As an entrepreneur, you probably have the attributes intuition and tenacity, but you want to make sure you are honing your use of them. Most entre[reneurs can only dream of celebrating their twenty four year anniversary and that is exactly why Cynthia Skabar is so special.
Many women our age are becoming entrepreneurs and starting businesses. We are are eager for inspiration and advice. Cynthia is happy to share key lessons that have contributed to her business and personal success.
I met with Cynthia as she is preparing to pivot her business. It has been a journey. Five years ago, after nearly twenty-five years, she received notice that her prime Vancouver location had been sold, slated for redevelopment. As you may know, Vancouver real estate is some of the most expensive in the world, and commercial space is a hot commodity and hard to find. Fast forward to a year ago, she made the difficult decision to close her school down for a variety of reasons.
Just when one might be tempted to throw the towel in, Cynthia took some time by herself to regroup, refresh and most important to be quiet and listen to her intuition. As an entrepreneur she learned early on, it could be trusted and how is a fascinating story.
An Unusual Start
Cynthia arrived in Vancouver from the US and got into the education of hair by mistake. Signed up for a course with an international hair products company, she thought it was to learn about the products. When she arrived the first day and found it was training to be an educator so she could train others, she decided it might help her shyness and get her familiar with her new city.
It served her well. She went on to work for the company, as well as in film, with photographers, at trade shows, getting known in the close-knit industry. At the time, there were very few hair training schools.
“The longest-running relationship in my life is my business, not including my family. It has given me such pleasure.”
Now Cynthia is getting ready to launch a line of beauty products. Cynthia is always willing to share the lessons she has learned through the years.
Lesson One: Pay Attention to Your Intuition
Intuition came calling with the thought since I am training people anyway, why don’t I open my own school? She called up the Association and found that you had to put through one cohort successfully in a ten-month program before you could apply for accreditation.
She decided to become an entrepreneur, found a space, took out a personal loan, got the equipment and placed strategic ads in all the local newspapers.
Lesson Two: Single Message, One-Liners Grow Your Brand
This piece of advice originated from the FBLA (The Future Business Leaders of America). You will remember, twenty years ago, without the computer and social media, print advertising was the marketing tool. Priced by line, you had to pay for the ad to go in multiple papers and editions so a single line was the cheapest. The principal still works today but now the single line is the tagline or hashtag used in social media marketing.
Cynthia got one class together and it was moving on nicely. Eight months in, disaster. The building burnt to the ground leaving Cynthia with no money, no location, and the stipulation that if her students were out of school longer than two weeks, they had to restart at the beginning. She had insurance but had to wait because arson was suspected. Her landlord had two months to make a decision on what he would do before her insurance would opt in. Waiting would cause her cohort to default. She was at a crossroads. Her lawyers, bank, family, and friends recommended she just quit.
Lesson Three: Don’t Give Up
Against all advice, Cynthia the entrepreneur said $%&@ it. Making the decision allowed her to focus and she remembered passing by a hair salon that had run into financial trouble. All the equipment was still there because they had left, rent owed, in the dark of the night.
Finding the landlord, she signed the lease without a dime in her bank account to make the first-month rent. The greatest life achievement of Cynthia was her school becoming accredited as a Designated International Institution. It happened because giving up was not an option.
That first cohort generates fond memories of comradery, fun, and crazy times. Some of those original students are still in the industry and keep in touch.
Cynthia credits her family for her tenacity. Through a number of family tragedies, they have demonstrated you will survive, just never give up.
Lesson Four: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Cynthia’s father gave her this advice which she admits is always a work in progress. Simply, you can’t keep your mind busy with all the small things because you lose the quiet to listen to your intuition and contemplate. Cynthia makes a point of relaxing whenever and wherever she can. Living on the west coast, she loves paddleboarding. For her, relaxing is all in your mind. You are relaxed when your mind is calm.
Lesson Five: Give Yourself To Benefit Others
Coming from a huge Ukrainian family, Cynthia’s mother always focused on helping those around her. Even to this day with a broken leg, she put together a turkey Thanksgiving dinner to have dropped off at neighbors who had just experienced a death in the family.
The social cause that moves Cynthia is anything to do with teens, whether it’s homelessness, prostitution, drugs, STD’s or overall hardships. The Cinderella Project is her number 1 cause and she has been helping for twenty years.
“So many people that are in their 20’s some doing really great things and overcoming such adversity. I have met such amazing people.”
Through her business and as an entrepreneur, she works with many different causes; at-risk children and alternative schools in the education system, kids that are autistic, refugees. The strength of others moves Cynthia. The amazing personal achievements often against overwhelming circumstances are inspiring. A reformed gang affiliate being able to say no to his past, a lifelong friendship blossoming between two women who come from two extreme realities, a refugee learning to embrace her new life and career even while living in a one-bedroom suite with 10 others are just a start.
Lesson Six: Do Unto Others What Makes Them Happy
Cynthia has a twist to the old parable “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What makes you happy is seeing someone you care about to be happy so, with all due respect, you can’t give people the things that make you happy. They need what makes them happy. Cynthia believes showing our vulnerability is what makes us real. The personal stories and the real things in our lives are the seeds that cause us to grow. In this day of social media, it is easy to buy into the façade of connecting with someone but actually knowing nothing about them.
Cynthia recalls she always sat at the back, knew the answer but never could bring herself to speak up. Then, she woke up one day and thought today is the day I come out of my shell.
That started a lifetime of self-awareness and at this new crossroads Cynthia once again knows the answer and she has never felt so free. Cynthia Skabar is ready for another twenty years of being an entrepreneur. She encourages you to get on with yours.
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