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Tory Johnson, Entrepreneur, Business Leader, Author

Tory Johnson is an award-winning business leader, contributor for ABC’s Good Morning America, and bestselling author devoted to career success. She is Founder and CEO of Women for Hire, which offers recruitment services for women. Tory hosts Spark & Hustle conferences and intensive coaching programs to help women start and grow small businesses.


In her newest book, Spark & Hustle, she offers practical advice for women who have that spark to develop their own business and they just need a little hustle to make it all happen. In this interview, Tory shares some tips about how to work with your spark idea and she’s generously offered an excerpt from her book.

CW: What makes something a “spark” idea and how does a woman know that
idea is the right one to launch a business?

Tory Johnson (TJ): A woman knows that she has the right business idea when] she thinks about it 24/7…she can’t get it out of her mind all the time. She knows it solves a problem or addresses a need. She’s talked to her
target market and they’re hot on it. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

CW: What are the biggest inhibitions that you see in women today in
delaying their dream to start their own business?

TJ: The top three I see are the fear of failing, discomfort with asking for help and dislike of selling.

CW: What’s your advice for women to move past these inhibitions?

TJ: Don’t wait for comfort because it may never come. Do it anyway because your business depends on it. Listen to your fears and manage them. When you fear failing, paint a more specific picture of what exactly you fear and then develop action steps around those issues. There’s a lot of grace in asking for help. Don’t shy away from picking up the phone, sending that email or showing up. Even if you hear no, it’s a step closer to yes — because never hearing no means you aren’t asking.

Book Excerpt: From the introduction of Spark & Hustle. You can find her book on Amazon.

We both know why you’re here. You were downsized. Your hours were cut. Your employer went bust. You need to make more money to get by. You’ve graduated from college without a job and your career path isn’t clear. You want to use your own smarts and creativity to take control of your working life.

You are like (and perhaps among) the thousands of people I meet at my Spark & Hustle conferences for current and aspiring entrepreneurs. While the ages span generations, and backgrounds are diverse at these events, one thing is clear: people are eager to make a change. Twentysomethings who abandoned job searches in favor of becoming their own boss. New moms who shudder at the thought of being beholden to a boss instead of their baby. Seasoned professionals who want to take the knowledge they gained on someone else’s payroll to build their own venture. Employees who saw colleagues being fired and are determined to create a side business of their own. Retirees who dipped into savings to stay afloat and now must replace that income in their golden years.

We’ve all learned hard lessons in this new economy. The days of spending an entire career at one company, of a guaranteed pay- check with a pension to match are long gone. Job security, no matter how good you are at what you do, no longer exists. Many of us are still recovering from the downturn and anxious that storm clouds could gather again.

That’s the end of the negativity you’ll find in this book: being a naysayer won’t get you far. Brighter days are most definitely ahead.

If the recession hit you hard or you were awakened by a reality check as peers were affected by a rough economy, it’s time to strike back. That’s the driving theme behind Diane Sawyer’s on- going “Made in America” series on ABC’s World News, which has challenged ordinary people to renew their pride in all things American, to help keep jobs right here at home and revive our economy. I’m convinced that one of the best ways to do that is the old-fashioned American way: start your own business and pro- duce goods and services right here in the USA.

We’re entering a small business revival. The number of jobs may be stagnant, but the opportunities to launch a small business are not. In fact, small businesses drive most of the growth in our economy. By starting one, you can be part of the country’s economic solution and, more importantly, your own.

Small business is booming because the barriers to starting one have never been lower. It’s not a complicated or mysterious process to get going. Your computer can be your research and marketing department, even your storefront. Technology enables your corporate headquarters to be your kitchen table or corner coffee shop. A high-speed Web connection can be your road to success.

In July 2010, I held my first Spark & Hustle conference—spark for the ideas, passion and expertise that so many women have, hustle for what it takes to turn that into cash. For three scorching summer days in Atlanta, two hundred smart, savvy women shared their vision and dreams, while soaking up all kinds of tips and tactics from our roster of handpicked speakers—women who had started with nothing but guts and created successful businesses. They built their destinies brick by brick and shared their hard-won wisdom with others who wanted to do the same. The feedback from the Atlanta event was so strong that I decided to take Spark & Hustle on the road. I wanted other women with established or fledgling businesses to learn from people who’d been there and done that—sometimes with the gray hairs to prove it.

I’ve spent the last year meeting thousands of talented current and would-be entrepreneurs at Spark & Hustle events in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia and Tulsa.

What I learned from these women made writing this book possible and affirmed what I know to be true: desire and hustle trump education, experience and economics.

Forget the MBA. If you have one, great. But you don’t need it; I’m a college dropout who launched a very successful business with very little money and no special connections. The women I work with are hungry to make things happen, but none of them have sugar daddies and I can’t recall a single one saying she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. They know it’s all about the hustle: the decisions they make and the actions they take each and every day.

Now it’s your turn to hustle. I hope you’re at least a tad crazy. It helps in this line of work.

At my Philadelphia Spark & Hustle event, maternity retail pioneer Liz Lange said, “Those of us who succeed do so because we’re nuts.” She’s my kind of girl—making me feel normal (whatever that is) for being somewhat insane. This was a sentiment echoed on our stage by many of the most successful women today. Stella & Dot cofounder Jessica Herrin said it, too: “You have to be a little bit (or a lot) crazy to make it as a small business owner.”

If you’re OK with that—in fact, ready to embrace it—then let’s make your business dream a reality. Only you can define what success looks like for you, but on these pages you’ll learn what I did on my journey and what I’ve shared with others at my Spark & Hustle events: the nuts and bolts of starting and growing a profitable small business.

If there is a common trait among the women I meet who make it, it’s this: they believe in themselves and what they are doing. That’s the most potent fuel for an entrepreneur. Follow their lead and believe unflinchingly in yourself. And know that I’m rooting for your small business success.

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