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  • Stephanie Potter

Finding my roots

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Life's journey is a roller coaster, and I'm beginning to understand how the ups, downs, twists and turns are meant to guide you.

The most recent twist has led me to become a business owner. I've realized my passion is to coach brands to find their roots and authentically market their purpose instead of selling products and services. Understanding the ancestry of a brand is essential to finding its roots and defining its purpose - Brand + Ancestry = Brandestry.

Life's roller coaster has pointed me in this direction through reflection on who I am and my ancestry. So here is my story and my journey to finding my roots.

My ancestors were Virginia farmers and West Virginia coal miners, so hard work is in my DNA. My maternal grandfather was a full-time farmer by the time my mother, the 14th child, was born. You read that right – 14 children. My parents still reside in the house on the land where my mother was born and raised in Blue Ridge, Virginia. Many of my family members still farm today, but not on the same scale as our ancestors.

Mom and Dad's wedding

My paternal grandfather broke the mold, left the coal mine, and became a businessman and a manager for the department store Hills. My dad talked about the smell of popcorn and the joy of walking into the store as a child. I was lucky enough to get the experience a handful of times before their buyout in the early 90s. My dad carried on the entrepreneurial spirit of my grandfather and opened his own upholstery business that he still operates today.

I guess you could say that’s where I also got the courage to venture into being a business owner.

I am proud of my roots and enjoy learning about my origins. As a child, I never had friends. I had cousins that I was raised alongside. My mother was a hard worker also and spent 39 years at Kroger. Therefore, my mom needed help raising us, and man-ole-man did I have the best childhood. My mom’s oldest sister was my babysitter from when I was 6-weeks old until I was in high school. She kept all of my cousins and others from Montvale, Virginia. My Aunt Evy was my best friend until she passed in 2009.

I learned to fight and take up for myself at an early age. I was known for beating up my brother and younger cousins. It was my way of stating my dominance. I didn’t want anyone to mess with me, but you better not mess with them.

I also found my individuality on that small property on Beale Trail Road. I was different and knew that I wanted to see the world. I never imagined raising my stepchildren to love the same small-town living we were blessed with. As I write this post, my youngest and his cousin are laughing and playing in the yard. Here I am, working my hands as my ancestors once did, but differently.

I found my way to the beautiful state of West Virginia, where I attended college. I was born a Mountaineer and still get chills when crossing the state line. I learned more about the importance of family after four years away from home. It was also here that I felt for the first time that I was destined for greatness. I learned to accept others from all walks of life and enjoyed knowing what else was out there, even though I eventually ended up right where I belonged, home in Virginia.

I didn’t realize as a child that we were poor but rich in love. I never went without clothes or food, and we had more love than you can imagine. Growing up in a big family can be challenging. Everyone talks at once, which is where I found my voice. I wanted to find ways to say the same things but with deep-rooting meaning and purpose. And yes, my loud tone came from making sure everyone heard me!

My brother and I were both athletes in high school, but I was never a star. We both worked hard – again, it is in our DNA. I still love the smell of my leather glove and the feel of dirt on the diamond under my feet. This was where I learned my love of coaching. Once I left the game as an athlete, I wanted to teach softball with tough love and integrity.

I use the same principles to help coach a brand. You have to know who you are to find your purpose. Without purpose, no one will believe in who you are or what you do. Salesmanship is far more than products and services. It’s a game where you challenge consumers to buy why you do it rather than what you do.

Remember, life's journey is a roller coaster, and the ups, downs, twists and turns are meant to guide you.



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