I left my 10 year career as a nurse to found a nonprofit for survivors of domestic violence. I had some entrepreneurial experience, but taking a leap of faith into full-time entrepreneurship was something I struggled with. How would I survive financially? Had I wasted 10 years in a career as a nurse educator? Would I be able to do it?

My decision to leap came when I no longer could balance both worlds. I was good at teaching future nurses, but my passion for helping survivors of domestic violence was tugging at my heart. I began training in domestic violence advocacy. When one of my coworkers asked me what I was passionate about, I replied, “I want to help women who have been abused use art to heal.” Immediately, she told me her survivor story. These revelations became commonplace. So many women wanted and needed the supportive environment I had envisioned. The only barrier to fulfilling my vision was my fear.

I shared my vision with everyone, reached out to ask a nonprofit executive I admired if she would mentor me, and assembled a team. With a plan and the support of my husband, I was able to leave my nursing career and focus full time on the most meaningful work I had ever done.

Our thoughts, vision, and plans can manifest if we stay focused. When we give with our hearts fully open, build meaningful relationships, and believe in our work, the road leads straight to success!

On the Importance of Doing the Inner Work
Finding balance has been my most significant achievement. Initially, I was proud to be the founder of Pearls for Creative Healing, and of the work I was doing. But eventually, I realized that all I did was work. My passion was quickly taking over my entire life and while I still loved the work, it was beginning to impact my personal life and my health. The fear of appearing unsuccessful kept me from asking for help. I woke up at night, worrying about deadlines, events, and fundraising. My new organization was doing phenomenal work, but my health began to suffer.

I needed to reduce my stress level. I started to read devotionals each morning as I prepared for my day. Starting the day with positive affirmations gave me a fresh, clean mental slate. I also began to inventory the tasks I was bogged down with, which helped me determine which tasks required my immediate attention and how long each task would take to complete. I learned to eliminate least important ones.

Then I made “me” a priority. Taking time for a pedicure, a walk on the greenway, or playing with my dog was essential. Learning to take care of me changed everything. The less time I spent nose down in paperwork, the more I was able to engage my creativity. My organization began to thrive, because I was able to breathe, delegate, and focus. I was also able to spend more time with my husband and friends. And those face-to-face encounters increased my organization’s resources, supporters, and recognition. It was win-win.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
To succeed in the nonprofit world requires creativity and stick-with-it-ness. To succeed in domestic violence advocacy requires finding fresh and relevant ways to discuss a sensitive issue, while still keeping people engaged.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
The two women who have had the most profound impact on my life are my mother and my sister Millie. My mother lived her life with a humble giving heart. I was able to witness courage, strength, and the power of never giving up in the way she lived her life. My mother celebrated all accomplishments, no matter how small, and always demonstrated a spirit of gratitude. I have tried to channel this into my own personal life and career.

My sister was instrumental in teaching me the role of the professional woman. Early on, she taught me the importance of being able to sustain myself financially and dress professionally. Most of all, she provided encouragement and support along the way.

On Facing Challenges
The hardest challenge of my career has been my role as an innovator. When there is no “wheel” to use as a example, you have to invent each step in the process, test your invention, and then sell the idea.

Sandra’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
I would encourage young women to find mentors. If there is a field that you are interested in, identify someone who is an expert in that field and absorb everything. Be a sponge!