On September 25, I had the honor of speaking at Ad Week in New York City. My talk was at the Girls Lounge, which was founded by another determined entrepreneur – and my new friend – Shelley Zalis. The Girls Lounge gives people a more relaxed place to network between events. It has refreshments, comfortable places to sit after standing all day, a hair and makeup station, and a confidence coach –she was one of my favorite people I met that day! There are more formal talks that happen in the Lounge though, and I was one of their featured speakers.

Usually when I speak at events, I just talk for several minutes and share the story of how I got my start, the things that happened in my life that inspired me to start my own company, and how I’ve grown it into a mission to create jobs for people with disabilities. This was a little different. I did talk about those things, but it wasn’t just me speaking. Shelley sat with me and we did a Q&A panel.

She asked me lots of questions not just about my business, but about me as a person. I told her about how even though I experienced a lot of rejection when I tried to find a job before starting Collettey’s Cookies, I never gave up or took no for an answer. I also told her about how even though I’ve found success with my cookie business, there are still people who tell me I can’t reach all my goals. But I know they’re wrong and I don’t let them get to me; I just keep working hard at trying to change the world one cookie at a time. Shelley is also a very determined person, so she understood what I’ve been through. She told me about all the people who said negative things about the Girls Lounge and her work to empower women. But that never got her down either, she was just determined to work harder and help more people. Shelley likes to say that “great minds think unalike”, but I think we are on the same page with our attitude!

Shelley asked me for some advice to share with the audience. My advice was: focus on your abilities, not on what you can’t do. It might sound cheesy, but it’s actually true! If you just dwell on the negative, that doesn’t help you or anyone else either. As we like to say at Collettey’s, “I only see abilities”.

While I was at the event, I got the chance to watch some of the other talks too and I enjoyed listening to those speakers. Kya Sainsbury-Carter, the VP of Advertising at Microsoft, gave some great advice about how to be successful in business. She said, “the richness you create on a day-to-day basis is based on the people you’re surrounded with”. Many of the other speakers talked about that too. I’ve hired amazing people at Collettey’s, and working with them is the best part of my job. I think it’s why we’ve been able to help so many people! I also liked listening to Seth Rogin (no, not that one!), the President & CEO of Nucleus Marketing. He talked about working not just for a job but for a mission, something you care about. That’s another reason I love what I do. Our mission to create jobs for people with disabilities is the most important thing.