Lovely Unique Mitchell, 31, and her mother Sandi Fleming, 47, both became pregnant at a young age, but that didn't stop them from pursuing their entrepreneurial goals. The mother-daughter duo recently became the new franchise owners of the PostNet Neighborhood Business Center in Tempe, Arizona. New to the business-services sector, Lovely and her mother hope to make their PostNet franchise the go-to place among local small businesses needing printing, design and shipping services.
How has your life experiences made you the leaders you are today?
My mother and I had very interesting adolescences as we both became pregnant at an early age. Although that would stand in the way of success for most young parents, we did not let it hinder us. We both graduated high school on time and even took college courses - all while raising a child. From all the life-challenging experiences my mother and I went through, we learned how to become resilient, optimistic and dependable business owners. Our customers love that two women, a mother-daughter duo, can be successful while making an impact on the local community.
How has your previous employment experience aided your positions at PostNet?
My mother owned her own business in her early thirties. It was a nail salon called Flora Nails, in an upscale community in Carefree, Arizona. She built her business from the ground up, going from zero to 150 customers in a short time span. This has helped us run PostNet with the mindset of a small-business owner.
Later, I would follow my mother's entrepreneurial footsteps when I decided to become a franchisee of a brand called Shoe MGK. Selling shoe cleaning products in mall kiosks, I learned the fundamentals of franchising, which were helpful when evaluating the PostNet franchise opportunity.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Maintaining a work-life balance is fairly easy. I worked as a massage therapist in the past, so I know how to take care of my mind, body and soul in the healthiest way possible. I live holistically, meditate, receive massages on a weekly basis, stretch and work out and eat healthy. My motto is "live every day like it's your last because tomorrow is not promised." That said, I try to be as daring and adventurous as possible in my free time, which helps separate my work and leisure time.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PostNet?
My challenges have surprisingly turned into my highlights. Because my mother and I purchased an existing franchise, we had to deal with loose ends left by the previous owner. However, and this is a highlight, the PostNet home office has been very supportive in helping us conquer past issues to make this center productive.
Another highlight is also getting to work alongside my mom!
What advice can you offer individuals hoping to enter the franchising sector?
Good advice for anyone interested in entering the franchising sector is to research. Weigh the pros and cons of all the different franchise opportunities that interest you. Having a strong support team is the key to owning and operating a successful independent business. Eliminate all fear. Don't procrastinate because that can be your biggest downfall, leaving you with regretful "should have, could have" thoughts.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Unfortunately, I think the biggest issue for working women is that some people will always think a man is more capable than a woman. However, as a woman who has raised children while successfully running my own business, I beg to differ.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Honestly, I have not had the chance to read her book yet, but I think she is an extraordinary businesswoman and sets the bar high for working women across the globe. All her accomplishments and success inspires women to believe anything is possible.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It's always good to have a mentor you look up to. My mentor is my mother. I admire her drive and ambitious spirit. I'm truly thankful to have a role model like her to follow in her footsteps as a business owner and mother. Listening to her stories of working as a single mother has empowered me to dream big and believe that even the sky is not the limit. I can go as far as the universe will take me.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Choosing a few is very hard because women have faced opposition for decades when trying to find their own voice or realize success. While many have overcome the improbable, I would have to say one female leader I admire would be Madam CJ Walker, who was the first African-American woman to become a millionaire despite her hardships. Her entrepreneurial spirit made women believe they have both beauty and brains. Another choice, out of many, is my grandmother. She always was a hardworking woman no matter what struggles life put her through.
What are your hopes for the future of your PostNet franchise?
I hope for my PostNet franchise to be a printing powerhouse. I want to build relationships with other small businesses and gain their trust so they will refer my store to others in the community. I also want to expand beyond the core printing and shipping services we provide so we're more of a full-service marketing-solutions center. PostNet the brand is headed in that direction with its Neighborhood Business Center model, and I want to follow that path so I can provide new solutions to help small business owners.
Follow Laura Dunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauraemilyd