I left IBM in 2006 to “become an entrepreneur”. After going to motivational conferences and reading some Robert Kiyosaki, my 32-year-old self said to herself, “No need to be bound to a large corporation! I’m going to go be free! I’m going to be in control of my schedule and my earning power!” The 48-year-old version of herself today, chuckles. Good job 32-year-old-Gina for swinging out there, because otherwise we wouldn’t be here today, but of course, little did I know what all “being free” was going to take. As wise ones say, “Freedom ain’t free.”
Fast forward nearly 10 years to the beginning of Athena. My father passed away in the early summer of 2015. I got to spend the sacred last chapter of his life with him and then went home and floated through life for a few months until I felt ready to work again. I started getting the word out that I was looking for another business owner or C-suite executive who could use an Executive Assistant. I rustled the bushes of my community looking for a good opportunity.
One day my friend Tiffany said to me, “My boss could really use you.” She made the introduction and soon I was the EA for that CEO. I went to his office once a week to open mail and organize things, but other than that I managed many aspects of his life from my home office.
Some months later Tiffany said to me, “I’m going need you next quarter. I’ll need some EA support. Could you plan ahead for that?” I said,” I don’t really have any more bandwidth right now.” And she said, “Well, just find me someone like you.” Now, Tiffany was a friend of mine and we had a lot of mutual friends and acquaintances. So, I said, “Let’s put our heads together and see who we can think of.” We thought of Dorian. We knew she was unhappy in her current job, and we both knew we would really love working with her. Tiffany said, “Yah! Go talk to Dorian about it. See if she wants to come be my EA. Then we will pay you to be her ‘EA Coach’ and you can coach her to be as good as you while she’s working for me.”
I said, “Tiffany, if we do this, we cannot screw this up. We cannot mess with Dorian’s life. She’s been at her job for seven years. It’s her first real job as a young adult. We can’t mess with her life if she leaves a job and comes to work with us.”
After all the needed conversations, Dorian did leave her job and became Tiffany’s EA. Tiffany’s company paid me a little bit for every hour that Dorian worked, to coach her in becoming a great EA.”
A few months later Tiffany said to me, “There are two directors in the company, and they could really use an EA. It would make them so much more efficient and productive.” I said,” I keep thinking I should open this as a business, but I’m really not up for being an entrepreneur again.” Tiffany said, “Well that’s too bad! You just need to go open this as a business. Get over it and see who you can find who could be the EA for these two directors and start the business.”
I found an old friend of mine, Alison who was currently an EA for a property management company. She was someone I liked and more importantly, trusted. She had a young son and wanted to be home more with him. She shifted gears and said she would start working with us. So, in April of 2016 I opened an S-Corp in the state of Washington, and then took $5,000 to my local Wells Fargo and opened a business account in the name of Athena Executive Services, Inc. In May was our first payroll, and off we went into the future together.
While Dorian is no longer an official member of our team (her client loved her so much they hired her away as a full-time employee!) we still keep close tabs on her. She recently sent us this photo (above) and said, “When you are going for an ultrasound and want your little one to know Athena made her possible.” We know we are just one of many things that made her little one possible, and we are so happy to have been a contribution to Dorian and her family. Dorian wasn’t a business partner on paper, however she was the one who from before Day 1 of Athena opening said, “Ok Gina, you coach me. I want this kind of lifestyle. If you start this business, I’ll do it with you.” And she did. I attribute the four years of partnership with Dorian as one of the major reasons this little owl of a company took off!
Gina Cotner, CEO