New Year, New You

As the calendar flips to a new year, its blank pages offer us an opportunity to make a fresh start. What's on your list of resolutions for 2006? If you're like many women, your list might look something like this:

  1. Lose weight (personally, we've never met anyone who had 'gain weight' on their list!).
  2. Spend more time with [fill in the blank]. (Common guilt-producing examples such as husband, kids, aging parents, or girlfriends come to mind.)
  3. Learn Portuguese (or Russian, or Chinese, or some other language where the amount of time you'll spend learning it is inversely proportional to the amount of time you'll spend using it).
  4. Finally follow up on that great business idea.

New studies have shown that women who follow up on their great business idea automatically lose weight, learn a foreign language, and have better personal relationships (OK we're just kidding, but it's a nice fantasy anyway). But from our own personal experience and those of women we've met, we know this to be true: If you're looking to revitalize your life, starting a business doing something you love can do just that.

As inspiration, take Carla Ruben. In her former life as a PR exec, she often threw parties for her clients. In that role she regularly dealt with event planners and caterers and noticed that there was a lot of mediocrity within the industry. To her, a successful gathering--one that created a memorable time for guests while effectively communicating the client's message--involved far more than delivering hot food and hiring cute wait staff. Disappointed in the PR world and spying an opportunity for a business, she decided to translate her longtime passion for both cooking and parties into a new style of event planning and catering firm that would combine high-quality fetes with savvy marketing messages. Nearly nineteen years later the company she founded, Creative Edge Parties, is one of the top event companies in New York City and has a glamorous and eclectic client list ranging from Louis Vuitton to Target.

Eva Armstrong, founder of Eva's Play Pups, reinvented herself by jumping ship from Wall Street into the world of animals. Miserable in her "dream job" and realizing that the only thing she'd ever felt truly passionate about were dogs, the Swedish farm girl made a radical decision to leave behind her lucrative position in the financial markets and go back to her first love. Not knowing exactly how to make the shift and wanting to gain experience, Eva approached a local animal hospital to see if she could volunteer. Surprisingly, they offered her a job. Starting as a veterinary technician, Eva began to learn everything she needed to know about animal care. When clients started to ask her if she could walk their dogs during the day, the first seeds of her business were planted. Six years later, her company has blossomed into a full-service doggie daycare and pet hotel in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.

Felina Rakowski-Gallagher actually loved her previous job, unlike many women who trade in the 9-to-5 grind for the entrepreneurial world. A former police officer, she was invigorated by her work in the Chief of Personnel's office and looked forward to going to the office every day. With Felina's company, Plato's adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention," literally came true--she gave birth to a baby daughter and, unexpectedly, a new business. While on maternity leave, Felina noticed that the incredible experience of nursing her newborn was becoming complicated. Needing to make a decision on a breast pump she faced a bewildering array of choices--all expensive, none with a money-back guarantee. Plus, she had to run from store to store to find all the supplies she needed for nursing. Faced with these challenges, the light bulbs started popping, one by one, in her mind: Flash: Wouldn't it be great if you could test different models of breast pumps before you purchased one? Flash: Wouldn't it be great to have access to a consultant that could help you with the mechanics of nursing and answer all your questions? Flash: Wouldn't it be great to have a one-stop shop for nursing supplies, where the sales staff was knowledgeable and the product line was edited to the best-of-the-best? In this way the vision for New York City's first 'breastfeeding boutique' began to develop. The Upper Breast Side was born at her dining room table in early 2000; six years later, New York's demanding and knowledgeable network of new moms considers Felina's store an essential resource.

So get motivated for a fresh start, a new beginning, a wholesale reinvention of your life. Be inspired by Carla, Eva and Felina, and promise yourself that in 2006 you'll stop standing on the edge of the pool and take the plunge into entrepreneurial waters. We swear that the water's just fine!

What challenges have you struggled with as a woman business owner? Write us at and let us know!