Many of you may not know this but Oprah Winfrey is who inspired me to become an entrepreneur. When I was in college she opened Harpo Studios. That planted the seed and really gave me the confidence that one day I could own my own production company.
I will never forget that time. I was interning that summer in New York for the Today Show and back then, Lexisnexis was the way you looked up information. I used to hide in the ladies room until everyone went home so I could get onto the Lexis system and look up articles about Oprah’s new business. What fascinated me most about Oprah’s business acumen was not her number 1 talk show, but the fact that she owned her own creative product and negotiated her own syndication deal with King World.
It was the summer of my sophomore year in college when I caught the entrepreneurial bug and I started making plans. I even came up with the name of my first company – Quintessence Entertainment, Inc. I chose Quintessence because it means perfection I also thought it sounded kind of feminine (which I liked).
One of the things I knew about business was that I needed to get some experience before I started my own business. So I finished my broadcast journalism degree at Virginia Tech and then I got a job as a news producer. I worked in the industry six years as a producer and learned every job I could. Then I started thinking back on my business idea. After years of writing about murders and fires and working every Christmas in the news business, I knew that I was meant to do something else. It was a strange feeling as it was my dream job – and I hated it.
While I was still working for the television station, I got a freelance gig working for a production company and then after February sweeps, I walked away from the news business and decided to start my own production company. The Oprah show was always one of my favorites. I was very lucky I worked at a TV station where I got to watch her show most days before the news.
One of my favorite episodes was one show where a woman in the audience came to return a pair of Oprah’s shoes. Each year, Oprah auctions all of her clothes and shoes to raise money for charity. One year, a woman who was quite down on her luck, bought a simple pair of flat shoes in the sale. She didn’t even wear Oprah’s size. But she wanted the shoes for encouragement. She said whenever she felt depressed she would just stand in Oprah’s shoes until she felt better. She came to the show to give Oprah back her shoes because she didn’t need them anymore. I talked about this episode so much that when I started my production company, one of my best friends bought me a pair of slippers that Oprah said was one of her favorite things and told me that now I was walking in Oprah’s shoes. It’s been almost 12 years, and I still have and love those slippers.
In 2005, in addition to running my multimedia production company, I became a professional speaker and small business coach. It was an unintentional business. So many people called me for business advice and to present workshops and participate on panel discussions that after losing precious work hours each month, I realized that I’d better figure out a way to monetize my expertise. I started with my special report 44 Things To Do Before Going Into Business and that led to my book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months which was released in March 2010 by Adams Media.
In 2008, I decided to use Twitter to grow my speaking and coaching business, but when I got to the social networking site, my name was taken. After I got over the initial shock, my friend Cathy Larkin came up with the idea that I should call myself “SmallBizLady” which has turned out to be the best thing that happened to my brand. In January 2009, I launched this blog as a resource for small business owners.
In early 2010, around that time was book was released, I had an idea for a reality TV show that would send me across the country helping America’s small business owners with their biggest small business challenge and leaving them with an action plan for success. Think of my show as a cross between The Suze Orman Show on CNBC and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover on the Bravo Network.
On May 4, 2010, Oprah partnered with mega producer Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor and The Apprentice, to find a reality star to create a show for her new cable channel the Oprah Winfrey Network which will begin airing in 2011.
I happened to see the announcement live on TV that day. I had a strange feeling as I watched the contest announcement; it was like Oprah was talking directly to me. In an instant, my cell phone was ringing from three different friends wanting to know if I saw it. They also thought that Oprah was looking for me. Last week, I posted my show concept video to Oprah.com. Here’s the link http://bit.ly/9z13IT . Please vote for me. There are no restrictions on voting. You can vote as many times as you want each day until July 3, 2010.
Oprah is also hosting live casting calls in four cities across the country at Kohl’s stores. Several friends have agreed to go to the casting with me on June 5th. I am going to get in line on June 4th, as they only promise to see the first 500 people. We are going to camp out in the parking lot — like back in the day for concert tickets. I will be in line by 10 am Friday morning at the Kohl’s in Linden, NJ feel free to come and hang out with me and my friends in line as we continue this journey to win a show on the OWN Network.
I believe everything that I’ve been through in business and in the television and production industry has prepared me for this moment–and I’m bringing along my Oprah slippers for good luck!
Please tell everyone to vote and leave me a comment below about what you think about my pitch video on Oprah.com.