Michelle Pippin started working from home, long before March 2020. Twenty years ago Pippin was a young mother craving more freedom and control over her work schedule and a desire to generate greater income for her family. She took a leap and started the first of a few entrepreneurial journeys; first working as a virtual assistant from home, then running an HR company and eventually launching Women Who WOW. Her online platform is membership based and designed for female entrepreneurs who are looking for business advice, guidance and inspiration from other women who are facing similar challenges to themselves. Today, the Currituck, North Carolina-based mompreneur is proud to have grown her revenue past the seven figure threshold and to have been able to hire her own daughter to work for her company full time.
Pippin’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
Twenty plus years ago, I was at a crossroads. I was married to a public school teacher and on maternity leave from a non-profit organization. I had only $213 in savings, no credit and no family money on either side. Back then, I’d heard stories of women ‘working from home’ but there were no coaches or blueprints for that sort of thing. On a whim, but with the heart of a determined mother, I quit my job, invested $50 in my “start-up” and decided to somehow make my living around the needs of my growing family. I went from billing myself as an “at home secretary” (The term “virtual assistant” hadn’t yet been created!) to running an HR business to — finally — landing in the entrepreneurial role of a lifetime…standing at the helm of an alliance for other seriously driven women entrepreneurs like myself. I started Women Who WOW because I could find no other organization that attracted — and retained and served — women like us.
How do you define success?
My definition of success is easy: living life entirely on my own terms. I got to raise my young family while making a full time income from home. I was able to home school my children for a few years and, when it was time for them to go to school, I was able to enroll them in private school because my decisions were no longer based solely on what I could afford. Today, I get to pay in full for two of my kids to go to college, allowing them to avoid the crushing debt that my husband and I were saddled with as young adults. I get to spend my days doing work that I love, serving women that inspire me and making a difference in the lives of women all over the world. I can’t imagine it getting better than this.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I’ve hit the panacea of seven-figures of revenue in one calendar year. I’ve maintained multi-six figures while having tons of time and freedom to hike, read, and write. I’ve been interviewed and featured on top media outlets. But my biggest success, honestly, is what I created in those early years: the opportunity to work from home and make a respectable income. I had nothing but a desire to stay at home with my kids but I funneled it into a real business venture that now employs my oldest daughter full time. I am most proud of that.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I have been a ‘lone wolf’ for much of my business career. Even though for over a decade now, I have had at least one primary assistant and a team of project-based support staff, I was never very good at delegating or setting clear expectations. When I brought my oldest daughter into the business, I had to really get good at empowering her to do her best work. I’m still learning and getting better. But learning how to effectively delegate is harder than I imagined.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I had these issues with my own self-employment, and also with many team members. I have always tried to be flexible as I believe that work should fit around life and not the other way around.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
I had the benefit of beginning my business journey when there was no real “business development” industry to speak of. While I often wished for some guidance, I now realize how noisy it can be for entrepreneurs. Every corner of the internet today is occupied by another “guru” with another “secret” to share…for a fee. Many of these self-professed gurus aren’t even profitable in their own business, but are giving advice to others. I benefited from having very little noise and interference. I had a service to offer and I offered it. Not having the guru industry screaming rules at me allowed me to chart my own simple path to profit. My advice to start up entrepreneurs is simple: never forget that the failure rate of businesses is still around 80%. This means that 4/5 of the people you’re seeing giving advice on the internet are wrong. The route to success is not mysterious or secretive. Create something amazing. Sell it. Repeat. Business is not easy, but it can be simple.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I read my Bible every single day, and then I head straight into my journal. This helps me stay grounded in my faith and anchored to my goals. In those moments where I’d rather crawl back into bed, I remember that I have a 100% track record of making it through dark days. I also have two daughters and a son who are watching me live. This inspires me not only to keep going but to do so in a way that reminds them what is possible.
Who is your most important role model?
My parents are my original and first role models. While I grew up very blue collar/ middle class, I have had the privilege of watching them grow a multi-million dollar company while maintaining a thriving marriage of nearly 50 years and still making time to enjoy family and each other.