[quote style=”boxed”]Without a doubt, I’d challenge every budding entrepreneur to be a restless soul and find chaos in everything they do. Live without borders and take on anything, especially when others (or even you) whisper the word no.[/quote]
Marisa Santoro is the founder of In Our Shoes, an empowering, female village she’s grown, given her career as an IT executive on Wall Street, a seminar leader, an entrepreneur, a writer, an educator and a single mom juggling it all. After discovering a natural instinct for “picking up” brilliant women wherever her feet landed, she is now creating footprints of support, inspiration and action for women in business, working moms and mums.
In Our Shoes contributes to the success of women professionals by sharing lessons learned, providing insight into today’s business realities, and inspiring hard-working women who have taken a stand for following their passions in business. Today’s women recognize that while we may need an income, collecting a paycheck is not enough. Being happy in our careers will lead us to more fulfilling lives.
Through her success story interviews with women executives and entrepreneurs, the empowering women events that she covers, her career lessons learned in business (given her 17+ year career in corporate America), and successful partnerships with like-minded organizations, Marisa delivers the tactical tools, resources and community to inspiring women to help them pursue careers they love with shoe-swapping success!
What are you working on right now?
I am running an online seminar for women who wish to pursue careers they love: The Five Footprints Which Smart Ambitious Women Make, When Following Their Passions in Business. I’m also working on summer seminar programming in New York City and London, which empowers women and entrepreneurs to jumpstart their leadership strategies and businesses.
Where did the idea for In Our Shoes come from?
I wanted to learn how other women who were master jugglers were doing it all! I rolled up my sleeves and began asking. I’ve spoken with cancer survivors, divorcees risking it all by giving away the financial security that comes from being married, women who had no prior experience in an industry yet achieved success, women who had a comfy, cozy, lucrative career and walked away to be who they wanted to be, and most recently a British royal mum who waved goodbye to the aristocracy without any financial support.
When I became a mom after a long IT career on Wall Street, I suddenly found myself multi-tasking on steroids. I was always a great juggler, but having children and balancing a career with a family was new territory. I hadn’t found much support out there for successful women, like me, who were trying to keep a foothold in their families as well as their careers. It’s a catch-22: career-minded women have to maintain a professional image that they have it all together, but in reality, they struggle with the challenge of returning home to their second shift. We need the support.
In Our Shoes felt like the perfect name, as I wanted to make a very authentic, human connection to other ambitious women who were handling the very real challenge of juggling it all, but weren’t able to shout to the universe for support.
What does your typical day look like?
I’d say it very much depends on the day! New media likes to call it the “work-life balance” thing for women. There’s no such thing; it doesn’t exist. A typical day for working women consists of putting out the fire of the day and then moving on to the next one, in a completely different direction. If I have a large event coming up, I’m consumed by the preparation for it. If I am working from home, I’m on the clock (while my kids are at school) and pushing through a six-hour stretch of work to make every second count. In the evening, I’m always on my kids’ watches, following homework, dinner and story time.
Most days, I’m in the eye of the storm constantly, but it’s my “normal” and it works.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As women, we have a lot of internal dialogue going on all of the time. We’re all great thinkers. While that’s a positive trait, it can also be draining as well. Whenever I’m faced with a personal challenge at work or at home, I experiment by using it as either part of a webinar or a teleconference, or as the topic for an article I’m writing.
The best example of this that I can give is a bout of Imposter Syndrome I was suffering with after delivering a powerful speech I gave at a large event in New York. I had received much positive feedback afterward, but I was having a challenge owning it. We women are not good at celebrating our wins. I took a step back, listened to my inner voice, and took it on. This inspired an article I wrote for a career column I write for occasionally. I received great feedback from readers who shared the same experience, which was so rewarding to hear. So I’d have to say most of my ideas come directly from my own life’s challenges, from those of my clients, or from whispered frustrations of the women with whom I connect.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Meeting and connecting with like-minded women! It’s addictive. The moment I meet a woman that I admire, I can feel the mutual energy; it is such a jolt of inspiration. It usually continues on with a coffee meeting or online conversation. It’s a natural trend for women to want to connect and inspire one another. It has really opened up a lot of doors for me.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Early on in my career I wanted to be a writer, but all of my education was rooted in technology. It was difficult to simply cross over. So I took a summer internship as a technical writer. I discovered that while I loved writing, I didn’t love writing about technology! It didn’t move me. I learned that having the right skills are important, but knowing what you stand for and what your true purpose is career-wise is even more so.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more risks after college. Today I have a global perspective on my work, as I partner with U.K. organizations and women (as well as with those here in the U.S.), but early on in my career, I wish I had moved around more and taken advantage of opportunities that would have been safe to pursue even if they ended in failure. The older you get, the harder it is to have that child-like confidence to take on the world. I’m fortunate to have grown a steady network over the years, which allows me to travel and take some risk today. But I realize there were other paths I could have taken as well.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Without a doubt, I’d challenge every budding entrepreneur to be a restless soul and find chaos in everything they do. Live without borders and take on anything, especially when others (or even you) whisper the word no.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that getting out of your skin, taking risks, and picking up the phone for a new opportunity is hands-down the best way to fuel ourselves and our businesses. Never accept the status quo, and ask yourself–in any chaotic, stressful situation–whether you have any regrets. If the answer is still “no,” you know you’ve found your passion in business. The rest will work itself out. We don’t’ need to know how, we just need to know we’re still in the game.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Coming from executive career in corporate America, I recognized that not everyone is willing to help you. I had a false assumption that if you’re a good person coming from an authentic place, everyone will open up their doors for you. That’s a naïve way of looking at the world of business, but it actually helps you get clear on what you want.
Cutting deals and making them a win-win for every person you partner with makes sense. It’s a game of survival, and it’s how synergies are made. It’s also a great way to spot signs of poor time management. If you don’t see the value in engaging with someone new, then don’t; you can’t afford to.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Target kids with a creative twist by coupling any two areas of study that tap into completely opposite skills. Offer an art class followed by an alphabet cookie decorating lesson. Teach a guitar class followed by an origami lesson! Parents are suckers for giving their kids unique, imaginative experiences, and parents will tell all of their mommy-friends about ones they like–that’s a promise. You’ll be a one-hit-wonder in the neighborhood.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would teach children in third world countries to learn how to read. If time and money were not an issue, I would start from the ground up, and provide them with role models from every corner of the globe to unlock the world’s potential. In Our Shoes would be the forerunner by opening the schools!
Tell us a secret.
I am obsessed with doors. I take pictures of doors everywhere; the more rustic and bruised, the better. It’s a safe, bizarre love affair. Don’t ever show me a red door; I’ll drop to the floor and it will be on your watch.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources? What do you love about them?
Twitter: It’s micro blogging that takes simple, wise thoughts from someone else’s mind and transfuses them into mine.
Dictionary.com: If I could hug it to bed each night, I would.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist. It’s a book about true purpose and learning that everything we aspire for lies within us.
Name three people we should follow on Twitter.
If you’re a parent, definitely @pbsparents. They provide lots of “aha” moments for moms!
@gabyhinsliff is former political editor of the Observer who resigned to spend more time as a mom. She’s hysterical and captures true British humor.
@InRShoes. I don’t tweet as much as I’d like, but when I do, you want to tune in!
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday, after thanking my three-year-old for helping me carry groceries in from the car, he shouted, “My pleasure mummy!” (Peppa Pig is big in our house.)
Who is your hero?
My mom. She was a stay-at-home mom who took a weekly “salary” from my father, yet silently taught my sister and me to be financially independent, and to never rely on a man. She taught us to be hardworking, successful women in business today. I’d love to meet with a psychologist one day to analyze how she pulled that off!
What is the best piece of advice you would give to women who want to go after the dream shoes?
If you have the drive, you will find a way. Never accept “no” for an answer, even from yourself.
How do you take your tea?
With sugar and a drop of milk.