505 Christie Kerner:
What does it take for a female founder to successfully scale a business from startup to sustainable growth and exit? Who are we “being” and how does that change at each inflection point on the journey?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring serial entrepreneur who has founded 7 businesses, scaled 3 other multi-million dollar companies, and has coached and mentored hundreds of founders on the entrepreneurial up-and-down path.
Christie Kerner has lifted companies from nothing to millions in revenue, built and scaled global teams with hundreds, and lead from the C-suite those with thousands of employees. She says there isn’t much she hasn’t seen.
Today we talk scaling, why what you’re doing, and who you’re being, at each stage of growth changes – often radically – along the journey – plus the necessity of self-awareness in letting go of subconscious beliefs as you grow your business – and more.
Christie Kerner’s latest business is called My Little Mascara Club – an innovative e-commerce business that leverages messages of kindness and gratitude with each delivery. She got it up and running right before Coronavirus struck – and worried mascara may not be too high on women’s shopping lists during lockdown. And it’s not the first time she has had to cope and pivot: Her high-end jewelry business took a hit in the 2008 financial meltdown.
Along the way Christie has learned vital lessons for all entrepreneurs as they move from innovation to scale – and shares her insights and practices today. You’ll want to listen on because you’ll get vital tips on how to overcome your own subconscious resistance to growth – because ultimately leadership is … personal. You have to adapt, learn, and grow your self-awareness at every step of the journey – something I know only too well building four businesses – and now my fifth.
Now let’s dive into what it takes to scale a business.
After founding 7 businesses for herself, scaling 3 for others, mentoring and coaching hundreds of founders, and running the Center for Entrepreneurship at the nation’s largest public university, Arizona’s ASU, Christie Kerner knows what it takes to build a multi-million-dollar company. The best part is, you’ll never guess the primary skill you *don’t* need, to do it.
Along the way Christie got a Masters in Management and Leadership and she fell in love with the human side of business. Her lifelong study of emotional intelligence paired with her habit of building successful businesses – and helping others do the same –make her an excellent leader and advisor to those who care about creating amazing companies and working with the best talent.
Christie is a very active connector in the #yesphx Phoenix business community and served as the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Executive Director of Student Entrepreneurship across Arizona State University. She is now the Founder and CEO of My Little Mascara Club, a Fractional CPO and Executive Coach at H Factor, and the Director of Venture Development for StartupAZ Foundation. There, she helps top AZ tech companies create more success.
Today she gets personal about the things she had to overcome on her own journey – including something that holds many women back in business: A desire to be liked by all. Christie says her desire to prove she’s a “good person” stood in the way of building and leading an effective team – and how she overcame inner beliefs that weren’t serving.
Let’s put on our wings and fly with the inspiring Christie Kerner.
Melinda Wittstock: Christie, welcome to Wings.
Christie Kerner: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I love talking to serial entrepreneurs. You’ve built so many businesses and different types of businesses. When you were a kid, did you always know that you were entrepreneurial, like just right out of the gate? Is this in your DNA?
Christie Kerner: It’s interesting, I think it might be, but part of it is because of example, I guess. I realized in retrospect, my grandma was a restaurant owner. I never saw her in that phase of her life, but she owned a restaurant, a craft store and then my parents were the macramé King and the queen of the ’70s. That’s a claim to fame, right? So I saw them engage in entrepreneurship and I will say, I saw a lot of different parts of it. I saw the creativity, I saw the opportunity to have a little bit of a different lifestyle to have your own place.
Christie Kerner: I saw a lot of fun things about it, but I also saw them pretty much lose everything when macramé suddenly was no longer a thing. It’s hard to predict when a trend is going to change. They had that ball rolling strong on the internal side, and so when the external demand changed, it really devastated our family and we pretty much lost everything. So I think that that was useful to me in realizing that you can have both sides of the coin, you can have a lot of good creative from it and then you can also lose everything. But either way, you survive and you go forward again in the next part of life. And so yeah, I think there was a lot of examples around me.
Melinda Wittstock: So you could have gone either way, I guess with that losing everything thing, because sometimes the sons and daughters of entrepreneurs are like, “Oh okay, that’s not for me. I don’t want to almost gamble like that.” And others are like, “Oh well, what’s the worst can happen? I saw my parents lose everything and they were fine. We were fine ultimately.” So it takes away the fear that you may have because you’ve been through it already so you’re like, “Oh, well, if this happens, I can survive.” Is that what you took from that experience?
Christie Kerner: If it’s possible, I think I took both because I definitely, throughout my life have always felt an anxiousness to make sure that I am doing whatever it takes to put a roof over my head and knowing that can be taken away at any time by things that I don’t feel like they’re totally within our control.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, we got a big one like that right now, like coronavirus has upended almost everything. And it may change a lot of things permanently as well.
Christie Kerner: For sure. Yeah. And that’s exactly it. There’s so many things that we can’t control. It’s probably been, gosh, only maybe the past 10 years as I’ve been through a lot of craziness with things like that where I did finally settle into the realization that regardless of all of the things out there, I will always be taken care of, partly through the generosity of the universe or God or whatever you want to call it, and partly through my own ability to continue to stand up and take steps forward. So I worry less now because I know that there is always a way and that even difficult things are just blessings in disguise. I just wish they didn’t disguise themselves so well sometimes.
Melinda Wittstock: What a beautiful way of saying it. I think in a way, entrepreneurs are almost like alchemists. Like we take stuff that is not working so well and maybe we’re natural optimists, but we try and find silver linings, but we are also running in search of problems because by definition, we build businesses and we innovate around solving a problem for someone somewhere, hopefully a big enough market.
Christie Kerner: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s true. I think that that’s absolutely true. And it’s funny because I don’t know, again, throughout my career, I’ve built a number of businesses for myself and other people, built some really very successful multimillion dollar businesses. But I also have taken a season here or there where I’ve gone corporate or worked for someone else, and sometimes I found that actually recharges my batteries because problem solving, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to do, it weighs on your shoulders, it weighs on your problem solving, brain twisting and turning all the time.
Christie Kerner: And there’s a lot of risk associated with experimenting to try and solve those problems. And so for me, I’ve found a really nice balance in different phases of life where I felt like I needed some stability in a core part of my life. I would go and spend some time enjoying a day job working for someone else and enjoying that amazing thing where not everything rides on my shoulders and I have a team, and I get feedback positive and sometimes negative, but usually positive, from the people around me. So sometimes there’s value in all of the above, and I think it’s important for people to realize that even though we are natural problem solvers and we love building things, sometimes if other parts of our life are involved with more risk or chaos, it’s really nice to give ourselves the gift of a season of relaxing our focus on solving problems.
Christie Kerner: Have you ever run into that?
Melinda Wittstock: I think there’ve been times in my life where I tried that, but I’m such a hardcore serial entrepreneur, I think I’m unemployable. I don’t even know. Like I can’t even remember the last time I was employed, probably in my early 20s. And even then, I started out as a journalist and so every day was different and it wasn’t really like having a job-job. I kind of feel like I never really had a job-job except for my summer type things as a kid.
Christie Kerner: Yeah. Well, I will say, one of the jobs that I did though was I went and I got the opportunity to run the center for entrepreneurship in the business school at the nation’s largest public university. So that was just so in line with what I love, which is creating companies and helping other people do the same that I was able to find some really niche opportunities to be able to continue doing what I love, but just in a different context.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s one thing that I do and I have really enjoyed mentoring other entrepreneurs and also being mentored by them. I think to succeed in business and in entrepreneurship, surely we need to be able to have great coaches and mentors and other people that we can mastermind with. Has that always been a critical part of your success?
Christie Kerner: Oh, absolutely. For sure. I appreciate the fact that my husband is such an amazing listener, and I have been able to find a number of people that are incredible to talk to, to listen to, to think things over with and surround myself with them. Although sometimes it’s nice to have a mentor that has experience in business, I find that again, when it’s about problem solving, one of the things that I think I always brought to the table in non-entrepreneurship environments, to surprise people, because I didn’t get a chance to go to high school, I ended up supporting my family really early on, helping my mom pay rent when I was 12.
Christie Kerner: I didn’t get a typical schooling. I got a GED, I didn’t get to get a college degree until my 40s. So when I would get a job that was more typically done by someone with a degree, I was able to bring a lot of innovation because it’s kind of the classic saying like, “It’s easy to think outside of the box when you never actually saw the box.” I just legit grew up believing in a lot of people. So I think that I find a lot of wisdom in a lot of places, whether it’s with traditional mentors, people that have built companies, because those are definitely invaluable, they know a lot of hacks and shortcuts.
Christie Kerner: But I also just toss ideas around with different people, whoever will really listen. And that, thank goodness is a lot of the people that love me.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, Christie, you’ve had so much experience scaling businesses, not only your own but for other people as well. And scaling is tricky. Something that a lot of people who start businesses, they hit a wall at a certain point where the things that were working for them at the early stages don’t necessarily work for them anymore to be able to get to scale, assuming of course that they have a scalable business model to begin with, but getting out of their own way and all these sorts of things are challenging. The first time you went to scale a business, what were some of the biggest lessons learned? And where do you think entrepreneurs struggle with scaling, almost?
Christie Kerner: Oh man, that is a good question. It’s such a sneaky thing because it’s hard to realize that you do have to change and you do have to shift and you do have to evolve. I’ll tell you about my experience, but first I just want to give one cool tip, is that there is literally a map out there, it’s called The Stages Of Growth Matrix. And I remember the first time that a friend of mine showed me this, I don’t know, spreadsheet-looking thing with tiny, tiny text that basically has columns that say, “If you have zero to 10 people in your company or 10 to 25 or whatnot, all the way up to hundreds of people, these are the things that are going on in your company.”
Christie Kerner: “These are the key problems that you’re going to be facing, and this is how your leadership style needs to evolve and change, and what type of leader you need to be, and what types of things you need to be focused on.” I tend to think that, I don’t know, I think as entrepreneurs sometimes we all like to feel a little special, so I was like, “Well, surely this can’t be the same for me because I’m special.” Legit, I have never met any company that doesn’t follow this same pattern. And it really just made me want to like, I don’t know, drop my bottle of water or something.
Christie Kerner: I was just like, “How is it possible?” But it’s back to those lovely academic scientists that are able to predict things because they study them so well. There is actually a guide for it is my point, is that as you go through the stages of growth of a company, the company just needs different things. Like for example, once you hit about 20 people, under 20 people in your communication can flow pretty well. There’s a small team, they’re excited, they’re helping, they’re talking to each other. But once you hit 20, you separate it into little groups, working teams, and communication starts suffering. And sometimes people don’t know everything.
Christie Kerner: It just changes the way that things work, and so you have to start building a little infrastructure for that. And there’s just a million different transitions in different areas of growth that can cause different types of challenges. So that’s worth looking at as a first point of reference.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Well, just who you’re being changes quite a bit. You think of, I guess the vexing thing is just as you’ve mastered to whatever that thing was that you had to learn, the next thing and you master and you’re like, “Okay, this is great.” Right at that point it’s almost like you have to let go of it because there’s the next thing.
Christie Kerner: Totally. Exactly. Come on, why do we have to always be growing? Man, it’s exhausting.
Melinda Wittstock: It is. It is exhausting. Mind you, it’s really good for personal growth, right?
Christie Kerner: It is. It is.
Melinda Wittstock: It is uncanny the intersection between the entrepreneurship and just really good therapy for personal growth, because it challenges you. Every day is different. That’s the thing that I love about it that’s so exciting. And at the same time though, it is always challenging. I remember the first company that I really scaled ultimately into the eight figures. And that one, there was a certain point where I had to become basically like 50% of my time was hiring and managing and systems and things like that. And that’s not necessarily the thing that I love the most, but there was that moment of just reckoning of like, “Look, this isn’t about me. This is entirely about the team and what kind of structures and how I can motivate them and all of that. And making sure that the right people are in place.”
Melinda Wittstock: And the buzz of creating something new or innovating, I just have to get that little bit of part of myself out in different ways.
Christie Kerner: Yeah. Sometimes different stages fit us well and different ones don’t, and sometimes we have out-grow our own businesses.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh God, that happens a lot. That happens a lot I know a lot of founders who at a certain point just like literally hire a CEO, they’re still in their business or it’s time to exit because someone else can grow it more than you. So the critical thing is just knowing who you are. In your scaling, if you go back into all the businesses that you’ve scaled, what were the biggest lessons? What were some of the mistakes actually? Because I want to demystify or de-stigmatize rather, because we all make mistakes in this game because it’s still completely new.
Christie Kerner: Yeah. Here’s fun one. I had a company called Express Me, and it was an alternative fitness center. So basically, really short version of the story, I had a tumor in my head that I found in my 20s, it wasn’t cancerous, so that’s good, but it was on my pituitary, so it was really pesky, it sabotaged all my endocrine system, including my metabolism. And so the point that I figured out that no amount of working out was going to really get me the results that I had previously enjoyed when it came to my physique, I decided that I was going to stay active, but I had to entertain myself to do it or else it was just going to make me too mad.
Christie Kerner: And so I picked up like tap dancing and then that snowballed into studying like, I don’t know, 40 different styles of dance. And shortly after that, I moved to LA, which was like a playground of all kinds of downs. And so when I moved to Arizona in ’06, I had just gone through having to get surgery in a pretty traumatic situation with this brain tumor and life and all kinds of things, and I was really looking to just, I don’t know, redo my life and just start over and create something. And so I created this center 6,000 square feet that was just jam packed, full of crazy cool ways for women to stay active.
Christie Kerner: And we won all kinds of awards, the local papers would call it a playground for women, I ended up creating a unique curriculum that was licensed and taught at studios throughout the US and Canada, and just really had so much fun with this business. And the first couple of years, I had this amazing team that was just, oh my gosh, we were all best friends, we hung out all the time, we did so much, and we created this incredible company. At the two year point, there’s often a transition in a business, I’ve seen it in mine, I’ve seen it in many, many, many others, so I know not to take it personal anymore.
Christie Kerner: But it’s the difference of when you’re in the phase where you’re launching and creating and then you have to tip over like a right hand turn, a sharp right turn into this kind of maintenance. Now, everything has to go on repeat, there’s not as much creativity required anymore, it’s more about repeating the processes that you have finally refined to find that are the right ones. And not only is that a left turn from me as a leader, but it also means that there’s really a different skill set and interest type of team members that are going to be comfortable in that environment.
Christie Kerner: Basically I remember we ran in six week sessions and I remember going to one of the team members and saying, “Hey, I need you to close on Thursday nights.” Or, “Would you close on Thursday nights next session?” And she looked at me and just siding shrugs and said, “I guess so.” And I flashed back to my days working in restaurants as a kid and I got my schedule, I don’t know, three hours in advance, if I wasn’t there for every single shift across all seven days of my life at their demand, then I just lost my job. I was like, “How have I gotten myself into this situation where I’m petitioning my employee to work? What the heck just happened here?”
Christie Kerner: And then as that kept evolving, I realized that as I was trying to make that turn into a repeatable process, I had to set up those structures, like, “Hey you guys, we’re only open evenings and weekends, so unfortunately, everyone’s going to have to work some weekends, so we’re just going to put it on rotation.” And just some, simple, simple processes that I had to put into place caused a mutiny. And so what I learned though is that… So we each start with a couple of core sensitivities within ourselves. For me, based on some different life experiences and childhood and different things, I have two that really are my journey in life that I’m ever trying to level up in.
Christie Kerner: And one of them is that I want to feel like I’m a good person. Again, I have a bit of a crazy life, I actually spent 12 years at an end of the world survivalist cult in North Idaho.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness.
Christie Kerner: And so coming out of that, I was really cut off from the world, and coming out of that, they really, really did a number on me of making me feel like I was a bad person, not because of anything I had done, but it was just a control technique. So I came out of that really just with this mental need to try and prove to myself that I was a good person. And at the beginning, whatever we have as our core insecurities, we tend to try and point to things on the outside to try and make ourselves feel okay until we can heal it enough to where from the inside out, we know that we’re okay.
Christie Kerner: And so for me, again, ever evolving in that, I was stuck in a deeper loop than I realized and it was affecting my business because I was trying to, again, in retrospect, realized that I was trying to prove to myself that I was a good person by being a good boss. And so with my team, I spoiled them, I paid them above market rates, I took them on trips, we had these fun parties every week, I had very flexible schedules for them. I just was trying to take such good care of them that they had the most amazing jobs ever, which I do like to have an amazing culture for my teams. So part of it is just my nature and generosity, and that’s true, but it was off balance just enough because I was also more effected by my insecurities than I realized.
Christie Kerner: And so I had gone too far and really created an inappropriate relationship when it comes to a team lead and a team, where they were in control of everything. So when I would ask them simple things, it was an inconvenience because they were the ones that were really running the show and it was moving backwards. So I had to face that within myself and they helped me grow in that area, in that key members of the team revolted and left and made it very public, showing of how much they disliked me to all of my clients and social media and all of these things.
Christie Kerner: And so it was a good learning opportunity for me to be able to stand tall and say, “Okay, actually, I know I’m a good person.” And so I healed that a little bit more within myself. But my leadership style was distinctly effected by my own self as a person, and I had to learn and grow through that because what had worked in like a simpler environment as the company grew and tried to scale, became a really, really bad pain point. Does that make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, it totally does. I think there’s a couple of things here. I think any kind of problem or challenge that we have in terms of how we perceive ourselves or subconscious drivers, that that come from our experiences in life and from all kinds of things, even when we were infants and we don’t even know where they can from, but these things are driving us and they do play out in business. And so this is why I joke that entrepreneurship is great therapy because to succeed, you have to figure out how to get around those things so it can exhibit in all sorts of all ways. And I was struck too by this idea of wanting to be seen as a good person and a nice person.
Melinda Wittstock: And so I see women making that same mistake or over-delivering, over-serving where there’s nothing left for themselves and there’s no boundary around it. That is so common, I think for a lot of female founders, that particular issue.
Christie Kerner: For sure. I think again, we each have our own flavor and we each have a couple of them and we try and use things on the outside because in essence, it’s even less that we’re trying to prove something to other people when it really, really comes down to we’re trying to prove something to ourselves, that we’re a likable or that we are good enough or these things, we’re fighting against whatever that internal message is. And sometimes we pair ourselves with people on the outside that are going to validate our beliefs, actually most of the time.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, validate the ones that are incorrect beliefs.
Christie Kerner: Yeah, for sure. Oh, for sure. But what’s cool is that when they reflect back, like if I get myself in a situation like I did with them, where they started coming at me saying, “Wow, you’re a terrible person,” that really makes me confront my belief about myself, “Am I a good person or am I a terrible person?” Because I’m getting some real clear messaging on the outside here. And so anytime we are trying, anytime we’re in that imbalanced state and we are trying to overcompensate for something that we feel out of balance within ourselves, we’re going to get in some kind of chaos that’s going to create that same type of thing like I did. And so that message will come back at us, and it’s just an opportunity to heal.
Christie Kerner: And so look at that and look at it and say, “You know, am I likable? Am I a good person? Am I good enough? Am I important? Am I lovable? Am I smart?” Whatever it is for each of us, we really have to face that. And if we can look ourselves in the mirror and say, “Wow, for several reasons I haven’t felt that way, but I’m going to just take a little leap of faith and believe that yes, I am okay in that area and I’m not perfect, but there’s good in me.” That helps us level up to the next level to where it’s like, I use the example of, if someone was to come by and be like, “Wow, Christie, your hair is really purple,” to criticize me, I would be like, “Mm, are your eyes okay?”
Christie Kerner: I would honestly have more compassion for them because I know that my hair is not purple. But if someone was to come along and be like, “Christie, you’re not a very good person, you just did something to try and hurt someone.” I’d be like, “Oh my Lord, did I? What?” Because that’s an area that I already feel sensitive. It’s easy for the world around me to message me in a way that gets me off balance, but the more that I can level up to not believe those negative things within myself, then it starts becoming more like that purple hair where someone could come at me with a message and then just more curious to like, “What’s going on here?” Because I know it’s not me, and so there’s something going on with the way that they view the world or the words that they know how to use or something. It just becomes completely not personal because I don’t have a sensitivity to pick it up.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think it’s interesting if we don’t deal with these issues as they come up and we deflect them or just don’t face them head on, and you start adding more and more zeros, these problems just become even bigger.
Christie Kerner: Absolutely. They’re little boomerangs. Man, they’ll keep coming back until you deal with them.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly right. It’s so, so true. And everybody has these things, they’re all rooted in childhood for the most part. And so what are some of the other things that you’ve learned along the way, once you proved to yourself that you are a good person, were there any others as you move on and start other businesses and do other things?
Christie Kerner: Well, I have to say tactically a couple things on that one that I learned is, I had to give myself some mechanical ways to work with that one until I could really settle into the new belief system. So one of them that I think is interesting is, I stopped thinking my team, and that sounds dramatic and to be fair once in a while I do say the words thank you, but what I realized is that their paycheck, thanks them, we have an equal exchange going on here, they do work and they get paid for it. But as a leader, I really do love being generous with my attention and affection in a business sense and all of that kind of stuff.
Christie Kerner: And so what I changed to do is to focus on recognizing good work. And so instead of saying, “Thank you for that spreadsheet or whatever,” I’ll say, “Oh man, I really like how you did this spreadsheet, this is really going to help.” It’s the same thing, in my intention, it was the same thing, it was to recognize value and show appreciation, but instead of just continuously bowing down to people in this like graciousness of thank you, I instead really focus on what people are doing well and recognize that, because that not only is a better representation of what the gratitude that should be shown, but it also aligns their motivation for me as a leader with what really needs to be done. It directs the reward to the proper behavior. Does this make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it does. It makes a lot of sense. And not only that, but you’re providing a lot more room for them to grow and actually understand because it’s constructive feedback. So you’re giving them guidance in a way in terms of what’s working and what’s not rather than just for doing something, like anyone can do anything, anything, hand in the spreadsheet or links on the website or whatever the task is, it doesn’t mean it’s good. I think management team actually is one of the harder things in business to get that right. I know that in different businesses of mine, sometimes it feels like I’ve lucked out and I’ve had this amazing team and everyone’s just great and everybody is the right people in the right seats and all that stuff.
Melinda Wittstock: And then other times, it’s been really difficult to find the right people or you have, like in my case, one of my Achilles’ heel, I found myself in a really horrible marriage to a narcissistic, alcoholic who over many years just did me down my confidence. So I had all these businesses and to the outside world, everything looked fine, but in the inside, I was in shame about this. When I finally really understood what was going on and understood the concept of gaslighting and understood all these things and realized, I kind of got myself back, for a time, I had echoes of that. People like that, show up as vendors, team members or whatever, until I finally got it and tried to finally figured out boundaries around it, that kind of thing.
Christie Kerner: Right. And I think that that is exactly the same thing, that belief was deep and big enough that you are able to build an environment that reflected it back really loudly because it was as loud as what our internal belief was at the time.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly.
Christie Kerner: Like you finally after a period of time and a million experiences realized within yourself, “You know what, I’m not all that stuff that you say I am.” And that leveled you up to where now it shows up just a little bit over here and then you go through another round of clearing that out within yourself. And to me, that’s the journey of life, we have those areas. Similarly, for me now, I’ll see it show up with, like you said, a vendor or like some other random thing, and I’m like, it’s so nice when our primary belief moves out of our household, and then into like smaller and smaller relationships because we still know we’re healing.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. As you heal it and you let it go. Well, the reason this is called Wings of Inspired Business is that, I think just to really succeed. There is, I don’t know whether it’s a spiritual element, but it’s certainly the ability to quiet the mind enough to be able to, I don’t know, clear out, deal with all those subconscious things and let them go. So I find with myself and almost everyone I know who’s built seven, eight, nine, and in some cases unicorn businesses, all have this ability, this particular mindset to be able to really work on themselves. And if they don’t, they can get thrown out of their company or have a bad outcome, but that bad outcome isn’t necessarily bad for them, it’s what they needed to be able to grow.
Melinda Wittstock: And so, I don’t know, what’s your routine or mindset? Do you meditate? What are some of the things that you do to get that alignment within and be a conscious leader?
Christie Kerner: Yeah, for sure. I would say there’s a few things, foundationally, emotional intelligence is number one to me, it’s just the ability to understand what’s going on inside of myself and inside of other people, is the most useful tool I have ever found for my own I nternal piece, for my working with other people, and my personal relationships and my companies, the ability to understand how the consciousness or conscious mind work together and what that creates in the way that people behave is just foundational.
Christie Kerner: So I would say, at the beginning, if nothing else, study that because that is like really, really key. That’s the framework for which we’re able to really do everything else. But then for me personally, I would say the first thing that I focus on a lot is just being really, really honest with myself. And so what that means is, sometimes I’ll just feel like a sense of anxiety, I’ll be popping my knuckles or I’ll be just like, I’ll feel this physical sense of anxiety, and when that happens, to me, anxiety is just undiscovered feelings a lot of the time, I can’t speak for all of the time. And so I’ll take a minute and I’ll try and listen, I’ll try and center myself and be like, “Wait, what’s bothering me? What is this that is… ” Or honestly, grumpiness sometime, which I don’t really get grumpy, but my husband does, don’t tell him I told you.
Christie Kerner: It’s the same kind of thing, it’s just this anxiety, it’s something that you’re feeling that is unidentified so far. And so in those moments, anytime I’m feeling a sense of discord, I will take the time to sit back and be like, “Wait, what am I actually feeling here?” Because once you realize what it is that’s bothering you or what it is that’s going on, then we have a fighting chance of doing something with it or about it or whatever to mitigate it. So that’s the first thing, is just staying really, really, really honest with myself and trying to find those triggers that indicate to me that I have some emotion that I haven’t yet dealt with or identified so that I can pause and take a look what they are.
Christie Kerner: The second thing I would say, I don’t know, I think it’s strange how effective it is, but for me specifically, talking is a huge, huge release of any kind of anxiety or negative energy or anything. And so, again, back to the part where my husband’s an incredible listener, I’m so grateful. This man over the last 12 years has heard me talk about so much, and he’s so patient and he’s so interested and so thoughtful and so focused and so willing to do whatever it takes to just listen and be there or to offer ideas or whatever. He somehow figured out the balance of when to do both, which is a blessing.
Christie Kerner: So talking for me, just thinking out loud with other people is a huge way in which I am able to process things and look at things and release any energy that’s pending up or it’s piling up in any a negative sense. So identifying it, talking, and then the third one, for me sometimes there is an introspection. So I do have a meditation practice, I don’t do it super often, but I do it whenever I feel like I need to, so to speak. And it’s something that was taught to me by a really cool girl that’s, I guess I have a modified version, but she was a lawyer, and so she’s a lot like me and that she’s really fast paced, no nonsense, no time for the woo woo version of anything, but just really down to earth, like, “Let’s get it done,” form of meditation. And that just really resonated with me.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I’ve gotten more and more woo woo over time, but I just find, now to the point where I’m very guided by inspiration. So my morning meditation is, I don’t know… I’m just going to pick that up again. Sorry, beauty of tape. My morning meditation is interesting now because rather than just focusing only on trying to quiet my mind, I literally ask for inspiration, “What is the one thing that I should be doing today that’s really going to advance my business or my life?” And sometimes the answer isn’t necessarily, isn’t even logical, but I find when I trust it and when I follow those instincts, all kinds of magic happens.
Christie Kerner: I love that.
Melinda Wittstock: There are lots of synchronicities, and all that kind of stuff, and I just find that the business is more in flow, I’m more focused on working on it, acting rather than reacting, that kind of thing. It’s made such a huge difference for me, but it was really hard being this type age, driving personality in my 20s and 30s, and I’m getting into my 40s, to actually really be able to figure out how to do this meditation thing. I sucked at it for the longest time, and now, I just don’t know what I’d do without it.
Christie Kerner: Well, do you mind sharing? What is your meditation practice look like?
Melinda Wittstock: Well, it’s pretty free flowing. Sometimes, when I first began, the only way I could do it was by doing yoga because it was the only way I could actually quiet my mind or like literally meditating while walking the dog or like doing something. I had to be physically active to be able to quiet my mind to begin with. And then the meditation became a lot of breath work, really helps me a lot, just really focusing on my breath. And that’s just so good for you, it’s physically good for you as well, all kinds of different breathing type of things. I tried guided meditation, but then that irritated me because the person’s voice would bug me or whatever. That didn’t really work all that well.
Melinda Wittstock: And then it became, I do a whole series of things with whole tones and binaural, different meditations have binaural beats or whatever. And all you hear is either rain or the sound of the ocean or whatever, but it’s helping your brain hit the brainwave state where you are more likely to be more, I don’t know, whatever your language is, one with source or in alignment, whatever, like really connected, I suppose to your actual soul or essence. And I find that’s very helpful. And then through the day now, if I’m finding myself getting just stressed or in danger of reacting to something, I’ve learned to take myself out of the game for like five minutes and just breathe and do whatever it is to really get back into that zone of inspiration and flow. But it’s been radically game changing for me.
Christie Kerner: That’s awesome.
Melinda Wittstock: The other thing that was really huge for me was gratitude work, because that’s the thing that really helped me turn things around once I realized just how beaten down I’d been in this marriage, and literally, in a terrible state, having basically lost my business and my money, oh my God, it was pretty awful. The first thing I did was gratitude practice, and the depths of that mess, and man, that was powerful. And I still every day, gratitude practice, every morning, every night, every morning, every night, no matter what, all through coronavirus, looking for things to be grateful for every day, even though it’s a very terrible situation for so many people, you worry about what’s going to happen to the economy, there’s all kinds of things to get anxious about. And I’ve chosen not to take that path consciously.
Christie Kerner: It’s interesting. I think I’ve thought about gratitude practice and I realized, I think I did that in a strange way. For me, maybe coming and going back to some of the years when my family lost everything and things were really tough, to me, the most gratitude that I could feel like I could express was with the little bit of stuff that I had. We would get $20 at the thrifts store to spend for all Christmas, we had very little, but if I could do something within that to give something to someone else, to me, that was what really reflected to me, gratitude for what I have, because no matter how little I have, I have enough to brighten someone else’s day.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s abundance thinking too. When you are able to do that, and I counsel so many people in business all the time, when we’re in scarcity and really locked down and trying to count every penny, even though we have the no numbers, and we have to be prudent and all that stuff, but when we’re locked down in that, very little comes to us, the minute you start giving exactly as you described, it’s amazing what comes back. It’s kind of comic, I think.
Christie Kerner: I went through a really tough divorce, I don’t know, 15 years ago or something as well, and one of the things that I did to help heal through that was to… I was working on a company that was a diamond jewelry line with rose gold and white gold and pink diamonds, and yellow diamonds.
Melinda Wittstock: Beautiful.
Christie Kerner: It was gorgeous, but then suddenly it was 2008 and I was like, probably not the best time to try and enter the luxury market. So I ended up shuttering that company, but as a part of that, I was building my reputation on multiple selling channels and doing a lot of small orders for sterling silver jewelry to build up my reputation as a seller in advance of my custom diamond pieces coming through. And so I ended up finding this Australian silver jewelry that was little messages of hope and love, and you know, the cute words and all that kind of stuff. And so in selling that, I would put little custom messages or handwritten messages into each packet that I would send out.
Christie Kerner: And it just became something that it was so fun to see these little packages go off into the world because some of the jewelry was in cancer ribbons and things like that, and knowing that there were people that were hurting, that I could just brighten their day a little bit, again, I had enough to do that. And that ended up rolling forward, that was one of the things that helped me heal from all of the difficulty of that divorce, was feeling like I could create right spots for other people. And that has fast forwarded to even within my current company, My Little Mascara Club in that I put so much into the experience that people that interact with this company receive in that everything that they get, like for example, the mailer, is covered with cute inspirational sayings.
Christie Kerner: Inside of every package is something called a little box of happy, and it’s a surprise for them that has an inspirational message that’s custom, and there’s all kinds of things. For me, helping other people feel better about themselves in life has become at the core of actually almost every business that I have created now because I love doing it so much, because there’s something about the generosity, the abundance, the gratitude, the more that I have found that the more that I can infuse opportunities to share that with other people in my life, the more joy it brings them and me. And I think that that’s amazing how that kind of thing works.
Melinda Wittstock: I think brands and businesses that do that, just exactly what you’re describing and making people feel good where the value is more than the transactional value of the actual product or service, but there’s this emotional connection and literally lifting people up, I think now in the world with coronavirus, never has there been a better opportunity for everybody no matter what their business is to get really close to their customers in that way. There’s a lot of things we can do as we’re all locked down at home, one of them is find that inner connection and work through some of these subconscious things that we’ve been talking about to show up as a better leader and that’s all from within.
Melinda Wittstock: And the other thing is to get really close to your customers and really close to your team. So it’s so beautiful that you’re doing that because people need that upliftment, if that’s a word right now, so how inspirational and lovely. And I think by the time the market comes back, all of us are back out there with our mascara on, you will have created such goodwill, just by operating your business in that way. So that’s a beautiful thing. I love that you’re doing that. It’s great.
Christie Kerner: Thank you. And I think I just want to highlight too, to me, this is where I believe that our weaknesses are our strengths. Again, for me, one of the core things that I’ve had to battle in my life is this internal struggle around am I a good person? Which is so ridiculous when I say it out loud, and the people that know me know that I do try really hard to be gracious and kind and giving to people. So it shouldn’t be a debate that still happens in my life in my mid-40s, but that’s a side. But the point is, that’s my journey, I will keep peeling that one more degree, one more degree, one more degree as I go through my life.
Christie Kerner: But the flip side of it is that because I’ve spent so many years battling against that, I created an awful lot of habits that turned into skills and talents and all kinds of things that now enable me as I am de-shackled from the internal struggle associated with that, I have a lot of things built that I created in my journey to try and deal with that that enable me to do a lot of good in the world. And so to me, that’s one of the things that I think is beautiful about the way that humans work is that whatever was our core sensitivity that we were fighting against, like my husband again, I adore the man, he’s incredible, one of his core sensitivities is needing to feel liked.
Christie Kerner: He had different experiences growing up where he started questioning if he was likable, and so he is a salesman because he literally has a job where he builds relationships with people and gets them to like him enough to buy something from him. So he has done a lot to heal in that where he doesn’t come from a place of need, emotional needs so much. And he also is able to step into this world without the anxiety and the negative side of feeling like you’re trying to convince people to reflect back that you’re likable. But in that process, this man builds relationships like nobody’s business, he has built such a skillset in understanding people and seeing what’s going on in a situation, listening and engaging and properly doing what it takes to build a deep relationship with people.
Christie Kerner: That’s a skill he gets to keep forever, and it came from needing to try and be liked, but it’s the beauty of it, it’s the flip side of the coin. And so I think that we all have those opportunities as well that whatever have been our weaknesses have actually created strengths that we get to enhance and build and then go forward with the same habits, but just not tethered to a negative emotional experience and not pulled that three degrees off center like I did with my company that causes more chaos for us.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Beautifully said. So Christie, how can people find you and work with you and get your mascara, the thing is stocked up? You look beautiful on the Zoom calls, we all have to do our part.
Christie Kerner: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: What’s the best way?
Christie Kerner: You can find me over at mylittlemascaraclub.com. I’m sure you’ll have a couple of links to make it easy for them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Christie Kerner: And then if they’re listening mobile or something and it’s easier, they can text the word, createhappy, all one word, to 33777, and I’ll make sure they get a free gift with purchase.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Christie Kerner: Thank you for having me. It’s been such a pleasure to talk to you.
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