In the many years of telling stories of domestic violence victims and survivors, I have never interviewed someone who has described the actual details of their physical abuse with such specificity and granularity; where her injuries from her abuser were so visibly apparent. She was burned with acid and lost her vision.
Becky Callaham is the executive director of Safe Harbor, a domestic violence organization that serves the upstate of South Carolina. Safe Harbor’s mission is to provide a continuum of services for victims of domestic violence and their children, as well as to eliminate the cultural acceptance of domestic violence through prevention, education and a coordinated community response.
This has to be one of the most powerful stories we have captured since I started working with Safe Harbor eight years ago. Each year, we have pushed the boundaries, getting to a place where real, raw emotion translated into such palatable words. Jenita is such an inspiring woman, with an amazing ability to share emotion in a way that we could truly see into her soul.
I have been thinking about Nigel’s #BeADad story this week, a story of a committed working father and husband. His story has taught me so much about the intentionality of being a dad, the consistent commitment to being “present”.
In January we had the opportunity to meet Brittany Speed, a survivor of domestic violence. We sat down to capture her story and we were amazed with her path, how she came to Safe Harbor, and how her story is empowering others.
Our friends at Safe Harbor asked us to capture, tell, and share Brittny’s story as a featured video for their March event called Fashion with a Passion.
In 2012 I was struck, hit upside the head, and right in the chest with the news of a friend who had been murdered. I had worked along side her to help create an event called Ecoplosion. She worked for Clemson University in the Master of Real Estate Development Program and was a crucial part of putting together a big economic development event in Greenville, SC. Her name is Marge Putnam.
I was struck in the head and in the chest. It knocked the breathe out of me to learn that this beautiful woman, mother, grandmother, community leader was killed by her husband who then killed himself.
It is amazing…I am sitting here enjoying a 3 year birthday. This is not a birthday for a person, this is a 3 year birthday for my business. Bobby Rettew, llc is now three years old and I am excited, humbled, and reflective.
I asked myself this morning, how did we get here, how did we make it this far? Three years ago, Sarah and I made the decision to start this business with only one long-term signed agreement…but lots of relationships willing to engage.
The economy was in the tank coming off one the biggest recessions since the great depression. I remember getting ready for Christmas, Sarah and I were counting every dollar projecting how long we could make it if we did not sign another deal. It became a game, how much cash could we put away providing a little more security…especially if we did not pick up another client.
We had just bought a house a year earlier, two cars that needed to be replaced, and planning to have a child. I am thankful in 2006 we started one of the tasks we have ever under taken; paying off all of our un-secured debt. That effort was one of the major reasons we are here today.
So where do we stand today? Wow, I am working out of my own office, I have a wonderful set of relationships who are clients, Rose is now a little over a year old, and the business is growing. We spent two and a half years working out of a small office in the back of the house, building a business slowly on a sound fiscal approach…CASH IS KING.
I remember five years ago, I was taking a class learning how to start a small business. I remember how naive I was when the instructors explained the two-year mark is the toughest to achieve for any small business. Here we stand at 3…and growing.
There are so many things I have learned, so I wanted to share a few:
1. It is ok to be a small business.
I read a powerful book last year that really spoke to me, Rework by 37signals. Most of you might know 37Signals and even use some of their products like Basecamp. This book emphasized it is ok to be small, embrace it and leverage it. We live in the upstate of South Carolina surrounded by high-impact high-growth businesses and conversations. So many meetings I sit in, so many people I meet, so many entrepreneurial groups I interact with…the message is all about high-impact and high-growth. That is not for me and it was hard to resist. For the first two years, I thought I was going to have to pivot this business to become a high-impact venture. What I learned…it is ok to be small, especially for my current business model. Less stress, less overhead, more opportunity.
2. Live your passion.
I love working with people helping them tell and share their story. I also love to teach. Nothing more and nothing less. This has translated well into my business as I work with groups to capture and tell their story using documentary storytelling. From telling stories of grants with the Duke Endowment, stories of health care advocacy for South Carolina Hospital Association, stories of health care for Greenville Hospital System, to stories of advocacy for groups like Safe Harbor, to even stories of inspiration for the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame…the list is growing.
This is also true with the three groups that I have helped grow their digital brand. If you look at Greenville Hospital System, IT-oLogy, and Serrus Capital Partners…we have been growing their social media presence as a part of their strategic initiatives of their communication efforts.
And finally, it is so true when it comes to teaching. Over the last year, I have been working with the new MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Clemson University as the Digital Communications Instructor, teaching students how to take their business ideas and share them online in the social/digital space.
3. You just can’t do it all!
It is ok to ask for help and empower those who have a larger skill set to help you achieve your goals. So many projects I take on, I realize I have no idea how to tackle small or even large parts of the goals. I have learned to ask for help. I am one person and I am a small business…there is no way I can do it all. Getting help is fun and promotes good business and a collaborative environment.
4. Take on projects and opportunities that scare the CRAP out of you.
Yes…this is what helps me grow both personally and professionally. Sometimes we need to be challenged, but these projects help us learn how to problem-solve and stretch our professional capabilities.
5. Read as much as possible.
I try to read as many books as I can for both business and personal growth. My brain needs nourishment and reading helps me stay sharp. I also subscribe to lots of blogs surrounding numerous topics areas. My Google Reader is loaded with tons of content to read on a daily basis like business blogs from Harvard Business Review to personal blogs from my friends who are screen writers.
6. Have a good CPA and Lawyer as a colleague and a friend.
My CPA is TJ Way and he was a fraternity brother at Clemson. We lived together when we were fresh out of school and now he is a vital part of my business. Andy Arnold is my attorney, a client, a friend, and is surprisingly a Gamecock. Oh well…but he is just a phone call away with my questions about contracts or our personal living wills.
7. Make time for the family.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn during the second year of my business. During year two, Rose was born and I was balancing my current passions with my newest passion, our little girl. So I learned at the end of the day to cut off business, close the laptop, and enjoy time with the family. This was one of the reasons I moved out of the little home office into my current office. I wanted to be able to come home and be home. There are times when I might work late or work longer, but Sarah and I have learned to integrate family into a small business. This is an ever-learning process…but is vital for the soul.
8. Give your time.
I do not have a lot of time to give, but I try to do one thing…give my time to one non-profit/advocacy group. Each year, I pick a non-profit where I feel connected. I donate my time as if they are a client. For the last year and a half, I have been working with Safe Harbor and they have a powerful mission. I try to make them feel like a client, providing my time and expertise to their initiatives. The best part, I learn from them and we grow together. To me…good business growth is more that just making money.
9. Go on vacation…A LOT!
Seriously, go on vacation at least three to four times a year. This is a huge priority for our family and we have learned that I must leave the laptop, turn on the email auto-responder, and go relax. This allows us to get away from the grind, enjoy some time together, and relax. Rest is huge if you run a small business…getting away is food for the soul.
10. Continue to Focus
Take time at the end of the year to assess your business. Look at more than your financials…look to see if you business goals/mission matches your passions. Look to see if the type of business you are doing matches your balance sheet. Then, ask yourself is this where you want your business to continue to grow. Then focus and write your plan for the next year.
11. Be an Advocate.
Advocate for something. Stand upon some alter and render an opinion. Pick a cause, an initiative, something and advocate. You never know…you might find your calling…your passion.
* Image Credit -> MomOfTheYear.net Blog
The domestic violence story is all around us. We don’t realize it, but we know someone who has been impacted directly by domestic violence. 1 in 4 people have been directly impacted by domestic violence…YES, 1 in 4.
If you listen above, Michael Cogdill helps us define domestic violence. How does he know, well let me count the ways. Not only did his father beat his mother, but he bears the burden of sharing the numerous stories everyday how domestic violence invades our living rooms.
It was just a few months ago, Marge Putnam from Seneca was killed by her husband. This story has impacted so many of us in the Upstate of SC. She was engrained in the Clemson University community and loved by so many friends and her family.
So sharing Marge’s story, Michael story, and the stories of so many others is so important…it helps us become aware. It helps us learn that it is not okay to hurt and abuse those we love inside our homes. We must share so that when we understand what it means, we will feel empowered to speak up and call the authorities.
As a legislator said this morning during the #DomesticViolence Awareness Month kick-off Press Conference, this is a community effort. Yes…we must share to become aware.
To learn more about #DomesticViolence and it’s impact on the community, go to SafeHarbor.org’s blog to read more.
Have you sat back and thought about what has truly defined you both personally and professionally? Can you think about one point in time that has truly changed who you are and how you approach life and your career? There is not a better time to do so than at the end of calendar year…a time of reflection. I have numerous moments in time that have defined me, and a few have pop-up in my mind.
1) Defining moment in 2011 as a person.
It was January 1, 2011 and we were driving back from the Christmas cabin in Georgia. We had just finished enjoying a week of vacation in the Georgia mountains and it was time to make the treck back to civilization. As we were coming through Atlanta, Sarah asked me if we could stop to get a drink. I was sitting in the car waiting for her and she opened the door and hopped back in with tears rolling down her face.
I began to think of the many reasons why a female would come back from a restaurant crying. She looked at me and said…”I am pregnant and I am scared!” The past three years we experienced three miscarriages, not making it past 10 weeks. She was happy that once again she was pregnant, but upset and scared she would loose another pregnancy to miscarriage.
What I did not realize is that Sarah had been carrying pregnancy tests around with her for the last six months…testing on a regular basis. For those of you that do not realize…those pregnancy tests are expensive and she was carrying around a bunch. I would be willing to bet she had a half dozen in her pocketbook…we invested in a lot of those little things.
We immediately called our reproductive endocrinologist (RE)…we had made an appointment to talk about what were the next steps in getting pregnant again. We left a message that we were pregnant and we were wondering if we could reschedule the appointment. They immediately called back and wanted us in the office to run tests ASAP. January 1, 2011 was the day that we began thinking about Rose Frances…that little miracle was born on September 6, 2011. What a way to start 2011.
2) Defining moment in 2011 as a professional.
Have you ever had that one project that defined you as a person and professional. That one project that made you think harder and deeper…pushed you to work harder and see life through a different lens. Well, that happened to me in 2011. I received a phone call in January about a project The Duke Endowment was pulling together, one that was still on the drawing board.
They had the vision of telling stories surrounding individuals who are making a tremendous impact in their communities. These individuals are special people who lead organizations/initiatives that are supported by grants from The Duke Endowment. This project is called Profiles of Service…one that would allow me to practice all my journalistic skills of documentary storytelling. Over the next 8 months, I was able to work alongside The Duke Endowment, capturing stories of four individuals in both North and South Carolina. People that were and still are making a tremendous impact in their communities, leading initiatives that bring change.
Each story was located in a different part of North and South Carolina, allowing me to travel from the mountains of Western North Carolina to the low-country of South Carolina. Four individuals, four stories of dedication and service, and hours of interviews captured and shaped into a final product for people to enjoy.
3) What I am looking forward to in 2012.
I am really excited about 2012…two projects that I am working on for this upcoming year. The first is a project with Greenville Hospital System, telling stories from inside the walls of this healthcare organization. There will be more to come over the next year…but I am really excite about this project!
I am also excited to be partnering with Safe Harbor in Greenville, SC. Six months ago, they came to me in the hopes to produce one video as a multi-purpose tool from fundraising to sharing their story online. After spending a few days with them, I realized that one video is just not enough to really share their story. Over the course of 2012, we will be sharing some amazing stories, from those who been impacted by domestic violence to those who are trying to create change in the community. We have already been working together for the last 6 months and we are looking forward to sharing some amazing perspectives.
It is my belief to look back and reflect and to look forward to something amazing! I am excited to be embarking in my third year of business!