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Why I Started a Business…

In preparation for launching my online store—Jillybeads 4 Justice, my partner kindly asked for a reminder of why I was doing this. I can’t lie, my first reaction was to get defensive and then I realized, she’s the one person who should know without hesitation the extent of my vision and dreams for this new venture as it will involve her and our family. Then came the decision that I wanted to share it with the universe as well to make it more real. That said, what follows is my manifesto of why…

The seed was planted on a beautiful fall evening in September. My mom and I had spent an epic day on Pensacola Beach, which concluded with an all  you-can-eat oyster Happy Hour. To say I didn’t have a care in the world would be an understatement. Despite being in one of my favorite places in the world, the fact remained that I was officially unemployed and in search of the next dream job. When we returned to the Ross household for dinner, my Granny Fran presented me a beaded bracelet that she knew I would love from BeadforLife.

It was the combination of these events that allowed my mind to wander and so I began to conceptualize how I could combine my passions—making jewelry, writing and reflecting, inquiry, research, as well as educating and learning. A little over a month later, Jillybeads 4 Justice was born when I filed my “Doing Business As” form in downtown Oakland.

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.

~ Max DePree

Before I could totally jump in head first into this new venture, I played it safe and took a job at Mills College. However, my last layoff taught me that it was foolish to rely on only one funding source whether you’re an organization or an individual. And so, began my dual life as an educational researcher by day and a small business owner by night. Over the next seven months I taught myself and learned a lot, yet it was during my visit to Vancouver, BC that a shift occurred. As I sat listening to intelligent and thoughtful individuals present at AERA (American Educational Research Association—my professional organization as an educational researcher), I felt like a deflated balloon as I wasn’t feeling the same level of inspiration I had at my first annual meeting in San Diego three years earlier. Now don’t get me wrong, my fellow professionals are doing important work, yet I felt like the conversation hadn’t changed much and I found this extremely problematic.

Then I received news that one of the most important women in my life had passed away—Fran Wyatt-Cooke (aka Granny Fran). Despite knowing her time on Earth was getting shorter, it truly didn’t seem real until I was at her home going service just a few days later in Kansas City, MO. What follows are the thoughts I had hoped to share that day:

I knew her as Granny Fran, yet to me, she was much more than an elder.

She was a trailblazer, mentor, friend, and truly a phenomenal woman.

Her laugh was infectious and I can still hear it echoing in my head.

She created a village around her no matter where she landed, while always making you feel like you were the most important one in her life.

Many fond memories come rushing back, starting so young I’m unsure of my age up until only a few months ago.

Such as our visits to Crown Center filled with cookies and coloring books, her coming to both my high school and college graduations, me interviewing her about her incredible life for my own feminist manifesto, and the simple act of painting her toes during what would be our final time together.

My mind keeps recalling the reality, yet my heart seems unable to register it.

Although her physical self is gone, her spirit lives on through each of us and I will carry it with me always.

Granny Fran, you were my guardian angel on Earth and now I’m reminded that I have one in the sky.

I love you, forever and always!

I still get emotional as I write about it, yet what is clear now is that her spirit, drive, and perseverance inspired me to not drag my feet when it comes to my dreams. And so, I set my 30th Birthday (Saturday, June 9, 2012) as the day to launch Jillybeads 4 Justice. There were many days when I felt overwhelmed and unsure I would reach my goal, and then I would imagine picking up the phone, talking to Granny Fran, taking heed of her unconditional love and wise words, and all would be okay. That said, I dedicate this special day to two women I wish more than ever could be here to see what I’ve accomplished and without a doubt gave me more than I’m sure either realized, I love you and you have inspired me to become who I am today—Bette Jane Dale and Fran Wyatt-Cooke.

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