Episode 1: Introduction – Who Are Carmen & Deirdre?
Episode number one is an introduction to the founders of Encore Empire, Carmen Reed-Gilkison and Deirdre Harter. We have an interesting story regarding how we met and began our company. We share some of the challenges we were experiencing that led us to become ripe for collaboration, and a little about our backgrounds.
Deirdre Harter: [00:00:00] So Carmen and I got together a little over a year ago and we started Encore Empire, and we wanted to talk a little bit about how did we get to that place, how did we meet, and why do we do what we do? Now, my background is that of a CPA. I spent over 20 years in public accounting and about 14 years ago started a side hustle and I was selling products online. And at the time, it was simply because I needed the extra money, even though I made a good salary. My husband had a medical condition and was out of work for several months, and I realized that we just didn't have enough to make ends meet on just what I was bringing home, and that's when my entrepreneurial journey began. And from that point, I moved into helping other entrepreneurs with their businesses because I learned so many things during that period of time: How to do it all, how to take care of the family and the kids and the home, and a very demanding career, all at the same time and still build my business. So I really wanted to share all those things that I learned along the way, on top of all of the business model and strategy information that I had from working with small business owners for all those years. I wanted to do something bigger than what I was already doing, and I wasn't quite sure how to do it. And then, that's when I met Carmen. So Carmen, tell us about your journey and how you got to this point.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:01:36] Sure. I mean, our story is so great and it's so fun. And basically, we converged because we had the same goals. And what got me to the point where when I met Deirdre, I knew that this was something special and we were, you know, we decided to work together. I had a very high-powered career in corporate for 20 plus years, and I had learned a lot. I had done a lot and I was really burnt out. And I was, you know, right around when 50 hit, it was also coincidentally, the time when my daughter is old enough to move out. So she's she moves out. And suddenly it's like all those years of raising another human, you know, and doing all the things for someone else come to a halt. Plus then the burnout and it kind of equaled the midlife crisis thing that people experience. Although I like to call it a midlife awakening because I like to put a positive spin on things really. And because I also believe that it really is that. I think we have that that happen to us in our lives and it can happen in other times than midlife as well. But when you have something like that happen, it's really a wake-up call like you're being called to pay attention. So what was I feeling? I was feeling like, is this all there is? And at the same time, I was looking at what I had done and built and created and, you know, feeling like I shouldn't be saying, is this all there is I should be saying, I did it, you know, but I was burnt out and I didn't want to keep doing it.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:03:06] And so I then it took me on a journey inward and I started trying to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do, that would light me up. I knew that I wanted to have my own business because I wanted my own security. And at that time, you know, I'm fifty, fifty-one and I'm thinking, OK, I have an excellent resume, marketable skills, but if I were to go out to the job market right now, I'm competing against all the younger people. And I didn't know how I would fare. And not only that, but I also didn't want to repeat the same thing like switch jump ship from one place to another when where I was was really good. So in my mind, the only way to really rise above that or out of that was to create my own business. But I and I didn't know how. I had all these marketable skills, but how was I going to turn that into a business? So my journey was a long, winding one, and essentially I started, I started helping small businesses. I started one thing, I pivoted a little, learned a little bit more, did another thing and hit on the topic of helping women in midlife find out what their new purpose was. Because that was kind of what my journey was at the time. And I always wanted to be able to help them create a business. But I was just figuring that out on my own back then. So, fast forward a few years and I had a business and I was selling a course and it was OK.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:04:38] It was about purpose. That was fine, but I still had this nagging thing that I really want to teach people how to start their own business. But I didn't feel like I had all the expertise I needed or that I could do that on top of, I was still working at my job. I still I had my own company now and then, what am I going to try to do this whole other thing? And then, you know, then came August of 2020 when both of us attended this online summit, and that's where we met. And so it's just funny because that was it was something that was supposed to be in person, but they were doing it online because of COVID and it was a very - like I paid forty-seven dollars to go to that. And when I think of like that was the best forty-seven dollars I've ever spent because, you know, we met. And then you were really good Deirdre about like tapping me on the shoulder like, Hey, hey, let's let's keep continuing discussing things after this three-day conference or whatever. And I was all I thought, that's cool, but you are a lot more persistent than I would have been. So I'm always grateful because that led us to meeting, you know, once a month, then maybe, well, gosh, we should probably meet every two weeks, and then pretty soon it was we're meeting every week. And then before you know it, we're we're starting a venture together.
Deirdre Harter: [00:05:51] Yeah. And you know, that whole thing about, you know, following up after an event like that, I followed up with several of the other women that were there as well. Because I learned a long time ago this was something that was taught to us as I moved up into higher positions in public accounting. You know, I was expected to bring in new clients. And so the main way to do that was networking and building relationships with people. Now that was done on a local scale. And I was actually one of the first in our firm to ever even consider social media, you know, and using that as a way to bring in new clients. Because we didn't have to help just local people, we could help clients everywhere. In fact, we'd have clients that were local and then they move to another state and they remained clients of ours. And so, because I was starting my own business online, I was learning all about social media marketing. And so I kind of took that and put it together with what I knew about relationship marketing. And, you know, put all that together. And it was kind of a big epiphany for the partners in my firm. They're like, Wow, we didn't know you could do that. So, I really got a lot of great experience there, and that's what really helped me and how I knew to look for the people that I resonated with and look for collaboration opportunities because I was kind of at that same point, Carmen was. You know, for a year I turned 50, and then for that whole next year, I was running my business and same kind of situation where I'm thinking, I've done it.
Deirdre Harter: [00:07:29] I did what I set out to do. I have full-time freedom. I can do whatever I want because it's my business. There's no one, you know, telling me what I have to do, what I can and can't do. But it just didn't feel like enough. Like there was something more and it kept bugging me. I wasn't quite sure. So I thought, OK, well, maybe I should go into, you know what I'd always been doing, and that was advising clients on the financial side of things because I knew I was very talented at that. But even that just wasn't hitting the mark for me. And I just didn't know what that was. And so because I was just going with my natural instincts and what I knew to do, what Carmen was saying during this, this event. We got to interact through Slack, which was really interesting. It was really hitting home for me and really resonating. And so that's why I followed up and I had worked with partners in the past.
Deirdre Harter: [00:08:28] I'd done joint ventures before. And they were, you know, some were successful, but none of them were long-term. Like, I knew it was a one-off thing, you know, we were going to do a project together, but then we were not resonating enough to continue on. But I just when I talked with you, Carmen, I knew that it was completely different. And you know, looking back, in hindsight, I believe it was divine intervention because it was the answer I was looking for and I but I couldn't name it, and I didn't know it at the time. But I know that's exactly what it was. And I had the whole business side and I really wanted to build a coaching and advising service that was more holistic. Because in the coaching work I was doing already, it was all business, all financial, and I could see how a lot of the problems people were having and the struggles were based on mindset issues and on their personal life. And I, I wasn't equipped to handle all that. I mean, I could give, you know, common-sense advice. And what I knew to that worked for me, but I really knew that I needed that extra piece and make it a much more holistic program, and it would be so much more powerful. And that's where you came in.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:09:44] Yeah. And I mean, the thing about it is when you know, a lot of people are like, Oh, you guys are so lucky and we feel very lucky. And we both believe divine intervention because we met in August and we launched Encore Empire in November. But what we don't often talk about and what we should, we should definitely have people understand is that we did go into it thinking that we're going to do something for six months. That was our start. Because, you know, when you we didn't know each other for very long and yes, we hit it off and resonated and things were really rolling. But at the same time, that's like a little bit unsettling because you're like, Well, gosh, do I really know her? Does she really know me? I don't know. And so then when you're going to put two people together, there's always a little bit of a concern like, am I going to end up writing her coattails? Is she going to end up riding mine? Is one of us going to be doing more than the other? I mean, how do you know; and you don't know until you start something, and that's why for anyone who is interested, we would definitely highly recommend setting an end date like we set six months.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:10:47] We're going to do this thing for six months and see what happened, and it just ended up being great. And so we kept it up. And then we formalized our company and, you know, got an LLC and did the whole nine yards. But I don't know that that's necessarily the way that it always happens. But the fact that what Deirdre said, you know, I wanted to help teach women how to start a business, and I had some experience doing that. But my I was a certified whole person coach, helping with the mindset and finding purpose. And then here comes Deidre, who has all that business thing. It was just like, perfect a perfect match, because then we are able to offer this holistic, nurturing, and guidance to our clients. And we've had some clients who really rely on Deirdre's tax knowledge and her expertise. Then we have others who we've had coaching sessions and not spoken one word of business, and they were so grateful they're almost in tears. And it's really rewarding to be able to combine both of our expertise that way and then be able to guide women to improving what they're already doing in their business. And I just I couldn't ask for anything more. I think we're both very lucky.
Deirdre Harter: [00:12:02] And because of that, you know, we started thinking about that part of it too, like how fortunate we really were. And that is one of the things that's missing for most women in business. You know, everyone starts out as a solopreneur, and a lot of times they get stuck there. And they don't have a team because they're either don't know how to build a team or the income's not there. They don't have the money to do it because they're hitting a glass ceiling in their own business on the sales side. Because they have limited bandwidth and it's sort of a catch twenty-two, right? You don't have the time to make more money and you don't have more money to get the help to free up your time. And so it's a conundrum and you don't really know how to get out of that. And what we wanted to provide and what we do provide for our clients is we act like their silent business partner. So we're giving that dynamic of having experts help them in their business side by side. We're looking at everything that they're doing and we're building out the foundational business strategy that's going to allow them to scale beyond themselves or to scale up to the income level that they want to.
Deirdre Harter: [00:13:14] And we're providing that guidance because what happens is you spend all your time in business doing all the things right? You hear about this way of marketing, you hear about this sales process or strategy. And so you're trying all different things and you end up diluting all your efforts because you're spread too thin in too many different areas. And by having business partners come in who have the experience, we can look at what you're doing and say, OK, let's focus here. Let's prioritize what needs to happen first, and let's build out this strategy so that you can reach your goals and you can do it in a way that feels aligned with you. Carmen talked about that inside-out approach. Everybody starts on the outside looking at what are all the things, what's the flavor of the month marketing strategy and tactic. But really, you need to start on the inside, like what are your values and what is most important to you? And let's build a business, not a job, that you absolutely love and lights you up. Because when you do that, you're in your genius zone, and when you're in your genius zone and you're loving what you're doing, everything is easier and everything moves a whole lot faster in the right direction.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:14:28] That's right. And you know, since we have started this and it's been a year and we've hit all of our goals and we're going strong and it's fabulous. A few things have come to light. First of all, I would now be able to take my corporate skills and turn them into a business. And essentially, that's what I've done right? Within our business, we deal with marketing, copywriting and all that stuff, and that's the stuff that I did in corporate, right? And so all of that comes full circle. And what we like to say is experience elevates everything. All of your experience, whether it's past corporate experience or just life experience, feeds into who you are, and that's why we go inside first and get your values nailed down so that you can look through the lens of what you're really about and create and improve what you've already got going on. So it's extremely valuable to be able to do that, and it's something that we absolutely love to do with our clients.
Deirdre Harter: [00:15:27] So, our purpose on this podcast, we're launching this podcast because we've been supporting and educating women inside of our free Facebook group, the Empire of Unstoppable Women, and we wanted to expand our reach. We, our mission is to help as many women as possible to experience the financial freedom and lifestyle freedom that building their business the right way, according to their values and their priorities. It's the most amazing thing anyone can do, and it's what everyone's striving for, and we want to help stop the struggle because we can. And that's why we brought this podcast out. And that's why we are in our group every week and we provide tons of education there in the group, all of it designed to support women in the group in building their profitable online business.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:16:23] So because we have been we've had a year now of providing that kind of valuable content and training to our the members of our Facebook group and we see that it's creating AHA moments, we're changing people's lives, they're understanding, and they're being able to move forward in their own journey. We wanted to be able to bring our message out to a wider audience. And as business strategists, one of the things that we like to focus on is, you know, you've got to you've got to promote, you've got to do marketing and you've got to get visible, but you don't have to do all the things at one time. So if you look at it and our journey, we didn't start a podcast in the very beginning, right? We're adding that on because now is the right time and we do everything strategically, and that's what we help guide our members in and our clients. It's the foundational business strategy of figuring out, you know, you start with your values to figure out what it is that really resonates with you. What is this business going to be about? What are your goals? All that kind of stuff. But more importantly, what are the strategies that are right for you and what you want to do? And what you want to do, even if you are in the same industry as the next person, it's completely individual. And so we really celebrate that and help you celebrate that. And we wanted to be able to bring this out into the world in podcast form to get the message out that, yes, you are unique and yes, your business can be a wonderful, fabulous reflection of who you are.
Deirdre Harter: [00:17:54] That's right, and you can be profitable at the same time. You don't have to if you're heart-centered and you want to bring an impact to the world. You can absolutely do that and feel good about the fact that you're earning money at the same time and earning the kind of money that you want to. Because the way I look at it is money and the income that you're getting in your business, that is just a metric. It tells you how much impact are you having. Because if you don't have the money, then you can't make the impact. So the greater the impact, the greater that the income is. So it's really just a way for you to measure what is that impact. And the money is a tool for you to use to build the right kind of strategies and to increase your visibility and increase the impact, and it can go on and on up to whatever point you want to reach.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:18:49] That's right. So if you'd like to take advantage of our weekly training inside of our Facebook group, please look us up on Facebook. As Deirdre mentioned, it is the Empire of Unstoppable Women and we will see you there.
Deirdre Harter: [00:19:01] We believe that experience elevates everything, and every woman over 40 has a lifetime of experiences that make her powerful.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:19:12] We know without a doubt that your power is marketable and can become a true to you business that brings security, passion and purpose to your life.
Deirdre Harter: [00:19:21] We remove the complication frustration and wasted time and money of trying to figure out how to start and then grow a profitable true to you business.
Carmen Reed-Gilkison: [00:19:34] We started this podcast because we want to reach as many people as possible with our message. Values and validation are the keys to success. And you just need a little guidance to achieve your dreams.