Empowered Women Empower Women

Great female friendships can sometimes feel hard to come by. We live in a world that has conditioned women to believe there isn’t enough to go around for all of us. We’ve come to expect our female friends to be jealous of our success. Every woman for herself, right?

That’s why it’s all the more refreshing when you do find a friend who supports your success, who genuinely wants you to be happy, and who understands that there is plenty to go around. This is exactly what I have with my dear friend and fellow entrepreneur, Jessica Zweig. Something happened recently in our friendship that reminded us of this even more.

Back to the beginning…

Michelle: It seems like I’ve known about the Stevie Awards forever. They’re the world’s premier business awards, known and respected internationally. My past bosses have won them. I wrote entries for them. I submitted for them. So, fast forward to now—when I saw a few months ago that they were accepting nominations for the next round of awards, I immediately thought of Jessica. She’s a client and a friend, and one of the most incredible business people I know. She’s founded two successful companies and is one of the most innovative leaders out there, so I thought she should apply for it. I had no idea which category she was going to apply for, but I forwarded her the entry form.

Jessica: I was so honored you thought of me for that—I still am. Your opinion means a lot to me because YOU’RE such an incredible business person. It says a lot about you that you thought of me first…you always put others before you. But that is exactly why I encouraged you to apply in response. I knew you were more than qualified, but that you wouldn’t take the time to recognize yourself without a little push.

Michelle: I was a little taken aback when you suggested it. “Can my business earn an award? Am I there yet?” It didn’t seem like it was possible. It still doesn’t, to be honest. That insecurity has haunted me my whole life. But you had my back in that moment. You were looking out for me like I was looking out for you.

Thanks to the love and support we felt from each other, we both ended up applying for a Stevie Award! We didn’t know at the time who was doing what. While we constantly encouraged one another, we made sure to give ourselves space, completing our applications independently, so as not to get in the way of each other’s ambitions.

The Reveal

Michelle: I found out a couple months later that I was selected as a finalist and I was completely blown away. I looked up the other women in my category because I knew they came from all over the world, and I was DELIGHTED to see Jessica Zweig right there next to my name as a finalist in the same category as me—Female Entrepreneur of the Year—Business Services. I called her and told her the crazy cool news!

Jessica: I remember you calling me and the feeling I had when you shared your good news—pure, genuine happiness. I had been nominated as a finalist in the same category, but there was not a moment when I felt threatened or insecure. I was just sharing in my friend’s joy. I’ve seen how hard you work, and I know how hard I’ve worked, and I was just so proud and excited for both of us.

Michelle: I feel there is so much competition between women. But that’s never been the case for us. And yes, we have a strategic relationship. I thought of you at least in part because you’re my client, and I want what’s best for my clients, but we’re also just two women who want to see other succeed. That is just so damn cool.

Jessica: One of my favorite quotes is “empowered women empower women.” I say it all the time, and it’s so true. When I come across women who are competitive and jealous, I don’t feel angry or upset by their actions. I realize right away that they are living in a place of scarcity and fear and they definitely don’t have a Michelle Mekky in their lives. I try to be there for them by sending love, light and kindness their way. That’s the truth. But the other truth, that you and I know, is that it isn’t always easy. We aren’t perfect and our insecurities can be louder on some days. But it is always worth it to silence that voice that tells us that “in order for us to succeed someone else must fail,” and show up for other women with love and support.

Understanding each other

Michelle: I totally agree—we are all only human, after all. My motto is “every day is a new day,” so there is always an opportunity to refresh and try again. This experience reminded me how beautiful it is when you want what’s best for your friends. And that stems from understanding. Maybe you can relate—I’ve lost friends since starting my own business. It’s really difficult to make time for a social life when you’re an entrepreneur. Why does no one talk about that, by the way? Starting your own business is hard—like REALLY hard.

Jessica: Definitely. I think that’s been one of our bonding moments. I’ve lost friends, too. Building a business is so much more than your job, it’s your life. As the founder of my company, work isn’t 9-5, it’s all the time. I love that, but some people don’t get it. I’m lucky enough to have incredible friendships in my immediate network who at least try to, but I have also lost friendships from people who don’t understand. I think a huge part of why you and I connect so deeply is that “entrepreneur” is central to both our identities. You have to understand that’s how we roll to really understand us, and we have that foundation.

Michelle: Totally. There’s a shared understanding between us that if I have to bail on you because of a work emergency, it’s not personal. But I also definitely have friends who aren’t entrepreneurs or business owners who make the effort to understand, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. I think if we just assume best intentions and try, our friendships can all be more fulfilling.

Supporting each other

Michelle: The biggest takeaway from this, for me, is that there is enough success to go around. You receiving this well-deserved recognition doesn’t take away from my recognition, and vice versa.

Jessica: Exactly. No matter who wins what award, I’m going to be truly happy because a win for you is a win for me, as your colleague and friend. We’re on the same team, and rooting for and lifting each other up only makes us stronger.

Michelle: I love the idea of more of us acknowledging other women’s awesomeness and realizing that it doesn’t take away from our own. I’ve worked with women who were threatened by me before, because they thought there can only be one strong woman in a room at a time. I don’t want to be a part of that pattern, so I’ll say it to you: I think you’re a beautiful, inspiring, successful, compassionate, badass person and leader! I am seriously in awe of you, and genuinely believe you deserve all the recognition in the world.

Jessica: Michelle, your words mean so much to me, not just because of the love and kindness they hold, but because I feel the exact same for you. I know as finalists we already get a gold, silver or bronze—so in truth we already won.

Michelle: Totally agree—we already won—on many levels!