You never forget the feeling you have when you are asking someone to hire you. I remember it well. I wanted that specific job–a job working on commission, selling educational books door-to-door. I knew I would be a hard sell to the company because they did not hire women, they just hired men. I was asking them to not only give me a chance, a job, but to change their thinking. For me, I wanted to stay in college and this was the best way I could find to provide me the money to pay those bills, so I asked for the job. Little did I realize, I was breaking barriers and spurring change for women and for that company.
It all started with a dare. My male counterparts at Mississippi State told me I couldn’t do the job of a door-to-door salesman. Like any true woman-on-a-mission, I was undeterred; I set out to do exactly what they said I couldn’t. In 1971, I opened the door, not only for me but for hundreds of women to follow me to sell books door-to-door for Southwestern Advantage. By the end of that summer of 80 hour work weeks, I made and saved enough money to both pay my tuition and to buy a car. I thought that car was perfect and having accomplished what was at the time my greatest feat, I decided to name that car “can-do.”
At all times, and especially during March as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we as women need to encourage each other to have a “can-do” attitude. That’s the spirit that builds great relationships, great businesses, great communities and has built a great nation.
This success is a result of the hard work and ingenuity of Tennessee women complemented by our state’s favorable business climate. When given the opportunity, free people will always be more successful at achieving and securing their own economic freedom than the government. It’s why I led the flight to prevent a state income tax while serving in the State Senate and why I continued to push my long-term goal of making the state and local sales tax deduction permanent until it was achieved in Congress this past December. As a former small business woman, I knew the ability to keep a little more of my income would in turn help to grow my business and care for my family.
I always tell my children, “There is no such thing as a failed test. You will learn every time you challenge yourself.” Today I’m impressed to see so many women accepting challenges, and in turn, accomplishing incredible things. Every time I open the door of a female-owned small business, I witness that “can-do” attitude in action: taking risks, accepting responsibility and beaming with pride as they accept the rewards of hard and productive work.
–Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn
Ms. Blackburn is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving the Seventh Congressional District of Tennessee.
Ms. Blackburn also serves as vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. She was named the 2016 “Woman of the Year” by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
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