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Episode 194: Becoming an Entrepreneur While Fearlessly Facing Fifty, with Amy Schmidt

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Episode Description

Amy Schmidt is an award-winning podcast host, author, TEDx Speaker, motivational speaker, and founder of the brand Fearlessly Facing Fifty™. She launched her business and brand six months before turning 50. Her mission is to encourage women over forty to push fear aside and create their highlight reel of accomplishments to propel them forward. Amy describes a milestone moment from when she started her business, the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey, and the role marketing and branding have played in building her business.

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Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today we welcome Amy Schmidt. Amy is an award-winning podcast host, author, TEDx speaker, motivational speaker and founder of the brand Fearlessly Facing Fifty, who has been nominated to the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50 list of women shattering age and gender norms.

As Amy says, "My mission is to empower women at midlife and beyond to take on this phase of life with confidence." She launched her business and brand six months before turning fifty. Her mission is to encourage women over forty to push fear aside and create their highlight reel of accomplishments to propel them forward.

Amy also has a periodic web series that is part of the Fearlessly Facing Fifty portfolio. And I was fortunate to be a guest on one of the episodes. We are going to talk about the realistic challenges of the entrepreneurial journey. And the role marketing and branding can play in the success of certain businesses.

Amy, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Amy Schmidt: Thank you so much, Carol. I'm so happy to be here and I love the way you had Fearlessly Facing Fifty just flow right out. It's a mouthful, isn't it?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, and I did trip over it for a minute there, but I did get it.

Amy Schmidt: It's just a lot. I know. I'm so used to saying it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I wanna dive right in and hear all about how you built the company, but, before you built it, you were on a different career path, or I don't even know what your career path was originally. Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before building your company?

Amy Schmidt: Absolutely. I love that question and it makes me really take time and think back wow, that's pretty crazy, it was a long time ago. So I went to university and got my soul on fire for broadcast journalism and English, and was ready to set the world on fire, like the next Joan London. That's what I wanted to do. I love interviewing. I love stories. I love storytelling and conversation. So I knew that was what I wanted to do.

I started off in Indianapolis. I'm a Midwest girl by heart. Lived in Milwaukee and moved to Indianapolis and ended up marrying my college sweetheart, sometimes that happens. And so he was on a trajectory with his position of moving us about every two to three years. And it's really difficult as a woman to get to a new market and really get grounded.

It was challenging for me as a journalist. So I ended up working for a pharmaceutical company and was in corporate PR and really enjoyed that until in 1997, I had my first child. And at that point, Carol, we were moving. I think we were four or five moves in at that point. And it was time for me to say, okay, I took on this role of what I call and I know a lot of women say, trailing spouse.

I was that trailing spouse. I tied my career up for a bit and that's what I had to do.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, that trailing spouse name. I know a lot of people are, where did that come from? And people hate that, but that's what it's called, a trailing spouse or partner. So I totally understand why, of course, that would potentially lead to a career break when coupled with having kids. So Amy, did you have more than one child? Or what was going on there?

Amy Schmidt: Isn't it crazy? I know, no, three children, twenty-eight years of marriage, eleven moves and lived overseas for six years. And all during that time, as women, especially women that had a career and then have taken a little bit of a break, I continued to reinvent myself. I'm sure you find that constantly with what you do at iRelaunch, you just constantly reinvent yourself. And while I was writing, I immersed myself in the community. Certainly, I was the volunteer of the year basically everywhere I went, because I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to stay relevant and current, and be involved.

Yet I knew I couldn't have a full-time career at that point. So that's what I did.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, then what happened when you decided to start the company? Was it like one day you woke up and a light bulb went off or was there some period of time when you were thinking about the idea, but weren't sure how to proceed. How did that happen?

Amy Schmidt: Yeah. I love that question. I think I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I certainly have, and my dad, both of my parents have passed away. My dad really instilled that in me too. He knew I had a lot. He always said, “You have ideas you haven't even thought of yet.” And I always think of that.

It was funny. I was living in Germany, raising my kids and my husband was traveling. I was getting a feeling at that point, especially since I lost both my parents while I lived abroad, which happens to women of our age. All of a sudden this happens. It was unexpected in both cases. And unfortunately I didn't make it back. I tell this story often, I wrote about it in my book. Lufthansa Airlines prides themselves on being on time, they always are. Lufthansa is always on time. And for whatever reason, both times flying from Germany to Chicago and then getting to Milwaukee were delayed.

I think, something I’d like to share, and I think it may resonate with your listeners is, I got there for my dad and my dad was not conscious. I had traveled all this distance. I was exhausted emotionally, physically, I had left the kids and my husband in Germany. I had to fly by myself, which was challenging knowing that my dad was in the ICU.

And I had a period of time where the walls just came in on that hospital room. I was there with all of my siblings, four of my siblings, my mom, and all of their spouses. And I just collapsed. I collapsed right outside the hospital room. My brother came out and said, "He knows you're here, Ame, and, pursue that passion, that goal, you have more to do, you're meant for more."

Really, that was part of it for me. That was a little bit of that igniting that spark of knowing there's more for me to do, to grow and to learn and challenge myself. Fifty is young.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Let me just jump back because I was noticing of course, I'm looking at your LinkedIn profile and I noticed that you sold Rodan + Fields for four years. And this is a step that we see some relaunchers take going into direct sales because they want a lot of control over their schedule, or it's a baby step for them, or maybe they're testing out something about running a business without starting it on their own. So can you talk a little bit about how you got into that?

What is Rodan + Fields? What did you learn by doing it? And then maybe how that led to the step of founding your own business?

Amy Schmidt: Yeah, I love that. No one's ever asked me that. So I really liked that question. It's a great company and it's a company that my husband's cousin was involved with and she sent me some products and she has a great spirit about her.

I said, “You know what, I'll give it a try. I love to connect with people. I have a broad network because of all of the places I've lived and I really value a lot of relationships.” And I thought, “Why not? I'll test the waters a little bit.” And I think for me, it was a great thing to do because I built a team, and I really realized that, one, I enjoy empowering others to fulfill their goals. I also have a lot of pride in the fact that I wanted to start a business. I knew what I wanted to do, you know, but you need money. You have to have money. And, it was important for me to get that fund, that little Amy fund there, that could fund me forward.

I was able to do that through that. And so I encourage any woman, it challenges you in a different way, you get a different skill set. And it's all about relationship building. So it was perfect for me. And I got that little nut that I needed to really grow and start a business.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And for people who have no idea what Rodan + Fields is, or no idea what direct sales is, can you just give a quick explanation about what the company is, what the product is and what it means to be selling it from your home or however it's set up?

Amy Schmidt: I think you had said that earlier, it's nice when you're involved in this type of network sales, network marketing, they call it all sorts of different things, because you are your own boss and you can create your time and you really custom tailor it to your lifestyle and what you want to do. So Rodan + Fields is a skincare company. It's a wonderful skincare company led by two female entrepreneurs and dermatologists that really intrigued me. So I found a passion around that.

And that's really what you do. I talk a lot about networking and the power of networking, and it really is those conversations and connections that you make with people throughout your journey, and that's who you talk to. And I think women are sharers by nature when you have something you love, you want to share it with others.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. So I love the idea that you were focused on creating some sort of a fund or a nest egg or something in order to have money to fund your business. Let's talk about that. I think people tend to romanticize entrepreneurship. And you hear all these success stories and it makes it sound like it's easy and the money's flowing. Can you talk a little bit about early days and investing in a business or a like long periods of time without income or unpredictable income? How did it all start?

Amy Schmidt: That actually gave me goosebumps because it really is something I take a lot of pride in because I use that term “trailing spouse,”

I was one for so long. And, sometimes as women, we underestimate our value or we make ourselves out to be less significant than we are. And I remember the day that I was sitting with my husband and I said, “I'm going to do this. I'm starting this.” And he's always cheered me on. He said, "Okay we can transfer some funding, what do you need to get started? I can help you." And I love that. One hundred percent, he supports me one hundred percent. But I really wanted to do this on my own. And I remember going over to our local bank in the community and sitting there, I even remember getting kind of sweaty palms thinking, "What am I doing? I'm taking this risk. I am cannonballing.” That's what the name of my book is, I'm Cannonballing. This is a cannonball moment for me. I have not had my own checking account, my own credit card, all of that stuff, which I know sounds silly as an articulate, smart woman, not to have that, but I didn't. I opened that account.

I remember getting together with an attorney to form an LLC, and all of these things that I hadn't done. I think it's so important for women to realize that it's never too late to do that. There's such opportunity for personal growth, and with personal growth comes confidence. And it's such a powerful combination.

Not easy, certainly. There certainly were some sleepless nights where I'm thinking, "Boy, one, am I going to have a brand that is relatable? Who's going to listen to this podcast? Who's going to buy the book? What am I really doing? What am I thinking? Can I do this?"

Because we have those moments of second guessing ourselves. It goes back to making us less significant than we are. So we just have to push those aside and go forward. And it was so nice, even though it was a little nest egg, it was something in that account, and it said "Amy Schmidt," and there was a lot of power.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That gives me goosebumps. Those moments are so important and different things jump out to different people as the milestone moments. I can tell that was clearly a milestone moment for you.

Amy Schmidt: Yes, it was good for my children to see too, because then they see me from a different lens. It's not just the mom that volunteered and did all these wonderful things that I love to do, and freelance. But this was mom really taking on a new challenge at a stage of life that can present a lot of challenges.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So Amy, I am very intrigued about the recognition you had about the beginning of starting a business, because you went to save this money up first, that was your money to do it. So can you talk a little bit about the financial challenges of starting a business?

Amy Schmidt: It's funny because I take a lot of pride in the fact that I wanted to do this on my own. I really did. And from there I jumped in, I cannonballed off and said, "I've got to make this work." And I knew, I have to be honest, finances never have been my strong suit.

Math has never been a big thing. But I knew that I had to enhance that skill set. I had to learn how to do Excel and all of these things and put my expenses and all of these things I had never done before. And I did that. It wasn't without risk. I started my podcast with no sponsors. And the reason I did that was because I wanted to build trust. I wanted to develop a following, a platform, and trust with my listeners. I wanted to be the authentic Amy that I am, that said, "You know what? You can do this." And over time, all of a sudden, you start getting more and more downloads. You start selling more books and it's “Wow, I've got something coming in.” It was such a great feeling as a woman in her fifties now that was able to do this.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And so you started your podcast with no sponsors. You mentioned a book. So, how did you decide when to add which pieces, if you could describe your business as a multimedia business?

Amy Schmidt: Yes, I think that's a good way of describing it, it really is a multimedia platform. I sat down and made a business plan. And that's something I had never created either. There are a million resources that we have as women. Look at what you do at iRelaunch and what you offer women, that they can go on and get these tools to help them develop something like a business plan, and put it together.

I had a three month, six month, nine month plan. And then, now I'm in a ten year plan, believe it or not, for my sixties, I'm really looking forward to it. But that's what I did. I sat down and did my business plan and I knew that the book, I had signed with the publisher, a niche publisher of women authors over fifty right in New York City. It was just great.

And I had written my book all along my journey. I'd always been a writer. So that was something that was in progress when I launched my brand. How I came about launching that whole brand was fearlessly facing fifty. I was facing fifty at that point. And, I want it to be fearless. That's why I did it. I really stayed authentic with what I'm doing.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We actually talk a lot about this whole idea of being a fearless learner and how easy that is to succeed in relaunching and here you're taking that concept much bigger and saying let's be fearless in a lot of things that you do, learning all the way, but there are other bigger pieces to this.

That theme I think is really relevant. I just want to mention for our listeners in terms of resources for starting businesses, the Small Business Association has a lot of excellent resources and mentors and a whole infrastructure there for starting businesses. So I just want to put that out there as one particular resource that is very strong.

Amy, any other ones that jump out at you that you referenced?

Amy Schmidt: I have been involved in many entrepreneurial women's clubs in the tri-state area. That was very important for me to get involved with because you learn so much from other people. And I find, when I was starting out in my career and I look at my daughter, who's in her early twenties, two years into a professional life, at that age, you're not as collaborative in your spirit, you're much more competitive. You're climbing the ladder, who's going to get there fastest? And I think now, at this point in my career, in my business, how I built this, it's such a collaborative spirit among women I find, and I'm not afraid to ask for help.

I'm not afraid to go to these types of organizations and say, "Hey, we all have blind spots, right?" So, collaborate with other people and they can get you on a track or give you insight that you may have never thought of. So I use that definitely as I build my business. Some of my greatest resources have come from organizations such as small business organizations.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I love that. And that's another theme is when we say, when you're relaunching, don't go it alone, have a relaunch buddy or a relaunch group. And you're illustrating that it's equally relevant and effective for people who are taking the entrepreneurial path. So I'm glad you mentioned that.

So you made a reference to the marketing of the company branding. When I see what you've done, I feel like I'm looking at an expert marketer, brander, and I wanted to know, how did you learn? How did you get to that point? Were there special courses or pieces along the way, or people you met that impacted how you approached marketing and branding your company?

And maybe if you can share some tips for other relaunchers who are challenged in this area.

Amy Schmidt: Great question. I did, I have a lot of people that have been able to help me on this journey. And, I feel so passionate about the power of mentors in my life. And I think, if I can look back over these last few years of launching this, that it really is mentors that have helped me in different ways, especially with marketing my brand, and really staying true to who I am.

I think for anybody listening, I always say, “Your why should make you cry.” I'm very passionate about that. I really feel that what you're doing, if you're passionate about it, it's just going to take you down that trail and you're going to be able to build from there. Staying authentic to who you are is difficult. You look at social media and you look at the amount of influencers in different things you come across as you scroll and it can be very intimidating. It can be very intimidating. And like you said, this doesn't happen overnight, certainly, but you just have to stay true to who you are.

I think there's been many times around marketing this, that I've had to realign and recalibrate, and I think that's all part of learning and the journey. You start to go down one path and then you say, “Where's the source of revenue here? Okay. Maybe we're going to do this.” And it's funny now that I've built this brand and my business and a platform of followers that I really just value so much. Several of the guests that I've had on the podcast, celebrities and other women that I've had on that have inspired me have said, “Amy, your gift is really around connecting people, having these conversations and opening this dialogue about these courageous conversations we need to have as women.Why don't you think about doing an event?” I had never really thought about that. Certainly, something I love to do is bringing women together. And with that support, now I'm launching an event in November. So it just shows you how your marketing strategy can always change. It's ever flowing and evolving.

And if you just go back to that question of “your why makes you cry,” you'll stay on task. It should change as you go along. It should evolve. At least that's what I think.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So you're talking about a podcast, a book, an event. I know you had, at least you started out that web series, the video series.

When you thought, "Okay, I'm going to try this," how did you think about, "Okay, I need a platform, I need to understand the technology?" How did you actually piece things together making that happen, for example, the web series?

Amy Schmidt: That's a great question too, because I had my podcast long enough that I knew the feedback I was getting from my guests as well as on the podcast were, "You're a very good interviewer, Amy, you really do your research. And I think you should take it a little bit further and do a live show." And that really was from feedback from both my followers and my guests. I also have an advisory council of women that I put together who are all different sectors of life, some executive professional women, some stay at home moms, some volunteers, all sorts of people that I have come across in my life whose expertise and opinions I really value. I went to them and talked about it, and how do I continue to grow and expand and reach more people and get the message out more. And the feedback I got was, web series. Wednesday nights are usually when I do it, I've had some great guests on, you included, which was incredible, Carol. That was such a great one.

That was thousands of women that were just, were so engaged and so interested to learn about relaunching. So you know, you go back to those people, you go back to those anchors in your life and you ask for advice. At times you're going to hear things, maybe you listen to things you don't want to hear, but that's okay.

It takes you on your path, and it encourages you. So that's really how I decided to try that. And I think another thing for listeners is, just try it, just start. Why not? You can always recalibrate. You can always reconsider. You can always change course. It doesn't matter. There is no perfect journey, and no perfect journey to success.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So just like drilling down though, to even some of the very basic logistics. Did you think, "Okay, I have to do this over Facebook live, or I have to use Streamyard or I have to research, I don't even know how to do this." How did you figure that piece out?

Amy Schmidt: I'm a big market researcher. I really am. I spend a lot of time researching. I fixed our dishwasher from a YouTube video. I gotta be honest, there are things you can have right at your fingertips. And I started to learn more about Streamyard. Somebody in my network put me in touch with a producer in Florida.

I had a conversation with her. Her mom actually listened to the podcast, so she was like, "Oh, I know who you are." And she produces the show for me. Once again, it's casting that net out there and putting that out there and using your resources, but asking the questions and it's all market research.

I learned all of this on my own. Between putting an ad in a Facebook page locally, not an ad, but just a post in a local Facebook group here in my community, a young man came over to help me podcast, because I had no idea how to do it. I took many trips to the Apple bar, the genius bar, where actually I think they were looking at me like, "Oh man, here she comes again. What does she need today?" One day I didn't have my mic on. When I launched my podcast, and I shared this on my TED talk, I forgot to push record on the first episode of my podcast. I sat in my studio. I thought I had just knocked it out of the ballpark. If you would've seen me, Carol, I was doing a little happy dance, thinking, "Okay, I've so got this." Then I go back to find the audio file and it's not there. I forgot. Those are all things. It doesn't have to be perfect. I certainly thought I had all my I's dotted and my T's crossed, and forgot to push record. So I think you just have to give yourself permission to realize that mistakes are going to happen, but that all builds confidence.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I want to ask you a question. I've always wondered this myself, but the role of winning awards in marketing and branding, awards that come out of the blue, where someone or organization says you have been chosen, or some awards that you actually even nominate yourself for. What do you think about that and do you think it's a really important part of marketing?

Amy Schmidt: I think it's a very important part of marketing. And, that's all building trust with your community. Because all of a sudden, for example the Forbes 50 Over 50 List, I found out I was nominated to that. I had several people in my community reach out and were very transparent about the fact, "Hey, Amy, you should think about this. I'm going to nominate you." And one of the guests I had on the show actually Maye Musk nominated me, her team nominated me for an award for the podcast, for hosting and storytelling. So I think it's a very important part. And don't feel as though you're being boastful about it.

You have to share those accomplishments and those awards, because it's a big deal. So I think anybody out there, there are several ways to get nominated for TEDTalks. You can self-nominate for TEDx, there's applications all over the country, all different venues where you can nominate yourself for a TEDx. All of those things. So go for it. Why not?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, the worst that could happen is you don't get it, right? And then move on.

Amy Schmidt: Yep. Exactly. Brene Brown always says, "When you're standing in the arena, who's your biggest critic? It's always yourself." And, step that aside, push that aside. And if somebody calls you and says, "Boy, you're doing a really good job. You should consider nominating yourself for this, or you should consider this." Or when you get those emails that say, “I nominated you for this,” what a great feeling. Take time to self reflect on that and really be proud of that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. Amy, we are already coming up on the end of our time together and I want to end by asking you the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is the best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Amy Schmidt: Great question. Just start. I love to say that. Just start. Get up, get dressed, get going. Six powerful words to write down and look at every day. It's just start. And the other thing is take a minute to create your highlight reel. And we didn't talk about this much today, but I'm a big believer in it and that just simply means go back ten, twenty, maybe thirty years, whatever it is for you, and look at what you've accomplished, the stories, you're the historian of your life. Look at those stories and look at those mistakes, those hurdles, those experiences that you have and use all of that to propel you forward. And that really will give you the courage and confidence to get started, and that's the most important part.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's a great place to end. And also it leaves so much more for people to explore, but I love that, get up, get dressed and get going and just start. Really to the point, really motivational. and it gives people something to hold onto as they're finishing listening to this and thinking about what their next step is.

Amy, can you tell our listeners how to find out more about your work?

Amy Schmidt: Yes, definitely. The best place is to go to my website, which is a and fifty is spelled out. Everything is there from the event I'm doing in November to all of my podcasts, it's on every platform, but you can go ahead and listen to the episodes there as well.

I have a blog and other things, so feel free to reach out. And the other thing I like to do is really engage with my community. So I do give myself a 48 hour rule, so if you don't hear back within 48 hours, I'd be surprised, but please reach out. I love to just link arms with other women on their journey.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. Amy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Amy Schmidt: Carol, thanks so much. Thanks so much. It was my pleasure.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host.

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