Theresa is one of those women that other women love to hate. (On a side note, I don’t recommend hating, it’s not a good look.) She is incredibly fun, hard-working, talented and stylish. This mother of four boys, 2 dogs and 2 cats also runs a successful business from an envy-inducing home office. I pride myself on a rock solid self-esteem, but I won’t deny that around Theresa, I’ve had moments of self-doubt. The cure to turning envy into admiration is to get to know someone, so here is what I learned about Theresa Conroy.
Her success story starts the way most do, from humble beginnings. Her stay-at-home mom and postal worker father had eight children, six girls and two boys. Theresa dreamed of a big city life in fashion or advertising, far from the Michigan town she grew up in, but as she struggled to put herself through college, opportunity (and bills) came knocking.
She started her first business at age 19. According to Theresa, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having $5,000 in savings to get it started. Were you scared? I asked. “No, what is there to be afraid of at 19?” She said. As I started to answer her question, because in 10 seconds I had compiled a list of at least 50 things, she continued. “I was also working as a paralegal, waiting tables, coaching cheer and selling food and beverages at regional art fairs. I had something to fall back on.” And I thought I was a hard-worker! I quickly scanned the interview questions, hoping for something that would result in an answer my self-esteem could appreciate. Before I could ask, she continued her story.
After a few years, her primary supplier filed for bankruptcy, costing Theresa her business and investment. As she recounted these hard times, without a trace of bitterness, I couldn’t help but admire her positivity.
Theresa continued to work multiple jobs, finish school, have a baby and get married. Yes, in that order. She was exposed to the world of recruiting through a friend and apprehensively took a job as a recruiter. (I didn’t know much about recruiting when we met; the top 5% can earn as much as a million dollars in one year! #careerenvy) Eager to master this commission-based profession, Theresa carefully studied the techniques of the senior recruiters on staff.
Her hard work was just starting to pay off, when uncertainty struck again. Her employer closed due to financial difficulties. I would have allowed myself at least a few days of ice-cream and self-pity, but not Theresa, she acted quickly to keep her clients and start her own recruiting company. What makes this story even more heart-wrenching, is that in the midst of this her dear father died. In a few short weeks she had lost her job, $20k owed to her by the now defunct agency and more importantly, her dad. These days life is a bit easier. Her business affords her a lifestyle she once only dreamed about. So what does she do with all her spare time now that she only works one job? Well, she is fiercely competitive in her tennis league, earning a 14-3 record this year. She stays busy with her boys ages 16-8, loves to travel and of course decorate (and redecorate) her house.
Her home office is a striking contrast to her career path. When it came to decorating her office, she planned every last detail, from the fabric to the light fixture (which by the way took two months to find). Despite the success of the See Jane Work brand, it never ceases to amaze me when I realize that I am not the only one who excels in an aesthetically pleasing workspace. According to Theresa, it’s not just the aesthetics, being surrounded by nice things reminds her of her success and what she has overcome.#officeenvy
She chose the blue and gray color scheme because it is calming. The rocking swivel arm chairs were chosen for function. “The kids come in after school and want to talk, they can easily turn the chairs toward the desk or sofa and the luxe fabric is actually durable.” The sofa, perfectly scaled to the room, is just the right shade of grey leather, which is holding up nicely despite the pets.
So what did I learn from Theresa? An office can be functional and stylish. (Ok, ok, I already knew that, but her office is really, really stylish.) I also learned that the ability to adapt quickly is critical to success. Theresa credits her career success to determination, relationship building, a willingness to learn and good ol’ fashion hard work. “What about personal success?” I asked. She replied simply, “live in the moment.” Hmmm, I’m fighting that envy again. “Theresa, you make it sound so easy, can you tell me something you struggle with so I know you are not superhuman?” She pours me a glass of wine and replies, “I wish my hair was fuller.” As I begin to explain that is not a real problem, she starts to laugh hysterically. Turns out she was joking. (She does wish her hair was fuller, but she doesn’t dwell on it.) She struggles with balance and stress and wanting more, just like the rest of us.