By Timorah Beales
I attended my first choice college, Christopher Newport University, at age 16. I was actually one of the youngest students on record to have attended.
Half high achiever. Half nerd.
I believe attending college at such a young age played into this, but I ended up getting pregnant during my freshman year. Sadly, the relationship was emotionally and physically abusive. After my third trip to the Emergency Room, I’d had enough, and my parents had had enough too.
One afternoon, my mom and dad showed up at my house, packed my belongings and moved me to North Carolina. I began attending UNC Charlotte where I studied Criminal Justice and Pre-law. I eventually made the move up to VCU and continued to pursue my degree there. I was just shy of graduating when I had this realization that going on to law school wasn’t really what I wanted to do, it was what I was “supposed to do.”
From there, I took an opportunity at a dental practice in Williamsburg; I started in an administrative position and over the following 4.5 years, I worked my way up to Patient Coordinator and then eventually became the Marketing Director.
This is a multi-million dollar practice we’re talking about here, and I had no idea what I was doing.
I was winging it…. Just like my eyeliner.
While managing the practice’s marketing, I got into BNI (Business Networkers International) and learned the “givers gain” mentality. It changed everything. I had never networked before and it really did something for my confidence and relationship building skills. I quickly realized that if I gave business to others, it was a way to develop trust, and that’s really how my business started.
I began freelancing my marketing services to business contacts I was developing within the community. At the same time, I had been purchasing tea from a locally-owned shop (Discover Teas) to keep in the patient waiting room of the doctor’s office, because I loved the idea of cross-promoting.
One day the Marketing Director at Discover Teas called to check in on us as an account, and we got to talking about our different strengths and passions; he had the techy background while I dominated the relationship marketing world. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way for business owners to get access to all of these different talents and resources in one place, instead of bringing someone in for just one specific role?” What we conceptualized is now known as Proximo Marketing Strategies.
Throughout it all, my mission statement and vision has been to remain authentic in both my personal life and in my work. My entire life, I had always felt the need to keep up with the Joneses. I had to dress and act a certain way to be successful. No more.
I’ll never forget the day in Peninsula Women’s Network where I had to do a presentation in my Power Group. It was my turn and I had completely had it that day. I was tired of trying to act like everything was perfect and on that day, I felt unusually tired. I had my presentation all prepared, but something in me just said, “No!” So I walked to the front of the room, pulled up a chair, sat down at one of the tables and I said, “You know what? People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care. And today, I’m going to tell you who I am and why I care.” I cried. A lot. And that’s when everything changed for me. I soon thereafter left the business partners I had, and was determined to run the company the way I wanted to, authentically.
As women, we’re always trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses, and you reach a point where you finally say, “Well, who the hell are the Joneses anyways?!” I am now unapologetically me, and to be honest, the clients that I choose to work with, love that!
I’ve had large companies, representing other industries, say they love that I have a Star Wars backpack as a briefcase. They appreciate my authenticity. That’s why I love Peninsula Women’s Network, the oldest running women’s networking group; for me, it played such a big part in that transition of becoming the “me” that I am now. I’ve seen PWN do that for other women and that, to me, is awesome.
Ha, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly a conformist. I’m just me (sometimes in a weird way) and that translates into my business. I don’t believe in the cookie cutter strategy for companies. As a company, we get to know our clients and build relationships. We jump right into the heart of the business- why do they do what they do? What are their goals? What are their fears? It’s part of a learning process- instead of working for them, we work with them. We’re honest. If a client isn’t doing something quite right, we talk about it and explain why decisions were made and why we now need to change course. We’re able to walk that road with our clients because we’ve taken the time to build that trust.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get fixated on PLANS and we’re disappointed if it doesn’t turn out in a specific way. I live believing that I want whatever God has planned for me; in my business, relationships, etc. and that makes it okay to pivot because I know He’s leading me.
God has really opened a lot of doors for us here. For months, I felt like there was something more I was supposed to be doing and it emerged as a branch of Proximo called SHIFT. SHIFT was born out of working with nonprofit organizations to help them understand the generational changes that are happening. We work with these nonprofits on leadership, marketing and branding, finance and fundraising- it’s comprehensive. These doors are being opened by God and God only. It’s so much bigger than us.
Speaking of things bigger than me, I’m also co-authoring a book right now called Brass Ovaries, with two colleagues and friends of mine, Jamie McAllister and Shelley Smith. We interview a large group of women, break down their interviews and pull a piece of a lesson learned from their stories so it can be shared with others.
You know, we never feel like we’re enough.
And we’re not.
But it’s a reminder that it’s so much bigger than that.