As entrepreneurs we get used to failure. It’s feedback. Dawn Gluskin built a $3mm+ technology business from her living room with a six month old baby. It grew too fast, and her world came crashing down. Now she’s back stronger than ever as the CEO and founder of Blissed Communications – and she shares her story of reinvention.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to Wings Dawn Gluskin.
Dawn Gluskin: Thanks for having me Melinda. I’m excited to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am excited to hear your story as well, because I know that, like me, you’ve built technology businesses and you built one, but then you had to make a kind of awkward decision around all of that. So tell me a little bit about what the company was and what happened.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, so the business I got into, which was weird, ’cause I was going to be a writer when I grew up as a little girl, but somehow I got into my head I’ll never make money doing that, so I went to school for sales and marketing. And inside of that journey I just, there’s no other way to say it, but I accidentally got into selling electronic components for a living. And people are always like, “Well what does that even mean?” Nobody knows what that is, so if you were to take your cell phone and open it up, there’s a circuit board inside. So I was basically selling all the parts on the circuit board to big Fortune 500 companies.
And I say random because I’m not an engineer, that wasn’t on my radar, I just happened to make decent money at it. And inside of that journey I eventually went on to start my own company. And we grew really fast. We went from zero, and at the zero stage it was literally me working in my living room, and I had my daughter, who was six months old at the time, on my lap while I’m making sales calls. And two years later we were doing three million dollars in revenue. So it was a wild ride and really cool for a while, but long story short, we had five really great years in business and we were open for seven. So, if you do the math, the last couple years were pretty rough.
There were some significant changes in regulations from a government level that trickled down and really affected our bottom line. And so spending was up, we were growing, we were in growth mode, revenues were down. I’m an optimist, it was like, and I’m a sales person so I was like, “Well just sell more. It’s fine. We’re going to get out of this.” And it was great in theory, but it didn’t pan out that way. So and I didn’t want to lay off my employees so I just kept spending and, it’s, essentially we just ran out of money.
So I had to shut down the business. Lost everything. Even on a personal level, you know almost lost my house. Almost had the car repoed. We actually had a repo guy come to the house two days after Christmas and had to do some sweet-talking to get ourselves out of that situation. It was just, talk about a ride up and then down, and yeah.
So that’s how that ended.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness.
Dawn Gluskin: Tragic at the time, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I feel for you because I mean, you know while this is actually, sadly, kind of a common story, I think as women often we can take it really personally.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Like we can take that failure as something … you know, something to do with ourselves. Did that play over and around again and again in your head, you know where you think, “Oh God, if only I could have done that or I could have done that or I could have done that?”
Dawn Gluskin: Totally. I felt like it was totally a part of my identity. I failed my family, I failed my clients, I failed my employees. And somehow when you have something like that happen, my business was like another baby, it’s like I birthed this thing and I grew this thing. And to have it go away was difficult, and when something like that happens, every success you’ve had in your life somehow gets wiped out. And you’re just that last big “failure” and that’s how it was for me. For a little while before I picked up and reinvented myself.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, so, it’s, I’m so glad that we’re talking about this because I want to de-stigmatize failure.
Dawn Gluskin: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Because I think more women will go full heartedly into, not only entrepreneurship, but you know really going for moon shots, if it’s okay to fail. Because, no seriously, because it has to be. Because like every day, you’re just testing a hypothesis. And the business is vulnerable at all the different stages. So a lot of people think it’s really vulnerable when it’s a start up, but actually it’s most vulnerable in the position that you were in, where you’re going into growth mode.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, yep.
Melinda Wittstock: And there are things beyond your control.
Dawn Gluskin: Yes. Yeah that’s a scary time and that’s the thing too of growing so fast. You have to really be on top of your finances and really be projecting out and all that kind of stuff. Which I wasn’t doing effectively. And have a handle on your cash flow or that can really sneak up on you. But I agree. It’s so important to de-stigmatize that. You know, the only failure is in not trying, and the most successful people in the world have a long list of “failures” that helped them get there.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s truly true. I think of all the times that Elon Musk has been fired from his own startups.
Dawn Gluskin: Right? And Steve Jobs was fired from Apple and Walt Disney was bankrupt before he started Disney and yeah. Opera was rejected a million times, so it’s … You’ve got to think of it like that.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. And it’s developing that resilience. You know, it’s interesting with startups too, especially in the technology space, where if you’re innovating something, you can be ahead of your time, and the timing is wrong. Or you can have conditions around you that you just can’t control. So the only thing you can really do is do the best with the information you have.
Dawn Gluskin: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: At the time.
Dawn Gluskin: I like how you said you’re testing out hypothesis, that’s totally what it is. There are no guarantees. You’re really in a laboratory.
Melinda Wittstock: So tell me how did you come back from that? Because like, I’m just, I’m sitting here and I just listen and let that sink in with me what that must have felt like. So it’s just after Christmas and the repo man is there, and you’ve got like a young kid. Because you started your business when your baby was six months old, so we’ll get into that in a moment too. I want to go back to that.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, we’re crazy.
Melinda Wittstock: But you’re sitting there and my goodness. What was that like and how did it impact and how did you come back?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, so my short term fix was you know I had been in that industry for like 15 years and I had a lot of really good relationships and people I had done business with forever that still wanted to work with me. So I actually went and worked for one of my old competitors, for short term. And if you’ve owned your own business, that’s such a humbling experience to go back and to work for somebody else.
And that was great and I really appreciate the opportunity, I was able to make money and kind of get us out of that hole. And I felt like I was miserable because I wanted to be creating my own thing and I didn’t want to work for somebody else. You know once you’re an entrepreneur, it’s just in your blood and so I was kind of like dying inside and I was like you know, “I can’t do this anymore.” And it was like, “I’ve always, you know I’ve always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, why don’t I just make this my new business?”
And I had been carrying around a lot of shame about it. People knew my business closed. Some people knew the full story, other people didn’t. Like when we were “successful” we were in the New York Times a we got a lot of publicity and press and there was a lot of people cheering for us. And I felt like I need to come out, because it was on my shoulders, I was like, “I need to tell the world what happened, just so I can be free from it.”
So I wrote a blog called The Power of Owing Your Story. And it was published on the Huffington Post and it took me two months to write like a 1000 word blog post that should have taken two hours, but I was just so afraid of people, like, “They’re going to judge me.” That no one’s going to want to hire me after this. Who wants to hire the loser that lost the multimillion-dollar business. And I actually had a friend that talked some sense into me. She’s like, “Dawn Gluskin, you like, you’re the person that grew a multimillion dollar business in the first place. Like, I still see you as that person.”
And then I was like, “Yeah, you know what, you’re right.” And once I published that, it was kind of crazy what happened. I was doing it just for myself so I could be free from it. But I stared getting these emails and calls from people, from really all over the world that were just like, you know, “Thank you for sharing that.” They’re like, “I have my own version of something that I have been holding on to, not sharing with the world. You inspired me to share my story today.” I got new clients out of it. People that never even heard of me before were like, “Can I hire you? You’re starting this new business, can you write, help me write my story?” And it just kind of took off from there. So I knew I was in the right place.
Melinda Wittstock: That is such a beautiful story of how you overcame the fear. You mentioned the word shame. I think sometimes we get in shame about ourselves and we assume, you know when we’re judging ourselves, we assume everyone else is judging us too.
Dawn Gluskin: Right, yeah. And it was the opposite. People were like rallying behind me and if I had kept that to myself, where would I be right now? I might still be at that corporate job and hating my life instead of doing what I love every day. So that’s the power of being vulnerable and sharing your story.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. That vulnerability is so important and I think hard sometimes for women to give themselves permission to feel vulnerable. Because there’s so much like, our acculturation, is that somehow we grew up thinking that the world saw us as weak. And so therefore, we’ve got to be strong. And so being strong means not being vulnerable, but if you’re not being vulnerable, how can you connect with anyone?
Dawn Gluskin: Absolutely. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a real conundrum, so …
Dawn Gluskin: It really is.
Melinda Wittstock: Talk to me about that, I mean, how do we get out of our own way on that one?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, well I feel like vulnerability kind of gets a bad rap, but by definition, like the Webster definition, is to be vulnerable is to open yourself up for harm. So that’s kind of how we look at it. It’s like, “No, if I open up and tell them then I’m weak. My weakness is exposed and then they can harm me.” But there’s really another side of that. And that I invite people to take this on, that also though, when you’re opening up, you’re also opening the opportunity to let people in so that they can really see you, they can really feel you, they can really connect with you. And that is powerful.
Especially in the business world right? There’s that old, you know, know like and trust, is who people want to do business with. So if they can’t see you, if you’re closed up and you’re guarded and you’re just putting out this façade of who you want to be, or you think they want to see, there’s going to be a misconnection. Something’s going to feel off. So it’s actually really good for business to be more vulnerable and more open and let people in.
Melinda Wittstock: This is really true actually, for you know CEOs of companies and executive teams of companies, even in terms of how they communicate with other people on social media. Just to really be themselves. I mean, be a real human being. My business, now, is business number four. Actually kind of does, with software, what you describe and we even have a score for it. We call it return on authenticity.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh, wow, awesome. That’s very cool.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, well we’ve seen that like, brands and businesses, that like actually talk to human beings like human beings …
Dawn Gluskin: Right? What a concept.
Melinda Wittstock: I know right, but they actually out perform everybody else but it does require them to be a little bit more vulnerable. But actually more than that, it just requires them to actually demonstrably and genuinely care about the person that they’re talking to.
Dawn Gluskin: Yes. Yeah, and that’s …
Melinda Wittstock: What a concept.
Dawn Gluskin: That’s the thing about authenticity, it has to be authentic, it can’t fake it, like, “Oh, let’s just pretend we care so we get more business.” No, it doesn’t work that way.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, everybody sees through that and especially Millenials.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh yes, they have a good radar.
Melinda Wittstock: They do, and they’re teaching everybody else the radar too. So I think this now goes across all generations. So I love that you’re talking about authenticity because you know we, on this podcast we talk a lot about what it is for a woman to step into her authentic feminine power and this idea of, yeah, to be feminine is to be powerful. What does that look like? How can women really kind of seize the day? So we’ve already hit so many of these different things like how do we overcome our fear? How do we overcome that sense of shame? You know when we’re not perfect, because we all think we have to be perfect every single glossy magazine tells us that we’re not good enough every day. Every hour of every day.
Dawn Gluskin: That’s true.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? So we’re all trying to do it all and be perfect and we can’t so therefore we feel shame. So how do we get rid of all that baggage and just step into this authentic feminine power?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, so, you know, and to your point, you brought this up earlier how you, how women try to be so strong in business and you know there’s definitely, when you say feminine, like feminine versus masculine, like masculine power shows up differently. Masculine is very forced, you know it’s outward. It’s just like hustle and grind and you know whatever it takes to get to the top. That kind of style. And when women take on that, it’s unnatural and that’s where we burn out and things aren’t going to go your way necessarily. But feminine is more, I guess I would say more internal. It’s like intuition and it’s compassion and it’s empathy. And really bringing that out to the table is very powerful. Just being ourselves right, who we are, we are women so why try to be like a man? Just really let those skills shine. Is it, and it comes back to authenticity. Just being who you are as your authentic self, as a leader. And letting that come out, it’s very powerful.
Melinda Wittstock: It is so powerful. You know so, this is interesting. When I go back and I think of that, think about you know, starting a start up and thinking you have to be in that grind. That somehow, to work really hard, to kind of be forceful, direct, push the boulder off the mountain too, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, when women do that, it doesn’t really work for us actually.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah. It’s not the natural way of being, and you’re missing out on that real power. That, like I said, the intuition and compassion and just that nurturing. Like what we are as women and we feel like those are weaknesses in business. That’s how it’s shown up in the past, but those are … There’s great, great power in just that flow of the natural energy of the universe and really tapping into what it is to be a female versus forcing and trying to do, well this is what the men do to succeed.
Melinda Wittstock: You know what I love about this of course is that, society is changing, just as we’re coming into this sense of authentic feminine power. You know, the fact that we’re having this conversation, at the same time, the cultures are changing. Suddenly having a great workplace culture or this concept of kind of servant leadership, which is kind of a … You know, but it’s a strange configuration of words. But, much more, rather than a kind of a top down, command, control, traditional kind of masculine, linear sense of leadership, it’s evolving much more into, yeah have a great corporate culture. Have employees that recruit other employees, have a much more empathetic, much more feminine relationship based culture. And that these companies that have these sorts of cultures are actually doing better. They have better results; they’re outperforming the old school way of managing. And isn’t it interesting that that’s happening just as women are kind of stepping up?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah. They’re definitely related.
Melinda Wittstock: I think so.
Dawn Gluskin: They’re definitely related, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I think so.
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Dawn Gluskin: Yeah and it’s so, because of the hierarchy that you’re speaking of, of like, “I’m the boss and you do what I say.” And that is the very old school way of doing business, but in the new realm, it’s instead of I it’s like a we thing and we can get more done together, instead of like, “I’m the boss and I know everything.” It’s like, “No, no you know stuff too, let me empower you, how can we work together as a team?” And that whole thing that just makes sense, you know, logically. Empower your team and make them feel good about themselves and then their work is going to be better and they’re going to really be an advocate for the business and you know, instead of just like, “I’m the king on my throne and you’re my servants, you do what I say.” That, I mean, just from a logical sense, it makes sense why one would work more effectively than the other.
Melinda Wittstock: Its’ so true. So when you were starting your tech start up, what was the name of it by the way?
Dawn Gluskin: SolTec was the name of the company.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. And what did you sell?
Dawn Gluskin: Electronic components, like semi-conductors and…
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so you started a business in the area where you were selling. Okay, cool. So thank you for filling in that blank, and so when you started, as you were sitting there, in your living room, with your six month old daughter. And what was your style of leadership back then? Did it change the company? Is it different now than it was when you were doing your start up?
Dawn Gluskin: Let’s, you know I’ve always brought the … Like, it’s interesting, because when I was working in the corporate world, when I was an employee, I felt like I had to bring more of that masculine to the table. Because especially in that industry, there was very few women, so I’d go to these trade shows and I’d be the one woman. Like all these men. So I felt like I had to be you know strong and kind of play that role a little bit more just so I didn’t get trampled on so to speak.
But when I was doing it on my terms and my business I definitely fell right into that feminine, you know I had become a mother, so a lot of that was coming out. And I really worked to empower my employees, and I still do it that way. And you know, we had social initiatives in the office where they would go and, if they wanted to they could do community service on company time and just things like that. And really took time to acknowledge employees who went out of their way and were getting results and just try to make it that we environment. I was never the one on a throne kind of thing.
I was in … You know I probably scrubbed toilets at some point. I was doing everything in the business, right alongside of them, so, that was my type of leadership style.
Melinda Wittstock: Now that’s really interesting. That sort of, “I’m going to do everything alongside with them.” Because we debate this on this show… Which is interesting because we, on one hand you’ve got this concept of leverage right? Where a lot of kind of management and kind of start up, oh I don’t know, best guidance is double down on your strengths, hire your weakness. So like, leverage what you’re really great at, your super shero skills or whatever. And somebody else is going to be better, so don’t do those things. But as women, we have a tendency to kind of like want to do it all.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, and there’s a balance in with that too. For me, I definitely had my executive roles and was functioning as the CEO primarily, but then I would get in the trenches too with them as an opportunity came up. Maybe for training or something like that, if they’re making sales calls and struggling with that, I would sit with them, right next to them making calls with them, even though that wasn’t my daily job. It wasn’t my daily role at the company. But I would do it alongside of them just, more as a training and to show them what it takes or how to do it and that I’m not above doing anything either, kind of thing. But I think as far as a day to day, yes, absolutely, hire out your weaknesses. That’s such a smart strategy, you can’t do it all.
Melinda Wittstock: No, that’s especially true. So, a lot of women enter into entrepreneurship around the time that they’re having kids.
Dawn Gluskin: I never knew that, I thought I was just a weirdo.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, well, it turns out that I did that too. I launched a business when my daughter was six weeks old and only because it took me so long to kind of raise the money, get it kind of going.
Dawn Gluskin: Wow that …
Melinda Wittstock: I got pregnant in the intervening year and then …
Dawn Gluskin: I gotcha.
Melinda Wittstock: Suddenly it was go time and she was six weeks old. And it was insane, I mean like, I don’t even know how I did it. There were times when I would be reading to her and I’d fall asleep and I’d be talking about business and she’d ask me, you know, “Mommy, what’s a bottom line?” And stuff like that.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh My Gosh, that’s awesome. I love it.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, it’s all a big blur. But it turns out there’s some research, and I forget where, but I’ll put it in the show notes for this, I’ll find it and put it in the show notes, about the risk profile between men and women and it’s different. So apparently, men are most optimally wired for start ups in their 20s because they don’t have any obligations, they feel like they can take on a lot of risk.
And women, for whatever reason, a little bit later in life, once they’ve had kids or around the time they’re having kids. Their risk profile kind of changes and in fact it’s a little bit later, it’s into their late 30s, 40s, so that’s …
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, that’s right where I was. Well no, no, I was 30. I was 30 but yeah. My second business was late 30s.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, and so, but it doesn’t fit the, say the venture capital pattern recognition algorithm, you know that they use to figure out who they’re going to invest in. So they’re looking for a guy, in his 20s in a hoodie, right? Because they think that’s the person who is the right risk profile. But actually, for women, so they don’t evaluate women, or they evaluate women on the wrong scale, right?
And so women are going to do their best when they come into it, yeah, like late 30s into their 40s. And that’s often when women really do well. So they’ve come up through the corporate world or they’ve had a couple of different kind of start ups, they’ve gotten their, I call those early start ups, you know, your lab.
Dawn Gluskin: Yes, absolutely, that’s exactly what it is.
Melinda Wittstock: So you learn stuff in your lab. And now, you know you’re ready to go. And I thought that was such interesting research because I see so many women now really, really succeeding and really creating great scalable businesses, a little bit later on in life.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, for sure, and that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that there was a correlation between that but that’s really fascinating research.
And I know, for me, as, because I thought I was the only crazy one that was like, “Oh, I just had a baby, lets start a business.” But there was two reasons. One is because I always had it in the back of my head one day I’m going to start my own company, but what kind of pushed me over the edge was I had negotiated my maternity leave, I think I came out with a 10 page ridiculous this is how it’s going to be. And they approved it, and then when I was actually on leave they wanted me back in the office because I was one of their top sales reps. So I was getting pressure and it just didn’t feel right in alignment with me. So I was like, “You know what, I think I’m just going to start my business.”
But also, there’s something about having a child that, for me anyway, was just motivating and inspiring and I was like, “You know I really want to be an inspiration to this beautiful girl and you know provide for her.” And there was just something, you know like I had super powers. Where it’s like, “I’m going to get this done, I’m going to take care of the baby.” You know and I had help of course, but still, there was some definite superpowers were necessary.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I wonder about that, because I think when we have babies there’s something about our brains that are wired to be able to do a lot of stuff.
Dawn Gluskin: I think so, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And connect the dots in a way that is much more, I mean, people describe it as web thinking. It’s maybe systems thinking, it’s like being able to have a number of different things going on at the same time and still maintaining focus on all of them. And I think guys don’t understand that, because I think their brains just don’t operate that way. That’s my theory.
Dawn Gluskin: That’s so true. Yeah, and because you’re literally not sleeping. Especially with a six week old, you know they’re barely sleeping through the night and it’s usually the woman that gets up because men can’t function right? Getting up all those times in the night where for a woman it’s just, you just do it and somehow nature just takes over, biology just takes over and you just …
Melinda Wittstock: Oh man.
Dawn Gluskin: Tap into something.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you remind me, okay, I’m going to tell this story about what happened. I guess it was about, well six months into the business, it was called Capital News Connection, and we were covering congress for public radio stations originally and then TV stations, newspapers, digital properties and finally it became a business where we had an app that I grew from zero to three million users in about eight months, I mean, it was a really interesting content business and it was all about localized and personalized content from, on politics. In terms of how it was impacting people’s lives locally. So it was a really cool mission and all that stuff, but I remember in the first year I was running around the US capital building, doing everything from doing stories to running payroll to doing sales. You know, organizing negotiating things with the radio, TV gallery and all of that. And I had these two black bags. One was my reporter kit, my microphone and all of that. And the other one was my breast pump.
Dawn Gluskin: I can see where this was going, I’m like, “Yep.”
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, and so I ran around the capital and there was this one day where … And I’d have to pump in weird places. I had to pump in the house bathroom. And I remember one time Nancy Pelosi came in, I recognized her voice and she was like, “What’s that sound?”
Dawn Gluskin: Oh my gosh.
Melinda Wittstock: Sitting there …
Dawn Gluskin: Don’t mind me, I’m just pumping milk out of my body, it’s all good.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? And I had to keep up on this two-hour schedule, you know, the whole thing right? But anyway, at the end of this one day where, I think I had sold Capital News Connection to, like we’d added 10 stations that day, I’d done payroll, I’d applied for a special grant, I had done some other, I don’t know, a whole bunch of other things, I’d done a bunch of stories. And it was like about 6:30 in the evening and I was interviewing Senator Patty Murray from Washington and I pulled out what I thought was my microphone.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh no.
Melinda Wittstock: But it wasn’t, it was the spool thing, right, from the …
Dawn Gluskin: Oh my gosh. That’s awesome.
Melinda Wittstock: I was so tired, I was putting it right in her face like, “Answer my question.” I was really earnest, and really serious like, “Answer my question.” And she was just looking at me like, “Are you kidding me?”
Dawn Gluskin: Are you out of your mind? Get used to it.
Melinda Wittstock: And we laughed so hard, but …
Dawn Gluskin: That’s amazing. Great story.
Melinda Wittstock: But these are the kinds of things right, that you do and I find that entrepreneurship in all of its forms is a humbling experience at the end of the day.
Dawn Gluskin: Amen. And parenting.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, in lots of different ways.
Dawn Gluskin: [crosstalk 00:27:54] at the same time.
Melinda Wittstock: Do you think it makes you a better parent though? Because I think there’s a correlation. I think being a parent makes you a better entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur makes you a better parent.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, it does and it also really, to me, you really have to create that though. Because part of entrepreneurship is work. Sometimes you have to go travel or have late meetings or do events. You know, I do some speaking and things like that, I do some Masterminds, so I do travel a bit and there’s a part of my brain that every time it’s like, “Oh gosh, am I traveling too much, am I spending enough time with them?” I think that’s just a natural I guess mom guilt thing that goes on. But then I shift and I say, “No.” Is it really empowering to them to see a mom who’s going after her dreams and who’s not afraid to do what it takes to get to that next level. And I make sure that the time we are spending together is very present and mindful and I’m not on my phone and working. You know I spend that time together and we do things together and really connect.
But you have to create that because it could easily go the other way where you’re just the absent mom and … Someone told me a story about a, oh gosh it was one of my … I’m trying to think. Someone in one of my business groups, where her daughter had drawn a picture of the family and this was like, it’s so heartbreaking, but it was like, she drew a picture and it was the mom, no I’m sorry. It was the dad and her and her brother, little stick figures on the ground. And she was like, “Well where’s mommy?” And there was an airplane in the sky and the little face. And I was like, “Ahhh.” And she said that just really told her, you know, “I need to be more present.” Because she traveled a lot.
So you definitely have to create the balance and what you want that to look like.
Melinda Wittstock: This is true. So, when you have your own business, on one hand you have the potential to create your own environment around you. And around what you want. So create a business around your life rather than creating your life around your business. But it requires you to be pretty conscience, have really good boundaries. You know, really, actually, you know what it is? Just really knowing what you want. Knowing what you value.
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Dawn Gluskin: Absolutely. And then you can prioritize and you, like you said, create from there. When you know what you want, you’re the boss. You can create that. And if that looks like you traveling and bringing, like I’ve brought the kids with me on business trips and stuff like that. So yeah, you can create however you want it to look, but you have to be actively creating it and it’s not just going to happen and you know, if you’re not taking that position of you’re in the driver’s seat. Years can go by, you can realize, “Oh my gosh I missed out on all of these milestones for my children.” I’ve seen that happen too. But, yeah, you can create whatever lifestyle you want. You know it could be the kids go with you, or when you are home you’re making it extra special for them and spending really quality time together.
Melinda Wittstock: I love the proximity though of, in the cases of my daughter now, is 14 and my son is 11, and them just sort of seeing me ride the entrepreneurial roller coaster. Or just commit to something, just even launching this podcast right? Where typical Melinda Wittstock, entrepreneur, says, “No, I’m not just going to launch like a weekly podcast, nah I’m going to do like a daily podcast.”
Dawn Gluskin: Of course.
Melinda Wittstock: “And there’s going to be this and this and all this.” You know but they saw me kind of commit to it and focus and deliver right? And through sort of ups and downs of getting the launch together, doing all this sort of stuff and they’ve seen me to that with my business. I think there are lots of lessons, so I try to involve them. Not to the point of being boring, but just like asking them questions about it or asking them if they want to help or asking them if they have any questions or just kind of sharing with them the journey. Sharing with them that it’s okay to fail. And the fail thing is really interesting. Sara Blakely from Spanx talks about how her dad had her and her brothers and sisters come home from school every day and talk around the dinner table about how they failed that day.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh wow.
Melinda Wittstock: As, not as, like as a good thing right? Because if you were failing you were trying.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You were actually living an all in life. And she says that that, were it not for that, she would have had a very, very difficult time launching Spanks and all the gazillion times she was told no or blocked or almost failed or almost went under or all the, you know how hard that was to build that company. Right? That stood her in good stead. So I kind of hope, you know that my kids will have a resilience maybe that they might have otherwise had. Is that how you see it too?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, and that’s so good. I love the lets talk about failures, because really, a lot of people don’t try because they’re so afraid of failing right? They don’t take that step off they ledge of the cliff, the metaphorical step because they’re … What’s under there? What’s going to happen? Am I going to, is something going to catch me? Am I going to fall and get splat on the ground? But the biggest risk is not even trying. ‘Cause then you go through your whole life with that idea or that dream and it just never comes into fruition and then before you know it, you’re at the end of your journey here and just looking back and just saying, “I wish I had taken the chances.” And for your children to see that, at such a young age is so powerful. ‘Cause somewhere, even if it’s at a subconscious level, they’re taking in, you know, you’ve got to try. And it’s okay to fail. So, I love that and just what’s possible too, anything’s possible, you can create anything. Very empowering to put in the mind of a young child, it’s really going to serve them as they grow older.
Melinda Wittstock: So, for any woman listening to this, who is either in her 20s or an older woman who maybe kind of climbed up the corporate ladder, is kind of getting frustrated because of the kind of constraints of corporate America. You know, doesn’t have the flexibility that she wants, doesn’t, you know, but has always in the back of her mind thought, “I really want to have my own business but, oh, I’ve got to wait because of children.”
Dawn Gluskin: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: She doesn’t, does she?
Dawn Gluskin: No.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Because I think so many times in life how we get into those situations of regret, which is a horrible thing, that feeling of regret, is because the biggest regret is not doing something. Like, so when we say, “Oh but first I have to do this.” But first that, but first … That’s just kind of procrastination or really, but first is fear.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, that’s the fear leading the way for sure. Yeah, for that 20-year-old woman or the older woman who’s in corporate and just afraid to take that first step, there’s something magical that happens. I just want you to know, when you create with your word. When you commit to something, there’s just something magical. And of course you have the do the work and show up and all that practical stuff. But the universe just conspires to help you continue forward. You just take one step and then the next step and the next step. And before you know it, this thing, your dream is coming alive.
So just start moving forward. One step at a time and you’ll see that things just kind of start magically lining up. And I don’t mean like you’re just sitting back, it just magically happens. You have to do the work, but it just, things just have a way, when you’re committed to seeing something happen, it just has a way of showing up. The right people show up, the right opportunities show up and you just keep moving forward.
Melinda Wittstock: This is really true. This has been proven time and time again in my life. But it’s also I think to do with being in alignment with your kind of true purpose. That you’re doing the thing that you are uniquely meant to do. And that can be hard sometimes. To find what that is. Because we’re so filled with all these thoughts and beliefs that we’ve learned from our parents, our extended relatives, our school system, our society, our media, our friends about the life you’re supposed to lead. Like “the should” life. As opposed to …
Dawn Gluskin: Right. I call that living other people … Living someone else’s dream, is what I call that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, most people are though, don’t you think?
Dawn Gluskin: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Most people fall into that. And you can tell because they’re like, “I should do this, I should do that, I should do that.” I know, even when I interview people for my company and I’ll often ask a question like, “Okay, so if you had everything you, everything, all the money you ever wanted and like, everything, what would you be doing right now?” And whatever that answer is, you know people say, “Well, I would live on an island.” It’s like, “well go live on an island now.”
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, why not? Go for it.
Melinda Wittstock: If that’s what you want to do right?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Or like, I would be feeding hungry children, well go feed hungry children. So …
Dawn Gluskin: Yep, start where you are.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? And so but I think that we put all these things, because we think that we have to tick all these things off some sort of mythical list and we don’t. So I love the idea of just encouraging women to be really, just find that thing that makes their heart sing and just do it. And like as you say, put it out to the universe. As an I am, like I am doing this.
Dawn Gluskin: Yep. It’s already done. It’s just a matter of time and space to catch up, it’s already done, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh man. Did you always have this awareness or was this sort of a personal growth trajectory that came with closing your business?
Dawn Gluskin: Well it’s interesting. I started developing this sort of awareness when I started my first company. And I actually feel on some level like I created my business closing. Because I always, I was one of those people, I knew that that wasn’t my purpose. I was just, I made good money at it, I was good at it. I liked, I loved my clients and my vendors and my employees. So I enjoyed the work, and I knew it wasn’t in full alignment of why I was here on earth.
So, my thing was, “Well, I’m just going to do that for another year and then I’m going to sell the company.” You know and a year become two years, three years, four years, and you know the universe is listening to me as I’m saying this. Like I’m going to go do this but I really want to do … And so, because I wasn’t taking that action, I really feel like the universe really took out the two by four and whacked me over the head. Be like, no, no, this is not what you’re supposed to be doing, you keep talking about it, now’s the time to move. So on some level I did create that.
It wasn’t kind of my terms, like in my head is I was going to sell the business and have millions of dollars. And that’s not what happened. But it’s all good. Everything is perfect the way it unfolded.
Melinda Wittstock: So you said a little earlier in the interview that you always dreamt of being a writer. But that you had this idea in your mind that if you were a writer you couldn’t make money.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And so that is just so emblematic of how we get these limiting beliefs from somewhere that prevent us from living our true dream and now, you have a business where you are writing. You’re story telling. You’re helping other people telling their stories. You are now in that dream and making money in that dream.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, it’s cool right? How that happens. Yeah, we all get those limiting beliefs. Like you said, society. You know, from whether it’s our parents or our teachers or just looking at our societal beliefs, you start taking on these other beliefs that are not in alignment with what you know at your core, you’re meant to be doing. And there, you know, you can make money doing anything. Really, and that’s also a limiting belief, that, “No, you have to go to school and you have to go to college and you have to get a degree and then you climb up the corporate ladder and then you …” You know, just, you do this your whole life and then you can retire and then rest and then, and even that’s not even a thing anymore. Where people are retiring later and later.
But who says it has to be like that? You can create whatever you want. Whatever your version of reality is, you can create that. We all have that power.
Melinda Wittstock: We do, and we can create our own stories and I want to turn the interview a little bit now, to what you do at Blissed Communications because you’re truly, I mean, you sound truly blissed, okay, and your company is called Blissed Communications, it’s a beautiful name. And you help other people with really telling their stories. Stepping into their story with authenticity and so, how are some of the ways that women do best, when telling their stories? Or sometimes, don’t do well enough or don’t even put their story out there.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, I see that a lot. Like, so I do a lot of events and I do some speaking or even as just an attendee. And I’ll meet these, like a woman who’s just amazing. You know, just full of life and high energy and just is amazing at what they do. Whether they’re a coach or consultant or whatever it is that they do in the world, and then they’ll give me a business card and I’ll go check out their website.
And it’s like, wait a second. Is this even the same person? Because what they, how they’re putting themself out there to the world publicly, the message they’re using, the words they’re using, it’s very, a lot of times I’ll say it’s very safe. Very vanilla. Just, it’s not who they really are. And when I get in conversations about this, it’s a lot of times they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to brag.” Or you know, “I don’t think people care to hear that about me.” Or you know what I mean? So there’s this disconnect where people kind of show up in the world the way they think people want to see them. Or, especially in the business world! It’s like, “Oh you’re not supposed to talk about yourself. You’re not supposed to talk about your story. I can’t talk about that time I failed. And like, who’s going to hire me if I’m a “failure”. I’ve got to put my best foot forward.”
But there’s such a disconnect of who we really are and how we put ourselves out there a lot of the times. And that’s, I can guarantee if you’re doing that, it’s costing you a lot of money. Almost every 100% of the time. I can’t think of an industry where that’s not the case. Because just even energetically, people are going to feel like this isn’t really you. There’s something off. It’s like, I want to work with you but there’s something off. But, when I see people really step into their authenticity and put their real self forward, whether they’re let some of their quirkiness show or their humor or you know tell their story of whatever it is. Their business always flourishes because of it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, that’s true. When we try and kind of hide thing. So, when, the really interesting dynamic is when we’re afraid of being judged, or when we’re in shame, we’re really judging ourselves. And we’re, it’s like in judging ourselves we’re inviting other people to judge us. It’s like, “Come into the judgment party.”
Dawn Gluskin: Funny how it works like that huh? The judgment party, I love that.
Melinda Wittstock: But it’s true, like whatever we’re feeling about ourselves, we end up, yeah we end up kind of manifesting it in others or either that or we attract other people into our lives that are going to trigger those feelings or … You know, a lot of these things that I’ve really come to understand now, in my life, and I think through my entrepreneurial journey. I think entrepreneurship is the best therapy for anybody. I mean, if you want to go on a personal growth journey, become an entrepreneur.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh my gosh, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, but that’s been so true of me. And I think man, if I’d know a lot of these things that I know now, you know much earlier in my entrepreneurial career. Like there’s so many things that, yes, I would have done differently, but, I wouldn’t be here but for the fact that …
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: So, it’s one of those things I guess. It’s just like the, you know of the age that comes, or the wisdom that comes with age perhaps. It’s seasoning.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, the experience, just being on that journey you learn so much.
Melinda Wittstock: So how can women tell their stories better? What are some practical pieces of advice?
Dawn Gluskin: Well, for as far as practical advice, you know I always say to, if you’re in business and you want to tell your story, be very clear on who you are and what you stand for. First and foremost. And also, who your client is. Who you’re telling your story to, what they’re struggling with and then how your product or service helps to ease their pain. So you want to have all that in mind. And then, you can just go through and start thinking through your life.
Maybe even make a list. Sit down and brainstorm of like 20 or 30 things that have happened. I always say, you chose from your highlights reel, your low lights reel and your bloopers reel. Because everyone loves a good success story, we love, I wouldn’t say we love failures, but when you can turn it around and say this is what happened but this is what I learned from this. Or this had made me stronger or this is how I overcame it. People love that kind of a story. And then blooper, like we all like to laugh and it’s nice if you can laugh at yourself a little bit too. It shows a little humility in the business world.
But if you can do that and you’ll find, especially people who say, “I don’t have a story.” You’ll find so much stuff will come bubbling up. And then it’s just, the last part is just connecting that back to who your client is and how you serve them and how can you connect the dots between your journey and how you want to inspire your clients.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness that’s amazing. That sounds so much like my company Verifeed and what we do.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean I know it’s exactly right because we teach people how to do that, how to do that on social media.
Dawn Gluskin: Oh awesome.
Melinda Wittstock: But we use algorithms to figure out who their actual ideal, who their actual ideal customers are.
Dawn Gluskin: I love that there’s an algorithm for that, it’s so cool.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, there’s an algorithm for that. No there is, it’s crazy, only someone like me would think, “Yeah, I want to figure out how to measure authenticity.”
Dawn Gluskin: That’s beautiful. I love it.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, right? Like that’s a nice kind of big kind of moon shot-y thing to try and go do. Which is fun. And so, what’s next for you? You’re building up your business and you know, what’s your big vision? Where are you going from here Dawn?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, well the next kind of big project I’ve got going on is a, I’m launching my own podcast. So you and I met at the New Media Summit in San Anglo, which was all about podcasting and you were one of the icons of influence there. And it was such a great event. And I felt like I wanted to do a podcast before that event, and then I went home I was like, “No. I’m definitely doing a podcast.” So I’m working behind the scenes and my podcast is going to be called Bare Naked Radio.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, what a great name, that’s awesome.
Dawn Gluskin: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: When does it, so that’s totally about authenticity.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: So when do you launch your podcast?
Dawn Gluskin: Well I don’t have my launch date yet. I’m thinking January. Because I’m pre-launch right now. I’m getting interviews lined up and I’m getting my show set up and all that good stuff. So, I don’t have an exact date, but definitely by January we should be out there and have the first five or so episodes out there in the world. So yeah, I’m really excited and you know obviously getting naked is a metaphor, but that’s kind of how it feels when you peel back the layers and let people see who you really are. It’s kind of scary like getting naked.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s scary, but isn’t it so wonderful when you do …
Dawn Gluskin: Liberating.
Melinda Wittstock: Actually do that and people really appreciate and love you more.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And you don’t know that feeling, you don’t really know that until you take that step.
Dawn Gluskin: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: But so, what a beautiful topic. I’m so glad you’re doing that.
Dawn Gluskin: Thank you. Excited. I’m excited and I think it’s, the world needs that. We need to hear, we need to see more, we crave more authenticity and vulnerability. There’s a lot of stuff, you know you can even see it out there in the world now, is a lot of things are coming out in the political climate and the whole me too movement where people are coming forth with all this stuff that they’ve been hiding and carrying with shame for all these years and it’s coming to the surface to be healed. And I think it’s a beautiful thing.
Melinda Wittstock: It really is. And so, to wrap up this interview, which I have enjoyed so much.
Dawn Gluskin: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: Talking with you. Are there any other kind of go to pieces of advice for women about really anything. I mean, we usually try to end up with three different pieces of advice. Could be around work life balance, could be about building your business, could be about authenticity. But what are your top three pieces of advice?
Dawn Gluskin: Well I always say you are the guru. And what I mean by that is like, yes, hire coaches, yes consultants, yes go ask other people who are steps ahead of you like for advice. But at the end of the day, don’t forget to check back in with your internal compass. And it has to align with you. That’s like my number one go to advice.
Lets see, number two would probably be feel the fear and do it anyway.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, just keep walking through that fear. And then what else?
And then just don’t end your life with the number one death bed regret, which is, “I wish I had lived a life true to myself. Not the one that others had wished for me.” But you know you don’t have to wait until you get to your death bed to realize you’re living like that. You can realize that today and start making the changes to really live the life that you want.
Melinda Wittstock: Beautiful. So, how can folks get in touch with you Dawn Gluskin, and is there any way if someone wants to work with you or any special offer, anything like that for our guests on Wings today?
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah definitely. So, my website is called blissedcommunications.com. So it’s B-L-I-S-S-E-D communications.com. And I have some free downloads. One of them is the power of storytelling and it walks you through the steps. There’s a workbook and a video to help you learn how to create your own story. And then I have another one on creating sales pages that convert. And then I just, I’m on social media. I love connecting with people so just Dawn Gluskin [inaudible 00:50:05] I hang out on Facebook and Instagram and would love to connect with you guys there as well.
Melinda Wittstock: That sounds wonderful. Well thank you so, so very much for flying with me on Wings today.
Dawn Gluskin: Yeah, it was my pleasure. Thank you so much.