Linda Lopeke’s Story … #BossBabe Love Month Series
Today is LOVE DAY … Valentine’s day! And to celebrate this very exceptional #BossBabe Love Month Series I wanted to share an extra special story with you from yet another amazing #BossBabe.
Today’s story will knock your pants off and may have you shed a few tears … This #BossBabe story is from a woman who holds a very special place in my heart – both personally and professionally. A woman who has a story that you will never forget. A woman who works so damn hard I sometimes can’t believe my own eyes. A woman I have had the pleasure of working very closely with for the last handful of years. A woman I consider to be my mentor, even though I never asked, and a woman who has taught me a lot about business and even more about life.
But before we dive in, just to re-cap why I’m doing this (in case this is the first story of this series that’s you’re reading) …
During my entrepreneurial adventures, I have been connecting with empowering women from all over the world and one day realized there was a need for more storytelling. Stories just like theirs needed to be spread socially through my blog for many reasons … First, to show support to all the hardworking women hustling out there to building their dream empires! I wanted to connect with these women to have them dig deep … tell the raw truth behind how they built their empires, their personal successes, their struggles and how they got to where they are today. And secondly, I am hoping that these #BossBabe stories will empower and inspire other women to follow their passion and make their dreams a reality by kicking discrimination to the curb.
Now, here today, I’m so over the moon excited to share the fourth (of the eight) #BossBabe stories in this series.
Here is Linda’s story, “told by numbers” …
I worked in corporate Finance for the first TEN years of my corporate management career where, at age 17, I set a world record for being the youngest person in the history of banking to lead a major technology implementation for a global financial institution.
I had no way of knowing, at that time, just how important the skills I acquired in that first job would be to starting my own business. I was simply living my dream of becoming a computer scientist working in tech.
I often slept at the office, crashing on the couch in the reception area after designing and programming my client’s systems into the wee hours of the morning. Most of our testing had to be done from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., when only the foreign exchange and international batch settlement systems were running on the data center’s mainframe computers.
Consequently, it took me NINE years to furnish my first apartment which remained completely empty except for the air mattress I slept on for the first two years. I had left home at 16 with nothing but a few clothes, a box of books, a portable turntable and a few select vinyl records to my name. It all fit in the back of the Triumph Spider sports car owned by one of my co-workers at the data center.
I attended high school by day but was about to graduate from a prominent technical institute in the spring, having completed my post-secondary education simultaneously on weekends, and worked full-time for the bank on the evening shift. And when I was at home, which was rare, I slept on that air mattress on an otherwise bare hardwood floor next to my few possessions which I hadn’t bothered unpacking since I had nowhere else to put them. These were some of the happiest days of my life!
Before international finance and banking got into my blood, I had an eight-year career as a singer. You wouldn’t think something like this would play a huge role in my building a successful business, but it did. And in more ways than one. I was a first soprano. I worked with the most wonderful conductors: Elmer Eisler, for whom I performed Handel’s Messiah with the Elmer Eisler singers on stage at Massey Hall; Lloyd Bradshaw, as a performer in The Great Company and also as a choir member in the renowned St. George’s Youth Choir, and I was the only girl in a fifties rock band called Vince Vitalis and the Brylcreem Boys. I also performed as a soloist, singing renaissance music a capella on stages overseas and in Toronto, again appearing at one of my favourite places to sing, Massey Hall and at the then O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts and CNE Stadium in between working in the studio recording for CBC. Marshall McCluhan, a Canadian professor, philosopher, and public intellectual whose work is one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, was in the audience at one of my shows.
His review described my capella performance as riveting, and my voice as ethereal, haunting and as near angelic as one might ever hope to hear. He also noted my stage presence and voice were unexpectedly powerful given my small size (I’m just 4’10” tall).
Other favourite performances from that time in my life occurred when I went to London, England from where I travelled to the oldest university in the English-speaking world for a performance at the University of Oxford. It was thrilling just to be in such a magic place of higher learning. A seed was planted that later grew into my commitment to teaching others to think beyond norms and set new standards of professional excellence.
From there I went to Paris, France to record an album in Notre Dame Cathedral where the acoustics are heavenly. And, during the time of the Johnson administration, I travelled to Washington, DC to perform in the gardens outside the White House. In fact, I recorded two albums (LPs which are sadly no longer available) in just SEVEN days in the studio in the middle of a concert tour. What was I thinking? However, this was excellent preparation for the often-unreasonable demands clients would come to make in future.
Way back in the sixties, I was also in the Broadway musical Hair. I played Crissy (original Broadway role by Shelley Plimpton) and my song was Frank Mills. The song I most wanted to sing though was Easy to be Hard, but my best friend at the time, Jacqueline Walters, played that role.
That work was also recorded, although I can’t remember at which studios now. Our performance was praised by critics, and playbills with my picture on them appeared all over Toronto. I don’t mind admitting, I was uncomfortable being so publicly exposed. But it was only the start of much bigger things to come and, in hindsight, I can see it was a form of preparation for a future I hadn’t yet imagined!
Prior to social media opening up some new avenues of connection to help move a business forward, opportunities for exposing your work to the public were limited. Today, everyone is a content marketer and every livestream and stage presentation a performance.
Yes, despite all my public performance experience, like everyone else, going live on Facebook was hard for me. Until I realized it was really just another stage, with an audience wanting a performance from me that had something good in it for them.
I recall performing in Washington especially clearly. It was right after Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated. And, while I remember the White House gardens as being far beyond spectacular, it was a very gloomy time in all other respects.
Little did I know that just after the turn of the century, in 2002, I’d be having lunch with Coretta Scott King and her daughter Yolanda in Los Angeles. We were excitedly discussing our plans for books we were each working on and brainstorming our new business adventures together.
Yolanda was creating Higher Ground Productions as a vehicle for a book she was working on with Elodia Tate, Open My Eyes, Open My Soul: Celebrating Our Common Humanity. And I was busy working on the logistics for my book, Extreme Self-Esteem: 9 Ways to Take Your Life from Now to Wow, and my new philanthropy program, SMARTSTART, having that very day publicly committed to donating $50M in services to helping entrepreneurs with high potential build and live their business dreams. Who could have guessed Yolanda would pass away less than five years after we met (May 15, 2007)! She was just 51 and such a vital woman. It was a shock to learn she had suddenly collapsed and died at a friend’s home where she had planned to meet up with her brother. Over lunch we had discovered we were born just days apart, with me being just a year older. Exactly two weeks after her death, I officially launched SMARTSTART online.
It began as a simple idea I had around the time my beautiful family of four unexpectedly became a family of three.
In late 1991, I had given birth to a son and less than two years later, in 1993, my daughter came along. During both surgeries, complications caused me to pass away due to respiratory arrest. Fortunately, my OB/GYN was my surgeon both times and he was able to save my life not once, but twice! I’ll always be grateful for that. But, on the day the twin towers fell in New York city, our lives collapsed around us when their father suddenly decided to leave, and our world disintegrated before my very eyes. That one terrible day changed the trajectory of all our lives forever.
Life is always surprising us. It presents us with many twists and turns and unexpected occurrences. So many things have the power to completely break you. IF you let them. The truth is, you never know how strong you can be, until being strong is the ONLY choice you have. Starting any business is scary. And I’d left behind my successful international management consulting practice for this. But starting one when you have no money, two kids to feed, and a heart hemorrhaging pain is crazy. And these were just three of many obstacles standing in the path between my big idea and my third business dream.
I’d put a lot of time and thinking into SMARTSTART — years in fact — doing market research, designing how it would operate, setting up the systems and infrastructure needed to support it, creating the many programs within it, and building strategic relationships to move it all forward.
Too many businesses fail because their owners don’t spend enough, if any, time on this up-front work. It’s not the sexy stuff everyone wants to jump into prematurely. But doing so, at the expense of building a solid foundation, is a very expensive way of going about building your business. And you will have to do a lot of things you hate doing. For example, as an extreme introvert, having to talk to so many people as I was building strategic relationships was excruciatingly painful for me. However, you can’t and won’t succeed if you are not willing to move out of your comfort zone and do what’s necessary. To do ALL the work required, not just the fun stuff, and to do it consistently, and to the highest standards of professional excellence especially on the days when you do not feel like working at all and no one would even know you had skipped a day.
I knew this investment would make or break the business. And, I’m happy to share that all that hard work was rewarded by my being able to start completely from zero, as in: with no list, no contacts, no capital to finance operations and no programs to sell to finally realizing my dream for the new business. In just 17 short months, I was able to take SMARTSTART from 0 to $5.7M.
The way we were marketing and delivering the program and services to our clients, students, and program members was years ahead of our competitors who are just doing things that way now. And of course, we moved on to other things they are not even thinking about yet. That’s how differently we do things in SMARTSTART.
As of January 2019, over 73,000 entrepreneurs and experts have had access to the difference SMARTSTART makes to business success. I’m proud of the work done here, but still have more to do.
Don’t think there weren’t many failures and hard lessons learned along the way. Of course, there were! It’s part of what you accept when you choose the entrepreneurial life. And then there are the things that happen along the way you couldn’t possibly have predicted by any stretch of the imagination!
My progress toward SMARTSTART’s $50M philanthropy goal, now sitting at just under $12M, was rudely interrupted in 2009, when a young impaired driver crossed the highway center line and drove straight through my windshield leaving me with catastrophic brain and spinal cord injuries.
I’d set up my business from the beginning so it could run without me and that it did. Frankly, it was very good thing I had invested in doing that too. It’s important you design your business that way as well. Only then will you be able to escape one day becoming buried in your business.
After the life-changing accident, I was forced to spend five years in 18 different types of rehab as I worked on rewiring and reengineering my brain. There were tremendous odds and obstacles to overcome and no guarantees of success.
I hoped this hard and painful work would help me in recovering from disabling cognitive impairments and physical challenges so that one day, I might be able to return to my work and live independently again. I thought of nothing else. This obsession drove me relentlessly each day, no matter how much pain it involved or how impossible things looked to others and those on my medical team helping me pursue this audacious goal.
It truly would have been easier to just quit right then and there. And I’m not saying I never thought about. I did. A lot. But I am not a quitter. And I hope you aren’t either. Building a business is hard work. It takes courage, persistence, discipline, and resilience to go the distance on your success journey. There will be disappointments, rejections, failures and more. None of that matters. It’s all part of the game.
SMARTSTART exists to provide shortcuts to learning exactly what you’ll need to do to realize your business dreams. There are no magic solutions out there at any price. What worked for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. That’s why there are NO one-size-fits-all solutions in SMARTSTART. Every solution and system I design is unique to you and your business dream.
You can’t buy or think your way to success. You MUST do the work required to succeed. And it should be completed in a certain order. And, I can help you with that. If you are an entrepreneur or expert with high potential, there’s nothing I’d like more than to see you realize your business dreams too.
Let’s talk about what they are and get you started. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up with Linda’s ever-growing #BossBabe adventure, here are her online handles …
If today’s #BossBabe story resonated with you … empowered you … and you found it to be exactly the inspiration were looking for, I would be very grateful (and so would the storyteller) if you would help it spread by sharing it on social media or emailing it to a friend. You never know whose life a passionate story, just like this one might change.
Would you like to world to hear your story? Want to shout it from the rooftop? Do you want to inspire other women to follow their passion and make their dreams a reality?
Feel free to drop me a line, connect with me on LinkedIn or post your comments on Virtually Untangled’s Facebook page so we can make it happen. Together, let’s share the raw truth behind how you built your empire …!
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