Several months ago, ok, maybe a year ago, I was inspired to start a blog series called "Boss Lady". The mission behind Boss Lady is to inspire young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs.My team and I are reaching out to all the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive into the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between.
I was born and raised in Pine Bluff, AR. I left home when I was 17 years old to go to college with the intention to never return except to visit. In that five year period, I received a degree in communications and started my career in radio. My training was to be an on-air DJ, but I have done just about every job at a radio station beside upper management and electrical engineer. My favorite show I ever produced was at Henderson College in Arkadelphia from 12:00am - 2:00am every Sunday night. I was the producer and DJ of an east coast hip-hop hour that ended with a set of a live Grateful Dead show every week. I went on to intern for The Edge in Tulsa while attending the American Broadcasting School and working part time at the Tulsa Comedy Club.
When I started my family, I moved back to Pine Bluff where I continued to work at their local community station for years as the midday DJ, sports board operator, sales person, assistant traffic director, and public relations. During those years, I was heavily involved in the Pine Bluff Jaycees which planned the city Christmas parade, Easter Egg Hunt, 4th of July Fireworks, and had fundraisers like the annual chili cook-off. I loved being a part of the Jaycees, and it taught me a lot of the skills that I use everyday. Almost 10 years ago, I moved to Little Rock for a really good job opportunity. The next few years of my life changed everything. After being laid off during the recession, having another baby, and dealing with cancer and the recovery, it changed me and my direction in life. I decided I wanted more from this life than to just survive. I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my days making sure I leave this world a little better than I found it. So for the past five years I have been building events in hopes to share the magic of community and help strengthen our local economy.
I live everyday for my three children, my husband, and my community. I consider all of Arkansas my community, and I love it here!
Give us your elevator pitch. I'm just a small town Arkansas girl that believes that we create the world we live in by how we choose to spend our money.
- What is your business? I am the Executive Director of Local First Arkansas and founder of Legends of Arkansas. Local First Arkansas is a nonprofit member-based support organization for independent businesses in Arkansas. Legends of Arkansas is an annual all-Arkansas music and art festival that is on it's fifth year.
- When did you start your business? We started Legends of Arkansas, the all-Arkansas music and art festival, in 2013. This year will be the fifth year of our annual statewide event. As a result of dealing so closely with the local business owners, in 2014 we developed Local First Little Rock. For two years, we met as an official Meetup with business owners to talk about what kind of support they are needing. In 2016, we officially launched Local First Arkansas as a statewide nonprofit organization. Our one year birthday was on June 1st.
What inspired you to make the leap? In 2009, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I found out that I had ovarian cancer. They couldn't do any treatments until after the baby was born, so that prolonged the process. It took almost two years to recover. During that time I decided that I wasn't going to waste any more time working for other people, or working just to exist. I wanted to make sure that I spent this second chance at life making this a better world for my children to live in. This was when I started dreaming big.
What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation?? Mornings just really aren't my thing. I don't like to talk or communicate with anyone first thing. I like to read all my emails and check social media sites before I get out of bed, then downstairs for coffee and writing for about an hour. After that, I'm ready to take on the world.
- Tell us about a day in the life of running your business. There are never two days in a row that are the same for me, and that's the way I like it. I travel the state to talk to business owners, and I go to a lot of conferences. I spend a lot of time in boardrooms in meetings and I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer. Probably my favorite part of my job is setting up informational booths at outdoor events. We do other regular events, as well.
- What keeps you motivated? The business owners are what keep me motivated at this point. Every time I hear one of their stories about why they went into business and how they are living out their dreams, it reminds me of why it is so important to educate the public on the importance of shopping local. These independent businesses are what make our place such a great place to live. I want to do what I can to make sure they get what they need to stick around.
- Describe your dream day. My dream day happens annually and the most recent one was on September 16th at Legends of Arkansas. We literally spend a year planning the perfect day. So we spend the day playing, eating, drinking, and dancing with our friends and family, but at the same time we are educating the public on all the really cool things we have going on right here in Arkansas. This sounds like such a pitch but it's true. Being at the Legends of Arkansas events, seeing all my friends, neighbors, and the local artists, musicians, and business owners all connecting and enjoying their community through all-Arkansas art, music, food, and beer is my idea of a perfect day.
What is your greatest strength/super power? I always joke that my superpower is my hopeless optimism. In my head everything is going to be just great. This has proven to be dangerous if not monitored properly.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Instagram is my guilty pleasure.
- What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) Free time...lol, what's that. I work 60-90 a week. I do make time to take long walks by the river, and I like to go to the movies.
- If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? If an investor gave me 1 million dollars, the first thing we would do is hire a full staff. I often wonder how effective I could be if I wasn't doing the job of 10 people. The rest of the money would go into the organization for programming and advertising for our local business owners.
- What's the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go? My life the last five years has been the biggest risk I've ever taken, and it's still ongoing. I am a by any means necessary kind of person that doesn't always live in the real world. I put the hopeless in hopeless optimistic. So I can't really answer how it turned out yet, because at the moment I'm all in.
Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable? Something I hate doing is anything to do with the money. I am a great negotiator, but I need someone else to do the books. Not my forte.
- How do you handle discouragement? I handle discouragement with a vengeance. I hate to be told I can't do something. So nothing motivates me more.
- Which iconic person inspires you? Maya Angelou is a constant inspiration to me for being a strong beautiful woman that lived her dreams.
- Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote? "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want." by Anna Lappe
If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose? If I could pick anyone in the world to be my mentor, I would choose Kimber Lanning, director of Local First Arizona. She has been a long distance mentor for about 3 years now, but I would choose her every time.
- Who are you in your next life? In my next life, I hope to be a politician so that I can institute real change and fight for good from inside the system.
- Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business? The only secrets I have to balancing all the tasks of running your own business is to make sure you love what you are doing. Then it's just your life, and not really considered just a job. Pre-planning is everything. The more prepared you are; the easier your day will go. Then just put your blinders on and go.
What's the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs? The best advice I have for a woman that wants to be an entrepreneur is just do it. Life is too short and too precious, so shoot for the stars. You might not end up where you thought you were going, but you'll end up exactly where you're supposed to be.
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Susie Cowan is one of the most motivated, hard-working and yes, hopefully optimistic, people I have ever met! I added my company to LocalFirst Arkansas simply because she is the Director and I knew that it must therefore be a good and reputable organization. Kudos to you for choosing her as a BOSS Lady! ?