Gwendolen Wilder found herself on the path to entrepreneurship when she took on a second job to help pay for her son’s dream trip to Disney Land. The San Antonio, Texas-based mompreneur quickly found herself doing much more than saving a few pennies for a trip – she found her calling and her passion – ultimately landing herself a $5 million government contract and overseeing 187+ employees. These days she has taken her passion for helping people and works as a business strategist to counsel and inspire women. As a retired USAF veteran and survivor of abuse, she also guest speaks on domestic violence, sexual harassment, and workplace violence.
Wilder’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
One day, I asked my son to tell me what he wanted to do for his upcoming birthday and no matter what it was I’d make it happen. He replied, he wanted to go to Disney World. Needless to say, I wasn’t ready for that response. I thought for certain he’s say something like go skating, backyard party or at the least swimming. But, he asked for the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket of birthday requests and I felt I had to fulfil it. So, I went into panic mode because I knew, even though I was working full time in the USAF and was in a relationship at the time, I didn’t have enough money in savings and neither myself or my then common law-husband would be able to fund the trip. So, I decided to get a second job as an independent contractor working from my spare bedroom doing the exact same job I was doing in the military and funny enough it was what I loved and really enjoyed; counseling and investigating Equal Opportunity Complaints.
I count it as a good and successful day anytime someone comes up to me after a lecture crying saying that I helped to make their life a bit better, gave them some new awareness of how to improve their circumstances or gave them clarity for something they’d been struggling with. A bonus is watching my private clients consume the information I worked so hard in creating and getting excited when they receive their first follower, subscriber, client, and make that first dollar. I feel successful when I motivate victims, survivors or corporate executives and they tell me that they’ve never had anyone share a story with such realness and depth as I have and that it really changed their perspective and made them want to help do more.
Within six months of starting my first business, I reached out to another company in a joint venture collaboration to help fund me to acquire a $5M government contract. I knew I had the know how of how to fulfil the contract, but I didn’t have the money or length of time in business to help me win the bid. So, I conveyed my plan to my then joint partner as well as the advantages for them for partnering with me; and it worked -we won. That first major business win afforded me the opportunity to hire 187+ staff, gain substantial income which allowed me to dissolve that business and escape my domestic violence marriage. That experience was also the foundation credibility that help me later re-branded myself, start a second business in coaching and helped me to become an in demand guest speaker by my city mayor, state senator and more top city officials asking me to come and do what I enjoy; sharing my story and empowering females.
I realized through the course of running my businesses that no matter where I am on the entrepreneurial journey, I always seem to face the same set of challenges which I lovingly refer to as fears: mindset, money, sales, systems, support, visibility and lifestyle. It didn’t matter if I made $100 or $1,000,000 there was always an obstacle to face. My toughest challenge or fear I have to deal with would be my mindset, specifically, dealing with the imposter syndrome. I work hard to kickass past my fears whether they’re business or personal by using these three simple steps: relying on my supportive sistahood, implementing solid proven strategies and believing in my spiritual source which is God.
My most important role model is myself. I’ve overcome some pretty serious feats such as molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence and military combat. But beyond that, I’m able to deal with various triggers that arise and understand the steps to kickass past them and how to turn those negatives into a positive profitable opportunity for myself, my family and my community. I understand that being my own role model of myself will help other amazing and beautiful ladies learn how to believe in and love themselves. And because of all of those experiences (good and bad) I feel I turned out to be a really strong and awesomely blessed mother that was able to survive adversity, put my son through college, help others and not be afraid to get out there to love again and use my God given talent of communication.