Andrea Crouse: Event Excellence

I don’t know about you, but I cannot function well in a cluttered space. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to work from home, the importance of having a space to think clearly increased exponentially. I will never again underestimate the joy and freedom a well-organized space can bring!

Cue Andrea Crouse, a professional chaos wrangler, aka professional organizer, founder/owner of Event Excellence. Andrea’s work background taught her valuable skills in project management, legal affairs, business planning, and more. But her true value is within herself: she has the power to take a messy room or a mess of ideas and corral them into coherence.

As a new entrepreneur, she faced the challenge of the pandemic, as well as some personal family health issues. She is a testament that a positive mindset and perseverance can help you overcome and thrive. She is living her life in gratitude, and shares her experience and extraordinary organizational skills with others. Her guiding principles are straight-forward: lead with love, help others, stay positive.

Oana

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Sybil Bailey - Afromermaid Skincare

Sybil Bailey: Afro Mermaid Skincare

Life can be messy. Our plans may or may not work out the way we, well, planned…. But if you give yourself time, and if you believe you can reinvent yourself, you can achieve what you really want. Case in point, my friend Sybil had a dream: to be an esthetician (licensed skin care professional). However, sensible and well-intended people around her steered her in a different career direction. She did well for herself, and found professional excellence along the way for twenty-plus years. Then, what looked like a door closing—a corporate restructuring—actually opened the door to pursuing her childhood dream. Once again, some reluctant voices cautioned her that starting over again in her 50s might not be a wise decision. However, Sybil persevered, and chose to listen to her inner voice. She went back to school and became an esthetician. She opened up her own business and found her bliss. She is thrilled to have taken a chance later in life.

New beginnings can be scary, especially later in life, but they are also exciting. This is one of the things I’ve always admired and loved about America: you can always reinvent yourself at any age, and you can be successful. You are not stuck with the one thing you studied in school, with the path that your degree dictates, or, with the path that your circumstances dictated in the past. It’s OK to try different approaches until you find your version of happiness and fulfillment.

It’s your life. Live it your way!

Oana

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Heather Jagels, Mountain Zen Yoga Studio

Heather Jagels: Mountain Zen Yoga Studio

Although a corporate career can be rewarding, too often the corporate world can be hard on our health and cruel for the soul. Before the pandemic sent us home, the corporate world wanted us to be tireless office soldiers, often ignoring our human side, and the fact that we are also parents or partners. Jobs take priority over kids’ soccer games or spending quality time with family. Taking time off to travel or relax is ridiculously limited (US is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate employers to offer paid time off; private industry usually offers 10 days of PTO as compared to 25-40 offered in some western European countries, while annually 768 million vacation days go unused in the US).

The American corporate world doesn’t leave much room for balance. More often than not, if you want a career, you are expected to sacrifice your personal life and even your health. We don’t take time off for fear of losing our spot on the ladder. And often we find ourselves working hard for many years only to be casually replaced or laid off one day, unceremoniously discarded, leaving us feeling gut-punched. When you invest so much time and effort into a corporate career, it’s hard to let it go and move on, but more often than not it’s very rewarding—especially on a personal level. It can awaken a perhaps forgotten part of your personality, it can allow for more creativity to come alive, and provide a new sense of freedom.

Heather was one of the many wonderful professionals who was laid off due to Scripps Networks Interactive’s restructuring and then acquisition by Discovery. When the rug was pulled from underneath her feet—both in her professional and personal life (divorce)—she turned to the one thing that could restore balance and happiness in her world, while still allowing her to put her professional background to good use: she started her own yoga practice.

I talked with Heather about her path to small business ownership and how she navigated multiple challenges, including the pandemic, ultimately finding happiness and personal success.

Oana

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Sara Mitchell and Kris Hazard - Dancing with the Knoxville Stars

Kris Hazard: Ballroom Dance Instructor

As a dancer and teacher myself, I can identify closely with both the instructors and the dancing community who have been deprived of the joys of dancing due to COVID-19. Ballroom dancing has a lot of variety, which keeps things interesting and pleases a variety of style preferences: from elegant and smooth to rhythmic and dynamic. It’s the best workout, in my opinion, because it makes use of many muscles, large and small (some you didn’t even know you had!—think soles of your feet and toes) while also incorporating a social aspect that makes it more of a fun experience than a gym workout. Beyond the positive physical results, ballroom dancing is a huge mental wellness element: the movement releases endorphins, and studies showed the positive impact on memory, but the true difference maker is the social interaction, the community built around it. That is definitely something that the pandemic disrupted and we all sorely missed. When lessons and parties ceased abruptly, we all suffered. Dance studios and instructors had to find alternate ways to support themselves and find creative ways to continue teaching.

As a part of the blog series on “Happiness Purveyors,” I talked with one of my teacher friends, Kris Hazard who is a dance instructor in Knoxville, Tennessee to get his perspective on things.

Oana

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Happiness Purveyors

The past few years brought a special set of challenges that most of us never anticipated. Even for those who had stability before, the circumstances shook a few pillars, but for those courageous souls who chose to carve their own entrepreneurial paths to personal success, the pandemic has been especially challenging. The travel, performing arts, beauty, fitness, and restaurant industries suffered perhaps more than others—and we suffered with them, stripped of the comfort and joy they all provide. I think we all experienced enough deprivation to understand just how important travel, good food, health care, and the arts are for our happiness.

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leadership fist bump

Is “Leadership” Just Another Pretty Word?

There are so many inspirational quotes and articles written about leadership, and the difference between a boss and leader. And although many of these articles are great, I get the feeling that often times “leadership” is used as a sexy buzz word or concept, with little reality behind it. What actually happens in everyday life at work for most of us? Do we actually see inspirational leaders where we work, or are we experiencing a super-competitive and many times ruthless “get ahead or be stepped on” environment?

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Kristina Shands

Kristina Shands: Business Launch Strategist and Marketing Coach

Maybe it’s the Libra in her that craves balance: Kristina Shands is providing a balanced process for new product or business launches that is (as she describes it) both “organized and freeing, task-driven and allowing, controlling and surrendering.” For certain it’s her passion for empowering women in pursuing their dreams that has been fueling her business for the past eight years. She continues on her quest to make a change in the world through her writing and coaching, while expanding her knowledge of empowering women not only in business but also in the political arena.

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Wanita and Eduardo in Las Vegas

Wanita Niehaus: Founder and President, PowerHaus Consultants

Dazzling on the dance floor, a whiz at writing, Wanita Niehaus is an innovator in the marketing and communications field, and now also in her own life. An accomplished journalist and cable professional working for Scripps Networks Interactive for many years, Wanita started her own consulting company in the Washington, D.C. area, and is enjoying following her life’s true passions towards fulfillment.

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