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I was asked to represent the 30 Women, Work and Community graduates at yesterday's tea...

I studied costuming in school because, while I love the theater, I prefer to be backstage, rather than in the spotlight. British playwright Gladys Stern, said “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone” so I want to thank - out loud - the dedicated staff and supporters who make up Women, Work and Community. Every woman here today is in a better place, personally and professionally, because of the support, guidance and practical tools they found through Women, Work and Community.

In particular I’d like to thank Eola Ball. When I interviewed for Eola’s New Ventures course, I thought I was just going to write a little business plan. I had no idea where Eola and New Ventures would take me and my little business idea.

Five years ago, I was a new mother whose priorities had shifted. I moved to Maine to escape a taxing job with a long commute. Since I had to work - I wanted to get in, do my job, and get home to be with my family. In Rockland, I could walk to work and my job covered my family’s expenses quite nicely. I’d been there about 18 months when I learned that the job was moving almost an hour away - and I was really enjoying the community and the quality of place we’d found in Rockland - more so than I enjoyed the job itself.

I didn’t know what to do - commute again and be miserable yet feel financially secure? Look for a comparable local job which probably didn’t exist? Or try something even bolder - build a business based on what matters most to me? To help me think, I participated in a little retail therapy - downtown at the Grasshopper Shop. I came across a magnet with the zen saying - Leap and the net will appear. I bought the magnet and I leapt, submitted my resignation the next day and crossed my fingers, in hopeful anticipation of that net. Then, I met Eola. Now I’m up to my elbows in diapers - For the last three years, I’ve changing the world, one baby at a time. Without Eola’s guidance, I would have given up in the first six months. She’s prepared me for the ups and downs of small business.

This is what I learned from Eola:
1. Pay yourself from day one. The amount doesn’t matter as much as this act of valuing yourself.
2. Find a cheerleader. This is the person who consistently encourages you because they truly believe in you and your success. Eola is mine - and maybe she’s yours too.
3. Be someone else’s cheerleader - being passionate about someone else’s success will make you both stronger.
4. Listen to your inner apsara. Some facilitators introduce a talking stick to keep class conversations moving. With Eola - it’s an apsara figurine. In eastern religions, the apsara is a divine symbol of happiness. If you’re quiet long enough, and you listen deep enough, apsara will speak and you’ll discover the path to your own happiness.

Women Work and Community graduates are successful because of tireless cheerleaders like Eola. You meet us with acceptance and without judgement - you acknowledge our past, our present, and our future. Then you start to push, push and gently nudge us some more until we embrace the potential that you’d seen all along. Thank you.

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