Tara Gilvar found that, for the most part, women support other women, and women look for that support. She created the Believe, Inspire, Grow (B.I.G.) community to connect women for resources, education and empowerment to encourage self-growth and develop a network of powerful thinkers and thought leaders.
- One of the most important parts of empowering each other as women comes from making connections.
- Be open, but know your boundaries.
- An empowering group of women will believe in you, inspire you, and grow with you (B.I.G.).
ABOUT OUR GUEST – TARA GILVAR
Intro: Welcome to another episode of the exExperts Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it. We’re Jessica and T.H.
TH: Welcome everybody to today’s podcast, we are happy to have Tara Gilvar with us. She has created a women’s empowerment organization called B.I.G, which is short for Believe, Inspire and Grow. So welcome to the podcast today.
Tara: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here with you, both of you.
TH: So I found Tara while I was trawling the internet very innocently and saw all of these amazing groups that she started and programs in education and really creating a community and network of women empowering other women. I was fascinated, so that’s why Tara is here today. And Tara, tell us how this even came to be?
Tara: Yeah, it was kind of an accident to be honest, which is how a lot of women discover their passion and their purpose, right? I started this in 2009, I had just relocated back to New Jersey, I am a Jersey girl, but had moved from Boston to North Carolina, back to New Jersey with three kids in tow.
At the time, my youngest was in kindergarten and that’s a great moment where you think you’re going to get your life back as a woman, right? You think get them out of the house and you forget how fast 2:30pm comes and you can’t even go to Target.
I was thinking, okay, I went to a good college; I had a career in marketing, a big advertising agency in Boston, and then left it all because of children, which millions of us do for lots of reasons. One is you want to spend more time with your kids. One is the math never worked, and you’re going to give 45 percent to babysitting and childcare.
We talked about this before, you’re not going be good at either one and something’s going to suffer. So I opted out of the workforce and spent 13 years with my kids and always tried to keep a finger in the other bowl so that I was relevant. Take on a freelance job to keep contacts going, things like that. This was before Facebook, before all this technology that kept people together.
When I moved back to New Jersey, my kids were in school, and it was like, okay, what am I going to do with my life? I was really lost. I had no idea. I knew that I didn’t go to college to just be a mom, which sounds – the privilege of being moms, it is a privilege, but I was thinking I was going to do more than that. I didn’t know where it was. I was going into New York City trying to recreate my career from suburbia as a woman. I got some validation there, but it was never going to work for my family life.
How was I going to go in and out of the city? It’d cost you $100 just to get there and then come back and be there with the kids and do it. So that ended up and then I was like, what’s left? Suburbia? Working at a dentist’s office? Working in Starbucks? I was like, no, this isn’t it. I kind of did what everybody did and tried to get thrills out of going to Home Goods and finding four matching plates until I saw a bumper sticker on the teacher’s car when I dropped my son off in middle school, and it said “remember who you wanted to be”‘
For me that was a lightning bolt. That was like the world and the universe was putting this in front of me saying, girl, you are not her. So I took action because I knew everyone in my town. I was the person who said, you should know her and you should know her: the natural connector. These women were like me. They had gone to good colleges, they had had good careers, and they opted out mostly for childcare reasons, raising their family at that time. They’re sitting on the sidelines and they’re trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, and they don’t have a place to put it, like me.
I sent an email after seeing the bumper sticker and I said, we’re still smart. I emailed it to every single person I knew, the people I knew in the church, the people from the third grade room parents, every person in my database that I said, I think she lives near me. I said, we’re so smart, maybe we should figure out how to be professionally fulfilled in our life and keep our families and our personal commitments sacred, because there was no other thing out there for us. Forty-two women showed up in my living room.
Tara: And I knew right then and there I had hit a chord, and if there are 42 in this small town, then there must be 42 million across the land.
Jessica: Right. I love just like the whole conversation and hearing more about how you’ve created and cultivated this community. I also just love like how it dovetails so perfectly into our ExExperts community, which is so many women out there who for similar reasons also had opted out of the workforce at some point and now in this transition period for themselves, getting divorced, and now trying to figure out what they are going to have to do in order to be their own breadwinners now and take care of their families. It’s so relevant. I just love hearing about it. I think it’s just going to be such a great resource.
Tara: Well, we’ve evolved, right? I mean, women tend to attract women just like them, so that’s why you attract your women. We’ve evolved, because for me at that time, 10-13 years ago, it was because of having kids. But we’ve been existing for 13 years and gone to, I think we’ve been in 100 communities, so it’s not just because of children. It’s because of divorce, it’s because of an economic downturn, it’s because of the bad mammogram, it’s because your mom fell down. It’s all those reasons. Those are the reasons why whenever a woman has to make a change in her life, she back-burners herself for everybody else, right? She doesn’t take care of herself, and she forgets what she’s good at. Then she spirals into this really sad lack of self esteem and confidence place, and then it just kind of breeds itself. We’re like, no, no, no, you’re worthy.
Jessica: How are you conveying that message to your group? You had 42 women who showed up to that very first initial gathering, because you didn’t even know really what it was at that point, [No] and then it progressed into this organization. Tell us now what you feel like the purpose is and what you guys are doing and how you’re empowering each other?
Tara: Well, the purpose is exactly the same thing that we discovered in the living room. I just kept the purpose, and it’s morphed into different things for different reasons. We went around the 42 women in the room, and we asked three questions. Who are you? Who are you now? Who do you want to be, and why are you struggling to get there? That’s universal for women. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are: Happy marriage, bad marriage, divorced, never been married, gay, lesbian, it doesn’t really matter. Every woman goes through this metamorphosis at one point in her life and has to reinvent herself. Women have to do it, they say, up to nine times in their lifetime.
TH: No pressure.
Tara: But it’s the reality, right? I mean, you used to be this and then you did this, and this is why, or they moved, or you did this. We asked who are you? They were real quick to say, oh, I had this career; I used to do this; I was a prima ballerina in the New York Ballet. Who are you now? Then they start to define themselves by who they serve around them.
Jessica: I’m a wife; I’m a mom.
Tara: I’m a wife; I’m a mother; I’m Johnny’s mother in the third grade, right? I said, I’m sorry, with all due respect, we don’t care about them.
Jessica: Who are you? We don’t know.
Tara: And that’s when they start crying tears. Who do you want to be and why can’t you get there? The dream they think is gone because of the circumstances, right? They think I wanted to do this and then this happened to me, and now I can’t do any of it. Now I’m too old, or I don’t have enough money, or whatever. So to your point, the number one person that was the rock star for me seeing this in a visual way was a divorced woman who came to my living room who knew a friend of a friend. I did not know her. She had been through a very bad divorce. She was the primary breadwinner of her family and had a rock star job all around the country, all around the globe, in the Garment District. She came home one day, she had three little girls, and he said he wanted out. He said it’s the marriage or your career. For a minute she’s picked the marriage. The marriage went away anyway, so she gave up the career. The day she was in my living room, she said, who are you? She was a big executive in the garment district. Who are you now? After a bad divorce, after gaining weight because of self esteem, after losing the job and no income, having to lose the house, having to relocate the three girls, and having to pick stay home because she’s not going to nanny up these girls after what they just went through after the divorce, right? Who am I now? She said, and I’m not saying this to be derogatory because it’s a passion of a lot of women, but it wasn’t my passion, it was a need, I walked dogs. I walked dogs because I can be at home, I can make money, and I can be with my kids when they need me and my kids need me right now. She said, but it’s not that I’m a different person or that I feel less than, but people treat me less than. She said now when I had my senior vice president business card, people were like wow, and now they’re like, can you remember to flush the toilets when you’re house sitting the dog?
Tara: Then we went to the next one, so who do you want to be and why can’t you get there? And then she started to cry. She said that my dream was always to open my own bridal shop which is ironic because I went through a terrible divorce. She said, girls should have her special day, and I think that’s something I can do for them. I always was the one who bedazzled the prom dresses of my girlfriends and so I think I could be good at that. But I’m 40 something years old, I have no money, I don’t even know how to do this. The dream is gone. The women went to the next woman to introduce herself. She said, my name is so and so, I did this and this, and by the way, you over there with the bridal shop idea, you should do it. We need one. I know inventory that you could buy for a song that could help you start your business. Then she kind of sits a little higher on her chair. Then three people down from her, the next woman, introduces herself and goes back to the bridal shop girl and goes, I know a retail space that’s going to become available that’d be perfect for you. And she sits a little higher in her chair. This woman says, well actually, I dog walk for a very wealthy woman, I told her this in privacy one time that this was something I would love to do. She said to me that she would actually help fund it for me to get started, but she’d want to do it the right way, so I’d have to come up with something called a business plan. And I have no idea what that is.
TH: That whole story is a perfect example of how women take care of women.
TH: And you know, you see the shows and movies, and certainly my girls had it and I had it in high school, I mean, girls are nasty. They will take you down.
Tara: That’s got to stop.
TH: I don’t believe that that’s the majority.
Tara: I think if you put them in the right environments.
TH: Right. There are a few rotten apples, for whatever reason they’re like that, but when women come together, it’s like explosive.
Tara: Well, literally the hair stood up on our – So here’s what happened. She says that I need a business plan. These are random, random women in my room. I didn’t special pick people, and I had no idea I was going to show up. We didn’t have any idea. Four women down from this woman goes, I’m a geek, I used to work for Merrill Lynch, and I’m a business savvy person. I help people write business plans. We’re like, oh my god.
Jessica: I feel like –
TH: Are you invested in the bridal shop?
Tara: No, but I’ll tell you this. She was in my living room in February of 2009. In February 2010, we were launching the chapter, the pod, of our organization in her bridal shop, which still is standing even after COVID. This is 12 years later and last year was named one of the top bridal shops in New Jersey.
Jessica: It’s amazing. I feel like this journey is a hit in my head like where TH and I are going with ExExperts. I mean, totally different than this, but this whole idea of like banding together for this communal support in all different areas.
Tara: People are starving for it. Starving for it. It is to your point the world out there is a mean cruel place. You need to give them safe places
TH: How are you moving forward with B.I.G now?
Tara: Well, that was 2009. And I knew it. I discovered oil. This had to keep going. The women were like when’s the next one? I’m like, well, it’s not going to be in my living room so I rented a church hall. Then I said, I’m not going to be that sucker that writes the check every time at the end, like the volunteer work that we all do. I don’t want to be the one stuck with the bill. Let’s put $15 in a cigar box and then we’ll use that money. Would you pay for this? Yes. So they started coming. It’s all organic. Somebody from the town next to us said, I want to do this, but I want to do it in my town. How do we do it in my town? I’m like, I have no idea. We’ll figure it out. So we figured it out. Once we figured it out, we kept following the path. I had a business partner for a little while at the time and we kept doing that. I’ve come to find out you can do a lot more on your own. You don’t always need somebody else to do it with you. You’re smart enough to do it. Don’t hold yourself back waiting for something else to kind of help you. We have to go to the bathroom together. We actually could go the bathroom by ourselves. But fast forward, those groups that were in my town Bernardsville, New Jersey, and then morphed into the next town and the next town, we had 37 groups in New Jersey, but over the years, we’ve had over 100 groups called pods.
Tara: We’ve had over 6500 members, literal dues paying members. We’ve just basically gone to that room again, over and over again, over and over again. Little twists, little turns, but basically it’s the same thing. We get the same results no matter where we are, no matter how many random people are in the room.
Jessica: So it sounds like a really very effective women’s networking group where everyone who is participating is super active as opposed to some networking groups that you know about that are out there where it’s like sometimes people show up, sometimes they don’t. They’re not necessarily putting their best foot forward and offering to help. What kind of magic are you feeling like you’re offering to the members? How are you keeping people engaged and keeping new members coming?
Tara: Okay, so first, I hate the word networking, no offense. We network. Networking to me is an exchange of business cards and you’re trying to get something from somebody across from you, right? You have something to sell, and you’re like, you can buy my stuff. To me, a male networking event is like finding your next lead, your next sale. What I like to think about is that we’re a women’s empowerment organization, because our core message is to make you happy, [love] and help you sell your stuff. Because today you might be selling this and next week you might be doing something else, and I don’t care where you’re on your journey, we’re just trying to help women move their lives forward. I mean, like you said, I’ve seen women married, divorced, remarried, re-divorced for 13 years. I have no vested interest in the outcome; I have a vested interest in moving forward. I want them to develop not leads and not transactions; I want them to develop authentic connections. Many times they come in, and obviously, they come in from a business perspective, because that’s when they’re going to pay their dues. They’re going to build a business. Women have businesses most of the time for other women, we build businesses to make other women’s lives or we’re passionate about things that make other people happy. But what I want them to do is build authentic connections that enhance their business, not transactional sales things. Sales will come later. It does come later. But when they build those relationships, they start with vulnerability. They have to let their guard down. They have to not be the mean girl. They have to say it’s not going well. They have to say, I didn’t feel good, I don’t feel smart enough, or I don’t feel that way, so that someone else can say, but I think you’re brilliant, but I think you’re pretty, so they build each other up. Once you get a taste of that, it’s a drug, like you want more and more of it. I mean, the only women that we have that really leave are the women that don’t click on their computer right now in COVID and come on the program or come on and engage. What we say we do is we’re a women’s empowerment organization. We start with inspiration, which I don’t think anybody else does. I don’t know why, we’ve always told them we do this, they just don’t do it. We start with inspiration, because a woman needs inspiration, like every other half hour, right? Like whatever happened an hour ago is irrelevant, so we need that constant inspiration. They also have to know to set the tone, so they know that they’re in a safe place, or this is where we’re going to go with this. The second thing they need, this is the jewel of the crown, is the community. They need to know there are women in there that are like them, that get them, and have their best interest in mind. The way that we build a culture is it’s a give before you get a place. You’ll get. We know you have a business, everybody has a business. You’ll get, but spend the time building the relationships and that investment will reap its rewards times 1000.
Jessica: I love that advice too because honestly, I feel like that’s just what women need to know to live their lives in general. Like you said, be vulnerable, and be willing to open yourself up to other people to make meaningful connections. That’s what’s going to make you fulfilled in general in your life. Whatever area you’re coming from, whatever area you’re going to, it’s just that vibe of women helping women that’s so important that I feel like so many people have really lost maybe over the years. I feel like back in the 50s, when there weren’t necessarily a lot of working women, the mom community, everyone carpooling together, everybody bringing dinners to each other’s houses when they needed to, and everyone really working together. It was like that phrase: it takes a village to raise kids. But nowadays, especially depending on where you live, I mean, I live in New York City, you don’t have the village. Everything that you’re saying is resonating so strongly. You have to be willing to kind of take that step and put yourself out there in order to reap those rewards.
Tara: Right. And that means you’ve got to get through fear because either you’re aloof and you don’t share because of fear, or you have this fake persona and you’re a mean girl. Everybody knows when you’re a bully, it’s out of fear. You have to be authentic and you have to be able to be authentic. Most people, if you go through your DNA as a woman, we are mothers, we are nurturers, and we are meant to help other people. That’s the DNA we were given. We fight it, and New York City is probably one of the biggest places they fight it because that’s where they were taught, if you don’t do it like a man, you’ll never be successful. You’re not allowed to talk about, I like your earrings, or how are your kids, before a conference meeting that hasn’t started. Men have learned to start building relationships when the economy goes down, right? Because transaction businesses have been great in good economies. It’s like, boom, boom, boom, boom, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. Thank you, I’ll take that, take that, take that. When the economy goes low, they have to rely on relationships, and it’s not natural to them, because they’ve had other people that helped all their relationships, right? Sending the birthday cards to their own mothers, they had it. But now they have these little index cards like, how is John doing at college, Bob? Men want a report, women want rapport as our basic human need. We’ve got to get back to who we are as women, take off all the layers of BS that you’ve been carrying with you, and become yourself. It’s good enough.
TH: Yeah. I think that in my experience also, when you collaborate with people, whether it’s a school function, or for work, or for your own personal growth, when you collaborate with people and you put yourself out there a little bit, just like you said, it’s just one step. You have to have a leap of faith if you’re going to move forward, otherwise, you’re going to be stuck where you’re going to end up repeating the same cycle that you’ve been running through, that you’re not so happy in.
Tara: I think the one thing that I would add to that, where women are afraid to do that, even the nice girls, is where they don’t put up a boundary and where they don’t even know where their boundaries are. If they don’t know where their boundaries are, they can become the doormat, and they can be taken advantage of. That’s a worse feeling than staying closed. You have to go with boundaries to say, okay, I’ll do this, but I will not do that. Like, I’ll do the third grade fundraiser, but I am not doing the school social. You have to have your boundaries.
TH: For me, I didn’t sign up for a single committee in my kids’ school, because I just knew it was going to be like complaining and gossiping everything. But I signed up where I wanted to, so I was involved on my terms and not caught up and all the bullshit [the drama]. I’m like, I want to help, but I don’t need the noise that goes with it.
Tara: You know it’s nice when you set a culture, and I hope you guys are going to do this too, I think you are, right? You set the culture, you attract women that embrace the culture, and it self-polices. You go to a mean school, and you’re going to have a lot of mean parents, because they’re all going to be the same way. But you go to a place where it’s good – So I have been in rooms where they don’t know that I am the person that started the organization. It’s a new town and I just sat there, and I heard women being negative. I’ve heard women start to sell like, oh well you need to come and have this party for me, blah blah blah blah blah. And I’ve heard women turned to them and go, we don’t do that here at B.I.G, we just support each other. I was like, yes, yes!
Jessica: That’s amazing that you’ve created that. So listen, I feel like we could go on all day, there’s so much more. I know, it’s amazing, but just that’s such a great note to end on, we don’t do that here; we just support each other. It’s what we’re trying to do and what so many other people out there are trying to do, and I know that people listening are going to want to be a part of it. What’s the best way for people to find you or be able to participate if they want to be a part of a B.I.G pod?
Tara: You’re and everybody’s welcome. We are now global so there are no geographic boundaries thanks to COVID. We have all the content online and even when the world becomes ‘normal’, and able to go back to live meetings, we’ll still be online so there are no geographic limitations and anyone can be part of it. www.believeinspiregrow.com check it out. If you do the contact me forms, you will reach me. I have a very small team. If you need me, just go to contact me. I read every single one of them. Our entire mission is to help women move forward so that they can live the lives they’re meant to live and then the world gets better.
Jessica: We are on board with that. Thank you so much for your time, Tara. This is amazing. Can’t wait to talk to you more.
Tara: Thank you.
TH: Thank you.
Goodbye: For everyone out there listening, if you know anyone at all who would benefit from what we talked about today please share this episode and everything exExperts. Be sure and click to subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and please follow us on social media @exEXPERTS on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. Thanks for listening!