ON OUR WAY TO WEALTHY: Summer Owens, a former FedEx marketing specialist advisor, is living proof that there is entrepreneurial life after layoffs, downsizing and retirement.
Carlee McCullough: Tell us a little about yourself.
Summer Owens: I am originally from Jackson, Tenn., but have lived in Memphis since 1997. I moved here to attend the University of Memphis, where I graduated with a BBA in Marketing in 2001 and was also named Miss University of Memphis. Last year I was named the Fogelman College of Business and Economics Young Alumna of the Year. I also earned an MBA from Belhaven College. I am the 34-year-old mother of an 18-year-old son and the author of "Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother." I am also the founder and president of S.O. What! LLC and founder and executive director of The S.O. What! Foundation.
CM: Tell us about your professional background.
SO: I worked at FedEx for six years. ... Prior to that, I worked at ServiceMaster for almost two years as a marketing manager. But I started my career as a marketing manager with the Memphis Grizzlies and was there for five years, starting with the team's inaugural season in Memphis.
CM: Tell us about the buyout for the (FedEx) employees. Were you looking forward to participating?
SO: Yes, I had hoped to be able to participate in the voluntary buyout FedEx was offering. However, I was not.
CM: What made you decide to pursue entrepreneurship even though you did not receive the buyout offer?
SO: I had published my book almost three years earlier and began to get requests for speaking engagements. I also was asked about having a curriculum to go with my book. I developed the curriculum and had it implemented in several schools and churches. I continued doing up to three speaking engagements per week often on my lunch break or right after work for nearly three years. When I had speaking engagements out of town, I took vacation time from work to do them.
I was a single mother working a full-time job and also balancing my new life as an author and a speaker. Although I loved my job in advertising at FedEx, it could not compare to the feeling I got when I spoke. I realized God had given me a gift with my life story and my ability to share it and the lessons learned to impact the lives of others. A year after writing my book I knew I wanted to use my life to help others full time. The buyout offer had just given me the timeline and the push to make the leap, so even when I did not get the buyout I knew it was time for me to begin my journey as an entrepreneur.
CM: How did you prepare to go without your stable income and pursue your dream full time?
SO: As I talk about in my book, I have always been a big saver. When I began to see the potential for a new career with my own business, I increased my savings. I lived off only the money I absolutely needed to pay my bills and put the rest directly into savings accounts. I did this for about two years until I had saved enough money to pay my bills for at least a year even if my business was not profitable, or if I chose to not pay myself from the business in the first year.
CM: What is your plan as it relates to your business?
SO: I am very excited about the future of S.O. What! Right now, the plan is to continue doing speaking engagements in schools, colleges, churches and other events. "The Life After Birth" curriculum is also currently being modified to include common core standards so that teachers will be able to use the book to teach on many life lessons as well as basic school subjects, including math, science, vocabulary, and geography.
I am working with some school systems who want to develop an elective course using the "Life After Birth" book and curriculum as well. S.O. What! trainings and workshops are being developed which will focus on topics like self-esteem building, budgeting and saving, balancing multiple priorities, time management and goal setting. Additionally, new S.O. What! motivational products will be released soon.
CM: How can people book you to speak?
SO: Just click on the "Contact Us" link on www.SummerOwens.com and complete the short form with information about your event program.
CM: How can they buy the book?
SO: "Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother" is available on my website, www.SummerOwens.com. I sign each copy ordered from my site and even write encouraging notes when requested. It is also available on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and wherever books are sold.
(For additional information visit www.SummerOwens.com.)