Audio (Podcast)

Female Entrepreneur – No Longer Feeling Alone At The Top

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Kimberly is a serial entrepreneur, wife, traveler, photographer, writer, speaker, sports enthusiast, volunteer and mother of two adorable fur babies. She grew up around business and started her first company at 19 while still attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Kimberly found her passion working with entrepreneurs and enjoys being able to create and facilitate Mastermind Groups (CEO Focus DFW) for business owners that promote business growth. She loves being able to give that “no longer alone” feeling to entrepreneurs while they navigate the rough waters of business ownership. “It’s amazing to witness the excitement of a breakthrough and the inspiration that comes from working together.” Kimberly’s motto is: Life can be messy and sticky at times, but that just means you’re living it right!

Connect with Kimberly Sulfridge:

Website: CEO Focus DFW

LinkedIn: Kimberly Sulfridge

Facebook: Kimberly Sulfridge

Twitter: kesulfridge

Pinterest: CEOFocusDFW


Introduction:00:03Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today's show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb:00:16Welcome to Plaid Radio. I'm your host, Sarah Webb, and I'm with today's guest, Kimberly Sulfridge. Kimberly is a serial entrepreneur, wife, traveler, photographer, writer, speaker, sports enthusiast, volunteer and mother of two fur babies. She grew up around business and started her own company at age 19 was still in college. She's found, over time, that her passion is really working with entrepreneurs who are able to be able to create and facilitate mastermind groups. So, she's kind of the person that helps guide us and give us that little entrepreneurial oomph, some hard talk, but also a lot of encouragement. Welcome to the show!
Kimberly Sulfridge:00:54Thank you. It's great to be here.
Sarah Webb:00:56Well, we got connected through some mutual friends and I am in one of your mastermind groups and we'll talk a little bit about that, but you're also a speaker at the #NoMeanGirls Conference and so you're going to talk to us a little bit about female entrepreneurship.
Kimberly Sulfridge:01:11Yes.
Sarah Webb:01:12I'm excited. Well, you're speaking at the #NoMeanGirls Conference. Your talk is: Female Entrepreneur – No Longer Feeling Alone At The Top. Talk about this loneliness, bit because that kind of surprised me when I dove into this, but as I've been an entrepreneur, I am a little bit lonely! Sometimes I have to get out of my house and just go sit at Starbucks to be around other people.
Kimberly Sulfridge:01:34Right? Well, I mean the one thing with being an entrepreneur or business owner is you're the one at the top. You're the one making decisions, figuring out what your next steps are, and of course maybe the smaller your businesses, you may literally be the only person in your business. You may not even have employees or a partner or somebody like that. And so when you're facing maybe an issue or a challenge or something, just sometimes having somebody to talk through it with would help greatly because you're afraid of making a wrong decision. You're worried about the impact of that on your company. Whether it's financially or bigger decisions. That may mean your company going under, who knows, depending on where you are. And so that can be extremely scary, but not making those decisions, too, will bring your company to a stalemate. So, it can feel lonely because you don't have somebody to just tell you, yeah, you're on the right track or I don't know that I would do it that way.
Sarah Webb:02:35Yeah, sometimes you just need that sounding board and you don't necessarily need people to solve your problems. But just to kind of say, Hey, I've been there too. This is what worked for me. It might work. You're still the decision maker, that's what I really enjoy about the group.
Kimberly Sulfridge:02:50Absolutely.
Sarah Webb:02:52What are some things that you think females can do to combat this loneliness? I've found that sometimes I meet with people and everybody wants to give me advice, which sometimes I appreciate but sometimes I don't. It's like I'm getting too much advice. It's too many cooks in the kitchen trying to tell me what to do! So, it's kind of like, “okay, do I really want to reach out and ask people for support? Because then I'm going to have to take their opinion, I guess.” What do you say about that?
Kimberly Sulfridge:03:16Well, the one thing to remember is it is obviously your company, so you're the ultimate decision maker. Obviously reaching out for advice and opinions and stuff is a good thing to do, but the one thing you do want to take into account is who you are talking to you about those decisions or the challenges that you're facing or something like that. Because while it's great to reach out to people and get the different ideas, because we all have that idea, two heads is better than one, and multiple is even better, because you can get a lot of ideas. Something you may never have thought of on your own. But let's say you're an entrepreneur and you're reaching out to your neighbor who has never owned a business before in their entire life. Doesn't understand where your position is because maybe they've been an employee their entire life. Now, that's not a bad opinion to get, something that an employee's opinion would take, but it is going to be coming from a different place than where you are as a business owner. So, taking the advice is not bad, but do think about where it's coming from and what their experience is, what their background is, because that's going to change obviously how they view your issue. So, coming back to your question on who to listen to who not to, wouldn't it be better to oftentimes look at maybe a group of likeminded people, which is kind of what we were talking about with the mastermind. That's what that is. So, for a business owner and a mastermind, this built up of business owners, you have at least a group of people that understand what you're going through because they're in that same place you are. So, while maybe they're in a different industry, things like that, so they don't maybe know the exact correlation. They understand your process because they're going through the same one and can give some advice. And like you said, sometimes it's not even about getting the information, it's just about here, here's my problem, I want to spill this out to somebody and I want them to hear it and give me some feedback on it. Am I crazy to think I want to do something like this? Or maybe it's your strategy plan and you're like, “I think this is a great plan, but I don't know, I've never tried it. So, here, here it is. Let me lay it out for you and get some feedback on it.” So, it's, I think more listening to who you're talking to and just remember who it is and take that advice. Like you said, you get what you pay for type thing sometimes. So, sometimes you have to take it with a grain of salt, but you can get so many more ideas that way too.
Sarah Webb:06:01I've found being in a group with entrepreneurs, it even spurs more brainstorming. And entrepreneurs, I guess compared to being in the corporate world and having a steady job, we all understand cash flow, understand PNLs, we understand that we're struggling to make money and produce. What we're producing is different for each of us, but we kind of all understand that process. Whereas when I was in corporate I never even thought about cashflow, like I've never worried about if my company was going to be able to pay me or anything like that. So, it's just a different level of being much closer to all of that. So, I think they understand that stress a little bit more than maybe someone who's still working fulltime for someone else.
Kimberly Sulfridge:06:42Well, it comes from a different place, so absolutely. It's like you said as an employee, you weren't worried about the books or anything like that because they weren't your responsibility. That's somebody else's. As an entrepreneur that is your responsibility. Ultimately the buck stops with you.
Sarah Webb:06:59Tell us a little bit about your journey. So, you started your first company at age 19, did you know that you would be an entrepreneur?
Kimberly Sulfridge:07:06I grew up around business, so I think probably at some level I knew that's probably where I would end up. My parents own their own insurance agency. They actually started it when I was born. That was the way that my mom could stay home with me during the day and my dad would go out and sell, so she'd take care of me than they would kind of swap. My Dad would take care of me in the evening and my mom would take care of all the details, the paperwork, all of that. And of course, I grew up in the middle of that. So, I mean I remember, I think I was about three when they moved to a new office space and I walked in and I was looking around going, where's my office? My Mom had one, my dad had one, the secretary had one. I'm like, Hey, I'm here, too. Where's my office? So, they set me up a little chalkboard desk in the supply closet and I was perfectly happy because it was all mine. So yeah, I think I probably thought I would end up in business because I was surrounded by it. But yeah, like you mentioned before I started my first business actually while I was still in college at 19 and kinda just kept going from there. I had a few jobs where I worked for somebody else, but honestly I've, I've mostly worked for myself.
Sarah Webb:08:23What was that first business at age 19?
Kimberly Sulfridge:08:25It was actually an insurance agency as well. I was in college and they were coming out with new plans, talking about planning for college. It was kind of planning for college and planning for retirement. But being in the middle of college I completely saw the struggles of paying for it. So, they were using life insurance and I was like, I can so identify with that. And so, I took it and ran, and I could talk the language. I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to pay for it. So, it just, it was a good fit. Right?
Sarah Webb:08:58Did you have to sit for any boards or anything like that? Or they just let you loose?
Kimberly Sulfridge:09:03I did, I got both my PNC license and my life license. So, there were two different tests that I had to take and of course there were the classes you had to take before that. And so, it was a little interesting, but you know, again, being in school I was used to tests so, it was take the class, study a little bit, go in and take the test. Compared to maybe a 40-year-old that hadn't been in school for a while, it was probably a lot easier for me because I was used to taking tests at that point.
Sarah Webb:09:32So, you've kind of always been on this entrepreneurial journey. What are some of the things, now that you're more in this mentor role, what are some of the common things that you see people struggle with?
Kimberly Sulfridge:09:43Well, I mean business… you can struggle with just about anything in business and that's what I like about the mastermind groups is they can bring that struggle in and talk about it. Depending on where they are in the business, may depend on what they need more help with because the smaller companies, a lot of times it's one person wearing all the hats. So, while it's kind of hard to… You have a specific thing that you're good at, chances are that's what your business revolves around. So, take a plumber. They know how to fix your plumbing, but do they necessarily know all of the business behind the scenes stuff? They probably started out with a pickup truck and themselves and some tools and then as they started growing, maybe started adding things to it. Maybe they added another person, added another truck and before they knew it, maybe they had a couple of trucks and realize, this is no longer a one man show. I need somebody else answering the phone because I can't do all of this stuff. And so, they find themselves into a different realm of business than where they started. And it may be stuff that don't understand. You know, how many of us are accountants? Just doing your books, for some people it's a miserable experience because they don't understand it. They didn't go to school for it. And of course that's a pretty important aspect of your business. And one you want to make sure it's done right.
Sarah Webb:11:08Yes, exactly. Exactly. Well so, you see other people taking these risks, what is one risk that you've taken yourself? And what would you say to risk takers? Do you consider yourself like a risk taker?
Kimberly Sulfridge:11:21I do. I guess in some... I don't consider myself an extreme risk taker. I will say that I'm a little risk adverse, I guess.
Sarah Webb:11:28I feel like the insurance part of you is risk adverse and the entrepreneur part of you is kind of takes on more risk.
Kimberly Sulfridge:11:36Right, right. Well, I mean I've, I've started a number of companies, some I've sold, some I still have, and I've managed a lot for other people before. So, risk doesn't scare me, obviously, because starting a business is pretty risky when you get right down to it. So, I don't shy away from it. I would say probably the riskiest thing I've ever done would be stepping away from my first business when I did because I did not have a plan following it, and so I would not necessarily advise that. The reason I did it is I was physically sick. I let it go too long without doing something about it and I write it off to being young and not knowing any better at the time. Now I learned a lot from that experience that I, I definitely have taken forward and will make sure I don't get in that position again. So, there was a reason that I sold it when I did. It was not something I had planned to do. It was a very quick decision, but it did turn out to be probably the best decision I could've made certainly at that time. So, risk is one of those things. If you're a business owner, if you're an entrepreneur, you're going to face risk no matter what, but you can mitigate your risk as well by taking measures and I think that's what's important to do in business.
Sarah Webb:13:04I feel like as an entrepreneur like risk sits right beside me, like if I was driving the car then risk is the passenger in the front seat and I need to be able to acknowledge that it's there, put the seatbelt on it so, that I can keep it safe and keep it in this container. But knowing that it's there and it's like, do I need to look at the risk and ask for directions and get a map and to have a pulse check there or do I need to kick it out of the car, but it's always there with you. It's always riding right beside you, whether you want it or not and it's kind of like how do you use it to your advantage and then when do you know that it's time to be like, okay, I've got to get rid of this because the risk is too high or I need to mitigate some other way.
Kimberly Sulfridge:13:49Oh absolutely. Well and risk is kind of what keeps it interesting too because it's, it may not be worth doing if it's not a little bit risky, but it's figuring out what's too risky for you. My Mother did a lot with securities and people would call her that they couldn't sleep at night because they were worried about their money in stock market and she would tell them, "well then you need to sell. I mean, it's not worth your health. If you're going to stay up all night worried that you're going to lose your money, then you don't need to be there. We need to find you something that's less risky." And so, it's just about figuring out where your risk tolerances are and working within those limits, and if you have no risk tolerance, maybe having your own businesses not the best place for you.
Sarah Webb:14:33I agree with that. You've talked about your parents a lot. Do you think that there have the greatest impact on your life as an entrepreneur?
Kimberly Sulfridge:14:40Oh, absolutely. My mother, probably the most. My parents divorced when I was about 12 and again I grew up in their agency and everything and then of course after they divorced, I was my mom's second in everything. I was answering phones and filing and when computers came in… which that was interesting. I had a little bit more computer knowledge than my mother did. So, I was kind of almost a teacher for her trying to explain how these software programs work for just doing quotes. But no, my mother really took me under her wing, I'm assuming one to teach me, but two, I think I almost was acting as her, 'bounce ideas off of' type person. She definitely had a group of people that she did that with as well. But, it wasn't like she was necessarily looking for the answer from me, but I think it was almost just saying it out loud. Hear it. See how it came, teaching me in the process of it. And so, just kinda almost figuring it out that way. And not only that, I was able to learn so much that way because I learned a lot about business, I learned a lot about finances. I realized later in life I knew stuff about finances that a lot of people had never been taught. She kept me involved, she just put me in there with it and explained why she made the decision that she made, which caused me to make decisions later, that I might not otherwise have made.
Sarah Webb:16:12Yeah, our parents' role model for us so much. And with you being like really right there beside her, I can only imagine the things you learned and saw firsthand versus sitting around the dinner table like, “what'd you do today?” That experience is different than being like, “okay, you filed stuff today. You answered the phone. And being there, you also get to see how hard she worked. It doesn't sound like she was scared of hard work.
Kimberly Sulfridge:16:37Oh No, she definitely had a high risk tolerance. I wish I could do what she did. I mean she was absolutely amazing with what she did. And I'm so glad that I had the chance to learn and I learned kind of hands on, whether it was intentional or not, or kind of forced child labor! But I look back on that time and think, oh my God, I… At the time I'm sure I was not happy. I was a teenage kid, going, “really I have to go to the office and answer the phones and do all this filing? This sucks!" But now I look back and “Oh, thank you so much!” Because those lessons were invaluable and then I've taken them with me the entire way through my life.
Sarah Webb:17:21What's one of the things that you've created that you're most proud of?
Kimberly Sulfridge:17:25Oh, I mean, I guess the natural answer would be some of my companies, I have a real estate company that I've had now since 1999 and I don't do the day to day management of it. I have a company that takes care of that, but I'm still very involved in it. But, honestly, just recently I've always liked to write and just recently I was in a compilation book which I was very proud when that came out because I've written my entire life but did not want to show anybody my writing. I was scared to death of what they would think and kind of got to blogging and stuff. So, started kind of getting into it and I guess the compilation book was maybe that next step to something. And actually right now I'm working on a book of my own. So, I think that compilation book right now is something I'm very proud of because it was, it was really funny when I sent in my chapter because I was so excited, and I sent it in and I literally hit send and went, oh no!
Sarah Webb:18:29You're like, “other people are going to read this!”
Kimberly Sulfridge:18:32I started kind of freaking out going, wait a minute, maybe I need to call and tell them never mind. Sorry can't do this. I'm so glad I did. And I'm looking forward to those next steps.
Sarah Webb:18:43So, if someone wants to be an aspiring writer, like what's your process? Because when people tell me that they are writing a book, I'm like, I mean like, what does that really entail? Like do you make yourself sit down and write every day? Like what does that really mean?
Kimberly Sulfridge:18:58Well, I've had an idea to write a book for so long and have thought, “okay, I'm going to do it” and then I realize I have no idea how to do this. It's not just sitting down and writing. So actually, what I did is I took a couple of writers’ workshops and what those were great for is they taught us how to go about starting writing because if you sit down and you start writing and you just kind of go, you're going to get stuck pretty quick, that I found anyway. And I get stuck trying to be too much of a perfectionist early on before I have it all out. And you'll never get it done that way because you're too busy fixing what you've already written. And then you go a little further and you're like, wait a minute, I don't really like how that was now. And so, you go and fix it again and you might be writing a blog post that's a thousand words and it may take you five days just to do it because you never got it out. So, I found when actually writing a book, you do have to schedule the time. If you don't, again, time gets away from you. So, I'm a big believer and actually marking off that time on your calendar and outlining it out, have that base plan or what we think of as an outline. And then just write, don't worry what it sounds like, what it looks like. Don't worry about punctuation and grammar at that point. Just get it out of your head and get it onto paper because all of that can be taken care of after. But getting it out of your head to me is the hardest part about it.
Sarah Webb:20:29Putting it out there. Yeah. I like getting it on paper just so you can even start the editing process. I get that. You know, that Plaid is all about women supporting each other and creating a judgment free space. We're so excited to have you at the #NoMeanGirls Conference because you're definitely not a mean girl! Did you receive mean girl treatment in the past or have you experienced that as an entrepreneur? I feel like it's a very corporate thing because you're together. But what about as an entrepreneur have you ever received mean girl treatment?
Kimberly Sulfridge:21:00I don't know that as an entrepreneur I actually have. I have had my experiences with some people who definitely weren't nice girls, but fortunately I think in the arena that I've been in, professionally anyway, I've been fortunate, I think. If I'm honest, I'm not real sure why, because I have mostly been in male dominated fields, so I know there were times that I was kind of maybe pushed off that way because I was a female. I don't know that I actually, career wise, had the mean girl but it may have been frankly, I wasn't around that many women. I was in more male dominated fields and now I work with a lot of female entrepreneurs and I don't know if it's because of the role that I'm usually taking in that because I'm more the one bringing them together, but fortunately that's not an area, though I have seen it in so many places. It saddens me when I see that.
Sarah Webb:22:03It's disheartening just because I think that there's enough room for all of us. I think it's sometimes as adult women, it's our competitive spirit wanting to get ahead and wanting to be the best and really realizing we can do all of that without putting other people down.
Kimberly Sulfridge:22:19Oh yeah.
Sarah Webb:22:21Well thank you so much for being on Plaid Radio. I am so excited to have you at the conference and I know it's going to be a great event. We're going to talk about female entrepreneurship. I know there's going to be lots of people interested in that and kind of banishing the loneliness and that feeling at the top, but also creating a space where women can get support and know that they add value to their company. I mean obviously they're leading their companies, but value to the marketplace and their leadership there's a lot of people looking at them wanting to be in that role. So, I think there's a lot of power in that.
Kimberly Sulfridge:22:54Oh yeah. Well I think female role models now in business are so big because we have so many coming up that have a different mindset. I had a strong female role model and so, it never occurred to me that I couldn't do any of these things, but I know a lot of people kind of in my generation that didn't have that same mindset. And I think there's definitely a shift and so, those of us that are there now, I think it's so important to be role models for those coming up and just let them know, you know? Yeah. It's not going to be easy. Everybody would do it if it was easy, so you just have to work through it and I love Plaid for Women for that because, as you know, I was at the conference last year and I came away from it so inspired. With it being the first, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what I'd get out of it and I came out on fire, ready to go so, I can't wait for this year.
Sarah Webb:23:51I know I'm, I'm looking forward to it too. It's a very long process as the planner, but then like once you're there it's like, oh, this is so worth it. So, I hope our listeners will be able to join us. Thanks Kimberly. And that's a wrap for Plaid Radio.
Kimberly Sulfridge:24:04Thank you.
Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More
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