HOUSTON – By: Nycole Hutchens, Ke’Tara Wells and Debra Patterson
Houston mothers and daughters came together for the Mommy and Me Vision Board Expo for inspiration and motivation. The five-day tour kicked off Jan. 30 at the Hilton Hotel in southwest Houston.
Successful women and their “CEO-in-training” daughters shared words of wisdom with other mommy-daughter duos, encouraging them to go for the gusto and continue pursuing their dreams.
Celebrity event planner and CEO of “Millionaire Mommy Society,” Sherrie Walton, is the creator of the event. She talked about what inspired her to want to help other mothers.
“I came across so many moms that are no longer inspired. They have tucked away their dreams to raise their families. I don’t believe you have to choose,” said Walton.
Walton and partner Joan Wright Good assembled a dynamic group of women who opened up about everything from family relationships, high career demands and making it all work.
Kim Gagne is a seasoned powerhouse in the industry. The Emmy Award-winning producer of The Steve Harvey Show grew up in Houston’s 5th Ward and jet sets between the Bayou City and the Windy City. Gagne said she is grateful for what she has, and admitted that her busy schedule does come with sacrifice.
“I am blessed. I get to come home every weekend so that is a blessing even though it seems like a hassle. I have it down to such a science, you wouldn’t believe it,” she said. “I leave my office, I catch the train. I get to the airport and get on a plane, get off the plane and get in my car and come home.”
Gagne shared an emotional struggle, explaining that it is hard not being with her children Monday through Friday and how she focuses on making every moment count.
“I’m not doing homework, I’m missing volleyball games. I’m missing basketball games and you’re missing a lot. You just are and you always have a sense of guilt,” she said. “You ask yourself, ‘What are they thinking? What are they feeling when I’m not in the stands? Do they really understand that I want to be there when I am not?’”
Her remedy? Being present, mind and body, when she is home.
“I try not to be on my phone, I try to lay in the bed with them and watch stupid television or whatever they want to do and not be distracted,” Gagne said. “A lot of times I can’t see my girlfriends and I can’t do other things because when I’m home, I mentally have to be home.”
Gagne’s story reads like a fairy tale in the “media biz,” working for various television shows in her home town. She was previously the supervising producer at KHOU’s Great Day Houston and also worked for Fox 26’s “Judge Alex” show before the opportunity to work with the ‘King of Comedy” came knocking.
Gagne told other dream seekers to drop one particular word from their vocabulary.
"Fear is a bad thing man. Fear will choke you. It's the head game that you tell yourself, it's your insecurities that you're telling yourself. But you have to remember that nobody can intimidate you unless you give them permission, and you have to make sure you're constantly building yourself up," she said.
Jacquelyn Aluotto, Real Beauty Real Women, also knows the struggle working mothers face every day.
“Of course it’s a little bit of a struggle when you become a mom, you really have to find your place. But I just rearranged my schedule and worked around it and really found the balance about being the best mom all while pursuing my dreams,” she said.
Her organization likes to help women from all walks of life feel good about themselves.
“We go into shelters, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims and after they complete the course, we really like to give them a makeover from head to toe. Hair, nails, new clothes,” Aluotto said.
Another Houston personality and panelist shared her keys to success.
Jillian “JJ on the Mic” Simmons, a radio personality at Houston’s KBXX 97.9 the Box, has been in the business for 22 years and said she remembers the struggle.
“I started off as an intern, and the internship turned into a part-time job, and the part time job turned into a full time job. It’s all about mastering your craft, Simmons said.
With her daughter by her side, she stressed the importance of pursuing your passion and not being a “Debbie Downer” when things don’t go exactly as planned. It is all part of the process.
"There's no success without struggle. Learn to understand, it’s going to be hard. This is why it is so important to have role models because you want to understand people’s stories," she said.
Her daughter, Alani, shared her takeaway from the event.
“You are supposed to be grateful for what you have and go for what you really want,” Alani said.
Also sharing words of “youthful” wisdom were “kidpreneurs” with already impressive resumes.
Mikaila Ulmer, winner of the hit TV show Shark Tank and founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, told how she got the bright idea to launch her business after she was stung by a bee. She became fascinated by the insect and wanted to learn all about them. One day she thought of sweetening her grandma’s flaxseed lemonade recipe with honey and her business took off from there.
Mikaila said her family is investing their winnings back into the business.
“We are using our $60,000 to create a new line of flavors and maybe expand; not nationally, but internationally,” she said.
Like a pro, Mikaila reminded everyone how they can get some of the good stuff and what extra treats you can make with it.
“You can make BeeSweet Lemonade Bundt Cake, which is my personal favorite. You can also make a healthy Beesweet Soda by mixing bee sweet and carbonated water,” she said. “BeeSweet is available at Whole Foods in the southwest region. If you’re not in the southwest region be sure to go to beesweetlemonade.com to order.”
Other panelists included life coach and NBA wife, CleRenda McGrady; Ebony L. Thomas, founder and president of God's Money, God's Way; Almashea Spotser, owner & creator of AlmaRose Luxury diaper bags; and philanthropist, Laurie Dempsey.
In addition to Mikaila, kid panelists included Arooj Sheikh, Chasity Thomas, Kamryn Johnson and Saniya-Symone Scott.
The tour continued spreading the message "You're Never Too Young or Too Old to Dream Big,” with more stops in Atlanta, Dallas, Austin and Orlando. For more information on the Mommy and Me Vision Board Expo, visit www.millionairemommysociety.com.