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Sharing Your Story and Living an Empowered Life


Brene Brown once said, “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will become someone else’s survival guide.”


The benefits of building a tribe of empowered women and the importance of sharing your personal story became the common thread of inspiration when 15 women presented wisdom, advice, and encouragement to a group of accomplished, talented professionals at the 2023 Empowering Women Locally conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 4—an event spearheaded by Empowering Brands Founder Charli K. Matthews.


Manufacture Alabama’s Robin Ricks talked about the importance of looking outside the box and embracing unexpected opportunities. Hunt Refining Company’s Ashley Wheeler shared insight on changing your scenery and learning what it takes to have GRIT (Grounded, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity). Health and Fitness Coach Morgan Harrison emphasized that in life’s journey, it’s less about what you lose and more about what you gain.


More inspiring messages were delivered from powerful presentations by Culverhouse College of Business Dean Dr. Kay M. Palan, Beauty Consultant Jasmine Dedrick, Extended Stay America’s Jaela Walker, Clinical Instructor Cherie Moman, Business Strategist Heather Falls, Entrepreneur Naamah VanDyne, and Singer/Songwriter Nimiwari, among others.


Through many personal stories, we all learned that, sometimes, the fire that burns inside of us burns brighter than the fire around us.



I personally learned that lesson the hard way in 2018 when I embarked on a year-long sailing journey from North Germany to Alabama—a voyage that covered more than 15 countries on four continents and included an Atlantic Ocean crossing in a 43-foot sailboat.


Sharing my story at the conference wasn’t easy. You see, my story is deeply personal—unsettling and even disturbing, at times. It’s a story of survival.


What began as the adventure of a lifetime became the fight of a lifetime. My resolve and strength were tested in many ways. Throughout the journey, I fought my fears—battling epic seasickness, heavy 16-foot offshore waves, and tropical storms along some of the world’s most challenging bodies of water. But fighting the challenges at sea was nothing compared with the complex personal struggles on an intense journey to find self-valuation.


When life forces you to make choices, you may be shocked to learn what you might be willing to do to survive. I share the details of my personal story in my memoir, Living Life Sideways, and during the presentation was able to share tips about surviving trauma, maintaining mental health, and rebuilding and re-inventing a thriving business after traumatic events derailed me.


Many women shared stories like mine during the conference, allowing us all to find the inspiration to build successful businesses, encourage other women, and live beautiful, empowered lives.


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