We had the good fortune of connecting with Jolene Rheault and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jolene, what do you attribute your success to?
Until last summer, I was not diagnosed as having ADHD. Before that moment, I was able to complete graduate school, start my own business, and do other things. Certainly, it was a struggle, but I developed my own productivity and focus strategies to help myself get through it. As such, I believe that the key to my success is how I leverage who I am and what makes me unique. ADHD is often viewed negatively, but the individuals who suffer from it are some of the most competent, creative, and innovative business owners and entrepreneurs in the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I first started working as a marketing consultant, I was extremely overwhelmed with very few clients. I firmly believe that is because I came from a place of having my entire day scheduled out for me in the corporate world – everything from deadlines to meetings to the freakin’ hours I had to have my butt in that seat. It literally took me being laid off to realize that I thrive best when I’m in charge.
I spent so many years thinking my ideas weren’t good because the companies I worked at always went with what the higher-ups wanted to do. It wasn’t that I didn’t have good ideas, it was that I didn’t have the power those individuals at that company had. I’m absolutely loving being the boss and being able to coach my clients to do what I believe is in their best interest.
When Refreshing Solutions was first getting started, I was terrified. I didn’t know if this was going to be the right thing for my family, if I would be successful, if I was qualified, etc. And here’s the thing I want others to know, if you’re just starting out – it is completely normal to be scared as hell! Shoot, if you’re a veteran at entrepreneurship, it’s STILL normal to be freaked out! But that’s part of the exhilaration of owning your business and being your own boss.
Imagine how much sweeter it will be when you achieve that first big goal. It will feel SO AMAZING. I know because I’ve been there. And that’s my hope for this book. I want to give others the productivity tools I wish I had had at the beginning. These are tools that will help you to scale your business to the next level while also freeing up time to spend with your family. That’s the big dream, right?
I want to share my journey toward being an entrepreneur in the hope that it gives others the boost they need to keep on keepin’ on, because you’ve got this. So buckle up and grab a coffee!
It was in July of 2016 that I got laid off from a corporate company (you know the type, fancy office, PTO, etc.) It wasn’t a bad company, they had a keg every Friday which was obviously great, but I just wasn’t challenging myself and meeting my full potential there. I look at this layoff as the kick in the butt I needed from the universe to really propel myself toward a successful and rewarding career. I won’t sugarcoat it though. This was a VERY rough time. During my three years at this company, I was also going through intense (and unfortunately, unsuccessful) infertility treatments (including a miscarriage) which really pummeled my confidence and emotional state into the ground.
Infertility is plain and simply a bitch. It’s very difficult to feel like you’re doing your best work and feeling your best when you feel like you can’t even achieve the most basic thing a woman’s body is normally capable of, carrying a child into the world. At this time, I was officially diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis, a chronic pain disease that I describe most simply as your organs being glued together and becoming inflamed as your hormones fluctuate throughout the month. I have it on my sciatic nerve and it causes me to throw my back out several times a month which is inconvenient at best.
Additionally, the year prior, my mom had passed away and I had to use my paid time off to plan her funeral out-of-state, grieve, and do all of the things that come along with that. My manager at the company I worked at informed me that people thought I took too much time off. Too much time off to grieve my mother’s death. Yes, you read that correctly. This was the turning point for me, I just didn’t quite realize it yet.
I applied a month later to the marketing and public relations graduate program at the University of Denver and was accepted. I was thrilled because I had researched the salary discrepancies between graphic designers and marketing managers/directors at the time and decided I was going to do whatever it took to bring in the salary that I felt I was worth.
Fast forward a year to the layoff I was just talking about. I was a year into my graduate program (with straight A’s thank-you-very-much!) Not 2 weeks later, my father passed away (we believe from a broken heart as it happened 1 day after the anniversary of my mother’s death). I was laid off and in Wisconsin planning a funeral and just trying to figure out what the heck to do with my life.
Life takes some crazy turns and I had been working off and on on my photography skills, mostly taking photos of local families and children but also some landscape photography (that I’m proud to say have sold for a whopping 50 cents in downloads on Shutterstock). One of the families I took photos of worked at and knew of a job opening at a large corporate company in downtown Denver so I applied and landed the position. I have to say, my time there was some of the most influential in my marketing education. The work was challenging, and I learned a lot of new skills centered around marketing automation, regulations, and coding html into emails.
While I loved the work, the hard part was that I really, REALLY wanted to start working remotely because the commute to downtown Denver was long and it was costly to pay for parking. Moreover, I felt like I was losing valuable time with my very young son at the time. I was extremely fortunate to have a boss who wanted her team to feel fulfilled and happy in their careers and she worked with me while I secured a remote position from home. I will always be grateful to that team for passing on their knowledge and love of pupusas to me.
Over the next 2 years, I worked at start ups in various remote-based marketing positions, learning new skills and just seeing other ways that businesses could be run. I did everything from working as a blog editor to securing partnerships to running extensive email marketing campaigns.
I got laid off again and decided, this is it. I’m going to run my own business because at least I can’t lay myself off! I have spent the last 14 years working between part-time and full-time as a freelancer so I was well aware of how I needed to market myself and how to get started. The hard part was 1. finding people to network with that were ‘my people’, my ideal clients and 2. charging what my work is worth.
I started out very low, taking any and every job, no matter the rate to build my testimonial base up as well as my portfolio. I also used this time to build my online presence through the use of digital ads, media placements, and so forth.
I won’t lie. I wasn’t making much money at this time and at one point, my husband’s position was dissolved at the company he had worked at for 12 years. We spent one month with around $200 to our name for the entire month after making sure our bills were paid because of that. And the kicker was that this was also the month of our son’s birthday. Luckily, our community helped us out; someone donated a cake for Cayden’s birthday, a local tae kwon do studio hosted his party for free (and gave our entire family a year of free lessons), a local pizzaria provided pizzas and drinks, and several people dropped off small gifts for him. It was this one event that completely restored my faith in humanity.
It was this one event that made me into the business leader that I am today because I want to be able to do that for people as well. It makes me want to work with clients who are making a difference in the world. My mindset changed at that point and I realized that anything is possible. I started reading business books, doing daily affirmations and manifesting my dreams into reality. I know a lot of people say that stuff is baloney, but the mind is a very powerful tool if you know how to use it right.
A year later, I graduated with my MBA in marketing and public relations. Walking across that stage and seeing my son in the audience is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. He has seen my hard work and he has seen how it has paid off. He has memories of when we didn’t have as much money, when we had to buy a week’s worth of groceries with only $50 and he has seen how hard work, and more importantly, passion, can turn that around.
I made a promise to myself the day I graduated. I knew what my degree could help me do and I knew how much my work was worth and so I started charging that much. I started going into meetings with prospective clients with confidence and the knowledge that I had the skills and tools to help this person to grow their business. That passion, and that mindset, has made all the difference.
Now I’m not telling you that you need to go to college to get the skills you need. I did because at the time, I didn’t know how to get those public relation tools, or have a mentor or anything. You really don’t need a degree. If you’re in a specific industry, you know what skills and tools you need to acquire. You need to write them down, and learn or get them somehow, some way. Find someone willing to mentor you and show you the ropes. Teach yourself, see if the online tool you need offers a discount and so forth. We fortunately live in a time where people value skills and expertise over a degree.
After this entire journey, I came to be diagnosed with adult ADD and bi-polar depression. I’m now on medications to assist me, but the fact that I was able to make it through graduate school, the death of my parents, infertility, and still create a successful business speaks volumes on behalf of the mental health community. Do not let a diagnosis stop you. Do not let anyone tell you what you are or are not capable of. You can do this and you are amazing. There is always a way, you just need to search for it. You cannot just accept that it is what it is. I’m telling you, anything is possible. You are not too old, you are not too poor. The sky’s the freaking limit. You do not need someone to do it for you. You have it in yourself to make it happen.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It’s hard to say with what’s going on due to the pandemic, but my absolute favorite spot in Denver is Red Rocks. The concerts there are amazing, and it’s definitely an experience not to be missed. Several years ago, I was front row at Ben Harper’s show, and it was really cool. I can’t wait to take my son to his first concert when everything opens up again. We had tickets to see Marshmallow right before they shut down, and we’re ready to rock!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I strongly believe that I would not be in the position that I am without the guidance and inspiration that I have received from my marketing clients and my professional peers. Michelle Tripp (HipCat Media in Parker), Jeri Morgan (Code Blue Computing in Broomfield), Katherine McGraw Patterson (founder of the Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners’ (WEBO) Network), Angel Tuccy (Vedette Global), and Darla Colinet (founder of God’s Transforming Love) have significantly influenced my development as a professional woman and leader in Colorado.
Zara Ashby Photography