136 The Entrepreneur’s Wife™: Amy Stefanik on Creating a Unified Family Vision for Entrepreneurial Success

Amy Stefanik is a bestselling author and entrepreneur growing two successful brands – The Entrepreneur’s Wife™ and the supplement company Visentials. She shares her transformation story from supportive wife to entrepreneur, recovery from foreclosure and financial ruin, and how to build a unified family vision for success.

Melinda Wittstock:         Welcome to Wings, Amy.

Amy Stefanik:                   Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Melinda Wittstock:         I'm really excited to have you on. I'm so intrigued by what motivated you to dig deep and tell the story of The Entrepreneur's Wife.

Amy Stefanik:                   Gosh, you know, I've been an entrepreneur's wife for 16 years, I've been doing this for a long time. When I first met my husband, he was just starting his entrepreneur journey, and I had no idea what that looked like, what it meant, what it felt, I didn't grow up in an entrepreneurial family. My Dad worked, my Mom stayed home and raised her kids, and so I was intrigued, and it was exciting, but I was like, “How is this guy going to make money without a job?” It was very foreign to me. And when we got together and we started in the real estate game, and we were growing that and he started getting some success and seeing the fruits of his labor and I was like wow, this is really working.

Years passed and then the real estate market crashed, right? And we lost three houses simultaneously to foreclosure, we lost two cars, we had to sell some of our possessions to even move, and it was like holy crap. And during that time, I didn't have the right circle of influence, I didn't have people in my life that was like, “You know what, this is part of it.” I had people in my life saying, “See? You should have had a job. If he would have had a job, this would have never happened. Good for you, you guys tried, now go and be normal.”

I struggled with that, I struggled with not having anybody to talk to, and we rebuild, Matt went in a different direction and he rebuilt his empire and he's super successful now, and I went to work in corporate America, and climbed the corporate ladder and was really successful in that box and arena. And then the problem was that even though we climbed out of that pit, there was still a lot of scars and wounds that we didn't try to heal, we just moved forward.

The entire time, I'm like “I'm alone”, “I'm on a island”, and Matt had his people that he would go to events and he started speaking at events, and it kind of felt like he was building a life outside of his family. It wasn't until I started going to these events with Matt that I realized there was a lot of people that felt exactly the way that I felt. When I started telling my story, other entrepreneurs were like, “You have to talk to my wife. Please.” And I started doing some research, and I'm like there's got to be something out there for the entrepreneur's wife, surely. But there was nothing, like nothing.

And so I was like you know what, I'm going to create it myself, and that's where The Entrepreneur's Wife project began, and it's really difficult to believe in someone's vision 100%. And not only believe in it, but sacrifice… 100%. And not only believe in it, but sacrifice for it. During the journey I just collected tools in it. I mean Matt and I were on the brink of a divorce. I mean we had separated. And it just got really, really dark. And it wasn't until we got back together, and we really started to focus on rebuilding us. And putting the efforts, and the hustle into our relationship and marriage, that we saw where we had made mistakes.

Amy Stefanik:                   And we really started putting the tools in our toolbox, to be better and do better. And that's kind of where it all blossomed.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh gosh. It's an amazing thing, because I think it's really difficult. For people to actually understand what it is like to be an entrepreneur, unless you are one yourself.

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         I joke that my ‘civilian’ friends don't really understand me, because they're not going to really understand, sort of the ups and downs, and what you're dealing with. In every moment, of every day. You know?

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         It's like this rollercoaster within the hour sometimes.

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         And so you know say other women, who are not entrepreneurs.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         You know, it's sometimes difficult to connect with them, or family members.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Or the other way around. The husbands of entrepreneuring women.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right?

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         What were some of the things that you did to … I suppose just really understand that kind of entrepreneurial life in a way to empathize with it? Because, it's not easy. If it's not actually in your DNA, to begin with.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah. For me, I took a step back. And when I started, I started a self-growth journey. And I started looking, instead of pointing my fingers out. I started looking in. And I started saying, “Okay, where did I make mistakes? What could I of done differently?” And what helped me, really empathize and understand where my husband was, was to understand the business. Because forever someone would say, “What does your husband do for a living?” And I'm like, “Uh he's an entrepreneur, he's in front of his computer all the time.” I had no idea.

And when we got back together after our separation I was like, “I will no longer be that person.” I jumped feet first into the business. I wanted to help. I wanted to understand the back end. I wanted to be able to stand up in front of a crowd, and talk my husband's business like it was my own.

Because, it was the family's business. And I stopped saying it was his, and I started saying it was ours. And I really kind of broke it down and I started working with Matt, and that turned into us starting our own businesses together. And really, it made me realize that I had a little entrepreneur spark inside of me, and it's just about having that pride of ownership. And if you know what your husband's doing. And you understand what he's sacrificing for, and why these long hours, and why he's always on his phone. And you understand that there is a purpose to the madness, then it's so much more easier to sacrifice for him.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, that's so true. In a lot of ways the [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:18:08"] is on either the entrepreneuring husband, or the entrepreneuring wife. To really include the other.

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is, because it's hard. And I know that I have had a lot of entrepreneurs tell me that I don't really want my spouse involved. And I think that, that's just for the spouse, because you can't say that you don't want them involved, but in the same breath say I want their support. They have to understand. They don't have to be as involved, as I am. You know? They don't have to help, and help run the business. But just to include them on the day-to-day. Figure out what that involvement looks like. And what you feel comfortable with, and what they feel comfortable with. And have the involvement somehow, because if you create the, “its mine, and she doesn't have anything to do with it,” or, “It's my business and he doesn't have anything to do with it.” Then you're creating a divide.

And the whole point of this is, [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:19:09"] your vision right? You're doing this for your family. You're doing this for the greater good of your home circle. They need to be involved in some way. They have to have some pride in what you're doing. Before the money comes. And that's important, because anybody can be on board when the money's fine. You want them to be on board when you're eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Ramen noodles.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Because, that happens.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         I look over all my businesses, and there have been successes, and failures, and all sorts of turnarounds. And you know, crazy stuff too. Like in 2008, just as you experienced right?

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         Where suddenly, you have a lot. And suddenly, you have nothing.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         And that's humbling, but it's also an opportunity for personal growth. And one of the things I think is interesting about entrepreneurs is that, we probably have a different risk tolerance than most people.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yes. Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I think it's partly because you get good at managing the risk. You've had all kinds of challenges and things thrown at you, and you get more and more confident over time, that you can meet whatever those challenges are, because you have in the past. It's kind of like a muscle memory.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         “Oh my god. The sky is falling.” And your spouse is going to be like. Is going to see that differently.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         If I say something like that I think, “Yeah the sky is falling but you know what, by [spp-timestamp time="1:00"] this afternoon I will figure it out you know.” Right?

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         It's just such a different way of thinking.

Amy Stefanik:                   It is. But the great thing is, that the spouse can adapt to that as well, because I know when to freak out, and I know when to pause, and just be aware of what's going on around me. Because I know, that it could be like, “Oh this is like the worst thing ever. Oh my gosh.” And I'm like, “Okay.” And then I wait. And then two hours later it's like, “We are so on our game right now.” It's a rollercoaster. It's up and down, up and down. And you have to learn how to be a really good passenger. You know, I say I'm a co-pilot. I'm like, “Okay, it's going to be fine.” You know? My husband and I joke and say, that we can't be in freak out mode at the same time. One of us has to have it together. Right?

Amy Stefanik:                   When he's having a hard time, and he's having self-doubt, and things aren't going the way that he wants. I need to be the one that's like, “Everything's fine. You know you got it. You're awesome.” And when I'm like, “What are we going to do?” He's like, “We're fine.” We can't both be like, “The house is on fire.” Because then you know, everything's going to fall apart.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. You know it's really in the benefit of the entrepreneur to really involve their partner, or spouse in this also, because entre-pioneering as I call it, can be very lonely.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah. Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right? Because yeah, just like you said, you can really believe in your vision, but often everyone's a naysayer until something's working.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Partly that's because everything is actually a hypothesis, until it's not.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right. Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         We have to go pretty far on belief.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         But the more that you can just believe in the character, of the person. And there's that transparency there. The more trust you can build in a relationship. And gosh you know, it's so important not to be isolated. That's the worst.

I want to turn this around a little bit, to think about women entrepreneurs. Who are married to, or dating men who are not entrepreneurial. I think there's a lot of fear, among women in business with big careers you kdnow as entrepreneurs. That somehow, we're afraid deep down we're going to overshadow, our men.

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         Or we're afraid that they're going to see it that way.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah. Well I think that it's important to know the personality. Especially if you're just dating someone. The personality of who you're dating. When a women is married to someone … I do a lot of surveys, the personality surveys. To figure out your partners personality. And that is three things. Their love language. Their personality type, and on how they react to things. And then their business personality type too. How they work. And that way you can communicate with them, in a way that they can understand.

:                                               If you understand who you're with. Then, you understand how they're going to handle certain things. For women entrepreneurs, I think … And I've dealt with this a little bit. Even though my husband and I are both entrepreneurs. It's difficult sometimes to … I guess you're fighting that feminine side of you that is like, “I want to be protected. I want to honor my man.” You know that instinct that you have inside of you. With that, “I'm stepping out. I'm on fire. I am women. I am powerful.” There's that balance that you have to find.

And what happens sometimes for me is, I have to find the balance between my feminine and masculine. Because I can step into that masculine, and start handing out orders, and telling people what they need to do. Which is fine for the people that work for you. Not so fine with your spouse. And I know that my husband, is a rebel. And I know that if I tell him that he needs to do something, he's not going to respond very well to that. I know, that when I need something done for my business as an entrepreneur, how I need to approach him. So that he understands what I need, and [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:25:30"] I can get what I need from him.

And I think that goes for someone that's not an entrepreneur as well. If you know, how to communicate with them, in a way that they can understand. And you're not just coming in like, “we're doing all this investing now, [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:25:45"] entrepreneur we're going to be doing this.” It can kind of be a little intimidating, and it kind of can be maybe a little emasculating. Just know how to communicate what you need. I think that knowledge is so important when you're in a relationship.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think that's really so astute though, to liken this to whether we're in our feminine, or our masculine energies.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         When we're being really masculine, and really forceful, and solving problems and whatnot. You know, our spouses I think, and boyfriends, or wherever you are in your life trajectory. Can start to think that we're treating them like employees or something. Right?

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah. Most definitely.

Melinda Wittstock:         But it's tricky. Because say you've worked all day, you got your team, and you've done all this stuff and everything. And you're the CEO, you're the leader, you're the founder of the whole thing. And then you come home, and you have to change from that kind of energy. That kind of go get them sort of energy. Into sort of a softer energy perhaps.

Amy Stefanik:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         I don't know. I get worried about using words like softer somehow, in association with femininity. Because I think femininity as an energy, is really strong. It's powerful. It's just in a different way.

Amy Stefanik:                   Right. Yeah. I think that, that comes with the self-growth that I talk about. Is knowing how to take a moment, and decompress, and honor yourself, and how you're feeling. And let go of the energy that you've carried with you all day, and know that you needed that energy and that's what sustained you and got you through the day and got what needed to be done, done. But now you're in a different place and you need to exude a different energy.

And sometimes that's really hard to do, but there's got to be that communication and understanding between the couple. That hey, even if you're kind of stepping over that line and maybe you're bringing that home with them. You know, just be okay with saying, “You know what. Don't come at me with that.” Have that conversation and be able to be told.

… you have that conversation and be able to be told, you can lay that down now. You're at home. This is where you can relax and be yourself and kind of switch modes, I guess.

But it's hard. It's really hard to do, especially … I mean, even when I worked in corporate America, I delegated all day. I was the Director of the Risk Department and I was constantly directing, directing, directing and delegating stuff. When I'd come home, that's what I would do at home, too, with my children and my husband. He would just be like, “You've got to stop telling me what to do.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. It's so easy to do that. It's subconscious because your job or your identity, especially if you're a founder of something. I mean it becomes like your entire identity.

Amy Stefanik:                   It's just a joke. It becomes a joke when he does it to me all the time, too. He'll just, it's just you get into that mode and I'll just say, “Stop telling me what to do” or “Stop bossing me,” that's what I'll say. He'll go, oh, it kind of just gets him in check and he'll say, oh, and we laugh about it. But it's just causing awareness. Instead of harboring angst and resentment and feeling bad, just call it on the table at the moment and make it funny and make it a joke and move on.

Melinda Wittstock:         So somewhere along the line, Amy, the entrepreneurial bug bit you, right? Because you started to, you had this ringside seat with what your husband, Matt, was up to, you were together in the real estate thing, and then there was a certain point where you took a leap away from corporate America and you started your own gig.

So what was the spark that made you do that?

Amy Stefanik:                   Well I think I've always had it, maybe, because when Matt and I first got married, I started my own business and became really successful in that. When we lost everything, I had to step away from that as well. That was really difficult because it made me feel like I shouldn't have believed in myself that I could do that, right?

So outside of us losing everything and Matt's failure and the failure with the real estate business that we had, I also had that personal failure with my own business. I was like, I'm never doing that again. Like I'm never going to do that again. That was scary. I should have never did that, and that's why I really jumped into corporate America very hard. I climbed the corporate ladder. I was the best corporate girl that I could be and it was my safety net. It was security.

When Matt and I really started doing the self-growth and growing together spiritually and getting into a really, really good place not only in our business, but in our marriage I decided I'm going to take that leap. It wasn't until after I had already started The Entrepreneur's Wife project. I was like, I really think that I need to go 100% on this. I was writing a book at the time and I was like, I really want to give this. I think I'm ready to believe in myself again that I could do this.

I resigned from my corporate job and it was terrifying because I'm the one that gave us that security of a steady salary and health insurance and all the things that you take for granted when you're self-employed. But it was also like, yes. It was such a feeling that I'd finally allowed myself to believe again, if that makes sense, because for so long I didn't.

I thought that from the outside everybody's like, “Gosh, you have it made. You have an amazing career, like you're doing so good.” But I was so miserable. I was so miserable because I wasn't doing what I was meant to do and I was being very mediocre in my mind because I wasn't stepping out and being great. I wasn't doing what I was meant to do.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so what have been some of the biggest challenges along the way? So you take the leap again, but this time from a much more enlightened and in a conscious way and did that change the way you built this current business and what you're doing now?

Amy Stefanik:                   It did and it didn't because I think that no matter how enlightened you are and where you're at in your spiritual journey, and your higher states of consciousness, we're human beings and self-doubt always creeps in. Some of my biggest challenges are letting go of that inner gremlin and quieting that and not leading into it and not allowing it to stay for very long. It's going to come, you're going to have moments. But it's what you do with those moments and how you fast you get out of those moments that determine how it's going to affect your momentum.

Also one of the biggest challenges is, Matt's always been the entrepreneur in our family. So when I started really diving into this and seeing success and we started going to events as a couple and I was no longer Matt's wife, I was The Entrepreneur's Wife and people were talking to me about my project, there was conflict there. There was a little bit of like, “Hey now, what's going on?” And me wanting to be like, “Okay, no, no, I'll just step back then. You go. You lead the way.” We had to, as a couple, and I had to as an entrepreneur say, “No, I'm going to shine bright and I'm going to do this and it's going to be fine,” and finding my place next to my uber-successful husband because he does speak at events and people do know who he is. It's easy for me to take a back seat because I am an obliger. I want to make him happy and I don't want anybody to be upset. I don't like conflict.

But I had to learn to stand beside him and not behind him and know that it was perfectly okay to do so.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean in those moments where I think we all have those three o'clock in the morning self-doubt things like, “Can I really do this? Am I really enough?”

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right? And often those are the moments when we're growing. Like those are the opportunities, actually.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         But they can be scary. Do you think women struggle with the self-worth thing more than men?

Amy Stefanik:                   It's hard for me to say if they struggle more but I believe that as women, we struggle with fighting that thing of what women should be. How we should act, how we should be presenting ourselves, and how we know we can show up. So there's a battle with, if we show up too strong then we're being overpowering. But if we don't show up that way then we're dimming our light. So there's a battle of being like, you know what? I'm going to turn that noise off and just show up the best way that I can and own my success and where I'm at in this world and be okay with me. It's hard to get there. It is really hard to get there.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think on our journeys, especially as serial entrepreneurs, you get really confident. Like you have a success and you think, “Oh, I've got this. I'm a really good entrepreneur.” Then the next business you do is a different business. Different circumstances. Different people. And it doesn't work and you're like, “Oh, God, they found me out.”

But what's interesting is, I find with all the women that I interview, and just using myself as my own lab if you will, is that we tend to take things a little bit more personally than men. I see men behaving a little bit more like my Golden Retriever where she'll just, someone doesn't like her, she literally just shakes it off.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it doesn't bother her anymore. I see a lot of guys doing that. Like, oh, oh, it's just business, not personal. Women often, it can be quite personal. How do you deal with that?

Amy Stefanik:                   I think that is a huge struggle with me because I do feel, especially with what I'm doing because it is such a personal thing and it's so raw and real with me and I so believe in what we're doing that if I get any pushback or if anything comes up, it does feel really personal. I have to, I just have to tell myself, I have to constantly tell myself it's not personal. It's not you, it's not an attack against you. It's not because they don't like you, it's just not a good fit at the moment. So it's talking myself out and I think it goes back to that inner gremlin and it's how long you stay in those places. Because you can sit in it and wallow in it for an entire day and that day is wasted. Or you can say, “Okay, I'm validating how I'm feeling. I know why I'm feeling this way and I'm going to do X, Y, and Z to get myself out of this funk,” and move on.

I ask myself, is this something I really need to sit with and do something about or is it something that just struck a nerve with me or triggered me and I need to move on.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Oh, my goodness. I love how you are connecting all the dots between what is going on externally in a business and what's going on internally, like in your own heart and your own head. It really is the answer to all of this. This is why we talk about mindset, mojo, money, all of it being interconnected.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yes, absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         Amy, what's next for you? What's your vision? What's your vision and your mission for where you're going to be in, say, in five years, ten years? Do you have a clear vision of that?

Amy Stefanik:                   I do. My goal for this is to really create this platform and grow this platform so that the wife of an entrepreneur can grow as a 360 woman. Because it's not about just being a good entrepreneur's wife. It's finding security and balance within yourself so that you have strong footing in the ever-shifting sand of entrepreneurship. Because you can't look to your spouse to make you feel secure and happy and give you all the things that you need because they're trying to figure it out on their own. You need to find that within. So if you can find that strength from within and you can get your tool belt full of tools that's going to help you when the hiccups arrive, you can be a strong entrepreneur's wife.

Amy Stefanik:                   I think for me in the future, it's about the growth of the platform, it's about speaking up and speaking out on stages and podcasts. There could be another book in the future. I think a lot of it is just about getting out there in the world and sharing that there is a place, that you're not alone because that's what people want. They just want to feel like, hey there's someone out there that's saying, “Me, too.” I don't have an island that I have to live on. There's a community for me to belong to.

Melinda Wittstock:         Beautiful. So for all the women who are listening who may be entrepreneurs themselves or may be also married to entrepreneurs, or maybe entrepreneurs married to non-entrepreneurs, how can they find you and work with you? What would you … how do you help all of us in those various situations?

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah, there's a couple places that you can find me. Theentrepreneurswife.com is my website. You can find me there. You can also find me at tew.com, which will show you the different social media outlets that you can find me at and also link you to my membership area, the course that I created, one on one mentoring and it will also connect you to my book.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's wonderful. Amy, well thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us. It's wonderful work you're doing, and thank you so much for sharing the insights that are so personal but so universal in there, right?

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         So I'm just going to say one more time … So thank you so much for sharing these insights because it's very personal and yet in being personal you're being universal.

Amy Stefanik:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so helpful to so many.

Amy Stefanik:                   Thank you, yeah. Absolutely. It was a pleasure.

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