I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking about what I want to do with this site. After multiple deadlines (over 45 in the past two months,) and a lot of drama (two of my main clients shut down business,) I’ve realized that now more than ever it’s time to start talking honestly about how we make our own way in the world. I want anyone who comes to this site to feel inspired and empowered to do you own thing. In a world that seems incredibly chaotic, features like “How She Does It” are meant to convey the most timely and important of messages: the only thing that is certain in this world is you.
As I get caught up on all the amazing women I’ve had the privilege of interviewing over the past few months, I want to introduce you to Orenthia Ricketts, a powerhouse, full-time AVON Representative from Newark, NY. Orenthia’s growing beauty sales empire grew from a love of shoes (yes, really) into a business that sustains both her family and her own personal dreams of freedom. I love AVON, and I have a long history with the company (I used to work there back in my corporate America days.) I have always had a passion for the Representatives who are the lifeblood, connecting women with beauty in big cities and small towns all over the world.
This is my interview with the amazing Orenthia. Here’s how she does it:
How did your business come to be? What was your path to where you are now?
“My business came to be because I needed a little extra money. I had a shoe habit. I love shoes, and I didn’t want to keep talking to my husband about the money I was going to spend. I used to go to certain warehouse shoe places afterwards to look, just to look. I just wanted to do something so I didn’t have to discuss it with him every time, you know? I thought about AVON among different companies, and I went with them. My mom sold AVON when I was a little girl and she always used to tell me, “With AVON, you always have money.” So I thought, let me look into it. I started out, and earned money without even really trying. So I thought, “What I really tried?” I really kicked it into high gear, and started to earn some serious money. It was really coming along, and then I lost my full-time job.
I was downsized from my position as a project manager in the telecom field. I realized that I never wanted to feel like that again, never again wanted to have that conversation of “Ma’am, we no longer need your services.” It rocks you, it really rocks you to the core. So, I said to myself, I’m going to launch out on my own. I prayed, I cried, I talked to my family about it. My son asked me, “Mommy, does that mean we’re going to be poor?” It really touched me that he was thinking that way. I thought to myself, whatever I do, I have to make it work because I really didn’t want my son to feel that way. So, that’s when I really stepped into AVON on a full-time basis, and it’s been an extraordinary journey. That was eight years ago. I haven’t looked back since. I have a team of 90 who support me now, and it all started with a shoe habit.”
How do you empower the people who work under you?
“I try to teach them that anything is possible, if you want it badly enough and are willing to do the work. Look where I am, look what I do: I do AVON full-time. Imagine that. If I want to take a day off, I can. If I want to come to New York and speak to someone, I can. I just love the freedom of it. I want women to understand that it’s possible. You don’t have to work 9-5 to be financially independent. So I try to teach them, give them the skills.”
What was your biggest obstacle to building your business? How did you overcome it?
“Fear. Fear of success and the responsibility that comes with it. It took me a while to understand what I was feeling, and why I did or didn’t do some of the things I needed to do. When I really spent the time to work on it — and it took a couple of years to figure it out —it was fear of success. It comes with responsibility; you have a lot of people watching you. You wonder, ‘Do I really want that? Do I really want people to know my business?’ But once I understood what I feared, I started to work through it. Essentially, it was about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”
How did you know you had succeeded? What was the moment you knew you had become the woman you wanted to be?
“Well, I’m still a work in progress, but I knew there was a shift when I earned a trip to Hawaii, which was a dream, a major dream. When we were on the plane, I was saying to my husband (who was able to come with me,) ‘This is great. This is really good. I’m doing something that I love to do, and earning trips like this that I never thought I could ever afford to do. Just the fact that I was able to bring my husband on an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii was a game-changer for me. I realized that this is what I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t have to ask permission, clock out, or ask a manager if I could put it on a vacation schedule. Big deal for me.”
What’s the next big goal?
“I want to be 100% debt-free. It’s a big goal. But I look at some of the top representatives who are doing it big already, and if they can do it, so can I. The power of possibility just excites me. There’s no goal too big. There are no ceilings in this business. It’s all on me: how hard do I want to work to take myself to the next goal?”
How do you stay grounded during a busy work day?
“That’s a tough one. I try to work by a calendar, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I try to focus on what’s important that day, because if I think about the myriad of things I have to do, I’ll do nothing. So, I try to stay focused and just prioritize things. I try to put my family first and keep a balance of family, spirituality, work – all of it. I try to keep things in perspective. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something, it seems huge, but it really isn’t. Sometimes, you have to bring yourself back down and ask if it’s really as critical as it seems. I constantly have to re-evaluate what I’m doing, because it’s easy to lose focus.”
When do you feel your most beautiful?
“I feel most beautiful when I’m giving. I’m the Vice-President of an organization called Hands for Giving, and we service pre-school children, bringing them school supplies, things that we take for granted like pencils and paper. When I visit a school, and I have all these little kids around me while I’m giving them things, I see that look in their eyes, that recognition somebody cares. That’s what I live for. I may not have a stitch of makeup on, but I just feel awesome. It shows: I glow from within. That’s when I feel most beautiful.”
What are some of your favorite beauty products?
“I don’t leave home without my ANEW Moisturizer, the new Ultimate Multi-Performance Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 25 is great. It helps my skin feel silky-smooth, and when I put it on, I just feel amazing. I love a great foundation and a good mascara, and I’ve fallen in love with a bold lip. I used to be a lip gloss girl, and then AVON came out with a new line of bold lip colors, and now I’m crazy about a good, bold lip. My favorite color right now is Ultra Color Bold Lipstick in Magenta Flash; I just feel bright and vibrant when I wear it. Most of my favorite products are from AVON, of course, and then there are a few others that I love as well.”
What makes you happy?
“I feel happy when I feel free. I work really hard, but it’s on my own terms. If I don’t want to work today, I don’t have to work today. Even though I work pretty much every day, knowing that I don’t have to makes me happy. I feel free. I came from corporate America, and I just feel suffocated. I don’t mind working, but I wanted to have a life while I was working. Now that I’m able to work and work freely, I’m happy. Also, cherry nut ice cream.”
Any advice for someone who has an idea to start their own business?
“Feel the fear and do it anyway, simply because many times we’re so afraid that it won’t work. So many ‘what ifs.’ Albert Einstein failed many times before his theories and ideas worked, and the ones that did changed the world. So, craft your plan, work your plan, stop being afraid, and move forward. I was afraid, too, but I realized that I was just afraid of being afraid. So, I would tell any woman if you have a good plan and you believe in what you’re doing, just do it. What’s the worst-case scenario? If it doesn’t kill you (which it most likely won’t,) you’ll be alright. Just do it.”