We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Alice Gaston-Poole and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary Alice, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I remember standing there hugging a tree, looking down at the forest floor many hundreds of feet below me thinking to myself, “Mary Alice, what are you doing, girl? Get down now!” True, I was there, with my arms wrapped around the tree. Every part of my body was shaking as I waited my turn to zip 1,000 feet on a tiny cable across the Blue Ridge mountains. The guide told us to be sure during the ride to look out to the right to see the mountains. When it was my turn, I closed my eyes and pushed off the platform. During that ride, I opened my eyes and time slowed a little. The Earth seemed to open up, I felt warm, I felt good, and I knew everything was going to be ok. And, of course, I looked deeply to my right and tried to take it all in, the wonderful world and peace of it all, right then and there, in that moment, on a zip line. That’s risk.
Risk is scary, right? The word sounds a little dangerous, but I think that danger can be played both ways. Risk helped me stand up to my third grade bully, risk put me on the road to juvie, risk made me go to college, risk ended my first marriage, risk helped me get healthier, risk made me a damn good educator, and risk gave me a life I never saw coming.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Since 2007, I have educated thousands of people. Teaching started because it was one job I could do as a single parent where my children and I would have the same schedule. Seemed a no-brainer, but teaching ended up teaching me a lot about my passion. I turned this passion into my business Inspire & EmpowHER. The HER is for every woman out there who looks in the mirror and does not love herself back. We’ve all been there. For some of us, these feelings come in seasons, in waves, and for others, it becomes chronic.
What sets me apart is I boldly stand up and represent the REAL REAL. I boldly and stand up and tell HER, “Girlfriend, grab my hand, we are gonna do this together. You are not alone. You can do this. You can smile more. Heck you can cry, you can feel miserable. But, you ain’t gonna sit in it.”
That is where I am different. Telling someone “You got this” is ok, but those words can seem hollow when the THIS is hard and scary. I know the hard and scary and the feeling of worthlessness. But, we are not designed to be that way for long. That’s my message. Embrace the feelings, connect with others, and believe “we’re all in this together.”
My business was being created without me knowing it a long time ago. When I was standing in the food pantry line to get my kids a box of free food, I felt strong. Don’t get me wrong, it was painful and a little shameful, but I felt strong. I saw others standing there, with their heads down, and I wanted to shout “Hold your head up. This is help. You need help. You get help.”
The food pantry experience was a long time ago, about 17 years ago, but it still stirs something in me. This journey has been hard. I am now moving into that creative space of Inspire & EmpowHER, working on helping women align their lives with wellness services and products that serve them. I want the world to watch out for me — I have something to say and a service to give to all women.
A business must be fueled by passion. In my 45 years, I’ve learned that for sure. We won’t do anything for long or do it well if passion isn’t part of the journey. Inspire & EmpowHER is my passion and sometimes I fight it because I feel uncertain or worried I will fail, but that’s part of the journey, too. I turn to my feelings, think on where these thoughts are coming from and know those thoughts are really telling me to not turn back, but to keep going. It won’t be a straight path, but it will have some humps to get over. Straight would be too boring anyways. 🙂
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve recently moved to the greater Atlanta area and am having so much fun discovering the city. I would definitely take my friends to Ponce City Market to shop and have delicious 100 Layer Doughnuts from Five Daughters Bakery. For me, a lot of magic happens in the small towns all around Atlanta, I love visiting Senoia and all the movie and television memorabilia there or riding to Covington to check out its “Hollywood of the South” vibe. Downtown Buford has so many unique shops and delicious foods on one strip! Of course, there’s Dahlonega and Helen bringing the mountain vibes. Needless to say, I’ve been having fun up here in North Georgia. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my coastal roots because after our exploring, we might have to head down to Tybee for some beach time. A girl can have it all, right?!? Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I love seeing other women loving life because it really hits me straight in the chest. My heart strings pull hard for others who boldly stand up to inspire and represent others. Three women who standout are Tiffany Murphy, Sommer Mullins and Kelly O’Doherty. Tiffany came into my life as my co-worker. We were teaching special education classes at a small middle school in southeast Georgia. I could write about her all day because she has the biggest heart for not only kids, but also for minority entrepreneurs. Tiffany has not only been a teacher and foster parent, but is an outstanding business woman. I know God put this woman in my life and I am forever grateful. Sommer and Kelly came to me by way of Instagram. I ran an online wellness accountability group and Sommer joined. This woman is so vibrant and smart! She’s an educator and registered nurse; what I love most about her is her resiliency and desire to educate people on making healthy food choices. If you ever do a search for #silversister, you will most likely find Kelly O’Doherty. We met in the wellness groups also and now we are business partners! Kelly is a labor and delivery nurse and inspires women to love themselves.
See why I love these women? They inspire me!