In honor of Women’s History Month I’ve been highlighting various women of excellence who have inspired me via their accomplishments or life journey. Hopefully, they’ll serve as a source of inspiration for you too.
Up next... Name: Gerrae Simons Miller
Birth date (month, day; year optional): April 11, 1981
Hometown: Somerdale, New Jersey
Relationship status: Married
Are you a parent (If so, please feel free to brag all about them): No. Though I do I have 6 cats! Yes SIX… does that count? :-D
Gerrae Simons Miller: I’ve always been a busy bee. Perhaps it’s because I bore easily. But I think the more likely answer is that I gravitate toward the most balanced life I can muster. If I work hard, I play hard. My life has always run the entire gamut in between.
By day, I am a Sr. Contracts Negotiator for Lockheed Martin. I love this job because I’ve been blessed to meet many incredible people and have gained skills that I use every single day in both my personal and professional lives. The experience has been invaluable.
The rest of my working time is spent teaching piano and yoga and running my company Mellow Ltd. which currently has two lines of business, Mellow Massage Therapy Center in East Falls, Philadelphia, PA and the online community Yoga of Color .
SS: At this point in your life, what do you believe your purpose to be?
GSM: My current purpose is simply to learn as much as I can about the world and this life in all of its connected grandeur, to share that information and anything else that I can give of myself with those around me, and to celebrate, appreciate, and love every second of this beautiful life. It sounds very open ended and “New Age” I’m sure, but this is how the best most powerful ideas are born. Businesses, families, organizations, and even great people arise from the ability to learn from all aspects of this journey. It is how I came to decide that I’d like to try owning a Massage Therapy Center and it’s where the foundational ideas for Yoga of Color were formed.
SS: It does sound open-ended, but I must say I totally identify with your perspective and belief. Given the openness of your purpose, what are three things that motivate you as you fulfill it?
SS: Those are great motivators! So how did you get started in massage therapy and health and wellness?
GSM: I fell in love with massage therapy, yoga, and alternative health and wellness while working as a receptionist at a massage therapy center 10 years ago during my last year of Undergraduate education at Lehigh University. I remember being completely awed by the Massage Therapist’s ability to help their clients shed their aches, stresses, anxiety and tension without the use of medication or crazy special medical tools.
Studies show that babies need human touch to survive and to develop in the manner expected. Take touch away and a child will suffer. Yet somehow as we get older, we are attached to the concept of personal space and though it’s important to respect boundaries and maintain safe relationships with others, touch is still beneficial to man even as an adolescent and an adult. I learned quickly that Therapeutic Massage provides a safe client-permitted moment for healing through touch. The notion was so new to me but at the time I knew I wanted to learn more!
SS: That’s such a true observation about the need for human touch and our concept of personal space as adults! Your passion for your work is obvious. What about it do you love most?
GSM: People work endlessly in seems. Pushing through tight muscles tension, anxiety and fatigue and never realizing that their bodies are not meant to feel like bricks of tension. I love that my work provides relief and comfort for the overstressed populace of the 20th century. My work through massage and yoga provides our client a moment in time to be awake yet away from their electronic devices. Making people feel good is the most rewarding aspect of our business.
SS: You’re making me want a massage right now; all too often my body is tense. So what would you say is most challenging about your work?
GSM: Because entrepreneurs create their businesses from nothing, the venture feels almost like a child that we just can’t let break free for fear that it will not live on its own. In order for the business to grow and flourish however, a certain amount of release must be given. Learning how to pull back and trust others, delegating, maintaining a big picture point-of-view instead of getting bogged down with the day to day and working on my business instead of just IN my business are the most challenging aspects of this career.
SS: Ugh, this is something that I’m still learning! Haha! What has been one of your proudest accomplishments thus far?
GSM: Since inception in 2008, Mellow has won many awards including Philadelphia Magazine’s coveted ‘Best of Philly’ which was awarded during our first year in business! One of my proudest moments, however, was completing Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program (an amazing experience!), and surviving through the most challenging years of the Great Recession when a lot of my entrepreneur peers saw their new businesses fail. The amazingly focused and caring work ethic that my staff continues to contribute is the backbone for any and all of our accomplishments. They truly are the best staff around!
SS: Congratulations! Those are some awesome accomplishments and a great staff makes all the difference. What’s an obstacle that you faced as a woman in your industry and how did you overcome it?
GSM: As a young female business owner, it took time to establish confidence in my ability to negotiate (leases, financial deals, etc.) and get people to take me seriously. At the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of work or world experience yet to draw from. I needed to learn tactics that would help to encourage people to take me seriously without pushing them away by being too brash. I learned a lot from advisors and mentors that had already built their brands and established themselves within the corporate world. Both informal and formal mentors made a huge difference for me.
SS: Mentors are real life savers, especially at the most critical moments! What have you had to sacrifice to become successful in your industry? How did that affect your personal and professional development?
GSM: The biggest sacrifice that I face as a business owner is the ongoing nature of this job. The business is ALWAYS my responsibility and will always be until an exit strategy is implemented. There is no other alternative.
As a small business owner, there are no breaks or vacations. Work doesn’t stop when you leave for the day or even when the office is closed. My business is a part of me. It’s an amazing accomplishment, however vacations are scarce and this weighs on a small business owner especially as time goes on. Year one and two are still exciting and fun but as year three and four roll around and you’re feeling the tiredness and stress pile on, the challenge of the never ending nature of small business ownership definitely settles in.
SS: Preach, honey. What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned thus far when it comes to your industry?
GSM: Perfection is not within reach. Many entrepreneurs are perfectionists at least within the walls of their own business. The reality, however, is that it’s never going to be perfect but you have to trust that if you’ve given your all for the project, it is exactly what it needs to be at this time.
SS: Stop speaking to my spirit like that! Man, I’m in therapy right now, haha! Anywho, how has being a woman influenced/shaped your career and your personal life?
GSM: The business world certainly has many challenges for women. Women have to work smart to gain trust that at times is given more freely to men. The reality however is that women are just as capable as men to handle any and every business situation and opportunity. Work styles vary but outcomes are the same.
Being a woman in business has been a tremendous blessing. There are so many women pressing forward, continuing to break societal molds that place us in specific roles. Because of this, there is a beautiful community of female executives and business owners that share and grow with those around them. I’ve had the opportunity to be mentored by some amazing women and I’m proud to continue to break stereotypes as my businesses grow. I believe in celebrating the equality of men and women but this doesn’t mean that we are the same. Women are nurturers and I’ve found this characteristic to be very powerful in business.
SS: In your opinion what three traits makes a woman a strong and influential leader?
SS: Good choices! What’s the best piece of advice that you would give to a woman who is in pursuit of her dreams?
GSM: Understand from the start that accomplishing your dream may not be easy. Life isn’t easy and there is no reason to believe that achieving your goals will prove to be different. It will take a lot of work.
The journey WILL be rewarding though. I can almost guarantee that.
SS: Yes it will! So you are a married businesswoman. What advice would you give to the spouse/significant other of an ambitious, hard-working woman such as yourself?
GSM: My super patient husband is probably a better person to answer this question than I. As an ambitious woman, I appreciate any support (be it tangible or emotional) that he can provide. You don’t have to change your life to completely take on the ambitions of your spouse but your support is particularly meaningful. I think most important for us has been the realization that every marriage and every relationship is different. We adjust and figure out what works for us.
GSM: Yoga has been my saving grace in combating the need for stress relief and recuperation. The notion that we can heal ourselves and our neighbors through something as simple as the breath is very far from what many of us have been taught to believe. This continues to astound me!
Surrounding myself with a diverse group of friends also helps to ensure that I don’t take myself to seriously. Spending down time with loved ones is helpful in ensuring that my business life doesn’t become overwhelming.
Most importantly is that my home is my sanctuary. I work hard to keep stressful thoughts and energies out of my home because it’s where I regenerate each day. I’m surrounded by lots of laughter and reminders of things that make me feel good. I believe the environment of your living space is one of the most important ways to guard yourself against the stresses of an ambitious lifestyle.
SS: Quality time and laughter are very important! What has your journey thus far taught you about life and your purpose in it?
GSM: My Journey has taught me a lot about the connectedness of all people. I’ve learned that in realizing how alike we are, I can communicate with anyone that crosses my path and this helps my business to run a bit more smoothly than it may if I weren’t able to communicate.
SS: What’s your key to ‘Sincerely Lovin’ life?
GSM: I believe in living passionately – fully present in the current moment. Simply accepting what is happening for you at this moment in time is the key to loving life. I live by Walt Whitman’s words, “…re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul…”
SS: What’s up next for you?
GSM: I feel empowered to continue to develop both personally and professionally. My goals are rooted in learning to slow down a bit in order to balance my work and personal lives more effectively. Currently, Mellow is working to grow our Membership Program and overall Client-base with plans to open a second location within the next year or so. Our second annual Massage and Yoga Retreat is coming up on September 12, 2014 – September 14, 2014 and all are welcome to attend! As for me, I’ll be continuing to focus on Mellow Massage Therapy Center and its growth. I’ll also continue to share Yoga of Color with people who are interested in yoga but don’t realize that anyone can practice! I am currently taking on private yoga clients and I plan to continue to teach at various yoga retreats throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. I look forward to moving in whatever beautiful direction this journey takes me. I’m eager to see what the future holds!
SS: Great things for you I’m sure!
Gerrae, you are truly a Woman of Excellence. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
– Sincerely Syreeta
Mellow Massage Therapy Center is an oasis where clients find healing through some of the most beautiful and beneficial healing arts known to man. These include both eastern and western philosophies that merge together into a Wellness Center connecting clients with almost any alternative health and wellness modality. Our massage services include therapeutic massage such as Deep Tissue and Swedish, but also Thai Massage, Shiatsu, Hot Stone, Sabai Compress, Sports, Cranial Sacral, Reflexology and Aromatherapy. In addition to massage, we hold Meditation and Awareness Breath workshops, Yoga classes, continuing education courses for Licensed Massage Therapists, and even a yearly Massage and Yoga retreat complete with yoga, meditation and breath classes, hiking, a labyrinth, and a transcendent interactive drum circle to finish out the last evening of the trip.
Visit www.MellowMassage.com to book your appointment today.
Yoga of Color was created to unify all people, of every race, ethnicity, gender, body type or age, who love the practice of yoga and believe in its ability to bring peace to the world. Yoga of Color brings together the peace and healing power of the breath, the asana (or yoga pose), the mind, and the consciousness of one people on one magnificent earth. Visit www.YogaofColor.com to learn more. Photo credits: Indavisual Media