Find your passion:
My mother introduced me to dance at the age of 2. I was pigeon-toed and the doctor prescribed dance classes along with corrective shoes. I discovered very early that dance was my passion and would become my life’s work. My mother recognized my talent and devoted herself to nurturing it. She took me to weekly classes in our very small town of Red Oak, Iowa. She also drove me 100 miles roundtrip two times each week to a professional dance studio in Omaha, Nebraska. Without her I may never have realized my passion for dance and the role it would play in my life.
Don’t accept limitations:
My mother earned an associate's degree in business with a concentration in accounting, something uncommon for a woman in the 1930s. She was liberated before her time. When our town’s only dance teacher moved away my mother went to Omaha and recruited another teacher to take her place. She set up a business for her by finding a place for her to teach, doing her accounting, producing recitals, sewing costumes, and doing local marketing to bring in students.
When I was 11, I started my own dance studio in our remodeled basement. My mother once again went to work, this time helping her daughter set up and manage the business. Within three months I had 100 students. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, she had given me the business model that I would use to build Jazzercise.
Believe you can:
When I graduated from college and decided to start my own dance fitness business in Chicago it felt like second nature. I had watched my mother do it. I knew the model worked. I knew I could develop a program that would help women achieve their fitness goals, build their own businesses, support one another, and feel good doing it. She taught me to be an entrepreneur.
Let “Why not?” be your mantra:
I watched my mother tackle problems and create solutions on the fly. To give her daughter the opportunity to dance my mother inadvertently became an entrepreneur. She didn’t have a “plan” and didn’t let that stop her. She didn’t indulge in self doubt. She just kept moving forward. She believed in herself and she believed in me. That confidence took root. It gave me faith in myself and others.
My mother never pushed me to dance. She told me explicitly that if it wasn’t what I wanted to do then I could stop and do something else. Knowing I had the freedom to take a different path made it easier to keep going. But she made sure I practiced, and she even practiced with me. She believed in the importance of working hard to refine talent rather than relying on it.
My mother showed me the importance of giving children the space to make their own choices -- good and bad. When I tested her, there were consequences, but she let me be in charge of my decisions. It’s difficult to see your child fail, get hurt or make mistakes, but that’s usually how they learn to be their best selves. Protecting them from consequences takes away their ability to handle adversity as well as their dignity.
Connect the mind, body and spirit:
This is one of my mother’s best lessons. Nurture your mind through education, working and surrounding yourself with people who challenge you in a positive way. Feed your spirit with meditation, spontaneity, doing what you love, being of service, and giving to others. Take care of your body with exercise, healthy eating and sleep. Strengthen your body so it can maintain the connection.
My mother, June Nelson Sheppard, taught me that as a person, a parent and a businesswoman all you can do is your best. And if you do it right, it can be fun! I’m proud to pass on my mother’s legacy to my daughter, son and granddaughters, and now to you. Let’s take a moment to honor mothers in all their many forms. I wish your family a very happy Mother’s Day!