Sarah Blankenship is aCareer Coach & Gen X Advocate.
She tells us that, “In 2011, after the end of my marriage, I became a single mom to my 3 young sons. Almost overnight, I was forced into a life of living well below the poverty line. So, I decided to reinvent myself. In 6 years’ time, I utilized self-belief and laser-focused strategies to go from food stamps to six figures. Along the way, I became an advocate for the Gen X community, and I now use my story to inspire and to help others. Above all, I love helping those who are navigating some of life’s biggest challenges.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
Growing up, I was always inquisitive and hungry to learn. At an early age, I began to recognize the unfairness of life and was often frustrated by the fact that there were so many in this world who seemed to have so much less than others. I also was easily frustrated when I was told that I couldn’t do things “because I was a girl.” When I saw things that were “wrong” in the world, I always wanted to fix them. My mother was a lot like me in the fact that she also was frustrated by things she perceived as “wrong.” She taught me to fight for what I believe in and that my voice is important. Sadly, my mother passed away when I was 21. The fact that my mom was only 43 when she died has been a huge motivator for me. I feel like I have to make each day count and also to make my life count, for the both of us. Another one of my role models was my grandfather. He taught me to be fierce, determined, and never to give up. He also taught me that I can do anything that any man can do and that I should always fight for what I believe in. These lessons have followed me in the years after he left us. It took many years to find my profession. I bounced around from job to job, completed my college degree later in life, and ultimately spent a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what I wanted professionally. At the heart of it all, I knew I wanted to help others and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and that is what’s fueled me — helping others.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
Becoming a single parent to my three sons in 2011 changed everything. In every way possible. After my divorce, we were quickly launched into poverty. We struggled in ways I didn’t know were possible to struggle. In 2016, I embarked on a journey that would forever change my life. I made the decision that poverty wasn’t going to work for me, or for my sons. Starting from ground zero forced me to uncover strengths I didn’t even know I had. I fought like I had never fought before. I reentered the traditional workforce and worked my way up the corporate ladder. I fought to make as much money as I could, as fast as I could. In about 6 years’ time, I earned my first $100K+ salary and we were able to build our dream house. To accomplish these goals as a single parent was life changing and motivated me like never before! Throughout this deeply personal journey, I developed a passion for helping others to navigate similar types of hardships as those I had faced.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
My motivation has been there my entire life. From a young age, I knew I wanted to become a business owner, but for a long time did not know what that looked like. Then, in 2022, I was laid off like so many others. I used this opportunity to launch my career coaching business and it was one of the best decisions I ever made! I now spend every day helping others to navigate challenges and opportunities within their own careers. It is fulfilling in so many ways and I love helping others to reach their goals.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
One of my biggest challenges is time management and making sure that I don’t work more than 40 hours in a week. I am fiercely dedicated to my business and my clients, which can lead to me working long hours. To combat this, I have strict office hours in place and do not work nights or weekends. My children are great at holding me accountable and ensuring I don’t work after hours. For now, they still want their “mom time” and I am more than happy to give that to them while they are here and still young enough to need it.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
Honestly, I don’t feel that COVID-19 had that much of a long-term effect on me or my business.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
One of the achievements, for which I am most proud, is my Bachelor degree. I went back to school while working full time. It was one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding things I have ever done! I graduated with honors and also was selected as the Distinguished Graduate for my program. I will never forget the experience and the feeling I got from accomplishing such a major goal.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would love to see more women entrepreneurs in the world! But more importantly, I would love to see more women take control of their own lives. Too often, our lives are determined or driven by our partners, spouses, and children. It’s not uncommon for us to get “lost” in the day-to-day and feel like our needs don’t matter, but our needs DO matter. I would like to see a world where women are afforded the same opportunities as men and are respected in the way that men are respected. At the heart of it all, I want to see a world where women feel empowered to carve out the best possible future for us and for our children.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
One of my favorite quotes is by Jen Sincero, and it definitely changed my life. “If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.” I’m a firm believer in going after what you want, and not giving up until you achieve your goals. One of the most important lessons I learned after I became a single mom is that forward momentum is crucial. If you’re overwhelmed or stuck, I recommend making a list of everything you’re scared of, have been putting off, or need to accomplish. Then, start taking small steps every single day to accomplish marking each item off the list. Even baby steps add up! But most importantly, do not give up. Do not stop moving forward until you reach your goals. Adjust your sails as needed, but no matter what, do not give up.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
In the United States, where I live, there are not nearly enough women in leadership roles. In the US, women face not only sexism in the workplace, but also ageism, far too often. Women are still paid far less than our male counterparts and do not have the same respect in the workplace as men. It needs to change. While I am grateful for the progress we have made in the past several decades, it is not enough. It’s not nearly enough. I am hopeful that things will continue to shift and become more equally balanced between the sexes, but time will tell.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Don’t stop pursuing your goals until you achieve them. Getting started is truly the hardest part, but once you start, don’t stop. Fight for your dreams and your goals like your life depends on it.