In 1992 I found myself – as the primary breadwinner – standing in the unemployment line. I was responsible not only for supporting my two children, but also my two stepchildren. My fear of being unable to keep my family afloat financially overwhelmed me.
As a career woman, a wife and a mother, I am all too familiar with feelings of guilt. Guilt from the conflict of work deadlines and kid activities; guilt from not being able to stay ahead of the daily grind of doing laundry, monitoring homework, cooking meals; guilt for not being able to do it all well.
Being laid off added another feeling to the mix: devastation. Between that emotion and the guilt, I was forced to focus: I couldn’t let my family or myself down. I also knew I couldn’t work for anyone else again and give 150%. So, I took my drive and energy and focused on a brand new career path in what I knew best: baking. And I committed to myself that I had to make it work. I had to lean in.
For some, leaning in pays off in the short-term and you see results almost immediately. For me, leaning in to my career took years to actually pay off and even included the loss of my home to foreclosure. I had to enlist my children to help (against their will at times) waking them in the wee hours of the morning to help me bake brownies and put together platters. I had to do what I could and be creative in the process. Then, I finally got the call of a lifetime from Disney telling me that my brownies were selected for their resorts.
I wish that was the “happily ever after part” but that isn’t where my story ends. Over a decade passed with things continuing to go well. Then in 2008, as the entire country entered a recession, my own sales began to drop. Consumers weren’t dining out, and when they were, they weren’t spending the extra money on desserts. A brownie sundae became a luxury item. Everyone was trying to tighten their own financial belts. It was time to lean in again.
This time leaning in meant being creative. If people weren’t eating out, they had to be spending more time in their local grocery stores. Selling brownies to grocery stores was almost impossible – it was considered a “me too” item – anyone and everyone can make brownies. So instead, I created Brownie Brittle. The product wasn’t initially successful, but I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – give up. I redesigned the packaging and found the right production facility. In April 2011, my Brownie Brittle product launched on store shelves in its current form.
I’m happy to report today that my two children now work with me, we’re hitting record sales, and we were recently awarded the coveted Best New Snack Product award from a highly respected industry trade association. I’m now able to begin giving back to the community as a proud supporter of women’s initiatives, as well as partnering with a great organization called Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I’m more passionate than ever and I know that leaning in is part of the journey, it’s not the destination; it’s the difference between surviving and succeeding.
And I am forever grateful.