You Have to Decide 150 Percent
In 1971 when I was in college, I received a post card from Western Airlines. They hired me as a stewardess. My parents were professionals. Dad was dentist and Mom was a psychologist, so a stewardess is the last thing they thought I would be.
I stayed in the business for 35 years. I always had a great time doing it. I had such a blast. I loved being stewardess. I learned a lot on an airplane talking and listening to a lot of people.
When I was 42 I got married and had my son at 43. I never thought I would do either at that age.
After my son was born I decided to be a flight attendant part time because I wanted to be a great mom. When my son was 10 and I was 53, my husband announced he didn’t want to work anymore. I thought, ‘He must have lost his mind. We have a kid. You are not single!’
I always knew I wanted to be in business, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Nothing really ever clicked. Change is hard when you really enjoy something.
What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?
My Dad came to me in a dream. He had been gone for 15 years. He gave me the idea for a hook on one end and a lobster claw on the other. You can find your keys in your purse quickly. I tried it and decided to invent it and sell it.
The invention helps you find your keys in your purse. I called it Finders Key Purse® (like finders keepers). My husband was in the souvenir industry and often traveled to China. I told him to make this for me in China. He said, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ I told him I will be selling millions. He thought I was crazy. I told him it came from heaven…I am doing it.
I knew it was a winner when I showed it to friends and they really wanted it.
I knew it would be an amazing product so I organized my flight attendant friends as my sales team and eventually sold 1 million units.
What were the specific obstacles that you faced?
My husband was sure I couldn’t sell it. He told me I couldn’t make a business out of one item. I don’t have any parameters of failure. It came from heaven. If heaven speaks, you better listen.
No matter how many people tried to dissuade me I wasn’t going to not do it.
One of the obstacles was the green-eyed monster. My husband hated that I was successful. He became very jealous and tried to sabotage the business. That was the biggest and most awful obstacle. I did not have the support of my spouse, he became my enemy.
We also had a bunch of copycats. Though I had a patent, a Chinese company came after me with all their might. There are a lot of bad people who, if they see something good, they want it and will take it. I had to take them to federal court which was a long, strenuous process. It cost over $1 million to go to court. I had to either defend my business or they would take over. They later filed bankruptcy.
What helped you get through them?
I always wondered how I got through the tough times. I have a lot of confidants…friends I’ve had over 45 years. I divorced the husband after finding out how many bad things he did to me. I want to leave a legacy to my son, and have enough money so that he wouldn’t have to struggle. I don’t want him to put me in a junky old age home, but a nice one.
It’s been really fun. I’ve done a lot of inspirational talks. People think that when you reach a certain age, it’s over. They need to hear it from real people. People don’t give me the time of day because they think I’m a knucklehead because I was a flight attendant. If I can do it, you can do it.
Were there people that tried to discourage you?
Definitely my husband. He was my husband and father of my son and was doing unconscionable things.
I’m very spiritual and feel my Dad around me a lot. I went to a medium who said that my Dad doesn’t like my husband and he’s not a good honest guy. He’s been stealing from your business and riding on your coattail.
What I learned from that is if you have the tenacity to get beyond the bad things, you can make it. We almost went out of business. There are always going to be down times. You have to be tough and have people behind you that make you feel good.
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
It’s funny. I always knew I could do it, but I was too lazy and very content being a flight attendant and having a fun life. I felt very accomplished entertaining people.
When I saw Finders Key Purse® in stores, it was like the birth of my second child. It made me feel like I actually did the unthinkable. I turned an idea into reality.
What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?
When you decide to live your dream, you have to decide 150 percent, no matter how many people try to dissuade you. You keep going. You made that decision for a reason. You will have obstacles. But have an exit strategy just in case.
If you don’t share, you don’t get anymore.
At 53, I started something and had no idea what I was doing. I’m still doing the business at 64. I go to work every day and I enjoy it.