ON OUR WAY TO WEALTHY: After six years as a FedEx marketing specialist advisor, Summer Owens is guiding her own creation – the S.O. What! Foundation – as she pursues life after layoffs, downsizing and retirement. The foundation's goal is to help people achieve success regardless of their circumstances.
Carlee McCullough: Tell us about the non-profit you established.
Summer Owens: The S.O. What! Foundation ... provides support, information and resources to various groups who are determined to overcome their obstacles. The S.O. What! Foundation will hold comprehensive and interactive conferences, retreats and workshops for different groups, including teen moms, single moms, boys without fathers, college students teen girls and more. On July 26-27, we will hold the first S.O. What! overnight retreat. This one will be for teen moms. We will focus on the issues they need to deal with to become better young women so that they can be better mothers. The S.O. What! Foundation will also offer scholarships and mentoring programs.
CM: Who is your target market?
SO: I wrote my book ("Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother") to encourage other teen moms to finish high school, pursue success and realize their lives are not over just because they have a baby. I also wanted to discourage teen pregnancy by sharing how easily I got pregnant and how it changed my life forever. However, I got an overwhelming response from people reading my book that did not fit into either of those categories. Countless people contacted me saying that my book was actually for everyone. It was for anyone who ever made an excuse for not being the best that they could be. That's when I started S.O. What! to support my book and speaking as well as other efforts.
S.O. What! is for anyone who is imperfect, maybe feeling sorry for themselves, does not like something about themselves or maybe even made fun of. Through workshops, trainings, conferences, speeches and merchandise, S.O. What! teaches on various topics building on the simple foundation of the Serenity Prayer to accept what you can't change by saying, "So what!" and change what you can, "So now what?"
CM: Who or what has inspired your success?
SO: I credit my grandmother and my mother for supporting me after I became a mother at 15. They were what I call quiet cheerleaders who never looked down on me and babysat my son the first two years of his life while I finished high school and worked two jobs. They helped make it possible for me to go away to college as a teen mom. They, and others, helped me because I helped myself.
CM: Do you have any advice to those interested in leaving their jobs to pursue business opportunities full time?
SO: The thing I find interesting about my situation is that I was never interested in owning my own business. I was very happy working the incredible jobs I had been blessed with in Corporate America. But after writing my book, I found my calling. The purpose for all the pain I had endured in my life. Pursuing my calling and helping other people began taking up most of my time and was more fulfilling than my job, so I found a way to make a business so that I could support myself and my son while still helping others.
I'd say my advice would be to pray and prepare. First, pray for clarity that leaving your job is the right thing to do and that it is the right time and for the right reason or opportunity. Then, prepare. Save, research and start doing the business while you are still working. Then pray some more and keep praying.
CM: Parting words of wisdom?
SO: I spent the first 30 years of my life focused on myself and creating what I hoped to be a great life for my son. I was a nice person, but I had (or made) little time to be a mentor or volunteer or give back in other ways. I was too busy being a mom, going to school and working. Two things happened that changed my outlook on life. My son became a teenager, and I realized the power of outside influences and my need for help much greater than just a babysitter as I had needed in the past. And I wrote my book.
Through the book and later speaking engagements, I was able to be a positive outside influence for someone else. I was able to help people in the way that I needed people to help me and my son. My life was no longer about me. It was about how I could use the beautifully crazy life that God had given me to help other people beat depression, overcome obstacles and realize success against all odds.
So still as a single mom, I made the time to volunteer regularly, join three boards of directors, and donate to charities and individuals. However, most importantly to me, I became a mentor. I encourage everyone to find a mentoring program that works for them and change the life of a child who needs you and watch how they can change your life too.
(For additional information, visit www.SummerOwens.com.)