I met Jane at a conference for Garage Storage Systems that my husband is part of this past summer. I went along to enjoy the resort and work on my writing. Family is invited to the opening and closing parties. We changed greetings with Jane at the bar while we awaited our cocktail orders to be filled. I automatically assumed the petite, thin, healthy woman was a wife of one of the burly, tool loving garage guys in the room. Much to my surprise, however, Jane added to her introduction, “I am the Austin, Texas dealer, Garage Monkeyz.” Can you see my jaw drop?
What in the world is this bright eyed, healthy, woman with a big smile doing owning a Garage Storage Dealership, I wondered as I stared at her unintentionally. My husband chimed in and they began to exchange stories about their respective businesses. I stood there confused, continued to stare as if my expectation would find a way to match the realty here. I never resolved the disconnect in my head.
Fast-forward to the last night of the conference; the awards dinner. Once again, we gather in the ballroom of the hotel. We select seats and start chatting with the people already seated. With only two seats left, who fills one of them? Jane Taylor.
Guessing that everyone at the table had probably had their fill of talking about garage storage designing, tools, marketing practices, new products lines, etc. I steered the topic of conversation to “What do you like to do for fun?” One by one everyone shared their favorite activities; hiking, camping, paddle boarding. As we gleefully chatted away I was particularly interested in hearing what Jane had to say. I learned that she grew up in Hawaii and we shared a passion for whales and marine life. She was in the Navy and get this, she was on Season 2 of Whale Wars!
For those who haven’t seen Whale Wars, it’s a reality show about a group of whale activists, called the Sea Shepherds, who relentlessly try to stop Japanese ships from whaling in Antarctica. Commercial whaling is banned in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but Japan claims they are whaling for research, which is just a cover. The exchanges between the two become heated and dangerous in the freezing cold waters surrounded by icebergs. Being on one of these ships is taking your hands in your own life. I was impressed; Jane was a tough cookie!
The host of the conference stepped up to the podium on the stage in front of us, as we were served coffee, to begin the awards ceremony. He began by asking, “Is there anyone with remaining questions or comments before we begin the final part of our conference?”
I raised my hand and JUMPED out of my seat. Now mind you, I was not really a part of this crowd, more like a guest amongst the mostly men waiting to hear if they won the latest power tool.
Undaunted, I announced with pride and enthusiasm, “ We just learn that Jane was on Whale Wars!!”
Well, you would have thought I announced there was a sale at T.J. Maxx. The room went completely silent, until a few awkwardly clapped. Jane humbly shooed me back into my seat. The host stood with the microphone in his hand and head tilted. Eventually he broke the tension by saying, “I think a few of us knew that.”
I sat back down and looked at my husband. I thought I might find him hiding under the table, but he sat proudly, unfazed. He knows me too well.
What makes the story even better? Jane went on to win two awards that night: Most Raved About Dealer- given to the Monkey Bars dealer whose customers comment mostly highly and The Most Improved Dealer. Yay, Jane!
When we women get the opportunity to celebrate accomplishment, let’s do more than Lean In. Let’s get out of our seats and cheer!