Launching Ladies Toward Empowerment

Fairfield Citizen-News  October 10, 2007

The times that are the biggest tragedies are often those for the most growth, according to Rebecca Hendrix.

The 40-year-old woman was sitting on the back patio of her home on James Street last week discussing the period in her life when she began to rethink not only her career, but also her life. "My father had passed away in an instant and my mother may die at any time," said Hendrix, recalling the period in her life more than five years ago when she had returned to the family farm to be with her mother, who a week after her father had died, after he had fallen off a ladder, had learned she had stage four breast cancer. Her mother had battled the disease for seven years before she died in 2005. Her parents' deaths proved to be life-changing events for Hendrix, who had spent the past dozen years in marketing, public relations and special events for luxury retailers like Tiffany's and Ghurka.

Equipped with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sweet Briar College in Virginia and a Master of Business Administration from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School for International Business in Arizona, Hendrix had hoped to combine her love of retail with international business. She had accomplished her goal, but the experiences of her parents' deaths led to her rethinking her life.

She went back to school and earned two graduate degrees in spiritual psychology and counseling psychology, and now is in private practice as a psychotherapist in Manhattan. Hendrix is a licensed marriage and family therapist working with individuals and couples.

However, this is not a biography of Hendrix's life; this is a story of how this young woman got from point A her first career -- to point B her life now as a psychotherapist. The journey was not easy and that is the story.

As with many people, Hendrix knew she wanted to change her life, but didn't know exactly how, why, when or how. She soon learned that she is not alone in her immobility and that there was help out there in the form of "Ladies Who Launch," a national company that offers the structure for becoming "unstuck" in decision-making and action. Whether a person wants to start a business, improve a relationship, pursue a hobby, start a nonprofit organization or develop something in life other than work "Ladies Who Launch" helps an individual achieve a goal.

The program is in more than 45 cities and was featured on "The Today Show," CNN and in the September issue of Oprah.

Hendrix heard about the program when she was getting her practice "off the ground and was stuck trying to market herself. "It was overwhelming," said Hendrix, of the experience she was going through to establish her practice. "I had all the knowledge but I wasn't moving forward."

She signed up for the program last year. She saw how much it helped her that she decided to take the necessary training to become a certified leader to conduct her own "Ladies Who Launch" programs here in Connecticut.

"You can't do it on your own," said Hendrix, explaining how the program works and helps women effectively move forward to pursue their dreams.

"Ladies Who Launch" offers four consecutive weeks of two-hour sessions that is called an "incubator" program. This is a forum "to marry intuition with ingenuity and creativity with collaboration and dreaming," Hendrix said. It is designed to connect people both online and in person. At these incubator sessions, women learn about each other's lives, dreams and goals. The women participate in a series of exercises to help them clarify and expand their vision and to take action steps in moving forward. In session one, the women share their thoughts and inspirations.

"You want to be able to imagine it," said Hendrix, noting that the individual must be able to visualize what she is thinking about doing and to articulate it in such a way that others can see it, too.

"It's like a mini focus group. It's a learning process for some women to come to talk about a dream. They get emotional. Some women have never talked about their dreams with someone else before. A lot of people are in the business of focusing on others, never themselves."

In the second week, the women are encouraged to continue to talk about their dreams and for others to listen and discuss them. "The more energy you give it, the more it expands and it begins to become clear," said Hendrix, who had to figure out he own unique voice. She learned through her own experience in talking about her dreams for a new career that she had a "quiet source of wisdom. She was compassionate, gentle and was an empathic listener.

"I believe that the universe meets you at a point of action and you have to break [the dream] down into baby steps that you need to take," said Hendrix, discussing the third workshop. Action can take a variety of steps. It may mean creating business cards, hiring a patent attorney or even getting a housekeeper.

"And if you're not taking them, then what's getting in the way?"

At the fourth workshop, it's time to celebrate. "If you celebrate movement, you get more movement," Hendrix said.

Once the four-week incubator sessions are completed, participants then have an opportunity to join Ladies Who Launch on a regional and national basis to keep the momentum going. At the regional level, women network, participate in social outings or attend programs with guest speakers. These guest speakers range from an individual who may have launched a successful business or a well-known inspirational person who tells her own story that can help others see that they can do it, too. These talks motivate people to move forward.

At the national level, people who have taken the incubator classes and pay a fee can network with others throughout the country. Through a national newsletter individuals can market themselves and receive discounts on products and services.

The regional and national benefits offer "a way to stay involved; to meet women and to keep the momentum going," Hendrix said.

After Hendrix completed her own incubator program, she said lots of things started moving forward. She got offers of corporate jobs, which she didn't take because then she wouldn't be following her dreams. She got her business cards and started getting more clients. As she experienced her own personal success, she realized she could help others by launching her own Ladies Who Launch because the program operates under the philosophy that "other women can think bigger for you than you can for yourself."

She began her first session in Greenwich, which is in week two of the four-week program. At that incubator, Hendrix noted that one participant was there because she didn't feel "fulfilled." During discussions, the woman noted that she loved to cook, to be with people, to make cards, jewelry and even to sing. Week two will focus on getting further clarification, and then identifying some action and ultimately moving forward with action.

Another participant in the Greenwich incubator is Sarah Schreder, 35, of Old Greenwich. The mother of two young daughters, ages 7 and 4, Schreder reached the stage in life where she began to think about her future. Married to a banker, Schreder grew up on a ranch in California, majored in agriculture and eventually taught Spanish for two years at Fairfield Prep before settling down to married life and raising a family. She describes herself as "a jack of trades, master of none."

As Schreder began to assess her life, her past experiences and education, she began to think that she wanted to take steps toward some other meaningful work in her life, some way that she could contribute, but she couldn't see how she could move forward. She did begin to think about starting her own business, the concept of which she wants to keep private right now, and shared her thoughts with a close friend, who told her about Ladies Who Launch. Schreder signed up.

Reflecting upon attending her first session, which Hendrix conducted at Bodd Fitness on Greenwich Avenue, Schreder said in a telephone interview, "I feel like they understand where I'm coming from and my future endeavors. They understand your motivation and drive; whereas, the men I have spoken to have difficulty understanding."

After the first session, she said she felt "inspired, motivated, encouraged and validated. I felt ready to take a step forward When someone validates you, you feel that your dream can become a reality."

Hendix said women launch businesses for totally different reasons than men. While women want to make money, this isn't always the driving force. Motivating factors include lifestyle having flexible time; fulfillment and money. Lifestyle is usually the No. 1 reason for starting a business. For Hendrix, her career change was really an issue of fulfillment. After her parents' death, she realized that she was a changed person. "I needed something to fulfill the person I had become." She turned to psychology her first love, a field that her parents had discouraged her from pursuing when she started college.

"You're not going to make any money in that," they said.

"It was not something that they understood," said Hendrix, who understands herself much better, 20 years later.

"We are here to grow and learn," she said.

Hendrix will begin the first session of her second Ladies Who Launch incubator program tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Sugar Shoe Boutique, 1903 Post Road, as her Greenwich incubator continues its second week. For further information or to register for the four-week program, call Hendrix at 292-3834.