I meet the most fascinating people when I speak to groups! Lifestyle brand maven Claudia Chan invited me to be part of a panel at Anheuser Busch Women in Beer in (of course) St. Louis. There, I met this amazing woman who went from being an abandoned child in South Korea to running her own construction company in. I’m inspired and think you will be too!
GF: The first question because I am fascinated with women’s relationship with power is this: When did you know you had the power to_____? You fill in the blank.
Describe the moment or series of events that let you know you had the power to_____. What did it feel like?
NSB: Assert myself.
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I realized I had this “power” when I was around 16 years old and very active in 4-H on a state level. I decided to run for state treasurer which meant, I was to give a campaign speech to an audience of about 500 in the Jesse Auditorium of the University of Missouri campus. When I started speaking, it was the first time I could hear myself outside of my own ears. I did not recognize the voice, the tone, and especially the confidence I heard. In case you are wondering, I did win!1990 4-H State Council Jesse Auditorium of the University of Missouri campus.
GF: Tell a little about your background, your family and how you grew up, and what led you to your current work.
I am a foreign-born, abandoned, foster child, adoptee and extremely thankful for it! I was found outside of Seoul, South Korea on the doorstep of the mayor of BooChun City. When I was 21 months old, I was adopted by my American parents, Mike and Gail Stallion and flying to the Anchorage, Alaska airport then to my new home in Fairbanks. Later I grew up in Cape Girardeau, MO.
My father started a construction company. I was always interested in construction but as I got older it faded… to boys and shopping.
In 1997 I was back in Cape Girardeau after an unfinished college career and a failed marriage. Dad had an offer for me to work for him at Mac Con Company for 1 year and he would move me anywhere I wanted to go. I took the offer. About six months in, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
In 2004 I decided to start a separate company with my father as my business partner called ZanneCo, derived from my middle name Suzanne. After 2 years of great success balance sheet-wise, I was very frustrated with not being approved for a WBE status because I did not hold an engineering degree and my father did, “I could not be the primary decision maker” for the company. I sold my share to my father and went to a new city but my heart continued to tell me I was not in the right place. I returned to ZanneCo to be an employee for the company I had once owned.
Failure was at the forefront of my mind but I knew it was where I belonged and realized because I did not let my ego that had led me away from the company I loved get in the way this time.
Still working for ZanneCo today I look at the chain of events and know the path chosen was probably the best for future things to come professional and personally.
Staying in the area instead of moving to a new city ultimately lead me to my best friend and husband Jay who 3 years after we met was offered a job with Anheuser Busch InBev in St. Louis (ironically my destination when I left ZanneCo). We moved to St. Louis less than a month of him accepting the position.
I now work out of my home in St. Louis with visits to my office in Cape Girardeau. I am privileged to still be a part of the company I started and work with my father.
GF: What are you hoping to accomplish in your work?
NSB: Besides the obvious financial security, I hope through my work I can become like so many of the role models I spoke of earlier who help to nurture and grow more leadership. I specifically want to direct my focus on young women in the male-dominated fields. Many women in these fields have worked hard to get to where they are and are inherently strong individuals but this does not mean they do not need encouragement.
Secondly, even though construction does not directly tie in with adoption, I hope to be an advocate for adoption whenever I can. In 2011, my husband Jay and threw me a birthday party but the gifts were not for me. We worked with a non-for-profit organization called “Room for One More” and clothing designer Turya Nation founder and owner of Guy Baxter to have a fashion show benefit. All the proceeds went to adoption grants through the organization for families that were approved by adoption agencies. The grants assist these families with national and international adoption costs.
GF: What is the message you’d like to give to the world today?
NSB: Failure is an inevitable step in all careers and life. Just make sure it is not the last.
GF: What is the best leadership lesson you have learned?
NSB: I am a huge Harry Potter fan and like to think of leadership like a wizard or witch’s magic. Harry was taught all of this wonderful magic at Hogwarts but when he is to return home to the muggle world, he cannot use magic outside of school. In my mind, this is critical because learning restraint is as important as leaning the magic itself.
When I was younger, I tried to be a leader in everything. I was on every board I was asked to serve, I joined every committee; I was the YES woman, I could not say no to a good cause. In a couple of years I was completely burned out and empty. I realized if I did not use restraint and truly weigh the time commitment and how much that “good cause” really fit within my vision and goals for myself, I was no good to the ones I really cared about.
GF: What other observations or advice about women, power, and leadership would you like to share?
NSB: There is a tendency for people, but I think especially women, to start a corrective statement with “I’m sorry”. Example, “I’m sorry, but that report is for the first quarter not the last.” I think there is something primal inside us that tells us we are caretakers and if someone else is wrong… it must be our fault in some way! Don’t fall into the trap!
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GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead. People has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”
As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.