a teller, moved from there into their customer service division, then became an assistant manager.

Then an opening came up in the marketing department of then First Eastern Bank, and I said, “Well, I don’t know anything about advertising, but sure, I’ll give it a try.” I worked with some really terrific people, and that’s kind of how I got back to theater, if you will. Obviously, marketing has a lot to do with telling stories and those kinds of things, and that’s what theater is all about. It brought me full circle. After a few years, it brought me full circle back.

That’s interesting you said that, because I had exactly the same experience when I graduated from college. I have a degree in secondary education and a major in French, and you can see, obviously, that is not what I do, but same thing. When I graduated, I couldn’t find a teaching job. I think all of us who graduated in that timeframe, in the 70s, said, “There’s something wrong here because we were supposed to just walk right out and get a teaching job,” but then all of us ended … Not all of us, but those of us who had that issue ended up doing things that were not necessarily on the same career path but they opened up doors that we never would’ve had the opportunity to go through those doors and created careers that were just unheard of.

I think it’s great that you took that step and went into finance, which is like chemistry would be to Caesar, but it just, it opened up a whole new world for you. It’s just a very exciting way to say, “Yeah, I didn’t get the job I wanted, but I got something very different. It is who you became. I mean, CDS Creative was clearly your baby from day one, and so how did you make that decision to leave the corporate world and start something on your own?

I had kids.

Okay.

Truly, that’s what started it. Once I had our first son, I decided, no, I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. We could afford to do that. I had the opportunity to do that. We chose to do that, but all the time, I was planning on when our second son came along, but I was always planning on when they both got back into school to go back to work, but realized that I did not want to go back into the corporate world anymore. There’s only so many ways you can market a checking account.

Yeah.

I just wasn’t going there, just wasn’t going there, so I started writing again. It’s always been my first love, and so I kept the company very small, did a lot of writing projects, freelance projects at first that I could do from home, that I could do while the kids were in school, and just slowly but surely started building it up from there.

Well, how did you get those first clients? I mean, how did people know you were doing this, and how did you market yourself to people?

I’m not shy, as you know Lynn, and I basically just told people. I got a hold of folks that I used to work at the bank and let them know. My husband works for a private school, and so through that network, let folks there know that I was doing this. It was really word of mouth more than anything else, little by little. As that grew and the kids got into school, there’s always that right place, right time, not that I don’t think you have … You’re always working towards these things, and so it’s luck, but it’s also some sweat too.

I happen to know someone at Motor World. He was their marketing manager, and it was at the time that they were building Motor World. He came to me and said, “I need you to come work with me for a while, because I’m really deep into the actual construction here, and so I need some help with managing some of the marketing, just on a part-time basis, no problem.” I said, “Okay, but I’m still running my company, can I use one of the offices at the building to run my company out of while I’m helping you,” and he said, “Sure, no problem.” Then the, I believe it was the Gulf War started, and he was in Reserves as a chaplain and got called up and left. All of the marketing from Motor World fell into my hands.

Now, I happened to be very lucky in that they have an agency out of Alabama that was a automotive advertising company. That’s all they did, so I had some great resources, and those folks are still some of my best friends. I was able to look at them and go, “Help, teach me. What do we need to do here,” and they did. I had a long relationship with that agency from Alabama as I was growing my company. I handled five different car dealerships in Pennsylvania. All of them were multi-manufacturer types of organizations, so it was huge.

Wow.

I got to the point where I decided, okay, I don’t really want to be advertising cars for the rest of my life, and I talked to Steve Ubaldini, who is the president or GM of Motor World … Excuse me, Wyoming Valley Motors, who was a client of mine at that point. He said, “Cath, you can do this on your own, and I’ll be your customer, your first one.” I said, “Okay, I’m doing this.”

Wow.

I took a leap.

Yeah.

Again, I was lucky. Fortunately, like I said, the agency in Alabama were really good friends, and I told him this is what I wanted to do, and he said, “Go for it, do it.” I had his support too. Steve became and Wyoming Valley Motors became the first real customer of CDS Creative as everyone knew it, and then I kept branching out from there.

It was really word of mouth. We became known for building brands. We became known for helping folks get their message out, whether it was public relations or it was through events or whatever, but branding was always the core of what we do, that’s how the company kept growing and growing. We bought a building, and at one point, we had a dozen people all working together on different types of industries. We became very good at working with nonprofits. I understand that world real well.

Yeah.

It kept growing, and then, as you said before, at one point, we realized that the world had become virtual. Obviously, CDS Creative kept adapting and changing to what was going on in the marketing world. The world went virtual, so we did. At that point, I also helped two of my folks start their own companies. They were ready to do it, and I backed them up, and I still work with one in particular.

No kidding?

Oh yeah, yeah.

Wow.

Yeah.

How many people to do that?

It was the right thing to do, and they were very, very capable folks. I knew that sooner or later, I was going to be getting to the point of slowing the businesses down and hopefully stepping away from it. They were just terrific people, and I knew they could be very successful, so I said, “Yeah, do it and I’ll help you.”

Wow.

As I say, I still work with one of them today. He still does all of our stuff here at Lightspeed even. It was a real interesting transition. I laugh all the time when I … I also taught out at Misericordia for a while, and I kept telling folks, “Okay, do you understand that cut and paste is what we actually physically used to do?” They all laughed and they look at you like you have three heads, but when I started, that is what you did.

That’s right.

This industry has seen a huge change over the years, as most have, but in marketing and everything went online, we went to websites. None of this existed when I started the company in ’84.

Yeah. Well, when did you see that that’s where it was going to go and make the decision to sell the physical building and go virtual? Was it ahead of this? Did you see it coming, or was it like you had to?

I want to say I had to, but I’m not sure I would say that I saw it coming either. I would put myself somewhere in the middle there.

Okay.

We realized that more and more of our customers who were working with us over the internet, we weren’t in front of them all the time as we were before. We didn’t need a physical building to do what we were doing. Everything was being done online. All of our processes were online. Our communications were online. It just made sense at that point to sell the building. I started the company in a little, tiny office in my house, and I ended up in a little, tiny office back in my house again.

Perfect. Perfect.

Yeah.

How was it that you … I’m saying this because I had to cross this bridge myself, but at some point, you probably said to yourself, “Okay, I’ve done as much as I possibly can by myself, and it’s time for me to hire somebody,” and that puts you in a whole other world when you become an employer.

Oh my word, yes.

How did that occur for you? What was going on that you said, “Oh my gosh, I have to get some help”?

Well, part of it was that I was doing a lot of work with car dealers and I could not do that all by myself. Car dealer advertising is very, very labor-intensive. It is constantly changing. It is constantly, “What have you done for me lately? We got to the end of the month, we sold this many cars. Okay, let’s start again.”

Yeah.

It was getting much more complicated, and I could not do that all by myself, not with the number of folks that I was working with and keep everybody with the proper attention and attention to detail that was needed. That’s what pushed me, got me going, and then as we added different services, I looked for folks with the skills that I could bring in that I didn’t have.

Yeah.

I’m not a graphic designer. I needed to find someone who understood being a graphic designer, but also understood business. Because when you’re dealing with car dealers, it’s business, not that anyone else is, but it’s a very transactional business and you got to stay up with it. I needed someone that fit that bill. I did that. As we got more and more into public relations, I made sure I had somebody on board who was a really good writer and had really good skills dealing with media. I kept adding the skillsets that I didn’t have, nor did I have the time to really learn them the way you would want to have them, and that’s how we grew.

You said, at one point you had 12 employees?

Mm-hmm.

Then when you scaled back and decided that you were going to do less of that, did you have to let them all go?

At the very end, yes, but they all knew it was coming. I was very transparent in what I was doing. They knew it was coming. I helped folks either start their own business or I referred them to people, got them with another agency. I did not do it in a vacuum. I would never do that to folks.

Yeah.

They knew it. They knew what was happening, why I was doing it, made sense, and then they made decisions, and we talked it through. Like I said, I helped them where I could.

Let’s talk about Create-A-Thon, because I really love that idea. It was just something that I think was so brilliant, the way you did that, and also a way to give back to the community. I was involved with several of them, and at the time when you were doing them, only … I mean, not necessarily involved physically with what you were doing, but aware of what you were doing at the time. Tell me everybody about what this was, how did you get to the point where you had the competition for people, who was ultimately the winner of the price and what was the price.

Well, this whole thing actually was started by an agency, I believe, in South Carolina. That’s where the idea came from, and we saw it. We saw it right after 9/11. We’ve always been working with nonprofits, but like most agencies, you’re always being asked to do things pro bono. You don’t always have the time or resources to do that as much as you want to help. When we saw this idea of having a 24-hour period where we would do nothing but pro bono work for nonprofits, we thought, “Okay, this is fun, this is cool, let’s do this.”

We found out all the information from the agency down south, and sent out applications to all the nonprofits that we knew of, asking them, “What do you need? Tell us what you need. Tell us why. Do you have people on staff that can help? Blah blah blah blah,” all that kind of thing. We got lots of people, of course, requesting things, and then we would sit down and look at all the requests, wanting to help everyone, obviously, but really winnowing it down to maybe six to 10 projects that we could manage in a 24-hour period.

We would meet with all these folks ahead of time that we were going to be doing work for, make sure we understood what they were trying to do, make sure we had their logos and all those kinds of things. Then Create-A-Thon day would start, and we would start at eight in the morning, and we would work nonstop for 24 hours on all of the projects all through the night. I did this for 10 years, and then I finally stopped because I just couldn’t do it anymore, but we would work straight through the night. We’d have people working on a project, and then we’d switch and put different people on the project to get another idea about it.

By the time we were done the next morning, we had everything done. It could’ve been anything from an advertising campaign to a strategic plan to a new logo development to brochures, you name it. Whatever they needed, we would get them all done. We would print out mock-ups of everything, and put them up on boards, and we invited all the nonprofits that we were doing the work for to come to the office for the great unveiling the next morning. Now, you understand, at this point, we’re smelling bad, we’re looking bad. We’re not talking real well, okay?

Yeah, I know.

I have to tell you … Yeah, it was every year, and still to this day, one of the most rewarding things that we did, because we could see in their faces the surprise, the gratitude, there were tears, because we were giving them professional services that they never would’ve been able to afford otherwise.

Right.

It was just so cool to be able to do that for folks. We’d unveil everything, and everybody was looking at each other’s things, and then we’ll look at them all and say, “Okay, take your stuff, and go home, we’ll talk to you in two days about any changes you need, but get out, we need to go bed,” and we throw everybody out.

I would think so.

The really fun thing about this is that it wasn’t just CDS Creative. It was all of our crew that worked on it, but we invited folks from other agencies.

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Oh yeah, we invited folks that wanted to help out to come and join us too, and they did.

That’s nice.

We had printers that would help us out. It was a real ecosystem of folks that came together, so that we could help a whole bunch of nonprofits. It was pretty cool.

What was the one thing that stands out in your mind as the most changing, life-changing event that you did for anyone of these nonprofits?

Oh, brother. Oh, man, there were so many. Yikes, it’s really hard to pick just one, but I think it was probably some of the things that we did that involved children.

Yeah.

We would work on projects where … The Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, creating a campaign brochure for them that helped them raise a whole bunch of money.

Good.

Those were always the most heartwarming because we could see the results. We’d hear back from the folks, and know that what we wrote, what we created had an impact and really did some good work in the community, especially for kids.

That’s good.

Those were always some of the best ones.

Well, kudos to you and your crew and all the people who volunteered. That was just a wonderful thing that you did. I just think it was something that needs to be known, even though you don’t do it anymore because there’s no CDS Creative, but I think it’s something that, to me, if I look at it from your perspective, it’s a legacy. It’s a fine one indeed.

Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.

You’re welcome. Let me switch to us around here, and let’s talk about your experience with money, because that’s what is intriguing to me. You see, we now know who you are as an adult and some of the things that are important to you, but I’m just curious to know where some of that came from. Answer some of these questions for me.

Okay.

What is your first memory around money?

We never had a lot of it. When I saw that question on the list of possible questions, you know what, what I wrote underneath it was spam. We ate a lot of spam. We were four kids. My mom was a crossing guard. My dad was in sales, and then later in management. She did amazing things with keeping all four of us in clothes, in food, and to our assorted games, and everything that we needed to be at. Yeah, one of my first memories is that it was economized. It was shared clothes. It was spam, and it was fine. That was fine. Money was never really talked about, but, I mean, you just knew that there were certain things that we could and there are certain things that we couldn’t do.

What lessons about money did you learn when you were growing up?

One of the things, I think, that sticks and probably drove me along my career path is that if you wanted to go buy something, you had to earn it. As soon as I could, I started babysitting. Then I got a job at a local farm stand in our town, which is still there actually, which is really amazing to me.

Wow.

We were never just handed money, ever. If you wanted to go buy something, if you wanted to go on a trip, whatever, you had to go earn your own money, and that was just the way it was. There wasn’t any extra, so you had to go do it, and so you did.

Yeah, and so that’s kind of where it was in your world when you decided to start a business, you figured you got to do it. You got to find a way to finance it. You got to do it. You didn’t ask anybody else, but I get that. What’s been the most threatening to your financial security?

I think one of the scariest times, I’ll say, is when the company was growing so fast and trying to keep up with it from a cash flow standpoint and all the things that go with a company that’s growing quickly. Sometimes it happens in a blink of an eye and you step back at some point and go, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute, let me rethink this.” Making sure that the growth was managed was probably the scariest thing from a financial standpoint.

Where do you want to be financially five years from now?

Oh, I’m going to be retired. I keep telling you guys here that.

All right.                                 

Oh yeah, I’m going to be retired and Shafe and I have a great, big list of things that we’re going to do.

Oh, I love it. That’s great.

Oh yeah, yeah, we do, we do.

Okay.

We’ve already got the list down, and we’ve been planning, both of us, quite a while. Finances are in good shape and all that kind of thing. We bought a condo a number of years ago, so when my husband retires from Sem, we can move off campus and into the condo and use that as our base of operation and go do all the things that are on the list.

Like what? What are some of the things on your bucket list?

Oh, all kinds of things. We’re both big baseball fans, so we had this thing on our list, a whole list of stadiums that we want to go see, so go from stadium to stadium and go see baseball games.

Great.

There’s some traveling that we want to do, mostly in the USA, believe it or not, just places we haven’t been to yet, things we want to see. We like going to events, so we have on our list like a Final Four and those kinds of things. I know a lot of these sounds like sports, but it’s not all sports.

It’s okay if it is.

Yeah, we like going and doing things, and so there’s this whole list. Now, we also have a couple of grandchildren now, so we’re obviously going to spend a whole bunch of time with them too.

I was just going to say.

Yeah.

Where are they?

They’re here. They’re local, fortunately.

That’s good.

That may not be forever either, but for right now, they are, and it’s pretty wonderful.

That’s great. That’s really nice to hear.

Yeah.

Would you do anything differently, any regrets?

I don’t think so. I really don’t think so, because you said it before, you opened the door. I had to laugh when I heard you say it, because that has been my mantra. It was CDS Creative’s mantra, opening doors, always opening doors. No matter what door you open, it’s going to take you to a new adventure somewhere, somehow, someway. If you don’t open the door, you’re never going to know. I’d like to say sometimes, if you want to put a screen in and just watch for a while, that’s fine.

I like that.

Sooner or later, you’ve got to make the decision whether or not you’re going to go through the door.

Yeah.

I don’t think I regret anything, because everything that I’ve done has contributed to the interesting parts of my life, meeting people, trying new jobs, learning new things. The job now, these guys, Lightspeed Technologies, was one of my clients. The owner of the company, he and I are on the same wavelength a lot, he had some health issues, can’t be in the office every day, so he came to me and said, “Look, I know you’re looking at closing down your company, but how about you come on full-time with me here and be my general manager and we’ll get this company growing up as a business also,” not that Steve didn’t have a real good business plan in place already. This company has been growing for 20 years. It is an amazing company, but recently has grown exponentially fast.

Yeah.

We’re trying to make sure that all the business processes are keeping up with it. Having been through that once, at least I have a little bit of experience I can bring to the table, but it’s a whole new field, network technology. They are an amazing bunch in this building. I call it the brilliance in the building. It is a really intelligent group of people. I don’t always understand all the acronyms. I probably never will, but it doesn’t matter. My job is to make sure bottom line is good, and that’s what I’m doing, but it’s so much fun. I’m definitely the old far-gone staff.

Yeah.

Everybody else is so much younger, and that’s so much fun too.

Yeah.

Except when I occasionally will make reference to something and you get this blank stare and you just look at them and go, “Go Google it, you’ll find out.” It works.

Been there myself on that.

They’re just … Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty funny. A little scary, but pretty funny.

Yeah.

It’s been fun learning a whole new industry, meeting a whole bunch of new people, both on the industry side and on the customer side here. It’s a brand new challenge, and I have said to them, “Look, five years from now, I am retiring, so whatever we’re going to get done, we’re going to get down now.”

Right.

They know that. They get that.

Yeah.

It’s kind of cool.

That is great. I like the fact that you’ve got that plan and shared it with everybody, so they all know that this is the deal, this is how it’s going to be.

Yup.

Let me ask you one question about personal finance because you mentioned before that everything is in good shape, so what area of personal finance are you most uncomfortable with?

Oh, probably the actual investment side.

Yeah.

Understanding fully what’s the best for long-term planning, short-term planning, those kinds of things. I’d readily admit that this is Shafe’s area of expertise. He is extremely good at it, as his dad was also.

Wow, that’s great.

I’ve learned a lot from both of them along the way.

Good.

That probably the area that I feel most uncomfortable with because I haven’t spent enough time really learning it, probably, the way I should.

Probably, I think, most women would answer the same. That’s what I’m just curious to know.

Yeah.

Thank you for answering that question, but that was not on the list.

That’s no problem.

I wanted to catch you off-guard. Okay, so all of you in my Power of the Purse community, these were invaluable insights and perspectives from Catherine Shafer, all of which can help you move your career, your life, relationships, and financial freedom forward. Thanks again Catherine for your time and your knowledge, and let everybody know how they can find you if they need to.

Easiest way to find me is through email. I’m a big email person at cshafer@lightspeedtech.net. That’s the best way to get a hold of me.

How do you spell Shafer?

S-H-A-F-E-R.

Perfect. Okay, thanks Catherine. I really appreciate it, and we’ll say goodbye, until the next time on the Power of the Purse Podcast. Goodbye.

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