Stand Out Like a Sore Thumb to Leave a Unique Fingerprint
I grew up on a tiny island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was a minority, a white girl in a sea of black and brown. I was also a weirdo. I had an unusual name, red hair, and freckles—and I was vertically challenged.
My mom thought it would be helpful to dress me up in over-the-top outfits that didn’t blend in with the casual dress of my peers.
I was bullied, mocked, beat up, and tamped down for most of my life. I just wanted to be invisible.
At home, it was a different story. My parents threw monthly lavish dinner parties and large drunken soirees, and I was a star. I could entertain and intrigue my audience of revolving adults who enjoyed my ramblings, my dance numbers, and my ever-changing entrepreneurial attempts to make a buck off unsuspecting adults.
At one such event, I put together an impromptu puppet show and not only charged for admission but for VIP seating, popcorn, and drinks. (It’s a disease, I know.)
But alas, my mom was always at the ready to stifle my joie de vivre by announcing aloud: “You’re showing off and no one is interested. You’re embarrassing yourself. Leave the adults alone.”
So eventually, I extinguished my fire and remained in my room as the years and parties revolved.
In high school, I turned to drugs and alcohol to hide from my quirks and socially blend in. That didn’t work for me so well. I’m grateful for being alive today after all the crap I did.
In college, I slept with strangers whom I didn’t have to see more than once before they would discover the real me and be disgusted (which was all in my head, of course). I was raped twice in the four years I attended.
In my corporate career, I was continually told to “pay your dues” when I tried to reach for the brass ring or to “color inside the lines” when I tried to approach business problems creatively.
I am still surprised I lasted as long in corporate as I did. When I was released into the wild after being laid off, I was devastated. Sitting at home eating bonbons on my couch (yes, that is a thing) and watching an episode of Oprah, I had my big aha moment.
On that particular day’s show, Oprah had no prepared agenda. She simply asked random audience members to stand and share a story. Any story. Lots of rumblings from the audience could be heard, like: “I don’t have anything unique to say. I’m nothing special. Who would listen to me?” One by one, courageous women stood and shared small stories that made the audience laugh and cry.
Although it is the rallying cry today in marketing and on social media to “share your story because we all have a unique part of who we are,” back then, in 2007, it wasn’t part of our culture. If you stood out, you were critiqued, criticized, and bullied. Shamed. This, along with other “sparks” that started happening over the next couple weeks, inspired me to start my own business.
It didn’t matter what it was—I just knew that I wanted to help others stand out from the crowd. Turn vanilla into rocky road. Make people stop in their tracks and look up. And because my family comes from a line of entrepreneurs, I thought helping small businesses do just that was the perfect match.
The name of my company was inspired by my kids leaving fingerprints on the stainless-steel fridge. They each denied and blamed each other for the fingerprints. “Everyone has a unique fingerprint,” I told them. One that is undeniable and leaves a mark.
Yes! That’s it. How do you help people, entrepreneurs, and makers stand out from the crowd? You help them leave a mark.
Fast-forward to 2019, a time when you must stand out and differentiate yourself, or shut your doors. You have to inspire emotion with your audience so they pay attention and remember you. How do you reach inside and pull those sparks out of you? It can be finding your why. It can be your drive to help others.
Whatever it is, I found the one thing that I knew I could do well to serve others and stop what was done to me. I wasn’t going to let anyone else be tamped down, quieted, and shamed. I was going to help people and their businesses shine and thrive. And not just solopreneurs—because I felt strongly that businesses (small or large) all have a story and a beautiful fingerprint.
So, yes, go ahead and show off. Be the center of attention. Grab the spotlight and impress the muggles. Because isn’t the goal the same for everyone? To leave a small impression here on Earth and inspire others to see and remember you for a fingerprint like no other.