Mentor and Mentee Pt. 1 (Inspiring Women, Episode 44)
In this episode of Inspiring Women, Merry Korn and Sheryl Marrero share the story of how they came together in a mentor-mentee relationship through the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. The host of Inspiring Women is Betty Collins and the show is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty’s Show Notes
I have two women who completely inspired me at an event that I attended for the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. The WSBA has a gala every fall, and Brady Ware & Company is a big supporter of that organization.
Merry Korn and Sheryl Marrero told their story of how they came together. They started out together as mentor-mentee through a six-month program with the WSBA. As women business owners, we need to be inspired by other women business owners. So I really want them to tell a little bit about their journey together. And then we’re going to talk about mentoring, being a mentor or a mentee.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode, including how and why Sheryl needed the mentor relationship that Merry had to offer to help her with her business debt.
I was in a large deficit and so I was referred to the Mentor Match program through the WSBA. I ended up at the table with Merry. And although her business was totally different from mine, I instantly felt trust in her. And that was one of the things I had hoped for and prayed for, for a mentor who I could trust.
Find out what made the difference in turning her business around, and more detail about Merry’s Wellness Checkup Plan.
This is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social, and political achievement. Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.
For more information, go to the Resources page at Brady Ware and Company.
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So today on inspiring women. I have two women who completely inspired me at an event that I attended for the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. They have a gala every fall, and we’re a big supporter of that organization. I’ll refer to it as the SBA, and these two ladies told their story and how they came together. And it’s Merry Korn and Sheryl Marrero. And they just were so awesome that I said, I’ve got to have this out to women, business owners and women so they can, you know, take their journey if they’re in the same path that these two have been on and utilize the experience of it and come together. So, you know, they started out together as mentor mentee, which is like this six month program with the SBA. Well, that’s a couple of years ago, I think. So they’ve really had a great time with it and really have just done some amazing things. And as women business owners, we need to be inspired by other women business owners. And so I really want them to to tell a little bit about their journey together. And then we’re going to talk about mentoring, being a mentor or a mentee. So first, Merry, I’m going to just start with you. Just a real quick introduction of who you are. I look at you as the Merry Corn in Columbus, Ohio, but maybe just tell us two or 3 minutes at the most of who you are and your company. It can be 30 seconds as well, but go ahead.
Yeah. So I am a clinical social worker by background and I love business and our company is a women owned federal contracting call center. We’re a social impact firm in that we always give hiring priority to disabled veterans, veterans, military spouses, people with disabilities, and people living in geographically challenged areas at the number of employees. We have changes by the day, but it’s anywhere from 700 to 1200 employees we have in 27 states.
Wow. I would just wrap up that with she’s a mover and shaker. She gets it done and she really is just an inspiration to women in the Columbus, Ohio and beyond area. So thank you again for being here, Merry and Sheryl, if you could just give your 32nd to three minute commercial on who you are and what you do.
Okay. So my name is Sheryl Marrero, and I am a business owner of a company known as Self Construction. The company has been around since 2010. And what we do, we do renovations for residential and commercial real estate, and it’s always been a passion of mine, although my background was in information technology. But real estate is just been a passion of mine. So that’s what we do, definitely.
When when Sheryl told her background of growing up and it’s a great story. So if you’re inspired, maybe you should have a conversation with her and coffee over zoom but she she really loved real estate and construction when she was what six or seven years old wanting to fix her house. So it’s a great story, great background. I wish we had all the time for it, but but these two ladies got together and a lot of times we we go to mentors or find mentors. Sometimes we have them. We don’t even realize it. But because Sheryl really needed some help and she sought that out. And so I want Merry and Sheryl to kind of just share quickly that time that day you met and what you had to face, what you were facing. Sheryl, we’ll start with you. Kind of like I went, sought out a mentor, got connected to Merry. Where were you at that moment in time as a business owner and a person?
So at that moment in time, I was actually at what I would consider one of my lowest points as an entrepreneur. I was actually thinking that I was going to have to close my doors, things. They just weren’t going as planned or as I had hoped for. I was in a large deficit and so I was referred to the Mentor Match program through the SBA. And initially, what was strange, I initially was at a table with another woman entrepreneur who was in construction, but after we traded tables, I ended up at the table with Merry Korn. And although her business was totally different from mine, I instantly felt trust with her. And that was one of the things I had hoped for and prayed for, for a mentor who I could trust. And just to help me turn my business around to a point where I wanted it to just break even and possibly walk away. But it ended up being so much more than that after we connected and she agreed to be my mentor.
Merry, do you remember the day when you heard the story of Sheryl and how you just thought, oh, my gosh. Take us back to that start.
I thought, I don’t know anything about construction. She’s not she doesn’t want me because I just I know government contracts, which, by the way, Sheryl knows government contracts. But I was intimidated because I felt incompetent. And I am I don’t know government. I don’t know construction. But I know business.
Right? Right. And did you ever see you know, when you heard where she was, did you think, could we get through this challenge? Because you’re a business owner, right?
Yeah. Business owners need so much support. It is so hard. And it’s lonely. And it is so lonely. But I was sitting with Melissa. Inger. Is it Ingersoll?
She was the president of KeyBank. And sure, both of us heard your story, and both of us came to the same conclusion of You just need to get well planned. Because, you know, Sheryl, very few people get beyond 90,000 a year in revenue and you were three, almost three quarters of a million. You came too far to turn away.
Right. Right. Well, and so the starting point was a lot of debt lay offs. All of I mean, it was just one big bundle of mess, which, you know, every entrepreneur goes through it. I don’t care who you are. It’s not an easy path. But let’s do one thing. That’s that was the starting moment we met each other. Now, where are you right now, Sheryl? Where are you today?
Today I am profitable. The deficit is very manageable and I’m in business. My doors are open. And, you know, the biggest thing is I’m out of debt and I’m very happy because I’m doing what I love to do as an entrepreneur, you know, just being passionate about real estate. I feel like I’m back at it. I’m taking it slower and it’s it feels really good. So I’m in a very good place today.
By the way.
Go ahead, Merry.
I’ve just seen Cheryl go through this. She’s not the same person today. When I met Sheryl, she was broken and timid and uncertain. And all I knew is that she had this great heart for the work she did. And Sheryl, I look at you and no one would know you were the same person, because there’s this level of strength and confidence and joy as you’re working on screen with her.
She’s she is all confident. She’s all smiles.
And so different. Right. So different.
Well, that was what I loved about the connection at that gala when you guys were talking about this journey. And I wanted to go back to that starting day of despair, overwhelmed. How am I ever going to do this to There is victory, it’s still work, it’s still a journey. You’re always on a journey as an entrepreneur, right till you sell and you have the check in your hand. But that success is due to a lot of hard work in between that starting day to now. Which which. Merry, what was the time frame of that? Is it about two, two and a half years?
Yeah. Nobody told me it was only supposed to be six months.
Well, in trying to get rid of that kind of debt, you could never have that. What? The debt that you were in, Cheryl, you could have never done that in six months. It was a process in time, right?
It still is a process. Sure.
Sure. So what I want to talk about and I and I loved this and I’ve done this a long time and I read every book. And I you know, I’m out there with hearing speakers and such, but I never heard the wellness checkup or plan. You always hear you need a business plan. Well, she already had a business. She already had a plan that went amuck. It was now we just need to fix, you know, we need to to to get wellness in business. And I thought that was a great I liked the way that flowed for sure when you guys talked about it. And the plan, of course, was attached to accountability and some mentoring, because obviously Mary took the time to go. I’m going to mentor, I’m going to tell you facts, I’m going to give you direction. And I kind of expect you to do it right. So what I’d love to hear from is just some highlight, Sheryl, from you of why why you have this success in the wellness program. What did you do? What were the things that made the difference for the turnaround? Because women need to hear that they’re listening right now that are where you are.
What were some key things that turned it around for you? And then, Mary, I want you to kind of add to what she’s saying.
Okay. So for me, I’m the type of person I’ve always been like a hard worker and I’ve always held myself accountable and responsible for things maybe too much versus the average person, I would say. So for me, I was very hard on myself because I couldn’t figure out like, how did I get to that point so fast? And so the first thing I think was key for me was just to surrender. Like I surrendered everything and I put my trust into my mentors guidance. I had to trust her 100%. And although some of the advice that was given or even some of the tasks in the beginning, it seemed kind of foreign to me because it wasn’t the way I was used to operating, but I had to have that trust and I trusted her from day one, and that’s why I thought she would be the best mentor for me. I never had any doubt that if I, you know, open up any financial statements or just anything to her, that I could just really trust her. So giving complete trust to your mentor, although you may not understand the task, but you just go and do it and with trust.
The second thing I would say for me, it was, you know, I learned this from Mary. Like, don’t be so hard on myself. I was really hard on myself. I had beaten myself up in addition to the deficit that I was facing. So she taught me during the journey, like just something personal, like be kind to yourself and I’ll never forget the words when she told me that. And so once I started looking at myself differently, as, you know, there’s no way you could have known. You know, I wasn’t ever exposed to certain types of resources and things like that. I started to just give myself a break because that’s what I would have done for someone else. So you just have to do it for yourself as well. So I would say trust a trusted mentor, you know, just surrender to it and hold yourself accountable to the task that they give you. You know, you may not understand it, but it’ll all work out.
Well, it sounds like you had to be pretty transparent with Mary, and that’s a hard thing. Everyone’s like, Oh no, I’m smiling today and I have a perfect Facebook life. You had to be really open and say, Here’s where I’m at. How was that for me?
I thought it was going to be hard because part of my story was part of my deficit had come. You know, it it turned out because I ended up having employees and people who are very close to me who I couldn’t trust. So I didn’t know how I was going to go about trusting a total stranger. But because I felt like Mary was just God sent, I surrendered and I trusted her. So it was very easy from day one.
Like I said, that was the first thing about her, is why I wanted her to be my mentor, because I felt like an instant trust with her. But it was easy. I was very transparent with her. It was easy for me to just open up everything from my business to my personal life, just everything. And so she was able to just give me the proper coaching and advising that was needed to get me in a better place.
I hope my audience hears that because that’s so key. So key that you could be trusted. You can trust someone, you can be open and then go, okay, I’m going to surrender this and I’m going to listen. I mean, perfect. So, Mary, tell me about the things in the wellness thing. Like you probably challenged her with things that she wasn’t used to doing, but kind of go back to that time where you were helping her through things to get out of the position she was in.
So there is an old adage when the student is ready, the teacher comes. And so step number one is Cheryl attained heights in business that she has the God given talent for. But there’s a big difference between top line and bottom line revenue. Yes. And so a big first step is we’ve got to get your finances into account. And we introduced her to a financial advisor who was I think the. Is it okay to mention names?
They weren’t like, Yeah, she was perfect because Cathy is very pro women in business. And I remember I saw Cathy and I said, I really think you could help her. And she did. And Cheryl, you could go into detail about what she did. But so many people get so enamored with the business. And they and Betty, you know this, when it comes to finances, it’s like, oh, it’s a deer in headlights. But the other thing that Sheryl and I worked on is a go, no go. So even though contracts sound really good and wonderful, they could put you under if you don’t have a very thoughtful process. And which contracts are you going to take on and which are you not? So step number one is pay down the debt. And Sheryl has the fortitude of having a really good full time job. So plan number one is pay down the debt. Plan number two was go, no go. Plan A, number three, a really good, solid financial advisors who got deep into the weeds but sure went through a whole lot of heartache with her family and health. And I felt like almost 50% of my being there is just the heartache, just being there and saying, this is a horrible thing that’s going on with the health of all these people you love and the losses you’ve had. But you can do this and you can go on. Don’t give up. Sheryl at least that’s my perception is, well, the financials were incredibly important. It was the belief, the support behind you saying this feels insurmountable, but you’re going to get through it. And sometimes in all of our lives, terrible things happen. But to let you know, sometimes you can’t be there for people who are dying and that you love. And sometimes your personal life has to take precedence because you can’t do it all right. All the time.
Right. Well. And hopefully, you know, women that are listening to this podcast can take away that there’s there’s plans there steps, but there’s emotions. All of it needs to be dealt with. All of it need. It’s a whole package. And I love the fact that you said you can’t do it all. And women don’t get that. I mean, especially women. I always say you can have it all. You just can’t do it. All right. And those are two different things. So I just wanted to kind of get that background before we dive into being mentors and being the mentor and being the mentee so that they kind of would get an idea of the journey that you guys have gone on together. And I can’t emphasize enough, and probably it’s because I am a professional that I always go, You’re as good as your professionals, but it’s true. And there’s many professionals you have to have in your life when you when you run a business. I mean, some of them are different for other things. But the banker and not the bank, the banker, you know, the financial advisor that understands.
The accounting, the bookkeeping.
Right. And you have to understand that, you know, earning money like she had to go back to a job for a while because you’ve got to pay bills. And so it was this whole big balance, which I that’s why I just wanted you guys to encourage people today. There’s ways out. It might not be what you think it is at first, but man, where you are today, Cheryl, you have a lot more options because you chose to do those things that you maybe didn’t want to do. So let’s just take this one step further. Can you guys I mean, because. You were in a pretty, pretty bad place. And I’d love for you to give perspective of the debt you had and that that big, big, big cloud over you so people can understand that you can get out of anything if you put together the things we just talked about.
So for me, I had well over $200,000 in debt. Like, I was upside down with the business and. Initially I didn’t know how I would be able to pay it off because at the time, you know, I was under with my business. I couldn’t see a way out. And I think. One of the most impactful things from having a mentor. I’m not going to say that it diminished my fear, but it when I was open with Mary about it, I was very I mean, she listened. She understood that I didn’t have a clue how to get rid of that amount of debt that was strictly just from the business. But. She always had words of encouragement as if it was nothing. That’s how I interpreted it. So she was like, Oh, that’s nothing. You can do this. And so. I would walk away or, you know, thinking maybe I’m thinking this is bigger than what it actually is. And so I could take a step back and take a breather and go through the world plan. And then I just started to tackle the debt we mean some of the tasks were to get refinanced and, you know, take out loans and different things of that nature, you know, lower interest rates and just start plugging away at paying it down, you know, as efficiently as possible.
And just to hear someone else say that, you know, it can be done. When I didn’t have a clue how to get it done. It just, I guess more so confirms that you really have to trust them. You have to trust their advice and trust what they tell you. And it also. Boosted my confidence because as I started to pay things down, then it was like, I can do this. She’s right, I can’t do this. And then the tasks just seemed easier and easier. I mean, they were a lot of tasks, but I was able to accomplish them and, and just it was just one step at a time until I was able to pay it down. And just to give you a perspective like today, I think I’m like closer to $41,000 in debt at this point, but it’s very, very manageable.
Well, I appreciate Mary and Sheryl sharing so beautifully and being very open and honest with the audience. But this is this is a great time to kind of recap, because we’re going to have part two where we really talk about what it is to be a mentor and what it is to be a mentee and what works and what doesn’t. So make sure you tune in for part two of this podcast. Inspiring Women has been presented by Brady and Company. As your career advancements continue, your financial opportunities will continue to grow. Be prepared. Visit Brady where to find out more about the accounting services that can assist you to that next level. All this, plus more about the podcast can be found in the show notes for this episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. Feel free to share this show or give us a review. Remember, inspiration is powerful. Whose life will you be changing?
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