Our focus is on uplifting women and trying to make sure everyone gets the kind of opportunities they need and deserve in life. That's why one of our goals is interviewing successful women from all walks of life. Who better to learn the secret of success than women who've found it in their own lives and built something out of their opportunity?
Sally is one of these women. Now a successful State Farm Agent and solopreneur with 4 full-time employees of her own, not to mention two children, Sally’s path to success wasn’t what many people would expect.
Before becoming a State Farm agent, Sally earned a Master’s degree in Social Work and Women’s Studies. She has a background in child protective services and foster care. But, when she decided to give State Farm a try, working for another agent, she was amazed by the kinds of relationships and real meaning she found helping people navigate their finances and build stable futures.
It wasn't big business or money that attracted her. In fact, she never thought she would find herself working in a big business environment. But, as an agent and business owner, Sally's job isn't about bringing home a lot of money. Her job is about helping people prepare and plan so that they can make their dreams happen, no matter what bumps crop up along the way.
Our interview was conducted by Leana Guzman. Eileen Stephens, our founder, first met Sally as one of Sally’s clients. They connected over a shared passion for making the world a better place, and we’re lucky they did since it led to Sally sharing her incredible insight with us.
Q1: What Does a Normal Day Look Like for You?
Sally: Well, I have 4 full-time employees now. I started with just 1 part-time employee and that was rough, but with 4 now it’s better.
I joke that I still do social work every day. It’s different, I’m helping people with their finances after all, but in some ways, I think it's just as impactful. My job is really to help people prepare for catastrophes. I make sure, if something happens, they have the financial planning and resources to still meet their goals.
One of my goals for 2020 is learning a lot more about social media. I’m 45 and a little technically challenged, I mean I can use Facebook but my kids tell me that Facebook is for old people!
But, I am the face of my brand and I want to do everything I can to learn to use social media for my business. It was different when I started, but now that I've been in business for 10 years I do a lot of community outreach.
You know there are more State Farm Agents than there are McDonald's?
Leana: Oh, that’s interesting!
Sally: Yeah. There are three other State Farm Agents just in my town alone. So, if I want to stand out and attract new business, I need to be part of the community. A familiar face.
But we’re also working on blocking our time better in the office, setting priorities. That way we can have a little more control over when things get done, even though it’s very dynamic.
Q2: What Motivates You/Keeps You Motivated Day-to-Day?
You know, I’m not going to lie, there are days when I’m like ugh, how am I going to do this? Or state farms systems go down, or any number of things. But the most important thing is how I come into the office in the morning. You know if I come in as a negative nelly or oh the State Farm systems are down it’s very contagious. I have to focus on what we can still do.
As a team leader, I know I need to keep going
It’s kind of like being a mother, you just have to keep going.
You know, it also helps that I genuinely like what I do. I people person, I can speak in front of a crowd but I’m best at one on one conversation. Whether people are 18 or 85, when they come in I feel like I’m able to have a genuine conversation with them.
It’s going to sound cheesy, but I always look at motivational videos and posters on Facebook or Pinterest for ten to fifteen minutes each morning. I love motivational posters, to the point where my kids get sick of it. There’s a great motivational video called running the rain, I recommend it.
I'm inspired by people who just kept going, like Steve Jobs. He had to keep going even as his business was taken away from him.
There are hundreds more and if I wasn’t trying to think of them I could think of a lot more inspirational people too.
I’m also a huge reader, I don't read for business as much as pleasure, and I love reading inspirational stories.
You learn so much by reading, too, I just finished up reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
Q3: Have You Ever Faced Any Challenges Being a Woman in this Industry?
You know, I don’t know. I’ve had plenty of challenges, but I don’t know if I put it toward being a woman or just being a person. I did get my minor in women’s studies when I was getting my Masters. When I was younger, I was very ‘go women’ and all that, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve shifted toward looking more at us as all people and we all have challenges.
I will say I had one challenge as a woman, when I opened my business I opened from scratch and I had a nine-year-old daughter at the time and my husband traveled about 300 days a year.
Trying to juggle being a mother, which is my number one priority and opening a new business, and I wasn't independently wealthy, so I took business loans. You go financially backward with all those loans.
Looking back I don’t think I ever questioned myself but I questioned the decision.
Especially when my kids were going to the YMCA after school, and I had to tell them 'okay kids, time for ramen noodles for dinner. But it's okay, they're good, they're a different flavor tonight. It's hard. And sometimes I felt like I was failing them.
But you know fast forward 10 years, my daughter is in college and my son is in high school and my daughter and I are very close. I think was able to be a good role model for her. The sacrifices I made when they were little really started to pay off when they were in middle and high school.
My daughter says she really admires me which, as a mother, is the best compliment you can receive.
Q4: What Does Being an 'Empowered Woman' Mean to You?
This is the one that I was going to think about for a minute. You ‘know, I think that I'm very service-oriented, it's hard to put it into words. But in my life, I'm service-oriented.
When I think of empowered women, I think I’m strong enough in myself and confident enough in myself to lift other people up.
For me, being empowered is when you feel confident enough in yourself that you start to put that helping hand out.
Sometimes I think about my legacy and I’m very adamant that I don’t want my legacy to be a big house or a big bank account, those don’t matter to me.
I do want my legacy to be people that knew me to say 'she made a difference' and it doesn't have to be a big difference. Just 'she made a difference', 'she pushed me'. Hopefully, it's a good difference they remember!
But at the end of the day, it isn't what I've had that matters, it's what I give to other people.
Q5: If You Could Give Your Younger Self One Piece of Advice, What Would That Be?
You know I let a lot of things roll now that I would have been upset about when I was younger.
It’s cliché, but I’d tell myself everything works out. I think when you get to about 40-ish you look back and say you know everything that happened in my life, not all of it was good, but all of it was working to get me where I was meant to be.
If you had asked me if I was going to work for State Farm I would have said "No?", but you know everything in my life worked out. I do have a lot of faith in God, not to bring faith into it. I also really believe that when one door closes another door opens.
15 years ago, I wasn’t that way, come hell or high water I was going to make it work, but now I know that if something doesn’t happen, it wasn’t supposed to happen.
*Content has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Written by: Rhiannin Bunney