Nicole Will: Redefining Success

When children come into your life, it can make you rethink your priorities even when you already have your dream job. Tune in as Nicole Will, Founder of willGather, shares how she shifted her passion into a business that her children can learn from. Nicole Will is a passionate advocate for our aging community, the podcast host of the willGather Podcast: Navigating the World with Your Aging Loved One, and the founder of Gigi Betty co. by willGather, a boutique gift shop raising funds and awareness for family caregivers.

Listen to the willGather Podcast

Introducing Nicole Will, Founder of willGather

Nicole Will is a passionate advocate for our aging community, equipping older adults, family caregivers, and eldercare professionals with valuable information and resources. As the founder of willGather, she enlightens and expands people’s awareness of leaders and initiatives in the care economy space through the willGather Podcast: Navigating the World with Your Aging Loved One. Nicole Will brings helpful resources, valuable information, and practical tools that will encourage and give hope to caregivers as they navigate the aging journey with their loved ones for a more meaningful and fulfilled life.

Talk openly about your work, even when your kids are young, …what you’re doing, … how you’re making a difference. They can be such an awesome source of encouragement and support.

Nicole Will, Founder of willGather

In honor of her grandma, she also founded Gigi Betty co. by willGather, a boutique gift shop raising funds and awareness for family caregivers. As a collective, we are a powerful force for good. A portion of all proceeds are donated to support caregivers.  With over 20 years of experience in aging and senior living services, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services: Social Gerontology and is actively certified with NCCAP. She spent years as a Director at a well-respected senior living community overseeing the Therapeutic Recreation, Volunteer, and Spiritual Care departments. She also served on the MAPA board and as an adjuvant faculty member at the University of St. Catherine. Her hands-on approach and advocacy are inspired by her close relationship with her grandma, who came to live with her family giving her a deep understanding of family caregiver needs.

Production Credits

This episode of Pearls onBoards was produced by Mix Theory Studios, a music and multimedia studio located in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. This show features original music written, mixed and mastered by Punchboi and DJ PM, the music production team of Mix Theory Studios.

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Read the Full Transcripts

Thank you for joining us for this episode. Of Pearls on Boards. I am so excited to sit down with our guest today, Nicole Will. Nicole is a mom of two. She has over 20 years of experience aging and senior living services. She is also the host of Will Gather’s podcast, Navigating the World with Your Aging Loved One. And also founded Gigi Betty Co. by Will Gather, which is a boutique gift shop that raises funds and awareness for family caregivers.

 Thanks for joining me today. I know that you are a successful business owner and speaker and entrepreneur and you. Did all of those things after you had your children, which is a huge feat in and of itself. And so I would just love to know what that journey has been like for you.

Well, thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be able to visit with you. It’s so true. I feel like being a parent and starting your own business at the same time, there’s a lot going on , so many moving parts, but what I found. My kids were so pivotal because I never would’ve made the choice to start my own company without them. I was working as a director in senior living for a lot of years, and I really thought I would never leave my job. I loved it. It was dream job for sure, but my children were little at the time, and my mom stayed home when I was younger, and I. that’s what I knew right of being mom was like, Mom was home. So juggling working mom and having little kids went really well for a lot of years. My daughter was five and then I made the decision actually leave and retire my position so I could be with them. So I never would’ve left that director position if I hadn’t had kids.

So it really was serendipitous in that way. Is that I stepped away from something that I knew that was secure, that I was comfortable in.

How did you decide then to start a business?

You know, I felt this internal longing to still be a part of the workforce and community. So while I was technically home not working full-time for another company, I still was keeping up my CEUs for the education and the certification that I had. I was. Still connected and going to conferences, and I had all of these ideas of things I wanted to do. So the drive and the passion behind working with older adults never left. It just shifted and I found that I wanted to still be connected to the work that I loved, but I wanted to figure out a way, how could I try to maybe do both and own some of my time? I mean, that was really For me, starting my own company was, yes, doing what I love and wanting to pour into other people, but it was really, how can I Do all the things, which now we know, I mean, it’s, it’s complicated and busy in and of itself, but it was really wanting to own my own time and my own schedule and the flexibility. So this was years prior to COVID happening where now we see more of that, where you can work remote or hybrid or whatnot. But at that time, and with the work that I was doing, that was not an option. I grew up with my dad who was an entrepreneur, and I saw him have his own company and I had an idea and I wanted to give it a go. And so the first few years were messy figuring it out. Now I’ve definitely fine tuned that, but it took time right to just get clear on a vision and what you want it to look like.

It was really Wanting to be there for my kids when they were small, but also wanting to still do what I love and how do I make that work?

And how did you make that work? Did you have help? Was Isaac around or your family or in-laws, or were you just kind of in the trenches and then like up at 4:00 AM and staying up till midnight?

I don’t, all of the above, definitely working nights, weekends, when I could fit it in. In the beginning it was definitely more probably hands-on with little kids ’cause they were younger at the time and I always felt like my business took a backseat. So it really wasn’t until they got a little bit older where I felt like I could essentially work more full-time working on my business. So that. Is where the Struggle is in all of it. It’s how do you, do everything? I leaned into community. I have, my parents are in town. My in-laws. And, I remember saying back then, I feel like I can’t do anything at a hundred percent. I feel like I am not mommying at a hundred percent. I’m not doing my business at a hundred percent. And at first it really bothered me. I was like, I just wanna be able to give everything my best. And then

I just had to learn and come to this place of acceptance of this is the season of life that I’m in right now.

My kids need more of that time and attention. And it absolutely got a little bit easier as they got older and were in preschool or that in elementary school. And so then there was more structure around time.

You’re right, there’s so much that people don’t realize behind the scenes. You’re not only the Business that you’re wanting to run and operate. But behind that it’s website design, marketing, creative, legal contracts, accounting everything. And I was was also bootstrapping it all. So it was like, how do I do everything cost effective? And that meant that I had to self teach myself almost everything that I’ve had to do.

So, I taught myself how to build a website, taught myself how to do marketing, design, you know, all of those things that I did not have the skill before.

Absolutely hired out some legal and accounting and things like that, but so in the midst of not only wanting to launch what you’re doing, it is, it’s so much behind the scenes and just the time. There’s definitely Time where I. Just didn’t do anything else. I was like focus on, focus on getting some things done. And there were times when I stepped away from really focusing on the work piece. ’cause, you know, let’s say summertime with kids, it was like, I would try to focus my time and attention with them because you never get that time back. You know, there’s only 18 summers and I’m learning, it’s really more like 16 because now my daughter’s older and driving and I don’t . See her that often so yeah, lean into that community of support. And I think I did, I was so fortunate to have people that encouraged me along the way and would speak that into my life, you know, a best friend, my sister, my mom, where it was like, keep going.

Don’t give up your mission. The world needs you. And I wouldn’t start to invest more in myself, like, how can I learn more about What I’m doing running a business, the amount of learning you do Personally is so huge. And so that is a gift in and of itself. It’s super uncomfortable, You’re not an expert at anything when you start something. So, you have to be okay with feeling uncomfortable and growing into that. , I just think over time, You build the confidence to then do what you’re doing, have the consistency and grow the mission.

Women as we struggle with, right? When we’re in that first stage thinking like, can I build a career? Can I build a business? Can I do all of these things in Excel after, and then keep it all together at home and look perfect? I think no, something has to give and it was my laundry like…

There’s so much pressure to do it all. I think that’s what we all constantly struggle with as women. It’s like, how do I look? Okay, how do I get my workout in? Um, I. With the children, have my house clean, do all the food. You know, I used to put so much pressure on myself to like meal plan and was a time when I actually really did that, like and I honestly think I burnt out.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was burning out, honestly. I think more later I was like, why do I just feel so overwhelmed with really simple things? And an example of that, it’s really been within the last year where business for me is picking up and I’m very busy a lot of the time that I felt like something’s gotta give and At first I felt so bad about it because I wasn’t able to really do all of the like homemaker things that, that I used to do their sacrifices made by all of us, right? You, me pouring into my business meant that I was stepping away from some other things. So the house is definitely a little more chaotic and it’s summer and kids are home. But what I found is that it had Opportunities because of that shift that I had with my children in conversation, , because I had to be really communicative with ’em about what was going on in my work and my life. And I was traveling a little bit more and my daughter looked at me, one day and said, mom, you’re not like Mommying right now, And that was so hard to hear at the moment.

Yeah.

But she was right. Life was really busy and while I was present, and obviously being a good mom, it wasn’t the homemade meal from scratch every night on the table. what it did was it gave us opportunity to talk through why. And they’re so proud of me and they say that and they see me working hard and I. What it also did was that I taught them then how to do things at home, whereas before, I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to have that independence and own some of those things. So while initially my thought was, oh no, I’m not doing everything that I needed to do. Actually, now I’m shifting it as like they’re learning and growing and I’m teaching them so much within that, and so trying to give ourselves grace and all of it.

I think that there’s then this like guilt, like my, it’s the first week of school. My husband’s outta town. I’m doing work and a ton of stuff, and they got home and I should have taken them to the park or something, but I’m like, Nope, I’m sending you to school where you’re outside most of the day because I have work to do, play a game, and I think that there is like this guilt. And so you’re kind of on the other side of them needing you, like as much, you do you feel like as they’re older, they’re at a deficit ’cause you worked?

As much as I tried to be present when they were younger. I do feel like these years though, as they’re teenagers, it’s being present in like a different way. So how I maybe showed up as a mom when they were younger Is different than now. You know, now it’s like, am I emotionally available? Are we having conversation? Are we carving out time together? I don’t know if it is necessarily a deficit of Being home versus, working so much on the business.

I’ve just tried to be open about, let’s say when I’m in my room on my computer, just explaining what I’m doing, right? I’ve got this interview tomorrow, I’m excited to talk to this person and just kind of keep ’em involved in what’s happening.

And I think that’s helped because they then know I’m not just Working on, let’s say, not nothing But you’re not just like on your computer, like scanning social media and ignoring them.

I feel like when I became a mom, like I was always hyper efficient, mostly ’cause I just wanted as much free time as possible, even, before kids to just do whatever I wanted. So, I was very efficient at work, but I feel like once I had kids my one hour is a normal person’s like nine hours. Like I can get so much done and I think it’s ’cause I had kids because now you’re like, crap, I have 15 minutes but I have three hours worth of stuff to do. Like, well I’m gonna get it done in 15 minutes. In my opinion it’s a strength for women looking to create a business after kids or like climb the corporate ladder after kids. ’cause all of a sudden you like have these efficiencies that no one else.

It’s like a superpower. Yeah I don’t know if you feel that way.

Oh my gosh, that’s so true. And we’re used to being able to multitask, right? You’ve got so much going on and I think that only aids in your business ownership to be able to handle all the different pieces of it. , there was a time when my kids were in school where they. Had different school schedules. So my daughter, I would drop her off and then an hour later, my son, and then I would pick her up. And then an hour later, my son, I was like going to the school four times a day. So it only really gave me this small window of time to get things done. So I had to be really efficient within that timeframe.

It was like being able to be really good with the time that I had, and I, it’s still that way. It’s, I do better when I work more in the morning time. I definitely am not a, a late night work girl.

I’ve put in those late nights before out of necessity, but I prefer just getting a lot done in the beginning parts of the day. And I think it’s interesting, I don’t know if really exposed that, like how little people actually do work when they’re forced to be there during these set hours. You know what I mean?

Mm-hmm.

it with corporations all the time. They’re saying people are so much more effective in such a smaller amount of time and working away from home. And you’re like, well, yeah. ’cause they, they’re not bound by these like superficial parameters for work.

I think that as a mom, we just kind of figured that out. Like we, we were in on the secret.

Yeah. Completely. before everyone else. We were like, oh yeah, you don’t have to do it in this window. It’s not, right?

So our audience is moms Who are kind of in the early stages or they stepped away from careers and they probably are similar to us in the sense that they have moms who stayed at home with them. What advice I guess would you offer to a woman who wants to Start a business or, reach that C-suite position, and also prioritize being a mom because I think you can do.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Know that there are seasons in life, so when your kids are smaller, it’s gonna look a little bit different as they grow older. And how we prioritize our time and intentions really changes each year. So give yourself the grace to be flexible and know that what this year might look like is gonna maybe change the next year. And also defining And getting clear for yourself, like what is success for you?

So for me, it wasn’t only financial, it was Am I making an impact? Am I setting a good example for my kids? What legacy am I leaving? And so I had to redefine what success was. I own my own schedule. I define my own time. I am able to dream up big things and see them come to life. And so it’s been really meaningful for me to have my kids see that and see me Use my voice and be in a leadership role and make an impact, hopefully, in other people’s life. And I’ve been able to do that because of their support and their encouragement.

So talk openly about your work, even when your kids are young, what you’re doing, how you’re making a difference. They can be such an awesome source of encouragement and support, and we’re not only giving them the tools to be able to acknowledge that in us, but also to be able to then acknowledge that in other people that they encounter in their life and then be able to articulate that.

So I think sharing with our kids and they can then see the opportunity of what success looks like, how you need to navigate change, that there’s going to be setbacks, and what is your attitude in that. And we’re teaching them so much more out. Side of, here’s the business and then you’re making this much money. It’s like what is your motivation? What’s your mindset? How are you encouraging other people? And I think that has been just one of the coolest things to see your kids be able to recognize that have the language. Then to be able to articulate that not only to me, but to other people.

When I grew up, I think that there was just this expectation that women got married, had children stayed home, and that was kind of, I think you really see this like drop off in um, procreation all over the world because of that, right? ’cause we’re now living in a society. Too, where women want more and they strive for more. And feminism really created this like awakening in women to feel like that 20 years old, their whole life didn’t have to end to do these things. And so I think that when you bring your kids into the journey and you show them like how you do it and, open up that conversation, then it sets the expectation for, your daughter to now. Say, Hey, like, I can be a great mom and to me a great mom is somebody who makes me feel X, Y, and Z and gives me space for these things and partners with me in these things, but also is happy and healthy and has aspirations of your own, you I think that’s how we change the future. By being the pioneers in this environment of we’re gonna be great moms and also have great careers.

Yeah. Keep that identity. because, I think that’s the hardest part, at least when I became a mom, I felt like I lost my identity and I felt like I’ve been like climbing out of this hole. like trying to get it back and. We lived in Japan , and I think there, you see the women very much like own all the domestic stuff and it’s very hard to have anything outside. So I think the gift of living in America is that we have the infrastructure finally to like do it. And so I feel like that’s the thing that . We get to do, at least as our generation of women, we get to be the pioneers and like showing future generations that women can have identity. They But I think that starts with . That conversation that you have with them, like inviting them into the fold, you know?

Yeah. And I think it’s so good for kids to also feel like they have purpose too, and they’re a part of something. My kids have helped with so many things with my business and like, Hey, I’ve got this. Would you like to help me? And they get excited about it. And so that gives them that self-confidence that they’re also able to Do things that I value the hard work that they have and their work ethic. And so it’s that practice too, I think for them on this like small stage for them to then be able to go out into the world when they’re on their own, that they’ve been a part of some of those things and hopefully we’ll want to continue. To be a part of one of bigger initiatives or their own dream or supporting a company that has a mission, whatever that is, it’s like giving them those baby steps of independence and work ethic and all of that.

I love it. thank you for talking about your process and, journey. I guess because it’s a journey and it’s not, oh, yeah. It’s definitely, I’m still figuring you for having me so much.. excited for your podcast. Podcast. I love the name. I think it’s gonna be so fun to see it grow and I can’t wait to listen to it as well.

Thanks, I appreciate  you.