This week we hear from Tina C. Hines, founder of My Sister Friends. In business for a little over one year, My Sister Friends’ mission is to strive to educate, empower and enlighten women as they embark on their own personal journeys. They encourage women to realize their passions, achieve their goals and connect with their true selves.
1. What drove you to start your own business? What was the turning point?
My personal “epiphany” began when I started a book club with my friends. Although we fully intended to discuss books, we soon digressed to subjects about our personal lives and our challenges as women trying to balance our own needs with life’s expectations. We also discussed many other subjects that were important to us. I soon realized that our book club was an example of how important it is for women to be able to connect with trusted friends, and I wondered how to expand this idea of trusted connections to a national or even international reach.
My turning point came when my mother became very ill. To take care of her, I needed to leave my home, leave my son and leave my job. I had been perceived as “superwoman” by my family…that I could do anything. The expectations were high. But by the time I returned home from being a primary care-giver, I was depleted. My super woman “cape” disappeared, and I felt incapable of trying to find it. With the support of my friends and my supervisor at work, I took time off for a personal retreat that included extensive meditation, self-reflection and self-care. It was during that time I recognized and was grateful for the compassionate help and support from my most trusted relationships.
This insight was reinforced when I gathered my “book club” members and talked about finding your passion and fulfilling your purpose. We all took turns talking about our passions or “gifts” that we haven’t used to their fullest extent. When it came to my turn, I couldn’t think of what I had to offer. My friends saw it more clearly than I did…they immediately said, “Tina, you are already doing it. Your passion has always been to reach out to help someone.”
2. Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I admire Susan L. Taylor, Editor Emeriti of Essence Magazine and Founder and CEO of Mentoring CARES. I was impressed by her book, “In the Spirit.” I was drawn by her compelling story of being a single mom experiencing all the joys and challenges that the role holds. She related her path as she transitioned from being completely overwhelmed to crafting a well-balanced, fulfilling life. Coincidently, I actually had an opportunity to speak with her on the phone when she contacted my office at the organization where I worked. I blurted out, ‘I have your book! I loved it.” One thing led to another, and I was actually invited to her home with a group of others. She was so “real” and “down to earth.” I realized that sometimes we tend to set people apart because of their notoriety or position in life…but actually, we are all just human beings. I admired how with all of her achievements, she somehow retained her humanity and humility. I wanted to be just like her!
3. What are your goals for your business?
My goal is to continue to increase my outreach to women around the world. Ultimately, I plan to form safe havens for abused women and their children. My dream is to “break the cycle” so that abusive patterns aren’t perpetuated; so that women know that they deserve more and that their children have the opportunity to grow up with stable relationships to emulate.
4. What would you do differently next time around?
Because my business is still new, I am learning a lot along the way. I consider these business lessons important. Therefore, I would not do anything differently. I’m learning from these lessons and am continually improving because of them. What I will continue to do is to pay attention to them and discard practices that prove to be ineffectual, try new approaches and retain the successful ones.
5. What difficulties and challenges have you had to overcome and how did you keep going?
The challenge that I am having right now is the lack of financial resources in order to shift the business in the direction that I would like it go. One of my next goals is to try to figure this piece out without sacrificing essence of what I’m trying to accomplish. However, what keeps me going is actually the feedback received from the women who have used For My Sister Friends as a resource both personally and professionally. In fact, there was one woman who admitted that she became angry with me as I kept her on her path to fulfilling her dream. When she finally succeeded, actually receiving accolades from her boss and a promotion, she thanked me. Her heartfelt gratitude helps keep me going, because at that point, I knew I was on the right track…to give women a new perspective and to help them develop their own strengths from the inside out.
6. What legacy would you like your business to leave to the world and your family/friends?
There is a song that Beyonce sings with lyrics that say, “I was here, leaving footprints on the sand of time.” That’s the kind of legacy I would like to leave through my business…not what has material substance…but what has intrinsic value. My grandmother raised 10 children including me. She left a legacy that will never depreciate. She gave me values like responsibility, trust and integrity. I want to help women at risk…to give them someone to turn to and help them find the paths to possibility.
7. What support did you seek out and what difference has that made to your business?
I was fortunate. The support came to me without my asking for it. My friends were there for me when I needed it and continue to be there. The legacy of my grandmother has been there for me. More recently it is the volunteers who have aligned themselves with me. These are not paid individuals, yet they work as if they are. In fact one of my volunteers was actually a former client who was grateful for the support that I had given to her. This allegiance has given me the added confidence I needed to continue on this path.
8. How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I’m very organized…because I have to be. I have a full-time job with a busy philanthropic. I work for the president and ceo, so that absorbs a lot of time and energy, especially around the times of board meetings. Because of that, my own business calendar needs to take that in consideration. I fit in many of my business workshops and events around my work commitments and factor in time to prepare for them. I usually have several events a month to plan and execute, and I also have my role as a mentor and advisor that is important to me.
9. What has been one big success that you have achieved in your business?
My biggest success so far is my first retreat that was held in Jamaica. I had 5 attendees whom I had never counselled. One person even sent her mother! It was magical…the fact that women actually invested their precious time in this opportunity.
10. What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business?
When I had the opportunity to speak with Susan Taylor informally in her home, she advised me to make sure that I surround myself with the right women…women with integrity and compassion and who do not have their own hidden agenda. She also advised me to maintain my authenticity. I try to set this type of culture in my business so that my “inner circle” is in harmony with my values. Even though I made an appearance on Good Morning America and was referenced in the New York Times, my colleagues do not see me through that lens. They see me just as “me.”
11. What are your top 3 tips for someone who would like to start a business now?
My three tips are: Make sure that you are starting your business for the right reason; be passionate about your purpose; and do your research…make sure that you understand your audience, their needs and the best way to reach them.
12. What books, websites or resources would you recommend to other business owners?
The resources that I would recommend are: the website “Client Attraction,” with Fabienne Frederickson; the book “The Power of mentorship, Finding Your Passions” featuring Don Staley, Brian Tracy and Geo Zig Ziglar; and “In the Spirit,” by Susan L. Taylor.
Web address: www.formysisterfriends.org
How can people connect with you on social media?
I can be reached on Facebook: ForMySisterFriends and through Twitter: 4MySisterFriend