First, here is a quick look at my story…
I graduated from Framingham State University and received my Bachelor’s in Fashion Design and Merchandising. After taking a break upon graduation in 2007, I wanted to further my education by getting my Master’s Degree in Business because I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner. While in grad school, I started to experience symptoms like repeated falling, my leg giving out — and I would fall to the floor without being able to get myself back up. After going to many doctors’ appointments, getting tests ran and seeing many neurologists, I was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. With that information, I was in shock, confused, had never heard of it and was trying to figure out when it would happen the next time. After shutting down and not telling anyone what was going on with me, I knew that I had to cope with what I had by coming to terms with it — and then trying to figure out what I could do to overcome it. I knew that it was not something that I could cure myself (or just take a tablet to make it go away.)
While I work as a Merchandise Coordinator for Tommy John’s Men’s Underwear, my main passion is a t-shirt line that I own called “Girls Chronically Rock.” I wanted the name to have the word “chronic” in it and I wanted to create something to help inspire women like myself to let them know that “we rock” — no matter what we may be going through. We can accomplish and do anything that we put our minds to. I wanted to create this line to help inspire not only women with chronic illnesses, but to also inspire women in general by helping them to feel confident, motivated and empowered.
1. Network and find flexibility
I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner because I never liked the traditional “office setting” and could never keep still sitting at a desk. While creating my t-shirt line, I wanted to create a business where I can work from home managing my own hours — something that I can eventually build into a major empire later — because I never know what will happen in the future with my chronic illness.
Although it is a new business, I am still trying to figure out how to market it while attending different networking events — because I realized that networking is key. Although I also still work part time at my other job, I can still work my own hours there, too, which helps give me the flexibility that I need in running a business on the side. In the future, I would like to invest in other ventures that I have in mind and have my t-shirt line be my full-time job. Once my business begins to grow, I plan on having some of the proceeds go towards the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
2. Gain experience with speaking engagements
In 2017, I was announced as the Massachusetts Muscular Dystrophy State Ambassador. I knew that this would be a good experience for me, as I would be able to bring awareness to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and it would also give me the experience of speaking at different events — talking about my everyday life living with Muscular Dystrophy and connecting with other companies and people to help raise money for the organization. Most recently, they asked me to be the 2018 Muscular Dystrophy State Ambassador as well! I have some new plans for incorporating and blending my t-shirt line into the work that I do for the association.
3. Never give up on your business
I keep telling myself: “Never give up on your business” and “Keep going no matter what. Even if you feel down and not energized, it will all still be worth it in the end.” I know that it’s important to network with other business owners and get all of the advice that I can. I plan to connect with local boutique stores and expos to help promote my t-shirts. I also realize that following up with people is key so that they don’t forget about me — like leaving them a message after I meet them at an event.
4. Eat healthy and exercise
While juggling a chronic illness and owning my business, I realize that eating healthy is very important — it makes me feel good. I also try to exercise and squeeze in some physical activity every other day because it gives me more energy and focus. Not always knowing what the future might hold for me, I try to stay motivated, focused on my future success and the financial goals that I have set for myself for the next few years.
Here are two special quotes that I was inspired by one day and if you have a diagnosis similar to mine, you might feel inspired, too:
“Your illness does not define you, your strength and courage does.” - Unknown
“Never let the things you can’t do, prevent you from doing the things you can.” - Coach John Wooden
You can check out Keisha's t-shirt line "Girls Chronically Rock" at www.girlschronicallyrock.com and on Facebook (@GirlsChronicallyRock) and Instagram (@girlschronically_rock)